Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 20 2019 - 1 Samuel 2:12-36 – Eli's family rejected

Eli the priest was responsible for the worship at the Tabernacle but seems to have delegated much of the day-to-day work to his sons whom he expected to succeed him in the work. But his sons, Hophni and Phineas, were intent on serving themselves rather than the Lord – and serving themselves rather than those who came to worship. They took by force the best parts of the animals brought for sacrifice and slept with the women who helped with the work of the Tabernacle. Their conduct seems to have been modelled more on that of the priests of Baal that the Law of God.

Such conduct shows contempt not only for the sacrifices that were being offered to the Lord but contempt for the Lord himself. Remember our readings in the book of Judges relating the history of Israel immediately before this point. Disobedience towards the Lord and compromise over worship brought trouble time and again upon Israel. Did Eli's sons really think that God was like the idol gods of the nations round about? Did they think that he could see nothing and would do nothing, ignoring their disobedience and immorality?

And what of Eli? He rebuked his sons for their wickedness but they took no notice of his words. He was the high priest of Israel, commissioned to serve God on behalf of the people, but he seems to have been a weak man who felt he could do nothing to curb the conduct of his sons except utter ineffective rebukes. Did he really think that Israel would prosper when they took over from him? The whole situation was inviting God, the Holy one of Israel, to take action.

Meanwhile, Samuel "continued to grow in stature and in favour with the LORD and with men" (1 Samuel 2:26. Compare what is written of Jesus in Luke 2:52).

The Lord sent a prophet to Eli to tell him that because of the behaviour of his sons, judgment will fall upon his whole family; "Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained" (2:30). It is telling that the judgment is pronounced against Eli; he is held responsible for the conduct of his sons. The sign that God will fulfil all that he has spoken will be that Hophni and Phineas will die on the same day.

But God's purpose will not be defeated; his enigmatic promise through his prophet is, "I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always" (2:35). This prophecy clearly speaks of Samuel and of Israel's coming king – the Lord's anointed. But it also points beyond them. Ultimately, God's faithful priest and his anointed – his Messiah – are one and the same; Jesus Christ is our faithful and righteous High Priest who offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins and lives for ever to build the house(hold) of God. He is God's anointed King not only over Israel but over all the earth.

Holy Father, even though you have given us a heart to serve you, we recognise that we are often led astray by our own desires and do what we want rather than what you have commanded. Forgive us those times when we have shown contempt for you. Thank you for the perfect obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you that the punishment our sins deserved fell in all its force on him. Thank you that he is our Great High Priest who ever lives to intercede for us. Thank you that he is the Christ, your anointed one, whose kingdom shall increase and never end. Help us by your Spirit so to follow him that we may grow in grace and rejoice in favour before you and before a watching world.

Peter Misselbrook