From Eternity Past


Eli Loses His Last Chance

Yet Eli did not manifest true repentance. He failed to renounce his sin. Year after year the Lord delayed His threatened judgments. Much might have been done to redeem the failures of the past, but the aged priest took no effective measures to correct the evils that were polluting the sanctuary of the Lord and leading thousands in Israel to ruin. The forbearance of God caused Hophni and Phinehas to harden their hearts and become still bolder in transgression. EP 422.2

The messages of warning and reproof to his house were made known by Eli to the whole nation. By this means he hoped to counteract the evil influence of his past neglect. But the warnings were disregarded by the people, as they had been by the priests. The people of surrounding nations also became bolder in their idolatry and crime. They felt no sense of guilt for their sins, as they would have felt had the Israelites preserved their integrity. It became necessary for God to interpose, that the honor of His name might be maintained. EP 422.3

“Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.” This expedition was undertaken by the Israelites without counsel from God, without the concurrence of high priest or prophet. “And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men.” As the shattered and disheartened force returned to their encampment, “the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines?” They did not see that their own sins had been the cause of this terrible disaster. EP 423.1

And they said, “Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.” The Lord had given no command or permission that the ark should come into the army; yet the Israelites felt confident that victory would be theirs, and uttered a great shout when it was borne into the camp by the sons of Eli. EP 423.2

The Philistines looked upon the ark as the god of Israel. They said, “What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid; for they said, God has come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! ... These are the gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.” EP 423.3

The Philistines made a fierce assault, which resulted in great slaughter. Thirty thousand men lay dead upon the field, and the ark of God was taken, the two sons of Eli having fallen while fighting to defend it. EP 423.4

The most terrifying calamity that could occur had befallen Israel. The ark of God was in the possession of the enemy. The symbol of the abiding presence and power of Jehovah was removed from the midst of them. In former days, miraculous victories had been achieved whenever it appeared. The visible symbol of the most high God had rested over it in the holy of holies. But now it had brought no victory, and there was mourning throughout Israel. EP 424.1

The law of God, contained in the ark, was a symbol of His presence, but they had cast contempt upon the commandments and had grieved the Spirit of the Lord from among them. When the people did not honor His revealed will by obedience to His law, the ark could avail them little more than a common box. They looked to it as the idolatrous nations looked to their gods. They transgressed the law it contained, for their worship of the ark led to hypocrisy and idolatry. EP 424.2