It’s a father’s heartache. How deeply does he discipline his grown sons whom he love but persist in rebellion? This was the dilemma of Eli.
His sons were awful and had no regard for the Lord. When people came to bring their sacrifice, the fat was to be boiled or cooked off first, then the priest was to gouge a large fork in the boiling pot and whatever came up was his to eat. Not the sons of Eli.
They demanded that the person offering the sacrifice give them the best part of the meat and give it to them uncooked. When people protested because they wanted to walk in obedience, they threatened force (1 Sam 2:16). It was said that their sin against the Lord was “very severe” (1 Sam 2:17).
It got worse.
Women served at the entrance to the tent of the meeting. Eli’s evil sons, Hophni and Phineas, managed to seduce them for their sexual pleasure. The women became their play things (1 Sam 2:22).
Eli was definitely displeased and he spoke to them about their sin (1 Sam 2:22-25), but the boys wouldn’t listen. But here’s the clincher, Eli didn’t follow through. He rebuked them, and then did nothing when they continued in their sin. Eli even admitted that it was one thing to sin against man, and entirely another to sin against the Lord (1 Sam 2:24), and still he did nothing.
A rebuke wasn’t enough. They continued to do evil. And because of it, the Lord brought permanent judgment against Eli, the sons, and the entire family line. They sons would die on the same day, as would Eli, their family line would not live to see old age, and the descendants would not longer serve in the temple.
The sin was ultimately Eli’s, as he was responsible before the Lord.
Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me… (1 Sam 2:29).
Tough words for a father to hear.
Thinking on These Things
This event in the life of Eli could be taken askance to imply things that it does not imply. Not just Eli but Eli’s family line was especially selected to serve the Lord and was consecrated as such. This wasn’t an ordinary family line. In fact, today, individuals are consecrated before the Lord and set apart, but typically not family lines.
So with this were special circumstances. Circumstances that meant that meant that the sin of Hophni and Phineas was not ordinary sin.
In the big picture we see that evil was running rampant among God’s people, and those who were slated to do something about it were not doing anything. We see God was bringing help and hope even in the midst of this, and in this particular case, that was through Samuel.
But it is important as we see in Corinthians and elsewhere that even for today, church leaders do have a responsibility to protect the sheep. To lovingly but firmly deal with sin in the church so that it does not spread to the others. Otherwise sin becomes acceptable.
We are living in a time of a “sinless” gospel where everything is accepted. Part of the reason for that is the inhibition of leaders to deal with sin, or they have dealt with sin harshly or in an ungodly way. I’ve seen both. Passivity and legalism are both unacceptable ways. But there’s a need to deal with sin.
This is easier said than done. THow do you deal with someone you love and honor the Lord when they promote the faith and simultaneously promote sin? How do we apply 1 Cor 5:11?
I understand Eli. But what Eli did was not pleasing to the Lord. He honored his sons more than he honored God.
It’s something to think upon.