1 Samuel Chapter 2: Hannah’s eulogy, Curse on Eli’s Sons

Nov 7th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Samuel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Samuel Chapter 2: Hannah’s eulogy, Curse on Eli’s Sons


1 Sam. 2:1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.

Hannah’s prayer reminds us of the Virgin Mary’s Magnificat and the inspired prayer of Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Hannah’s heart, horn, and mouth were all involved in her rejoicing. She exulted in her joy with Samuel, for her patience and prayer had been rewarded with his birth and childhood through weaning, which took several years.

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies.” This statement can be viewed in two ways: personally with regard to Hannah and prophetically. All who live righteously in any age, whether prior to or during the Gospel Age, have enemies and encounter opposition in trying to live a godly life. Enemies reproach those who are trying to do the Lord’s will. For example, when righteous Noah preached righteousness and prophesied of a future flood, his adversaries reproached and ridiculed him. They scoffed at his warnings of a day of wrath and at his admonitions to prepare themselves, and none repented or heeded his message.

“Mine horn is exalted in the LORD.” It was the custom in the Middle East and in Asia for women of high birth to have a headdress with a large horn over their forehead. The slant of the horn indicated their status: married, single, childless, or a bearer of children. A horn slanted downward signified a woman either not yet married or married but in a barren state. An exalted horn meant that the woman was married with children; that is, she was favored.

1 Sam. 2:2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

“Neither is there any rock like our God.” A “rock” was a firm foundation on which to stand, as opposed to shifting sands. It also provided shade, rest, and refuge in the desert wilderness.

Bedouins usually traveled for many miles without finding any shade, so a rock was welcome.

To find a large rock with an overhang that cast a shadow was like having an oasis in the desert with relief from the heat. A rock was also a means of defense in warfare and a refuge from the onslaught of the enemy. Thus a rock, which became a symbol of strength, help, comfort, consolation, stability, etc., was meaningful to people who lived back there.

1 Sam. 2:3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

Hannah was thinking of Peninnah: “Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth.” On different occasions, she had mocked Hannah for her barrenness.

“The LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” Hannah called attention to God’s omniscience, for He knew all that Peninnah had done and in time had rewarded her with Samuel for her suffering. God rewards the contrite and heeds the sparrow’s fall (Matt. 10:29-31). Figuratively speaking, the very hairs of the Christian’s head are numbered. Thus, whether the application is to the Church now or was to Hannah’s situation back there, God was and is aware of the circumstance.

“By him [God] actions are weighed.” All actions, good and evil, are weighed. God is aware of things that are happening and properly evaluates them. Some people are very alert and observing, but they are not concerned about others. Not only was Jehovah a God of knowledge, but He was concerned with the problem of Hannah, who pictures the Church and its hopes. Likewise, God is concerned for the Christian.

1 Sam. 2:4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.

Hannah continued, “The war implements of the mighty are destroyed, and the weak are strengthened.” One who is overjoyed is prone to a little exaggeration, as was Hannah in her prayer, and such exaggeration was quite acceptable under that type of emotion. Hannah was referring to her personal experience. Now she, who had been weak and sorrowful, having been humbled, was contrite and having the opposite experience. The Apostle Paul said, “I know both how to be abased, and … how to abound” (Phil. 4:12).

Of course in the larger picture, verse 4 is prophetic. Ultimately the bows of the evil ones and those who are trying to oppose God’s cause in the earth, angelic or human, will be broken. They will have their day of reckoning.

1 Sam. 2:5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.

Hannah began to describe a reversal of circumstances. In later life, those who were related to Eli (not his two sons) had to come back and beg for bread. At one time, the revenue received  through tithing was proportionately greater. Not only were the priests benefited by the contributions but also their families and relatives who came to them for favors. However, the fortunes would be reversed Ultimately the reversal will be true of the Church class too. We usually think of the Church from our current standpoint, but there was much persecution in the Dark Ages. Christians who did not follow in harmony with the Roman Catholic Church were either excommunicated and persecuted or at least had problems with employment and procuring food for their families. Back there the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” had a meaningful double significance. Both literally and spiritually, Christians lived on meager portions from day to day. In comparison, we live very comfortably today.

“The barren hath born seven.” In the reversal, “the barren” will bear seven. Hannah was barren for a while, and in time she bore a total of six children including Samuel. However, the Church will bear seven-fold, spiritually speaking.

“And she that hath many children [now] is [will be] waxed feeble.” Those who flourish in the present life will experience a reversal of conditions in the next life. To have money or wealth is not inherently wrong, but generally speaking, wealth has the effect of harming its possessors, so that Jesus could say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24). Therefore, a rich person who is faithful in the Lord will be rewarded with proportionately more than one who is poor. The principle applies to one who is rich in goods, talents, lands, prestige, power, or another category. Nevertheless, even the least one in the Little Flock will be mighty grateful. To be any part of the Little Flock is all that one could ever hope for.

