I Samuel 2 Continued

19. Moreover his mother used to make him a little robe, and bring it to him year by year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.

Now we read again of Hannah. It seems Jehovah wants to suggest a contrast to us between this godly family of Samuel and the wicked and corrupt family of Eli, and the contrast is a striking one!

Every year Hannah makes Samuel a new little robe, bringing it to him when she comes up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice at Shiloh. Though far from her boy in Shiloh, she continues to have great care for him. Doubtless she misses him being so far away, yet is proud of him at the same time for his faithful service to Jehovah. So she brings him this yearly present, no doubt making each robe a little bigger as he grew.

20. And Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “The LORD give you descendants from this woman for the loan that was given to the LORD.” Then they would go to their own home.

Eli would bless Elkanah and Hannah on these occasions, making a prophecy to them as well. He told Elkanah that Yahweh would give him descendants from this woman, that is, Hannah, in reward for loaning Samuel (permanently) to Yahweh. Following this, the couple would return home.

21. And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

When they returned home, the LORD visited Hannah as He said He would do, and granted Eli’s blessing. The result is that Hannah had five more children: three sons and two daughters. Perhaps this pattern happened five years in a row: Eli made this promise, they returned home, and she conceived and bore another child. The result is that they end up with a very fine family indeed. Meanwhile, Samuel continues at the tabernacle, and continues to grow in the sight of the LORD.

22. Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

Now we read that Eli was old. Our best guess would be that he was around ninety-four years of age. As such, it seems he was semi-retired, and this explains why his sons were in charge of performing the priestly duties. Yet we know that they were doing these things wickedly, and Eli heard of this, though apparently they did not carry out their wickedness while he was present. Nevertheless, he heard of all their sin, and he heard of another sin of theirs that we have not had recorded for us previously. That is, it seems they would take advantage of their positions as priests to seduce the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. This is a practice not unheard of in our day, when those who claim to be clergy and to have some kind of superior position with God use that position to seduce the women who come to them for help. This is always a wicked thing when it happens, yet it was even moreso when these men actually were acting as the representatives of God.

23. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.

Upon hearing this, Eli chided them for their sins, as he should have done.

24. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD’s people transgress.

Eli realizes that the sins they are doing are not just harming his sons, but that they are dragging Jehovah’s people down with them. We have seen how men had come to abhor the offering of Jehovah because of the way the priests were desecrating it. Now we have also seen that they were morally degrading the women who had gathered before the tabernacle where they were supposed to meet with Jehovah. Eli’s sons could not excuse their sin by saying they were not harming anyone else, for they were causing all Jehovah’s people to stray from Him by their ungodly actions.

25. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.

Eli tries to reason with his sons. If one man sins against another, he argues, God will set him straight, and intercede. Yet if a man sins against Yahweh, the Judge Himself, who is left to intercede for him? Do they not realize that they are sinning against the very One Who will ultimately judge them? Eli is certainly right in his argument here. How foolish it is to sin against Yahweh! Yet Eli’s attempt to reason with them fails, as they do not listen. And we learn that they had help in closing their ears: Yahweh sees to it that they do not listen to their father Himself, because He desires to kill them.

Now this last is a significant statement, but it is one that we should be very careful with. Some might try to teach from this that Eli’s sons could not help their sin, since Yahweh would not allow them to hear Eli’s counsel. Yet this is a hasty conclusion that a little careful thought will reveal to be incorrect. The fact is that the Bible never says that Yahweh caused them to start performing unscriptural practices with the offerings that people brought to the tabernacle. It never says that He convinced them to steal the fat from His offerings. It does not tell us that He corrupted their hearts so that they began to lie with the women who came to God’s place of meeting. All it says is that, once they had begun to do these wicked things themselves, Yahweh did not allow them to hear their father’s wise rebuke and stop doing them. Yet they had become wicked all on their own before Yahweh stopped them from turning from their wickedness. He did not cause their wickedness in the first place. There is no evidence here that Yahweh is the Author of everything that happens, even sin. Those who would claim this are proving themselves not to be careful students of the Scriptures.

26. And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men.

The record again turns to Samuel as a blessed contrast to Eli’s wicked sons. While Hophni and Phinehas were growing in wickedness and corruption, Samuel was growing not only in body, but also in grace, both with the LORD and with men. Righteous men abhorred the wicked practices of the priests, as we have seen, but those same men favored Samuel. And the LORD agreed with them, and favored the young child as well. What more could be said of a man, than that the LORD favors him! This reminds us of Luke 2:52, which says nearly the same thing of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as He grew up, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Samuel becomes a picture of our Lord in this, and indeed there is no better thing for a young man like him to do.

27. Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house?

