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CHURCH MINUTE Online Bible Study Ministry

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Honoring God


30 “So the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I promised that your family and your ancestor’s family would serve Me always.’ But now the LORD says: ‘This must stop! I will honor those who honor Me, but I will dishonor those who ignore Me.” 1 Samuel 2:30 (NCV)

During the time of judges in the Old Testament, a high priest named Eli had two sons named Hophni and Phinehas, who were also priests (1 Samuel 1:3). Aside from their father, Hophni and Phinehas occupied the most important religious positions in Israel.[1] Eli faithfully served God; however, he was a lax father who did not manage his two sons, Phinehas and Hophni (see 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12; Titus 1:6). Hophni and Phinehas were worthless men (scoundrels) who did continual evil in the sight of the LORD God and His people (1 Samuel 2:12-13). Hophni and Phinehas’s daily actions (fruit) proved they were greedy, selfish, and deviant men who did not follow the ways of God but the ways of the devil (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22, 29; see Exodus 34:6-7; Galatians 5:16-23). Hophni and Phinehas often took meat for themselves first from sacrificial animals brought by worshippers before they were properly dedicated to God (1 Samuel 2:14-16). Even worse, Hophni and Phinehas not only showed disrespect for God’s sacrifices, but they also had no regard for the women who served at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22). Instead of encouraging the women in their spiritual walk, these two brothers would seduce and lay with the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle (see 1 Samuel 2:22).

13  “I (LORD)told Eli I would punish his family always, because he knew his sons were evil. They acted without honor, but he did not stop them. 14  So I swore to Eli’s family, ‘Your guilt will never be removed by sacrifice or offering.’” 1 Samuel 3:13-14 (NCV)

Eli warned and criticized his sons’ wicked behavior while serving as priests. He urged the two wicked brothers to stop sinning and dishonoring God as priests (1 Samuel 2:23-24). However, Eli failed to take corrective action and discipline his sons wicked behavior against God (1 Samuel 3:13; see also Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4) and Hophni and Phinehas continued their evil ways. These two brothers repeatedly treated the LORD God and His people with utter disrespect and contempt (see 1 Samuel 2:17, 23-25; see also Matthew 22:34-40). Even worse as the high priest of Israel, Eli was also responsible to discipline the sins of priests under his jurisdiction (see also 1 Timothy 3:1–13). As a result, the LORD God took the necessary disciplinary action that Eli would not.[2] For their disobedience and wickedness, the LORD God was planning to bring His righteous judgment and punishment against Hophni and Phinehas in death (1 Samuel 2:25; see also 1 Samuel 4:11). Hophni and Phinehas’s wicked deeds had gone beyond the limit of God’s tolerance (1 Samuel 2:25).[3]

Moreover, God vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons would never be forgiven (atoned) by sacrifices or offerings and they would be punished (1 Samuel 3:13-14; see also Leviticus 5:5-18; Numbers 8:12, 21).[4] Eli knew his two sons were repeatedly and deliberately sinning against God but he failed to discipline their deviant behavior (1 Samuel 3:11-14). Thus, Eli was guilty of honoring his sons above God by permitting them to continue in their sinful ways. While the LORD God takes no pleasure in the death of those who sin (see Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Peter 3:9), He will not tolerate continual sin and disobedience (Exodus 34:6-7; Ezekiel 33:11). When sin becomes a defiant habit and a person refuses to repent, people cannot expect God’s merciful forgiveness (see Numbers 15:30-31; Psalm 19:13; Isaiah 22:14; 1 John 1:9).[5] God is holy (Leviticus 11:44), and He delights in bringing justice to the order of human society (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 33:4-5).[6] God is gracious and kind, but He will not allow our continued, willful, deliberate sin, whether priest or non-priest (see Exodus 34:6-7).

One day the LORD God sent an unnamed prophet or messenger (literally “a man of God”) to Eli and gave Eli this message from the LORD God (1 Samuel 2:27). There is no clue as to who the man of God may have been.[7] The unnamed prophet told Eli that God openly revealed Himself to his ancestors when the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt (1 Samuel 2:27). Then, the prophet reminded Eli that God graciously chose Eli’s ancestor Aaron from the tribe of Levi from among all the tribes of Israel to be His priest (1 Samuel 2:28). Aaron and his descendants had the gracious privilege to offer sacrifices on the brazen altar, burn incense on the golden altar, wear the sacred garments (the ephod), and eat of the holy offerings (1 Samuel 2:28; see also Exodus 28:1-4; Exodus 29:4-9; Exodus 40:12-15; Numbers 18:1-7).[8] Moreover, the man of God reminded Eli that God graciously gave his descendants all the offerings made by fire from the Israelites (1 Samuel 2:28; see also Deuteronomy 18:1-8).

