Eli honored his sons above God according to verse 29. This passage
ought to cause all of us, especially fathers, to shudder. The
result of Eli's faithlessness as a father was that God cut off
his house. God judges those who depart from the path of obedience.
The word of God in His law is true: "I the Lord God am a
jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."
In the face of this dark and terrible reality, God also here testifies
of His covenant faithfulness toward His remnant. God will take
from unfaithful parents the privilege of having the covenant continued
in their generations, but God's covenant will not fail. God's
covenant is not dependant upon the faithfulness of the people,
not even of the leaders. God will maintain His covenant on the
basis of the cross of Jesus Christ. God's covenant will be maintained
in the way of obedience, not on the basis of obedience. Despite
the sins present among the leaders in Israel, Jehovah God would
preserve His people and would raise up a faithful priest to do
according to His will (verse 35).
You parents here who have stood before the baptism font have vowed to raise your children in the fear of Jehovah, according to the doctrines of Scripture, as taught in this Christian church. You have pledged before God to maintain your part of the covenant. God takes serious your pledge. Should you fail to rear your child in the truth of God's Word, you have no reason to expect God's blessing on your generations. On the contrary, you have every reason to fear God's judgment in your generations. Eli failed in his responsibilities as Father. He esteemed his sons above God. He did not want to offend his sons. The result was that he committed a far greater offense - He offended the living God.
We do not judge the eternal destiny of Eli. He was a godly priest,
and we have no reason to doubt that Eli was forgiven and went
to heaven. But he suffered the consequences of his parental negligence
as his house was cut off from the priesthood.
ELI'S HOUSE CUT OFF
I. THE JUDGMENT
II. THE REASON
III. THE PROMISE
Eli was of the priestly house of Aaron
(I Samuel 2: 27,28).
I Chronicles 24:1
Aaron had four sons- Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar,
and Ithamar. Nadab and Abihu were killed by the Lord for their offering of strange fire on God's altar.
record this incident which occurred in the wilderness of Sinai.
Nadab and Abihu were cut off to such a degree that they had no
offspring that survived. The line of the priesthood of Aaron was
continued through his other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar.
After the death of Aaron the high priestly office was filled by
Eleazar, but later was transferred, for a reason not revealed,
to the house of Ithamar. Eli was a descendant of Ithamar.
I Chronicles 24:4
records that there were 16 sons of Eleazar and 8 sons of
Ithamar. The line of Eleazar continued through Zadok, the faithful
priest, unbroken till the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ,
according to prophecy, was not a priest after the order of Aaron,
but rather a priest after the order of Melchizedek, testifying
of Christ's eternal priesthood. God preserved only one line faithful
through the generations.
Our text conveys the reason why the line of Ithamar was cut off.
"I will cut of thine arm, and the arm of thy Father's house"
(I Samuel 2:31).
God's anger is expressed toward both Eli's household
and his descendants, as well as against the whole of his father's
household, all Ithamar's seed. There is scriptural ground for
understanding Eli's father's house as going all the way back to
Ithamar, and including all the descendants of Ithamar.
The house of Ithamar was considerably smaller than that of Eleazar.
The curse of God was operative throughout the seed of Ithamar.
Eli's cousins were in active service in Shiloh and later at Nob.
Both of these groups were also involved in disobedience to God
and experienced God's judgment. Bible history records the house of Eli and Ithamar being cut off completely.
I Samuel 4
that Eli's two sons were killed in battle. After Eli's death the
Philistines came to Shiloh and murdered the priests, all descendants of Ithamar serving under Eli, who was the high priest.
speaks of this massacre in verse 60 and 64: "So that he forsook
the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men.
. . Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no
lamentation." Ahitub, the brother of Ichabod, son of Phinehas is read of in
I Samuel 14:3.
The next slaughter was by Saul in his frenzy after David had been
given the show bread by priest Ahimelech, Eli's great-grandson, in Nob
(I Samuel 21, 22).
Saul was furious and he commands the
high priest and his colleagues to answer to the charge of conspiracy
against the king. Doeg the Edomite killed 85 of the priests, then
went to Nob and killed everything that breathed. Only one escaped,
Abiathar, who went with David. But later on when David was old
this Abiathar and his son Ahimelech supported Adonijah who wanted
to be king, and Solomon thrust Abiathar out. We read at that time in
I Kings 2:27
- "So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being
priest unto the LORD that he might fulfil the word of the Lord
which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh."
The priesthood of Shiloh was an unfaithful priesthood. It would
seem quite remarkable if only Eli's sons were involved in wickedness.
The other priests were involved in the same corruption and they
were unwilling to condemn the two priests. The priesthood of Ithamar
was permitting the priests to do with Israel's sacrifices as they
pleased. The curse of God upon Eli, therefore, was also on his
father's house, the house of Ithamar, and involved the entire
house being cut off from the position of high priest and priest
We read here God's word concerning this disobedience: "The
man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall
be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart"
(I Samuel 2: 33).
