The book of 1 Samuel begins by introducing us to Elkanah and his wife, Hannah.  Hannah was barren but longed greatly for a child.  Let’s pick up the events in Hannah’s life by reading 1 Samuel 1:9-11, “So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. 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.

After speaking with Hannah, Eli said to her, “Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.” (Verse 17).  The Lord answered Hannah’s prayer by giving her a son, Samuel.  She was faithful to fulfill her promise to the Lord.  We read her words to Eli in verses 26-28, “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.”

Hannah and her son, Samuel, stand in contrast to Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  Hannah loved the Lord and dedicated her son to the Lord, to be His servant.  Eli loved the Lord, but he was not a very good father.  We read in 1 Samuel 2:12, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.”  Hophni and Phinehas assisted their dad in the duties of the priest, but they were unbelieving, dishonest and threatening.  We read of their sins in 1 Samuel 2:13-17, “And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. Wherefore THE SIN OF THE YOUNG MEN WAS VERY GREAT BEFORE THE LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.”

When Eli learned of his sons’ conduct, he rebuked them, but it was done in weakness.  He was not stern with them for their sins.  So, we read in verse 25, “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father.”  The Lord sent ‘a man of God’ unto Eli, who reproved him for allowing his sons to continue to dishonor the Lord.  The message to Eli was that he, “honourest thy sons above me.” (Verse 29).  This man warned Eli of impending judgements against his house, and told him that his two sons would die in one day.  (Verses 31-34).  Eli continued to allow his sons to live in their wicked ways.

We read later that the Lord came to Samuel with a message concerning Eli.  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 then read in verse 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.”  “It is the LORD, let him do what seemeth good.”  It is a sincere and contrite remark, but Eli did not move to correct his sons.  As a father, he failed them miserably, and he failed the Lord in his office as priest.  May we all be warned by the actions of Eli.  Despite his great love for the Lord, he honored his sons above the Lord.  He refused to put the Lord first and the results were very grievous.

I encourage you to read Samuel, chapter four to read of the disastrous and disgraceful end of Eli’s sons.  Verse 11 tells us, “And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.”  The Ark of the Covenant was taken from the Israelites by the Philistines and Hophni and Phinehas were killed.

When Eli heard of the Philistines taking the Ark and of the death of his sons, “he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died.” (Verse 18).  What a sad ending to one who loved the Lord but refused to give Him first place.  His lack of discipline towards his sons caused their death, his own death, and the loss of the Ark.  Brethren, may we heed this lesson and give the Lord first place in ALL THINGS lest we also fall so short in our service to the Lord.  (370.2)