Beginning of the End


Eli and His Wicked Sons

This chapter is based on 1 Samuel 2:12-36.

Eli, priest and judge in Israel, had a great influence over the tribes of Israel, but he did not rule his own household well. He was a permissive father, and he did not correct the evil habits and passions of his children. Rather than have conflict with them, he would give them their own way. BOE 290.1

The priest and judge of Israel had not been left in darkness about his duty to govern the children God had given to his care, but Eli pulled back from this duty, because it involved crossing the will of his sons, and would require punishing and denying them. He let his children have whatever they desired, and neglected the work of fitting them for God’s service and the duties of life. BOE 290.2

The father became subject to the children, and his sons did not begin to understand the character of God or the sacredness of His law. From childhood they had been familiar with the sanctuary and its service, but they had lost all sense of its holiness and meaning. Eli had not restrained their disrespect for the solemn services, and when they reached manhood they were full of the deadly fruits of doubt and rebellion. BOE 290.3

Though entirely unfit, they were placed as priests in the sanctuary to minister before God. These wicked men carried their rebellion into the service of God. The sacrifices, pointing forward to Christ’s death, were designed to preserve the people’s faith in the coming Redeemer, so it was absolutely essential to precisely follow the Lord’s directions concerning them. In the peace offerings only the fat was to be burned on the altar. A certain specified portion was reserved for the priests, but the greater part was returned to the offerer to eat in a sacrificial feast with friends. This would direct all hearts in gratitude and faith to the great Sacrifice that was to take away the sin of the world. BOE 290.4

Not content with their share of the peace offerings, the sons of Eli demanded an additional portion. The priests took these sacrifices as an opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. They not only demanded more than their right, but refused to even wait until the fat had been burned as an offering to God. They claimed whatever portion that they wanted, and if denied, threatened to take it by force BOE 290.5

This irreverence robbed the service of its sacred meaning, and the people “abhorred the offering of the Lord.” They no longer recognized in the symbol of the offering the great Sacrifice to which they were to look forward. “Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord.” BOE 291.1

These unfaithful priests dishonored their sacred position by their evil, degrading practices. Many of the people were disgusted over the corrupt practices of Hophni and Phinehas, and they stopped coming to the place of worship. Ungodliness, immorality, and even idolatry became common to a terrible level. BOE 291.2

Eli had done great wrong in permitting his sons to minister as priests. Making excuses for them for one reason or another, he became blinded to their sins. But at last he could no longer hide his eyes from the crimes of his sons. The people complained about their evil deeds, and the high priest did not dare to remain silent any longer. His sons saw the grief of their father, but their hard hearts were not touched. They heard his mild rebukes, but they were not impressed, and they would not change their evil course. If Eli had treated his wicked sons according to law, they would have been punished with death. Dreading to take any steps that would bring public disgrace and condemnation on them, he kept them in the most sacred positions of trust. He permitted them to corrupt the service of God and inflict an injury on the cause of truth that years could not undo. But God took the matter into His own hands. BOE 291.3