Those who would be allowed to live would be a disgrace
and source of continual grief. They would plead to be priests
merely in order to be fed (verse 36). Their heart would be motivated
by selfishness, and not at all by love for God. Eli would be the
last of the faithful priesthood from Ithamar. There would be no
organized priesthood again after Eli, and certainly not after
the slaying of the priests at Nob. Eli's house was cut off.
Verse 29 reads: "Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at
mine offering." The sons of Eli had little regard for the
regulations of the law. The first perversion was that they did
not handle and divide the meat of the sacrifice properly.
was very explicit about how the meat was to be handled.
The fat was to be burned while the breast and right shoulder were
to be given to the priest after they were roasted on the altar.
The sons of Eli, however, had no regard for the law. Hophni and
Phinehas looked upon the sacrifices not as a means of worshiping
God, but as something which was there for their own personal use
and pleasure. They would boldly take anything they wanted by thrusting their three-pronged fork into the meat
(I Samuel 2:14).
a blatant disregard for God's commandments.
As time went on they became more bold and began to send their
servants to those who came to sacrifice even before the sacrifice
was brought to the altar (verse 15). The servants would cut the
choice portions off the animals before the animals were offered
up. This meant that when the sacrifice was brought to the altar,
it was only partially there- it was mutilated. This went against
all the rules of the sacrifices. The sacrifice had to be brought
to the Lord unbroken and unmutilated. For Hophni and Phinehas
it was of real advantage to take the meat when still raw so that
it could be sent to the marketplace and sold, the money their
own. They became so bold that they started to take meat by force.
The whole spirit of worship was destroyed. Understandably, sensitive
believers turned away in disgust.
Finally, it became known that these men were seducing and committing
immoral acts with some of the women who came regularly to help
in the service of the tabernacle. This is mentioned in verse 22.
The tabernacle of God was beginning to resemble the pagan temples.
The sons of Eli had corrupted the true worship of Jehovah.
One would expect that Hophni and Phinehas would have gone out
of their way to keep their father ignorant of these things. They
may have tried at first, but then they became bold, as is always
true of sin. The sins were so blatant that they could not be hid,
even from their aged and perhaps naive father. Eli learned what
was going on. He realized how serious their sin was and it hurt
him more than anything else he experienced. Eli was a true child
of God and was not indifferent to such wickedness, especially
when it came from his own sons. Eli said in verses 23-25 - "Why
do ye such things? For I hear of your evil dealings by all this
people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye
make the LORD's people to transgress. If one man sin against another,
the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD,
who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not
unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them."
God directs his words of rebuke toward Eli. Eli was at fault before
God. What he said to his sons was true. The sins they committed
were of the most serious sort. They were sinning against God.
Eli made clear the serious nature of their sins, then dismissed
them to their duties again. Eli's sin was a failure to discipline
his sons. This was a sin typical of Israel through the period
of the Judges and later again after the time of the captivity.
Eli knew the difference between good and bad and taught his sons,
but did not go further. He did not punish them! You may argue,
but the passage does not say that. It may be that he did punish
them, but you know what these sons needed: they had to be thrown
out of the tabernacle! No strange fires may be offered before
God. The name of God was being blasphemed before the whole congregation,
and Eli knew it. Eli did not bring an end to it. Eli gave occasion
for the faithful remnant to despair all the more! Eli never enforced
the things he talked about. He never brought his sons to see what
it was to tremble before the justice of the living God. He could
talk with weeping and grieving heart, but talk was not effective.
His sons needed to be excommunicated from the priesthood and put
out of the temple. They showed no sign of repentance. They repeatedly
returned to their same sins. The Old Testament law would have
required that the sons be driven out of the city and stoned for
their blasphemous actions in the tabernacle of Jehovah.
"They that despise me shall be lightly esteemed" (verse
30). God would not allow Himself to continue to be mocked in worship.
This was a trouble that plagued Israel during the time of the
judges. There were always some that were God-fearing from the
heart. These loved God, respected His law, and even taught God's
principles to their children. But, in one serious matter they
failed: They did not properly discipline their children. When
their friends and neighbors violated God's law and broke His commandments,
they did not condemn and punish. When their children desired to
marry outside of the covenant, they did not do anything about
it. Wickedness grew and grew. It came to the point where the worst
of sins were being committed with no discipline being administered.
Nehemiah, years later expresses his judgment of the sin of taking
heathen wives. He took matters into his own hands so that we read in
- "And I contended with them, and cursed
them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and
made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters
unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for
yourselves." Eli was an example of this same unfaithfulness.
God made Eli's house an example to all of Israel in their generations.
They that despise God's covenant will be cut off. They who allow
their children to despise God's covenant will also see their generations
cut off. There would not be an old man in the house of Eli any
Are you honoring your children above God? Fathers, God places
a weighty responsibility on your shoulders. Are you so busy with
your work and your own activities that you do not know what your
children are doing? Do you know how they are dressing? Do you
know how they are spending their time? Do you know where they
are hanging out? It is easy to take for granted the obedience
of your children, only later to find out that you were being naive
and refusing to face the reality of their sin. You may not look
the other way. Are you more concerned about your children's reaction
to you than about the reaction of the Living God to your permissiveness?
