From Eternity Past


Chapter 56—Eli and His Wicked Sons

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

Eli, priest and judge in Israel, wielded a great influence over the tribes of Israel. But he did not rule his own household. He was an indulgent father. He did not correct the evil habits and passions of his children. Rather than contend with them, he would give them their own way. EP 416.1

The priest and judge of Israel had not been left in darkness as to the duty of governing the children God had given to his care. But Eli shrank from this duty, because it involved crossing the will of his sons, and would make it necessary to punish and deny them. He indulged his children in whatever they desired and neglected the work of fitting them for the service of God and the duties of life. EP 416.2

The father became subject to the children. His sons had no proper appreciation of the character of God or of the sacredness of His law. From childhood they had been accustomed to the sanctuary and its service, but they had lost all sense of its holiness and significance. The father had not checked their disrespect for the solemn services, and when they reached manhood they were full of the deadly fruits of skepticism and rebellion. EP 416.3

Though wholly unfit, they were placed as priests in the sanctuary to minister before God. These wicked men carried their disregard of authority into the service of God. The sacrifices, pointing forward to the death of Christ, were designed to preserve in the hearts of the people faith in the Redeemer to come. Hence it was of the greatest importance that the Lord's directions concerning them be strictly heeded. In the peace offerings the fat alone was to be burned upon the altar. A certain specified portion was reserved for the priests, but the greater part was returned to the offerer to be eaten by him and his friends in a sacrificial feast. Thus all hearts were to be directed in gratitude and faith to the great Sacrifice that was to take away the sin of the world. EP 416.4

The sons of Eli, not content with the part of the peace offerings allotted them, demanded an additional portion. These sacrifices gave the priests an opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. They not only demanded more than their right, but refused to wait even until the fat had been burned as an offering to God. They persisted in claiming whatever portion pleased them, and, if denied, threatened to take it by violence. EP 417.1

This irreverence robbed the service of its holy significance, and the people “abhorred the offering of the Lord.” The great antitypical sacrifice to which they were to look forward was no longer recognized. “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord.” EP 417.2

These unfaithful priests dishonored their sacred office by their vile, degrading practices. Many of the people, filled with indignation at the corrupt course of Hophni and Phinehas, ceased to come to the place of worship. Ungodliness, profligacy, and even idolatry, prevailed to a fearful extent. EP 417.3

Eli had greatly erred in permitting his sons to minister in holy office. Excusing their course on one pretext and 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 of their violent deeds, and the high priest dared remain silent no longer. His sons saw the grief of their father, but their hard hearts were not touched. They heard his mild admonitions, but they were not impressed, nor would they change their evil course. Had Eli dealt justly with his wicked sons, they would have been punished with death. Dreading thus to bring public disgrace and condemnation upon them, he sustained them in the most sacred positions of trust. He permitted them to corrupt the service of God and inflict upon the cause of truth an injury which years could not efface. But God took the matter in hand. EP 417.4