1 Sam. 2:6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.

For example, the Pharaoh of Egypt and his army who pursued the Israelites perished in the Red Sea, while at the same time, the Israelites, who had been in bondage as serfs for many years, had their position reversed and were saved. The class who had previously been humbled was exalted, and the class who had been exalted died. This principle is true, even if it is not discerned at present. In the long-term fulfillment, which embraces the future, beyond the present life, these laws will be inexorable. Some of the true Church have asked, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10). This long period of patient endurance while waiting for the manifestation of the Lord’s approval is a hard experience, but the rewards will come.

1 Sam. 2:7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.

“He [God] bringeth low, and lifteth up.” That was Hannah’s experience. Also, with regard to lineage, the Solomonic line was debased and Nathan was elevated, so that Messiah came through the latter’s lineage.

1 Sam. 2:8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.

A principle is stated here. A beautiful fulfillment is that the Little Flock will be raised above every name except that of God and Jesus, and the Ancient Worthies will also be elevated. Jesus said of those who are called and faithful, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:3,5). These are long-term benefits. Jesus and the Little Flock will “inherit the throne of glory” and be “set … among princes.” Several of the apostles were humble fisherman and uneducated from the world’s standpoint, but they will be highly exalted. Coming from Nazareth, Jesus was despised, but in time every knee will have to bow to him. In the vignette of this chapter, Hannah strongly pictures the Church and its longings.

“The pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.” The figurative “pillars” may be God’s attributes of Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Power, which are manifested by earth’s experiences. Earth is the testing ground for the development of Jesus Christ, his Church, and mankind, and the permission of evil on earth will be helpful for future generations on other planets. Thus the earth is an opportunity for Jehovah to manifest the attributes that He inherently had but that could be only partially understood previously. For instance, Power could be more easily understood when He created the heavens and hung the earth on nothing, but His Love was not seen except from the life-giving effect or power of the sun on the earth. These are feeble natural manifestations of God’s attributes, but the creation of this planet, the permission of evil, the development of the Church, and the aspect of a proving ground have a spiritual after-effect. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for mankind (John 3:16). These are opportunities for revealing aspects of God that could never have been possible without the creation of planet Earth with this particular purpose or plan. This planet—this little speck in the universe—is where Jesus came to die. Thus the earth is significant and most outstanding from the long-range standpoint. The four pillars of the earth are established here, where they will manifest this aspect of God’s character as no other physical abode will ever demonstrate. The invisible spiritual realm, of which we know very little, is another matter.

Q: From the literal standpoint, would verse 8 tie in with Psalm 104:5, “[God] … laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever,” and Psalm 102:25, “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands”?

A: The earth is set on an axis, which is an invisible power or rod that runs through the North and South Poles. On this invisible axis, the earth is tilted and turns. There are five or six motions in connection with planet Earth, yet it is so fixed that it is more durable and less influenced by any other power than if steel were set in concrete down here. The invisible is more real than that which is seen with the natural eye (2 Cor. 4:18). The answer to the question is yes, but we are trying to go in back of the literal aspect to see what the pillars themselves represent. Our thought would be God’s attributes, but we are not dogmatic.

1 Sam. 2:9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.

God “will keep the feet of his saints [the Church].” The first part of verse 9 hints that Hannah’s eulogy has a spiritual application to the Church. Of course there were saints in the Old Testament too, but we can see a beautiful Gospel Age application.

Comment: Psalm 91:11,12 reads, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”

Reply: Satan quoted this Scripture when he brought Jesus in vision to the Temple Mount (Luke 4:9-12). Seeing right through the temptation, which was along natural and physical lines, Jesus rejected it immediately, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” We are not to deliberately put ourselves in a situation that is precarious to our very life, natural or spiritual, and then expect the Lord to miraculously deliver us. It is another matter when we are forced into a circumstance of danger that we cannot help. God keeps the feet of his saints through spiritual agencies, His Word, and the seven messengers to the Church. From an even more careful examination of verse 9, the “feet” are the feet members down at this end of the age, in the Laodicean period of the Church.

“For by strength shall no man prevail.” No one will prevail by his own strength. We prevail in the Lord’s strength, not our own, the principle being, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

1 Sam. 2:10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.

Judgments have been rendered in the past (such as lightnings that discomforted the enemies of Israel), and they will occur in the future. Jehovah “shall judge the ends of the earth”; that is, there will be worldwide judgment.

“He [God] shall give strength unto his king [Jesus], and exalt the horn of his anointed [the Church].” This statement expands the earlier thought of Hannah’s own individual horn being exalted (verse 1). The humbling of Jesus and his Church is to be reversed, and as a result, that horn will be exalted in all the earth. Both applications are good. Hannah was fitting the “horn” into her own circumstance, but the Holy Spirit moved her to use language, exuberance, and profound thoughts that were much more significant than she could possibly understand at that time.

1 Sam. 2:11 And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest.

Elkanah, Samuel’s father, returned to his house in Ramah. Meanwhile, Samuel ran errands and did chores for the aged Eli. With Eli being infirm and his eyesight failing, the child served a useful purpose, whereas an adult might consider the chores demeaning and/or frustrating.

Eli’s rank as high priest should have indicated to anyone who was there, man or child, that it would be an honor and a privilege to so serve, but very few see matters in that light.

