The Signs of the Times


April 6, 1888

The Sin of Eli


Eli was priest and judge in Israel. He held the highest and most responsible positions among the people of God. He had been appointed to govern the nation, and to minister in their behalf before God. As a man divinely chosen for the sacred duties of the priesthood, and set over the land as the highest judicial authority, he was looked up to as an example, and he wielded a great influence over the tribes of Israel. But although Eli was appointed to govern the people, he did not control his own family, or rule his own household. Eli was an indulgent father. Loving peace and ease, he did not exercise his authority to correct the evil habits and passions of his children. Rather than contend with them or punish them, he would submit to their will, and give them their own way. Instead of regarding the education of his sons as one of the most important of his responsibilities, he treated the matter as of little consequence. The development of their character was of the greatest importance, and God held Eli accountable for the way in which he allowed his sons to exercise the evil propensities of their nature. The priest and judge of Israel had not been left in darkness as to the duty of the father to restrain and govern the children that 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. Without weighing the terrible consequences that would follow his course, Eli indulged his children in whatever they desired, and neglected the solemn and sacred work of fitting them for the service of God, and the duties of life. ST April 6, 1888, par. 1

The course of Abraham is a complete contrast to that of Eli. “I know him,” said the Searcher of hearts, “that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” There would be no betraying of his sacred trust; no sinful neglect to restrain the evil propensities of his children; no weak, unwise, indulgent favoritism; no yielding of his conviction of duty to the clamors of affection. Abraham's love for his children would lead him to correct his household, at whatever cost, for the good of their souls, and the honor of God. He was diligent in the cultivation of home religion, for he well knew that the blessing of Heaven rested on the habitation of the righteous. He determined that the law of God should be kept in his household, and he was called the “friend of God” and honored by God as the “father of the faithful.” ST April 6, 1888, par. 2

Had Eli but followed his example, great and disastrous evils would have been avoided, and the blessing of God would have rested upon him and his house forever. God had said of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him” “to do justice and judgment.” But Eli allowed his children to control him. The family government was reversed. The father became subject to the children. There is no greater curse upon households than to allow the youth to have their own way. When parents regard every wish of their offspring, and indulge them in what they know is not for their good, the children soon lose all respect for their parents, all regard for the authority of God or man, and they are led captive at the will of Satan. Many an indulgent father or mother has reaped a harvest of sorrow from their own loose and careless government of their households, and they have regretted, too late, that they did not restrain their children in their youth. ST April 6, 1888, par. 3

Eli failed where many are failing today. He neglected to honor God in his family life, to teach his sons to reverence and obey God; and the consequence of this neglect was apparent throughout all the life of his sons. When the work of disciplining and training the children is not properly done, it testifies against the parents in the defective character of their sons and daughters, and will produce evil results, not only in their lives, but in the lives of others. The influence of an ill-regulated family is widespread and disastrous to all society. It accumulates in a tide of evil that affects families, communities, and governments. ST April 6, 1888, par. 4

Because of Eli's position, his influence was more extended than if he had been an ordinary man. His family life was imitated throughout Israel. The baneful results of his negligent, ease-loving ways were seen in the families that surrounded him. His evil ways were reflected in thousands of homes that were moulded by his example. If children are indulged in evil practices, while the parents make a profession of religion, the truth of God is brought into reproach. The character formed under the influence of the home is the best testimony to its Christianity. Actions speak louder than the most positive profession of godliness. If professors of religion, instead of putting forth earnest, persistent, and painstaking effort to bring up a well-ordered household as a witness to the benefits of faith in God, are lax in their government, sparing of themselves, and indulgent to the evil desires of their children, they are doing as did Eli, and are bringing disgrace on the cause of Christ, and ruin upon themselves and their households. ST April 6, 1888, par. 5

Eli did not manage his household according to God's rules for family government. He followed his own judgment. He allowed Satan to take the reins in his own hands; and Eli found, when too late, that his children had been hurried to destruction. The favor of God was removed from his house and the curse of transgression was apparent in the corruption and evil that marked the course of his sons. They had no proper appreciation of the character of God or of the sacredness of his law. His service was to them a common thing. From childhood they had been accustomed to the sanctuary and its service, but instead of growing in reverence, they had lost all sense of its holiness and significance. The course of Eli in bringing up his children had resulted in this state of mind in his sons. The father had not corrected the irreverence for his authority, had not checked their disrespect for the solemn services of the sanctuary; and when they reached manhood, they were full of the deadly fruits of skepticism and rebellion. ST April 6, 1888, par. 6