Then the messenger focused on the present and accused Eli of putting his sons ahead of the LORD God and sharing in their sins (1 Samuel 2:29). The “you” at the beginning of 1 Samuel 2:29 is plural and includes Eli along with his sons.[9] Eli honored or glorified his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and scorned God’s sacrifices and offerings by greedily allowing himself and his two sons to become fat from the best offerings of His people Israel (1 Samuel 2:29; see also 1 Samuel 4:18; 1 Timothy 5:22). The King James Version said, “Wherefore kick ye at My sacrifice and at Mine offering, which I have commanded in My habitation; and honourest thy sons above Me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?” (1 Samuel 2:29, KJV). Sadly, Eli and his two sons have become fat from the best of the offerings of God’s people (1 Samuel 2:29). First Samuel 2:29 may be a possible explanation for Eli's unwillingness to restrain and discipline his sons from taking unauthorized portions from the people’s sacrifices. These verses suggest that Eli was benefiting from his sons’ offenses against the LORD.[10] 

Therefore, the LORD God through His prophet informed Eli that although He promised that his family and his ancestor’s family would always serve Him priests (see Exodus 29:9; Numbers 3:10), it was ridiculous to think that what Eli and his family were doing could continue (1 Samuel 2:30). God informed Eli that “I will honor those who honor Me, but I will dishonor those who ignore Me” (1 Samuel 2:30, NCV; see also Psalm 91:14-15; Proverbs 8:17). Then, God announced to Eli that He would put an end to his family so that his family will no longer serve Him as priests (1 Samuel 2:31). Moreover, God announced to Eli that He will bring judgment on every member of his family, and none would live to see old age (1 Samuel 2:31-33). The King James Version said, “Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house” (1 Samuel 2:31, KJV). Further, God informed Eli through His prophet that Eli’s descendants would envy the gracious prosperity He would give His faithful people, but Eli and his descendants would be in distress and need (1 Samuel 2:32). Finally, God announced to Eli that those of Eli’s family who was left alive would live in continual mourning, sadness, and grief (1 Samuel 2:33). And to validate that what God through the prophet had said would come true, God promised to cause Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to die on the same day (1 Samuel 2:34; see also 1 Samuel 4:10-11).[11]

Then, God announced to Eli that He would raise up a faithful and reliable priest who would serve Him and do whatever He tells the priest to do (1 Samuel 2:35). God promised to bless His priest’s descendants, and his family shall be priests to His kings forever (1 Samuel 2:35). However, God said that all of Eli’s descendants remaining after Hophni and Phinehas’ death would bow before His priest, begging for money and food (1 Samuel 2:36). Even more, Eli’s descendants would be reduced to begging for even humble priestly jobs and plead, “Please, give me a job among the priests so that I will have enough to eat” (1 Samuel 2:36, TLB). Thus, Eli's descendants would become weak and die off, and there would be no more old men left Eli in his family. They would even have to beg for their food and would plead for an opportunity to serve God (1 Samuel 2:36).[12]

The Holy Scriptures reveal that the prophet’s prediction against Eli and his family came to fulfillment (see 1 Samuel 3:11-14). Eli had lost his influence over his wicked sons and as a result caused the destruction of the families’ priesthood (see 1 Kings 2:26–27, 35).[13] First, Hophni and Phinehas were tragically killed in battle on the same day while fighting the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:10-11). God withdrew His divine protection, and the wicked and pampered sons of Eli were killed in battle, thus validating God’s prophecy (1 Samuel 4:10-11).[14] Even the Tabernacle would experience distress, which turned out to include the capture of the Ark of the Covenant and ultimately the moving of the Tabernacle from Shiloh to Nob (1 Samuel 2:32; 1 Samuel 4:1-11; see also Jeremiah 7:12-14).[15] Furthermore, the LORD God allowed the massacre of the priests of Nob (1 Samuel 22:11-20). At Nob, Saul killed many of Eli’s descendants, which was a partial fulfillment of this prophecy.[16] However, Abiathar from Eli’s family escaped Saul’s massacre at Nob and was left the lone survivor (see 1 Samuel 22:18–23). God’s final judgment against Eli and his descendants occurred when Solomon removed Eli’s descendant Abiathar as high priest and replaced him with Zadok, thus ending Eli’s priestly line (1 King 2:26-27, 35).[17] The priestly line of Eli then yielded completely to the Zadokite priesthood (see Ezekiel 44:9–16).[18]