1 Sam. 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.

Eli’s two sons were wicked. Some of the Lord’s people have been falsely called Belial, and Jesus was accused of doing miracles by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons.

1 Sam. 2:13 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;

1 Sam. 2:14 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.

The custom of the two evil sons was that a flesh hook was dipped into the boiling pot wherein the flesh of the sacrifice was seething. Whatever meat the hook brought up, they kept. This practice was added; it was not part of the Mosaic Law.

Leviticus 7:28-34 reads:

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, He that offereth the sacrifice of his peace offerings unto the LORD shall bring his oblation unto the LORD of the sacrifice of his peace offerings.

“His own hands shall bring the offerings of the LORD made by fire, the fat with the breast, it shall he bring, that the breast may be waved for a wave offering before the LORD.

“And the priest shall burn the fat upon the altar: but the breast shall be Aaron’s and his sons’.

“And the right shoulder shall ye give unto the priest for an heave offering of the sacrifices of your peace offerings.

“He among the sons of Aaron, that offereth the blood of the peace offerings, and the fat, shall have the right shoulder for his part.

“For the wave breast and the heave shoulder have I taken of the children of Israel from off the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them unto Aaron the priest and unto his sons by a statute for ever from among the children of Israel.”

Let us consider what these two priests, Eli’s sons, did that was contrary to the Law. The kind of sacrifice referred to in verses 13 and 14 was not a burnt offering, which would have been wholly burnt, and it was not a meal (or cereal) offering because meat was involved. Here, then, is a practical illustration that peace offerings were another matter.

There were two kinds of peace offerings: (1) a thanksgiving peace offering and (2) a vow or voluntary peace offering (Lev. 7:11-21). In either case, the animal was eaten. However, with the thanksgiving peace offering, there was a time limit of one day. With the vow, there was a time limit of two days, and on the third day, what remained was to be burnt. Before the bulk of the animal could be eaten by the offerer, portions of the animal were given to the priest and his sons—the fat, the breast, and the right shoulder. How was this offering to be done? The offerer himself was to bring the breast, and on top of the breast was the fat. (According to the Law, the fat and the blood could never be eaten.) The offerer brought the breast and the fat to the altar, where the priest removed the fat and burned it on the altar. Then the priest took the breast from the offerer, but that breast belonged not to the priest personally but to the priesthood—to Aaron and his sons. However, the right shoulder was the property of the priest who did the offering. In other words, whoever personally did the work, assisting the offerer, was rewarded with the right shoulder of the animal. Depending on the size of the individual who was trying to carry the bull’s right shoulder, the offerer might need help because of the weight.

Q: Did the offerer first butcher the animal himself and then bring the parts to the priest?

A: Yes. Because the population of Israel was at least 7 million in David’s day, there might have been several hundred people bringing peace offerings each day throughout the year. The requirement was that the offerer had to bring the sacrifice. Therefore, in bringing the fat and the breast, the offerer first had to kill the animal and skin and quarter it, etc.

Eli’s two sons instituted a new practice. Instead of the offerer bringing the fat and the breast, they sent a servant to take the offering, and other things were involved too. (Incidentally, we are using the peace offering as an illustration, for we do not have time to go into the sin and trespass offerings.) The flesh, the entire animal, was seething (stewing or boiling). Since it had to be eaten in a time limit of one or two days according to the type of peace offering, which was a short time for such a large animal, the family partook of the animal. The part that was cooking in the shallow pan, a deeper kettle, or a large cauldron (depending on the size of the animal) was the offerer’s. In butchering the animal, he had to set aside the fat and the breast and take them to the priest. Thus the family boiled their part of the animal in a large cauldron, for example, minus the parts for the priest.

If the offerer was conscientious, he wanted to do things according to God’s Law, and he had a problem with the interference of Eli’s two sons. The servant of the priests looked into the offerer’s pot to select the choicest, biggest part and then dipped a three-pronged hook into the pot to spear and remove it. The servant did not take a chance with one or two prongs but used three prongs that were no doubt artfully shaped to securely hold the choice meat. In fact, before the servant lifted the flesh hook, he tried to get an additional piece of meat on any empty prong. This unauthorized seizure of meat was uncalled for—it was like a supertax on a thanksgiving or freewill offering.

This unauthorized practice took place before the offerer brought the fat and the breast to the priest at the Tabernacle altar. The offerer needed at least half a day to prepare the offering, heat the pot, and seethe the meat. We presume that meanwhile, during the cooking process, he presented the offering of the fat and the breast to the priest, as required by the Law. Again this took time, for he probably had to stand on line while the priest dealt with others.

What was the effect of the unauthorized practice? The two sons robbed the offerer of the joy and enthusiasm of his sacrifice by coming in the beginning to get extra meat. The individual had determined with his own heart to make a thanksgiving offering to the Lord, but before he could do that, the servant showed up, undercutting the joy and enthusiasm. What an obnoxious practice in the sight of the Lord—a real stench in His nostrils! Eli’s two sons made void the ordinance of the Law through the added tradition of men. By this unauthorized custom, they made the commandment of God of none effect (Matt. 15:6).