Though wholly unfit for the office, they were placed as priests in the sanctuary to minister before God. The Lord had given the most specific directions in regard to offering sacrifices; but these wicked men had carried their disregard of authority into the service of God, and they did not give attention to the law of the offerings, which were to be made in the most solemn manner. The sins of the people were transferred by figure to the sacrifice, which represented Christ, the Lamb of God that was to die for the sins of the world. The priests were commanded to eat in the tabernacle of certain portions of the peace-offering. By partaking of the sacrifice, and bearing their sins before God, they represented the work that Christ would do for us in the heavenly sanctuary, by bearing our sins in his own body. The sons of Eli, instead of feeling the great solemnity of this service, only thought how they could gratify appetite, and they demanded of the people whatever part they desired, even taking by violence the portion that was to be consumed upon the altar of sacrifice as a type of the great sacrifice of the Son of God on Calvary. This irreverence on the part of the priests soon robbed the offerings of their holy and solemn significance, and the people “abhorred the offering of the Lord.” The great antitypical sacrifice to which they were to look forward, was no longer a thing of meaning to them, “wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord.” ST April 6, 1888, par. 7

Eli made a great mistake in permitting his sons to minister in holy office. By excusing their course, on one pretext and another, he became blinded to their sins, but at last they reached a pass when he could no longer hide his eyes from the crimes of his sons. The people complained of their violent deeds, and he was grieved and perplexed. The indulgent father had never decidedly commanded their obedience, and as they grew up, they cast off all restraint. They had been brought up to think of no one but themselves, and now they cared for no one else. They 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 though warned of the consequences of their sin. ST April 6, 1888, par. 8

The child Samuel had been brought to Eli by the godly Hannah. He was to be devoted to the services of the sanctuary, and the responsibility of his education must now rest upon the aged priest. The sons of Eli, who should have been the instructors of the pious child, were wholly unfit for such a privilege. He had to be separated from their company, lest their evil influence should pollute his mind. But although Eli feared for their influence over Samuel, yet as a judge of Israel, he still sustained his wicked sons in the most sacred positions of trust. He permitted them to mingle their corruption with the holy service of God, and to inflict injury on the cause of truth, that years could not efface. Eli's sons were called the sons of Belial, for they knew not God. They were wholly devoted to the service of Satan; and yet because they were his sons, Eli did not deal with them as transgressors, but permitted them to dishonor God, and injure his people. But when the judge of Israel neglected his work, God took the matter in hand. ST April 6, 1888, par. 9

“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? 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? Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honorest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people? Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me forever; but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed... 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 forever.” ST April 6, 1888, par. 10

God held Eli responsible for the actions of his sons, and charged him with honoring his sons above the Lord. Eli had permitted the offering appointed of God, as a blessing to Israel, to be made a thing of abhorrence, rather than bring his sons to shame for their impious and abominable practices. Those who follow their own inclination in blind affection for their children, indulging them in the gratifications of their selfish desires, and do not bring to bear the authority of God to rebuke sin and correct evil, which is corrupting other souls, make it manifest that they are honoring their wicked children more than they honor God. They are more anxious to shield their reputation than to glorify God; more desirous to please their children than to please God and to keep his service from every appearance of evil. ST April 6, 1888, par. 11

The promise had been made that the house of Aaron should walk before God forever; but these promises had been made on condition that they devoted themselves to the work of the sanctuary with singleness of heart, and honored God in all their ways, not serving self, or following their own perverse inclinations. Eli and his sons had been tested, and the Lord found them wholly unworthy of the exalted position of priests in his service. And God declared, “Be it far from me.” He could not carry out the good that he had meant to do them, because they failed to do their part. Long had God borne with the perverse ways of the house of Eli. He had given them space to repent, but they repented not, and the delayed sentence was finally executed. They were made contemptible before the people they had oppressed, and in one day, Eli and his sons died before the Lord; and the priesthood was taken from the family of Eli. ST April 6, 1888, par. 12

The only way to be truly great is to be truly good. Those who are worthy will be trusted with important work, and will be placed in important positions. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” Had Eli been a wise and faithful father, he would have been a wise and faithful judge and priest. If he had restrained his sons at home, he would have restrained their evil practices in the sanctuary; and Israel would not have been corrupted by their abominations. If the sons of Eli had been dutiful sons they would have honored God and his service, and lived before him; but they dishonored their father, and brought contempt upon the service of God, and they suffered the reward of their evil; for God had said, “Them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” ST April 6, 1888, par. 13