The first time we read of Eli and his sons is in 1 Samuel 1:1-3, “Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite: And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.”

Hannah was barren and was very sad about it, often crying because of her lack of children. One day she goes to the temple to pray. We read in verse 11, “And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head.” Eventually, Hannah conceived and had a son, who was named Samuel. Hannah was faithful to her promise to “give him unto the Lord all the days of his life…” We read in 1 Samuel 1:27-28, “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.”

In verse 3, of chapter 1, we read that Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli were also “the priests of the LORD.” Yet, we read in 1 Samuel 2:12, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; THEY KNEW NOT THE LORD.” Although these men did not know the Lord, they ministered as priests in the temple. They handled holy things, yet were wicked men. One has said “a holiness that is but external is the worst unholiness.”

These ungodly priests corrupted the offerings of the people and then had a corrupting impact on them. We read in 1 Samuel 2:17, “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.” People became so disgusted by the actions of Eli’s sons that they themselves began to hate the ‘religious’ actions of the law. Could anything like this happen today? Sadly enough, so-called ministers who seek to enrich themselves with fame and fortune run rampant throughout the ‘professing church’ today. There are many who use the name of the Lord for their own benefit, using the Lord’s people for their own gain. These men and women obviously have no reverence for or fear of the Lord. However, we read in Hebrews 4:13, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” They will answer to the Lord one day!

Samuel had grown into a faithful servant of the Lord and the Lord used him to warn Eli of his guilt and the guilt of his sons. We read in 1 Samuel 3:11-13, “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.” The sons were guilty for making themselves vile. Eli was guilty for not controlling the actions of his sons. The next say, Samuel went to Eli. Verse 18 says, “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.” This was a very pious remark by Eli. He certainly recognized and respected the word of the Lord, but he did nothing about it! Could he not have gone to his sons and warned them of God’s impending judgment and cast them from the duties of the priest? Could he not have fell to his knees imploring the Lord to forgive them of their sins and seek to do His will more perfectly? As was his history, Eli still did nothing towards restraining his sons. How could he be an effective servant of the Lord and allow sin to continue in his presence and by his own children?

In 1 Samuel 14, we read how the Philistines killed 30,000 Israeli soldiers, they took the ark of God, and killed Hophni and Phinehas. We then read of Eli’s death in 1 Samuel 4:17-18, “And the messenger answered and said, 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.” (233.2)