1 Sam. 2:15 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.

Before the fat was burned, extra (raw) flesh was demanded. Depending on what kind of animal was being offered and the mood of the two priests on a given day, the servant was sent either while the meat was being cooked or before it was cooked. Suppose 50 people came to the Tabernacle that day with their sacrifices. The servant went to one offerer with his flesh hook and then to another and another, etc. Some of the offerers would have already quartered the animal but not yet have put it in the pot. In that case, the servant took raw flesh, which was preferred so that Eli’s sons could roast the meat instead of boiling it.

Notice the tone of the demand: “Give flesh to roast for the priest.” In other words, “Give me raw meat!” There was no courtesy at all.

Q: In speaking about the enemies of the Cross of Christ, Paul said, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, … whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:18,19). Would Paul have had the type in mind when he spoke about professing Christians who were too concerned about temporal matters? A: That was particularly true in later times. Paul did not necessarily mean the literal belly but that which it symbolizes—self-satisfaction and self-aggrandizement rather than honoring and serving the Lord.

Q: What was Eli’s responsibility with his two sons?

A: He was old, but age was no excuse. He had a responsibility to reprimand his sons, who should have been immediately removed from the priesthood. Even if their removal meant an alternative plan had to be put into effect because there was no other son of Aaron from a technical standpoint, we think God would have forgiven the expediency under the circumstance. Probably Eli rationalized, “If I debar my two sons, who will do the sacrificing?”

Another example was when Uzzah put out his hand to steady the tipping Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam. 6:6,7). In other words, there can be a concern for the Lord’s work that is not proper.

Things have to be done His way. God would have provided if Eli had been faithful.

Q: Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, were instantly killed for offering “strange fire before the LORD” (Lev. 10:1,2). Shouldn’t Eli’s sons have been put to death?

A: In that case, God caused a fire to come down and devour the two sons. Nadab and Abihu could have offered strange fire without Aaron’s knowing about their actions, for the Scriptures do not say they had a habit of being drunk. To the contrary, Eli’s two sons were habitually sinful. Nevertheless, the misdeed of Nadab and Abihu was of sufficient enormity to warrant the death penalty, and the type had to be kept pure during the 40 years in the wilderness.

Comment: In both cases, the situations were pictures.

Reply: Yes. Eli, whose permissiveness allowed the misdeeds, pictures the Great Company. However, the ones who committed the wrong deeds (Nadab and Abihu and also Hophni and Phinehas) picture those who go into Second Death. Incidentally, there are degrees of permissiveness, for one who is permissive can be just as responsible as the sinner depending on the nature of the misdeed. Under the Law, an accessory to a crime was considered guilty of  the act, generally speaking.

Eli should have seen that his two sons were put to death because of other gross sins. Their acts of adultery merited the death penalty. At any rate, with the unauthorized practice of taking meat, they should have been “excommunicated” from the priesthood.

1 Sam. 2:16 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.

The toleration of these sins cast reproach on God. Eli’s two sons and their servant brazenly and sacrilegiously intruded on the offerer. In some cases, the offerer would say, “You can have all you want, but let me first present the fat and the breast to the Lord.” When the fat was taken off the breast and put in the fire, it was being consumed by the Lord—God ate first. Next the breast was given to the priesthood in harmony with the Law. Then the offerer could go back to his pot and eat. Thus the servant’s coming in at the beginning undercut the character of the individual who was doing the offering. Imagine making a trip to the Tabernacle with an offering and having this happen! In addition to being dispirited, the offerer was distracted from worshipping the Lord by the Lord’s representative (the two priests and their servant).

Little by little, Eli’s two sons would have started the practice of taking meat in excess, probably using prudence, a genteel manner, and nice words in the beginning. But over time, all of the decorum and flowery language were dropped because a habit had developed. As they seared their conscience, they got coarser and coarser in their attitude. Finally, they felt it was their right to take the meat. If the offerer did not cooperate, they took what they wanted by force. Had the two sons suddenly started the practice, the awfulness of the crime would have been so apparent that proper steps would have been taken to stop them.

Q: Couldn’t the people have done something to stop the practice?

A: Some did, but Eli did not act. The common people are like sheep. They may be dissatisfied, but they are not leaders.

Q: Is there a counterpart with the scribes and the Pharisees?

A: In the overall picture, Eli’s two sons represent the scribes and the Pharisees. When all of the pictures are taken together, they are integrated parts of a larger picture with still another meaning. The separate incidents are pictures within a larger picture that is more dispensational pertaining to the true Church as a whole, rather than to a localized principle in action.

1 Sam. 2:17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

We are reminded of some of the practices in the nominal Church. However, men can also abhor “the offering of the LORD” in the true Church, which consists of the Little Flock, the Great Company, the Second Death class, and those who are not consecrated.

1 Sam. 2:18 But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.

The young child Samuel wore a linen ephod, which was like a short vest coat.

1 Sam. 2:19 Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.

The “yearly sacrifice” was probably the Passover. Three times a year the males were required to “appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose” (Deut. 16:16). At the time of Passover, Hannah and other family members accompanied Elkanah, and she brought Samuel a “little coat” that she had made.