Now Eli had done well in rebuking his sons, as we said above. However, his sons had not listened. At this point, Eli should have been prepared to take the next step and do something about it. Though Eli was semi-retired at this point, he was still the old and respected leader of Israel, and if he had acted to stop the wickedness of his sons, he could have done it. Yet it seems clear that when Eli’s sons did not listen to him, he did nothing else to stop them. Why this is we cannot say for sure. Yet it is still true today that many find it very hard to do the thing that would please Jehovah if it means going contrary to their own family and relatives. When the choice comes down to Jehovah or family, these choose family, and God is forced to take a back seat. It seems fairly clear that this was the decision Eli made.

Now in Eli’s defense, we do have to point out how important family was to them in that society. Every man had an inheritance he had received from Jehovah, and the high priest had perhaps the highest: the position of standing between the people and God. One of the most important things a man would do in his lifetime, then, was to have a son and heir to pass that place in Israel on to him. To find that heir an unworthy man and to cast him out of his inheritance would be most difficult, not to mention humiliating, for a man to do. Yet remember the story of Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his promised son and heir Isaac to Jehovah when He commanded it. It is clear that Eli never would have done this. Isaac was a good boy, and Eli’s sons were wicked, yet he was unwilling to make any move against them, even to stop them from desecrating the things of God. So while we can see that it would have been a hard thing to do, it is still sad to see that Eli, even for Jehovah, was unwilling to do it.

So when Jehovah sees that Eli has failed to act, he sends a man of God to Eli. There is no doubt but that what is called a “man of God” here is what is called a “prophet” in many other places. This man comes to Eli to speak God’s words to him.

Notice that this prophet comes to Eli, rather than to his sons. This might seem strange to us, for it was the sons who were doing the wicked deeds against Jehovah. Eli was just tolerating them doing it. Yet when we think about it, Jehovah sending this man of God to Eli makes sense, for Eli has a relationship with Jehovah, while his sons do not. That was the first thing we were told back in verse 12, remember. Eli’s sons did not know Jehovah. In light of this, their wicked actions were perhaps only to be expected. Yet Eli did have a relationship with Jehovah, and had served Him faithfully for many years. For him to accept the wicked actions of his sons and to choose them over Jehovah was truly disappointing. Thus it is to Eli, the one He had once had a relationship with, that Jehovah sends His messenger.

Now the man of God speaks to Eli in the name of Jehovah. He asks this question, which of course must be answered in the affirmative. Eli was descended from the first high priest Aaron, who was in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house when Jehovah first revealed Himself to him.

28. Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire?

Yahweh reminds Eli of all these great things He had done for his family in the past. He first had chosen Aaron’s family out of all the tribes of Israel to be His priest. He had given him the privilege of offering upon His altar. He had given him the honor of wearing the ephod, the priestly garment that God prescribed, before Him. We have to realize that since Yahweh gave this garment and commanded its wearing, it had great significance before Him. We live in a day when God has not given us any garments to wear, and so there is no clothing that we can put on that will mean anything in God’s sight. Yet that was not true in this day. God had given the ephod, and it was a great honor and privilege to be able to wear it.

Moreover, Yahweh reminds Eli, He had given the house of his father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire, and they were privileged to eat from these offerings. This, of course, is coming to the heart of Yahweh’s complaint against Eli, as we will see in the following verse.

29. Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’

The LORD has three charges to bring against Eli, and He lists them here:

1.) HE has dishonored the LORD’s sacrifices. Eli might have tried to argue that it was his sons, not himself, who had dishonored the sacrifices, yet this excuse would not have been valid. The fact is that Eli was uniquely in the position where he could have done something about his sons’ wicked behavior, and yet He did not do it. Therefore, by neglecting to act to preserve their honor, Eli himself, and not just his sons, had kicked at the LORD’s sacrifices and offerings as if they were nothing but dirt under his feet.

2.) He has honored his sons more than the LORD. This is the central charge, and was really the root cause of the other two. Eli had had a sad and unfortunate choice to make: his children or the LORD. This is a choice that we all might fervently hope we never have to make. Yet this is what Eli had to do, and he had made his choice. He had chosen his sons, and not the LORD. The LORD knew this, and He charges Eli with it. Eli does not protest, for he knows that what the LORD says is true.

3.) He has become fat off the LORD’s offerings. The fact is that Eli’s sons were bringing home the meat that the entire priestly family was eating at their table. Eli himself was participating in this, as were all the rest of this house. And this meat had the fat still in it, the fat that had been stolen from the LORD. By eating this abundance of fatty meat, it seems that Eli himself had become fat, fat off the very same offerings his sons had stolen from Israel the LORD’s people. The LORD now uses Eli’s fat as a witness against him. Again, Eli does not protest, for there is nothing really he can say. He knows what the LORD says is accurate. This is exactly what he had done, and since he had heard what his sons were doing, this means he had done this willingly.

30. Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

The LORD reviews the promise He had given to Aaron’s house. We can see that promise in Numbers 18:

8. And the LORD spoke to Aaron: “Here, I Myself have also given you charge of My heave offerings, all the holy gifts of the children of Israel; I have given them as a portion to you and your sons, as an ordinance forever. 9. This shall be yours of the most holy things reserved from the fire: every offering of theirs, every grain offering and every sin offering and every trespass offering which they render to Me, shall be most holy for you and your sons. 10. In a most holy place you shall eat it; every male shall eat it. It shall be holy to you.

So the LORD had declared that Aaron and his family would receive the holy portion of the offering for the olam. This means that it was theirs perpetually, but also points to the coming kingdom of God, called the Olam, when Aaron and his family will be priests once again. So this promise was made to Aaron, and it has passed on through his children to Eli. Yet Eli has not lived as Aaron lived. He has shown that he despises the LORD, and he has allowed his sons to misuse their privilege to steal from the offerings of the LORD. Therefore, the LORD reveals that He is not going to continue blessing the family of a man who despised Him. Far be it from Him, He says! This is not the way the LORD works.

This leaves us wondering. If the LORD rejects Eli’s family, does this mean that His promise to Aaron and his sons would fail? For certainly once the LORD makes a promise, He considers this binding, and will not fail to do it. No, certainly the LORD’s promise will not fail. First of all, we have to realize that the ultimate fulfillment of the LORD’s promise will be in the Kingdom of God, THE Olam, to come. Then, Aaron and his family will receive their portion of the offerings once again. Secondly, there were other families descended from Aaron. The LORD could reject Eli’s family, and still find a family of the house of the Aaron to privilege with the priestly office. That is exactly what the LORD will do, as we will see in the following verses.

31. Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house.

Now Jehovah reveals what He is going to do. He will punish Eli’s entire family because of him. The arm symbolized the strength, so when Jehovah says He will cut off Eli’s arm, He means He will cut off his strength and the strength of his family. The result will be that they will begin to be short-lived, and there will not be a man in his family who will have the strength to live to old age. In other words, Jehovah has cursed the men of Eli’s family to all die young.

32. And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever.

The idea of an “enemy” here seems to be that of a rival. A rival priest and his family will arise and will take over the place of Eli and his family in the temple. Though the rest of Israel might be seeing good, Eli’s family will be experiencing this curse. The result will be that there will not be an old man in his house. Fortunately for Eli, the word “forever” here is not a translation of the Hebrew word olam, but of the word yowm, which means “day.” The word “day” is used in Scripture for a period of time, however, and so this seems to say that this curse will last until its fulfillment in verse 36 is realized. Then, perhaps, the curse might be lifted, particularly if Eli’s descendants at that time might prove themselves righteous. Whether any did or not, we are never told.

33. But any of your men whom I do not cut off from My altar shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart. And all the descendants of your house shall die in the flower of their age.

Any of Eli’s male descendants who will not be cut off from Yahweh’s altar will not be a joy to the family, but rather will be a cause of weeping and grief. He repeats again that all Eli’s descendants will die in the prime of life, and will not live to see old age.

34. Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of them.

The LORD gives Eli a sign that His word will indeed come to pass. The sign will manifest itself in his two wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas. The LORD reveals that these two sons shall die on the same day. This will prove to Eli that the LORD’s curse has fallen.

35. Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.

Jehovah now elaborates on the “enemy” of Eli whom his family will see in the temple. Jehovah reveals that He will choose a priest who will be faithful to Him and do according to what is in His heart and His mind, unlike Eli. The family of this priest Jehovah will build into a sure house, and this priest shall walk before His anointed ruler yowm or in a coming period of time. Notice that all this is coming because of Eli, not because of his two sons!

Because we are reading this in the book of Samuel, we might assume that Samuel himself is the faithful priest Jehovah is speaking of. However, this is not the case, as we will see when this prophecy comes to pass. The faithful priest Jehovah is speaking of is another, and we will meet him later in the book of Samuel.

36. And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and say, “Please, put me in one of the priestly positions, that I may eat a piece of bread.”’”

Those of Eli’s house who remain when this new, faithful priest arises will be subservient to the faithful priest. They will have been cut off from His altar, as verse 33 says, and so they will come to this faithful priest and his house and beg them to be given even a minor priestly office so they can have a job and earn enough to eat. When this comes to pass, Yahweh’s curse against Eli’s house will have been fulfilled.

We will follow this curse as it slowly comes to be fulfilled in the following historical record. The final doom pronounced in this curse did not fall upon Eli nor upon his family right away. We will have to keep this curse in mind as we go through the books of Samuel, and take note as step-by-step it starts to come to pass. Indeed, we will not see its final fulfillment until the start of the book of Kings. For now, all we have is the word of God through this unnamed prophet that these things shall be so.