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Eli, a descendent of Ithamar, was both high-priest and judge in the land of Israel.  We have the account in 1 Samuel 1of Hannah.  She was a godly, yet barren woman who longed for a son.  She went to the temple to pray, asking the Lord for a son.  She promised the Lord that if He gave her a son, she would give her son back to Him to serve Him.  The Lord heard and answered Hannah’s prayer and gave her a son, Samuel.  Hannah was faithful to her promise, and once Samuel had been weaned, she took him to Eli.  1 Samuel 1:25-28says, “And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD. For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.”

Eli was a Godly man.  He had two sons, also priests that assisted him in his duties.  However, these sons were ungodly and evil men.  1 Samuel 2:12tells us, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.”  As High Priest and judge, Eli had great responsibility before the nation of Israel.  The fact that Eli was negligent in correcting his sons brought great consequences.  While we do see that Eli sought to correct his sons in 1 Samuel 2:22-25, it was a weak attempt at best, and they did not heed the words of their father.    1 Samuel 2:25tells us of their judgment.  That says in part, “…the LORD would slay them.”  Through Samuel, the Lord warned Eli that he would judge his household.  1 Samuel 3:11-13 says, “And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.”  We read of Eli’s response to Samuel’s warning in 1 Samuel 3:18, “And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.”  While this seems like a pious reply, still Eli did nothing to restrain his evil sons. 

We read of the death of Eli’s sons in battle in 1 Samuel 4:10-11, “And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.”  Later, Eli would receive news of the Philistines’ victory, the death of his sons, and the loss of the Ark of the Covenant.  In 1 Samuel 4:17-18, a messenger told Eli, “Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken. And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.” 

The terrible news that Eli received was just too much for this aged man.  His heart failed him and he fell backward, breaking his neck.  Except for the fact that Eli was indulgent as a father, he appears to have been a worthy and Godly man.  What a warning for all of us fathers.  Ephesians 6:4tells us, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  The Lord’s judgment against Eli was that his sons were evil and “he restrained them not.”  This gives us the thought that Eli had the ability and responsibility to correct his sons, yet he did not do it.  May we, as fathers (and mothers) take the duty of raising our children for the Lord seriously and forsake not this great responsibility!  (154.2)