1 Sam. 2:20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went unto their own home.

1 Sam. 2:21 And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

Being grateful for the “loan” of Samuel, Eli asked God to bless Elkanah and Hannah by giving her other children. His prayer was in harmony with her having given the child freely to the Lord following the weaning, which would have been a period of three to five (or even seven) years according to the custom back there. The prayer was answered, and she had five other children, three sons and two daughters. Time passed as Samuel “grew before the LORD.”

1 Sam. 2:22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Why was the detail included that “Eli was very old”? Because of his age and infirmity, he might have felt justified in not taking drastic action against his sons. Also, he probably wondered who would take his place if he put his sons out of office. (There may have been a decimation in the ranks of the sons of Aaron at that time.) Thus the burden of office increasingly fell upon him. Whatever his thinking, Eli did not take the steps he should have pursued in spite of his age.

Notice the nature of the sin of the two sons—it could not have been much worse, for they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the Tabernacle. Not only was death the penalty for such fornication, but the indication is that this gross sin was committed on the Tabernacle premises, which was an even worse offense.

1 Sam. 2:23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.

1 Sam. 2:24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’S people to transgress.

Although we are not told the ages of Hophni and Phinehas, they must have been 40 or 50 years old because Eli was 98 years old when he died a few years later (1 Sam. 4:15). The point is that the two sons were mature adults and hence very responsible and guilty for their habitual sins, which had been going on for some time. Also, it probably took considerable time for the people to become sufficiently fed up with the gross sins that they had the courage to inform the aged Eli. Many (“all this people”) eventually told him of the evil dealings of his two sons.

Eli scolded Hophni and Phinehas but not vehemently enough. His rebuke was too mild: “Why do ye such things? … Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’S people to transgress.” Eli went through the motions of moving his lips, but he softened the nature of the rebuke and had reserve instead of showing proper righteous indignation. He might have heard about his sons’ sins over a period of time until finally he could not ignore the multiple reports. He was pressured into reprimanding them but was not severe enough.

Comment: Since a little leaven leavens the whole lump, perhaps some of the others began to treat the matter lightly and became careless in their own lives (1 Cor. 5:6).

Reply: Yes, for Eli said, “Ye make the LORD’S people to transgress.” When a practice like this occurs in the religious leadership, it influences others to take great liberties without reverential fear. Back there the reasoning would have been, “We did not see lightning come down from heaven and destroy them as with Nadab and Abihu.” The gross sins went on and on. In addition, as stated earlier, when the people brought an offering to the Lord, the two sons sent a servant with a three-pronged hook to grab choice pieces of meat out of the pot before the offerer had time to take his offering to the altar. Thus there were many flagrant violations.

Certain practices came into the priesthood as time went on. In Moses’ day, the priesthood was inaugurated properly, and the laws were enunciated correctly, for the type had to be kept pure. However, negligence occurred over time. Moses’ life shows the ideal situation and what  God’s thinking was. Even if succeeding generations were not properly taught, they were still responsible because of the light of conscience, but they were not quite as culpable. At any rate, as time passed, certain principles were neglected.

1 Sam. 2:25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall entreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.

God allowed the condition to occur for a while in order to reveal the weakness of Eli, but eventually He would slay the two sons through providential circumstances. Stated another way, God intended that future posterity would draw a lesson about Eli of what not to do.

Eli continued to speak: “If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him.” The judge first inquires into a matter to make sure that a man really did sin against another; he needs to know who is guilty and who is not guilty. Then the judge sets the penalty and/or exonerates the individual.

Of course a sin against Jehovah is more serious. “But if a man sin against the LORD, who shall entreat for him?” There are degrees of sin, and only Jesus could entreat in this case.

Q: Wouldn’t verse 25 be an Old Testament parallel to Matthew 18:15-17, where brother sins against brother? Then other examples are given where the sin is against God, and those situations are handled differently.

A: That is true. As an example, Luke 17:3,4 states, “If thy brother trespass against thee [a case of one brother against another], rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Nevertheless, we have to use a little common sense. If the trespass were of a grievous nature—murder, adultery, etc.—one could not commit the sin seven times in a day and be forgiven just because he said, “I repent.” The Luke text is referring to a situation where a brother demeans the reputation or character of another brother in a serious way but not in a gross sense, for in the latter case, the individual has to answer to the Lord.

We can forgive one who sins against us if he repents, but one who sins against God must be forgiven by God—with proper evidence of repentance. We can only forgive a sin that is directly against us as an individual and is confined to us, for once another party is involved, there are considerations for two people. For example, if a brother’s trespass against another party has something to do with his family, then other individuals are involved, and the party cannot just simply forgive, for the sin has gone beyond the one-on-one basis. In other words, repentance can be mere lip service. The point is that repentance has to be proportional to the nature of the deed. With a grievous sin, the individual cannot just say, “I repent,” but must manifest a condition of remorse. Unfortunately, some brethren do not know how to make decisions, for they apply serious decisions to minor transgressions, and minor judgments to serious transgressions. Moreover, sometimes one sins against a brother and against God with the same transgression. All kinds of factors have to be taken into consideration.