Are you more tolerant of the sins of your children than Jehovah
God is? God does not wink at sin. God does not turn the other
way. God rebukes, judges, and condemns.
As you seek to rear your children in God's fear you must uphold
the honor of God above everything. Your children need to see that
God means everything to you, and because of your love for God
you will not tolerate lack of respect. You may not put up with
a big mouth and talking back. You may not allow your children
to thumb their finger at the worship of Jehovah, but you must
put your foot down and discipline them for their failure to attend
catechism, societies, or church. Will you honor your children
above God? Note: God will not be mocked. If you don't discipline
your children, God will! The consequences will be grievous.
The fundamental purpose for the curse of God was that God had
not chosen these men to be His own. Verse 25 states that. We read
this - "Because the Lord would slay them." Election
and reprobation runs through covenant homes. Eli did not cause
these men to be destroyed, God brought it about. God ordained
from the beginning that the sons of Eli would be godless men.
Their lives would show it. Nothing Eli did could have changed
that. As parents we need to acknowledge God's sovereignty and
submit to His rule in our families.
We pray for our children, but also for the grace to be content
with the fact that God may not have chosen all our children to
be His own. We pray that we may not continue to wallow in self-pity
and blame ourselves for their unfaithfulness. We need to repent,
pray for forgiveness for our failures, and then leave the matter
in the hand of Jehovah, assured of His forgiveness.
At the same time, God holds parents accountable for their rearing
of their children, and therefore, Eli was held accountable before
God. God uses the means of the faithful instruction of parents
to continue His covenant in their generations. Our discipline
itself is not going to make our children turn out good. A parent
can become proud and believe they have done all things right,
therefore their children are doing good. A parent may boast in
his accomplishments, rather than in the grace of God. God can
so quickly turn our boasting into sorrow, showing that He is in
control of all things and that all good we see in our families
is only by His grace. God mercifully punished Jesus Christ for
the sins of Eli. Although Eli escaped the punishment of his sins,
he had to live with the devastating consequences of his sin as
it affected the priesthood of Israel.
Are you seeking to be faithful and firm in your instruction of
your children? You can not expect God's blessing if you are not
teaching and instructing them in every aspect of their life. You
can not expect God's blessing if you are knowingly allowing them
to continue in sin. You need to admonish them, rebuke them, and
if necessary discipline them. If you harbor sin in your children,
then you are guilty of the sin of Eli- honoring your children
above God. Your children will not be prepared to be priests, prophets,
and kings for God. God will not be able to make use of your children.
He will cut off your generations and will work through others
who are faithful. Again: If you will not discipline your children,
God will. Although God forgives us our sins in the way of confession,
God will make you live with the devastating consequences of your
God expresses His promise in
I Samuel 2: 35
- "And I will
raise me up a faithful priest." First, historically Samuel
would arise as the priest of God from the house of Ephraim. God
would work in the young Samuel and train him to walk according
to the love of God. Samuel saw all the sin of Eli's sons. He would
not walk in their footsteps. The few years He spent with his godly
mother, and the rich grace of God were used to preserve him in
an impossible situation. We raise our children in similarly perilous
times. All around us they are tempted to blaspheme God in worship.
The temptations are great. By the grace of God, we pray that God
will use our faithful discipline and instruction to prepare our
children to be prophets, priests, and kings for God.
Secondly, historically Zadok was given the office of High Priest
during the reign of David. Abiathar, the offspring of Ithamar
was put out. God's curse to Eli was finally realized as the priestly
office was now through the house of Eleazar. Even this line was
in time cut off to make the way for the Priest of God.
Finally, Jesus Christ is the promised priest whom God sends. "He
shall walk before mine anointed forever" (verse 35). The
Lord would build the everlasting priesthood. Regardless of human
sin, God would establish the true house of Israel. In the way
of sin God would demonstrate the inability of men to ever bring
about reconciliation between God and His people for the forgiveness
of sins. God would show the impossibility of man keeping covenant-
God alone would preserve His covenant in and through men. Even
Samuel could not maintain the priesthood in Israel. Tragically,
his sons turned out no differently than did the sons of Eli, although
we have no reason to believe that Samuel fell into the same sins
of Eli. Samuel admonished and disciplined his sons, but God's
blessing was not upon them. Israel later used this as an excuse
to seek a king.
The weakness of the human priesthood pointed to the faithful Priest
who would be the eternal God of heaven and earth. Jesus Christ
did all that was in the mind of God. He obeyed perfectly. There
was nothing within His heart that desired to walk contrary to
God's commands. Jesus Christ offered the perfect, unblemished
sacrifice that covered Eli's sins and that covers your and my
sins of disobedience. The "sure house" is the church
for which Jesus Christ laid down His life! Christ made that house
secure by His own blood and poured out His Spirit on His people
to preserve them in the path of obedience. By His grace we will
honor God above our children. We pray for that strength as we
seek to raise our children in God's fear.