Fathers in the Bible: Eli, the Negligent Father

We first meet Eli when Hannah prays for a child.  He believe her to be drunk because of her fervent prayers. When Samuel is weaned, Hannah takes him to Eli at the temple.  From there, Eli serves as his teacher and a father figure.

However, Eli also has sons of his own.  The name Eli means “jehovah is high or my god”.

“ Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.”  {1 Samuel 2:12}

“Eli was a good man whose life was pure. He loved and delighted in God’s service, but was faulty in one point. He failed to exercise the proper authority of a parent over his children.”

“This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they[b] were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.”   {1 Samuel 2:17}

“Eli’s fault which brought sorrow upon his declining years was the conduct of his own two sons, Phinehas and Hophni, who, although lacking their father’s character and qualities, were yet put into the priest’s office. “  {All the Men of the Bible}

“Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.”  {1 Samuel 2:22}

“Their conduct disgraced their high calling and shocked the people so much that they “abhorred the offering of the Lord.” While Eli warned them of their shameful ways, he did not rebuke them with the severity their evil deeds merited. He should have exercised the stern authority of a father and rebuked them as a judge. Instead Eli only mildly reasoned with his sons saying: “Why do ye such things?”” {All the Men of the Bible}

“ So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. “  {1 Samuel 2:23-24}

“But the sons disregarded such a weak and useless protest for their hearts were cold and callous and so they no longer heeded their father’s feelings…Although Eli had no power to change the hearts of his sons, he could have prevented their ministry before the Lord, but he “restrained them not.” He wanted to be kind to them but it was a false and mistaken kindness. A seasonable correction would have saved them from ruin.” {All the Men of the Bible}

“His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.”  {1 Samuel 2:25}

“Eli had no need to be harsh and severe, only firm and decided in the matter of obedience. Eli was twice warned that judgment would overtake him and his sons, but such warning was lost upon him. He dearly loved his sons and could not take action against them.” {All the Men of the Bible}

The Lord tells Eli, ““‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day.”  {1 Samuel 2:34}

“What a pitiable spectacle Eli presents! An old man of ninety, almost blind, waited to hear the result of the grim battle between the Israelites and the Philistines. How he trembled for his nation, his sons and also for the Ark of God which would be dishonored if it fell into enemy hands! “ {All the Men of the Bible}

“Their misdeeds provoked the wrath of Yahweh and led to a divine curse being put on the house of Eli, and they subsequently both died on the same day, when Israel was defeated by the Philistines at the Battle of Aphek near Eben-ezer; the news of this defeat then led to Eli’s death (1 Samuel 4:17-18).”

The prophecy of the Lord would soon come true.  The Israelites were fighting against the Philistines, and had the ark of the covenant with them.

“And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.”   {1 Samuel 4:4}

“Then the messenger came with news of the slaughter of his sinful sons and of the taking of the Ark.”  {All the Men of the Bible}

“The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.”   {1 Samuel 4: 11}

“As Eli heard mention of the latter he fell off his seat by the side of a gate and died of a broken neck, yes, and of a broken heart! “  {All the Men of the Bible}

Eli is ninety-eight years old when the ark is captured and his eyesight has failed. {1 Samuel 4:15}  A messenger comes with a message. “The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”  {1 Samuel 4:16}

“As is often the case, children bring down their father’s gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.”  {All the Men of the Bible}

“When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years.”  {1 Samuel 4:18}

Eli was a negligent father for not confronting his sons.

Eli serves as a reminder when father’s fail to rebuke and control their children.  He took the cowards way out instead of confronting them and taking a stand for his beliefs.


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