Here Eli spoke truth to his sons, inferring that they had transgressed against God, but action was needed. Words alone were not enough.

There are degrees of sin. The Law required an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but some matters are not concrete. For instance, a brother may hurt the feelings of another or may damage his reputation. Each problem has to be considered separately, whereas the tendency today is to use the thumbnail description of Matthew 18:15-17 for everything. If the trespass is against God or if the sin is public, what is the purpose of going to the brother? The purpose of the Matthew 18 text is to discuss the matter so that it might be corrected and not have to be taken to the Church. Thus the sin is serious enough that if the brother does not respond, then presumably the one who goes to him will see it through. If the brother does not listen to a one-on-one basis, then hopefully, he will listen to a one-on-three basis. If he still does not listen, then the matter should be taken before the ecclesia. However, some matters are so serious and/or public that Matthew 18 is not the solution. A public transgression must be publicly renounced. David was forgiven because he confessed his sin to the whole nation.

Comment: The sins of Hophni and Phinehas were public because Eli heard about them either directly or indirectly from “all this people” (verse 23). A comparable situation was the “commonly reported” sin of 1 Corinthians 5:1.

Reply: The fornication of that fifth chapter was so grievous that it was undreamed of by the Gentiles. Paul stated the matter forcefully as if to say, “How much worse could it be?” And how much worse could the sins of Eli’s sons be?

1 Sam. 2:26 And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.

In the meantime, Samuel grew in favor with God and men and prospered.

1 Sam. 2:27 And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house?

1 Sam. 2:28 And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?

1 Sam. 2:29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?

A “man of God” came to tell Eli of God’s attitude toward him for being permissive with his sons. Neither the name nor the origin of this man was given. An unknown personage, he was simply seen as a man of God, and of course his message is what attracts our attention. He came with the spirit of a prophet and, without any flowery introduction, gave his message.

This prophet began to review the history of the priesthood starting with the calling of Aaron, the first high priest. He showed that being high priest under the Mosaic arrangement was an honored position and that anyone who occupied the position should feel thankfulness, respect, devotion, and obedience to the requirements of that particular function of authority. The ephod was the robe, or symbol, of office. Incidentally, Samuel’s ephod (verse 18) could have had some kind of ornamentation, but it would not have been too similar, as shown by the principle with the incense; namely, God indicated that there could not be counterfeit incense lest the authority of the priesthood be vitiated.

Comment: Since Eli pictures the Great Company, it is interesting that he is accused of honoring his sons above God. Jesus said that his disciples must love God above all earthly relationships (Matt. 10:37).

Reply: Jesus concluded his remarks by saying that if we do not have respect for God and Jesus—if we do not love them with that authority—we are not worthy to be called a disciple. It is understandable that many of us make a covenant of consecration without realizing the depth of that covenant. However, as time goes by and we grow older and are longer in the way of the Lord, we see the significance of the consecration vow and realize that diligence is necessary.

God looks for this progression in us until we reach the mark of perfect love and maturity, at which point we have to stand against all odds. But to get to that state takes time.

What is the thought of “wherefore [why] kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering”? When large animals such as the bull and the horse get annoyed, they impulsively kick. Neglect or refusing to do something can be considered aggression or disobedience. Resistance, “kicking,” is activity in the wrong direction. Eli’s neglect was kicking at God’s sacrifice. By his neglect, by his silence, by his not doing anything about his sons’ transgressions, he was kicking against God’s regulations.

Comment: When Paul was blinded by the bright light on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, a voice said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).

The man of God asked, “Wherefore … [do you] make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?” We are reminded of Deuteronomy 32:15, “Jeshurun [the nation of Israel] waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he [Jeshurun, Israel] forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.” Israel was called “a stiffnecked people” because the majority resisted God (Exod. 32:9). Since God has been dealing with the Israelites, they have higher requirements and better rewards. Those who act accordingly and obey are proportionately more blessed.

“Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, … and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?” The two sons had their servant take the cream of the sacrifices for themselves. Not satisfied with the tithing set forth under the Law, they pursued the practice of exorbitant tithing and, consequently, got rich. The implication is that Eli shared in that wealth, for it was in the family. Instead, he should have put his sons out of office. By neglecting to take this action, he honored his sons more than God. Eli probably rationalized his lack of action and did not think he was honoring them above God. When Hannah was agonizing in prayer for a son, Eli readily reprimanded her, thinking she was drunk (1 Sam. 1:14). However, he could not reprimand his own sons, who were committing habitual and much more serious sins. Sometimes people can act with strength when there is no cost to themselves, but like Eli, they fail to act when there is personal cost.

With regard to the worship of the golden calf, Moses asked, “Who is on the LORD’S side? Let him come unto me” (Exod. 32:26). Because all of the Levites went over to him, Moses said God would give them the office of the priesthood and take it away from the firstborn. In other words, the Levites were substituted for the firstborn of Israel. Moses instructed the Levites who came to him to slay every man who was involved in sacrificing to the golden calf, even if those individuals were their brothers, their best friend, or a relative. Because they loved God in spite of the cost, the Levites were honored.

Q: Is there a class at this end of the age comparable to those who worshipped the golden calf, indicating we should speak up against them?

A: There is not necessarily a specific application to the end of the age, for the picture has applied to the antitypical priesthood throughout the Gospel Age. Many Christians have this test. Somewhere in the Christian’s life, when he is more mature, he will have to take such a stand against an individual close to him, in or out of the brotherhood. Or perhaps an idol of some kind has to be cut off. We must love God supremely. We are weak in the flesh because many things distract us from thinking about God, but we need this theme of purpose so that if something should arise between God and us, we will obey God first. All of the Little Flock will have this test, but not necessarily those who do not measure up to this degree of worthiness.

Putty is not tested, so the degree of development indicates whether this test will come. For each step faithfully taken under such conditions, a commensurate reward is given, even in the present life in most cases. However, we should act on faith and not on the thought of reward.

1 Sam. 2:30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Because of disobedience, God said He would remove Eli and his posterity from the priesthood.

Q: Initially Eli, and probably even his sons in their younger days, must have been obedient.

Otherwise, why would Hannah have committed Samuel to Eli? Did conditions get progressively worse after Samuel came on the scene?

A: God’s office is another matter. For instance, we aspire to the spiritual priesthood of God— not only that we might be considered as such in the present life but also that we might prove to be faithful kings and priests to God in the future. However, if we went by the failures or the practices of other people, every one of us would see discouraging examples. Our dedication is to the Lord, so even if the whole world goes astray, we want to make our calling and election sure. Therefore, we cannot use the poor examples of others as an excuse in our desire to attain that high goal.

Comment: Since Hannah went to Shiloh only once a year, she may not have been fully aware of the sins of the sons. Uppermost in her mind was how she could serve the Lord.

Comment: Eli pictures the Great Company, who do not start out with that destiny in mind. Therefore, initially they must have had the ability to make their calling and election sure.

Reply: That is true, but the instruction one receives is a factor. An individual can be wellintentioned, but if he does not have the proper principles, which should get clearer as he grows, he will not attain the Little Flock. In proportion as one desires to grow, if he does not hear right doctrine, which shows the proper way, his consecration will be affected—unless he personally prays to God for help and direction. He must want to know God’s Word and will more clearly. He must be determined that whatever God’s will is, he will do it. In answer to prayer, he will find out that obedience is difficult, but if he follows through, that is to his credit.

Some brethren want to obey until they come to a trial that they consider to be too difficult.

Consider Hannah. She prayed to God for a child, saying, “If I get this man child, I will give him wholly to you” (1 Sam. 1:11 paraphrase). After weaning Samuel, she sacrificed him. Since she lived in southern Israel and the Tabernacle was in northern Israel, she was away from her son all year until she went up to Shiloh to give him a coat and to have some fellowship with him. She kept her word, but what would normally happen? A woman would pray and get the child and then forget her promise or find excuses to delay fulfilling it—and the longer the delay, the less apt she would be to ever fulfill the promise. At the time Hannah made the commitment, she would not have realized the full tugging of the heart that she would experience. But to her credit, she kept her word. This is the type of character that will make the Little Flock. Abraham was fully willing to slay Isaac, in whom the promise was. Therefore, whether or not one makes his calling and election sure may have nothing to do with the individual himself but with a diversionary goal, practice, or idol apart from what God’s will is for him. Frequently the test that comes pertains to personalities.

God had said, through the “man of God,” that indeed Eli’s house and the house of his father would walk before Him forever, but now, “Be it far from me.” How do we harmonize the promise with its withdrawal? The priesthood would be forever based on obedience. The spiritual priesthood is not necessarily selected according to the flesh, for individuals are called from all different peoples with varying backgrounds, Gentiles as well as Jews. Eli and his two sons were debarred from the priesthood, but in addition, those who despise God will be lightly esteemed.

Eli and his two sons will have an opportunity for life in the future, even though they picture the Great Company and Second Death, respectively.

This portrayal applies to the true Church, for there is another system entirely in the nominal Church. Surely not every priest and minister in the nominal Church will go into Second Death.

For one thing, most of the religious leaders never made a consecration to do God’s will.

Rather, they promised to do the will of the denomination. A million people may be in the nominal Church in a certain area. Of that number, perhaps only 10,000 are Spirit-begotten, having made a sincere consecration to the Lord and knowing what they did at the time. We cannot set an example for consecration any lower than to do God’s will with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Although we cannot perform perfectly, that is our intention. The representation, then, is as follows:

Type Antitype

Samuel: Little Flock

Eli: Great Company

Hophni: An obvious Second Death class

Phinehas: A Second Death class that is not obvious

Thus the picture must be brought up to the level of the true Church. To try to apply this picture to the nominal Church would be to lower it, and we would fail to get the lesson intended for the house of sons, who are striving for the goal of the Little Flock.

Q: If the two sons represent two classes of Second Death, is the representation comparable to Nadab and Abihu? And if so, does the word etymology likewise indicate that one class is more obvious than the other?

A: Yes. The Hophni (“hollow”) class is obvious, whereas the Phinehas (“serpent’s mouth”) class, being less obvious, masquerades as, and is in with and among, the consecrated, as described in the Book of Jude.

1 Sam. 2:31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.

The man of God, sent to rebuke Eli, continued to speak through verse 36. “Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm [Eli would be cut off], and the arm of thy father’s house [the branch of the priesthood that Eli came from], that there shall not be an old man in thine house [because Hophni and Phinehas would die early].”

1 Sam. 2:32 And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever.

“And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation.” Several translations use the word “rival” instead of “enemy.” In this prophecy, the rival would be Samuel, who eventually succeeded Eli and performed the duties of the priest.

“And thou shalt see an enemy [a rival, that is, Samuel] in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine [Eli’s] house for ever.” There would be no successors in Eli’s branch. When his two sons died, no one could carry on the priesthood in his name.

1 Sam. 2:33 And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.

Samuel, “the man of thine [Eli’s],” would not be cut off from God’s altar, but how would he “consume” Eli’s eyes and grieve his heart? (A subsequent chapter shows that Samuel got a message from the Lord of the same nature as this one.) A prophet, a man of God, came along and informed Eli that he would be cut off and have no posterity, for the priesthood would be removed, and that one before him would be not only a daily reminder of that fact but also his successor. The little boy Samuel was growing up, and in time he would replace Eli. Therefore, every day that Eli saw good Samuel (as opposed to his own two wicked sons) was a constant

reminder of the change to come. Samuel’s every act of kindness showed that God’s favor was on him and that he was a proper choice. And all the evil committed by Hophni and Phinehas was a constant reminder of their being unfit for office. Samuel’s faithfulness was a stark contrast to the unfaithfulness of Eli’s own sons, who were still in the priesthood. Thus the daily beholding of Samuel’s conduct and how it gnawed away at Eli internally, as well as the prophecy concerning the removal of the priesthood, tended to weaken him in many respects.

This “thorn in his flesh” was to Eli’s grief. “And all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age,” that is, before the two sons reached old age.

1 Sam. 2:34 And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them.

A sign would come unto Eli; namely, both sons would die in one day. When their death occurred, he would know that the enactment of the prophetic judgment had come to pass.

How would we like to receive advance notice that both of our sons would die in one day—and that the priesthood would be not only cut off from us but also from our posterity?

1 Sam. 2:35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.

“I [Jehovah] will raise me up a faithful priest.” Verse 35 has a twofold significance. (1) Samuel would be discerned as the immediate successor, and (2) later on, the priesthood would be traced through Zadok (2 Sam. 8:17). “I will raise me up a faithful priest [Samuel first, Zadok yet future], … and I will build him [the faithful priest] a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed [The Christ] for ever.”

God would have a faithful priest replace Eli, and the house of the faithful priest would be suretied. From a prophetic standpoint with regard to the Kingdom, the Zadok priesthood down here will be subservient to The Christ in glory, and the Ancient Worthies will be the civil servants. At the end of the Millennial Age, when all of the saved world of mankind become kings, the Ancient Worthies, the “princes in all the earth,” will vacate the “camp of the saints” and receive their spiritual inheritance (Psa. 45:16; Rev. 20:9). All that will be left is the

emblematic representation of the Third Temple, and the services in that structure will change somewhat to be just a memorial. During the Kingdom, it will be fitting to have a capital and a Temple in Jerusalem to which the people can go, but when all are made kings in the earth, they will not need laws on what they can and cannot do, for the Law of God will be written in their hearts. Having been tried and proven true, mankind will be perfect, so the Temple will be a place (1) for singing praises to God for His acts in past ages, (2) for occasions like the Memorial, and (3) particularly for celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles, which will be preserved forever.

Q: Did Samuel become the next high priest?

A: He acted as priest, seer, prophet, and judge. He fulfilled the office of king but not in the way it was later ordained in a more ceremonial fashion, for the time setting here was the Period of the Judges. Samuel was the last of the judges, and there had never been a king in Israel up to this time. Samuel also acted as priest and officiated at the offerings. In addition, he anointed Saul and David. Samuel was probably a Levite by birth in order to become a priest. However, since the Bible does not give Samuel’s lineage, we have to take his heritage on faith.

1 Sam. 2:36 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.

All who would be left in Eli’s house—his relatives—would “come and crouch” to Samuel, begging for food. They would entreat, “Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a piece of bread”; that is, they would beg to share in the priests’ revenue, for members of the priests’ household were supplied with sustenance. The thought is not that those who were left in Eli’s house would ask to be priests but that they would desire some cognizance in order to have a morsel of bread from the successor. Stated another way, they would have to humble their pride in order to survive. We can see the problem, for since the Levites had no inheritance in the land, they would be lacking in food and necessities if they could not partake of the tithing. Moreover, Eli’s relatives would have no “employment,” for they would be cut off from the Tabernacle services and be misfits. In their “outcast” condition, they would be forced to recognize the wrong that had been done by their predecessors (Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas).

One of the promises in the Book of Revelation is that those who persecute the true Church in the present age will one day have the opposite experience. They will have to acknowledge and recognize God’s choice of the Little Flock and bow to them, asking for forgiveness.

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