Zadok was a descendant of Eleazar, son of Aaron from the tribe of Levi (see 2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Chronicles 6:4-8, 50-53; 1 Chronicles 24:1-3, 6).[19] Zadok was a high priest under David (2 Samuel 8:17) and then high priest under Solomon (1 Kings 2:26-27, 35). During David’s time, the descendants of Eleazar outnumbered those of Ithamar at least two to one (1 Chronicles 24:1-5), so Eli's family did slowly die out.[20] Eli descended from Aaron through Ithamar, Aaron's fourth son, but God would abandon that line and turn to the sons of Eleazar, Aaron's third son and successor in the high priesthood.[21] Zadok's line was probably still in place as late as the days of Ezra, after the Jewish exile.[22] In the list of Jewish high priests in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15, the names from Eli to Abiathar are missing.[23] In Numbers 25:10–13, God had promised Eleazar the priesthood because of his zealousness for God’s honor, and God fulfilled this promise in Zadok (see 1 King 2:35).[24] The priest who served in the Temple during the Kingdom Age will be from the family of Zadok (see Ezekiel 40:45-46; Ezekiel 43:19; Ezekiel 44:10-16).[25] Thus, the gracious privilege of the priesthood remained with the tribe of Levi and the house of Aaron, but God would take away this privilege from Eli’s branch of the family.[26] To Zadok’s house, God promised a perpetual priesthood (see Ezekiel 44:15; Ezekiel 48:11).[27]

However, there was some good news. The unnamed prophet predicted the rise of a faithful priest (1 Samuel 2:35). God did rise a reliable priest that would faithfully serve Him and do God’s will (1 Samuel 2:35). In contrast to Hophni and Phinehas’ wickedness, young Samuel faithfully honored the LORD God, and he grew up to be one of Israel’s greatest judges and prophets (see 1 Samuel 2:17–18, 26; 1 Samuel 3:19–20).[28] Because of Samuel’s faithfulness and obedience to God, Samuel was favored both by the LORD God and with people (1 Samuel 2:26; see also Luke 2:52). However, the prophet’s prediction looks beyond Samuel’s ministry to that of Zadok. Zadok became a high priest in David’s reign (2 Samuel 8:17), and his family (his house) held the office of high priest in Jerusalem throughout the period of the monarchy (see 2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Kings 2:35). In the Kingdom Age, Zadok’s descendants will continue to serve in the Temple (see Ezekiel 40:45-46; Ezekiel 43:19; Ezekiel 44:10-16 (see Ezekiel 44:15-16).[29]

Ultimately, the unnamed prophet’s prediction points to Jesus Christ, who alone would become God's faithful Priest and King forever (see 2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 110; Hebrews 5:6; Revelation 19:16).[30] Jesus Christ is the faithful and eternal High Priest, who graciously offers Himself as the only sacrifice which can forever completely atone for sin and bring us eternally back to God.[31] Under the new covenant, the blood of Jesus Christ graciously covers all our sins when we wholeheartedly accept Jesus’ life and sacrificial death for our sins and genuinely turn from our wickedness and evils (1 John 1:9).[32] Our Jesus Christ came from the tribe of Judah, so He had no connection with the house of Aaron, but God appointed Jesus as High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (see Hebrews chapters 7 and 8).[33] Thus, faithless leaders disciplined by God did not leave God’s people leaderless. As the Holy Scriptures reveal, God raises up faithful leaders for His people (e.g., see 1 Kings 2:35).[34]

The story of Eli and his family should be sufficient motivation for God’s chosen leaders to remain faithful and obedient to Him (1 Samuel 2:27-36). For God’s leaders, in particular, continual deliberate sins and disrespect for God and His ways bring discipline and judgment (see 1 Samuel 2:17, 27–34; 1 Samuel 3:11–14).[35] Leaders cannot expect to retain positions when they ignore God and His holy expectations. God is not bound to honor unfaithful leaders.[36] Religious leadership positions do not protect a person from God’s judgment. Even more, the story of Eli should be abundant motivation to lead our children to grow and mature spiritually, morally, and ethically.[37] The case of Eli’s sons demonstrates the need for well-founded parental instruction and supervision, especially in the home of one who ministers before the LORD God (1 Samuel 2:29; see also 1 Samuel 3:13; 1 Timothy 3:4-5).[38] Eli spoke to his two wicked sons about their deliberate sins, but he did not discipline nor remove them from the priesthood when they continued their immoral and unethical practices.[39] Effective spiritual leaders are ones who manage their household competently, having their children under control with all dignity (1 Timothy 3:4-5; see also Titus 1:5-6). Finally, the story of Eli is a severe example of God’s justice being mediated in personal history, a preview to His ultimate and just judgment at the end of this age.[40]

Finally, Eli was one Old Testament person with a very modern problem.[41] He was an excellent priest who led Israel for 40 years and trained Israel’s greatest judge and prophet, Samuel (see 1 Samuel 3:1, 19-21; 1 Samuel 7:6, 15). However, Eli was a poor parent.[42] In pursuing this great mission, Eli neglected the responsibilities in his home.[43] Eli's failure to control worship practices at God’s house and to correct his two sons’ sinful behavior brought him grief and ruin. God eliminated Eli and his family as priests, and He found a different leader for His people's worship (1 Samuel 2:35). God reacts strongly against those who openly and continually disobey Him.[44] Yet, God honors those who continually honor Him while He dishonors those who dishonor Him (1 Samuel 2:30). God’s leaders cannot live any way they please and expect the LORD God to honor them and their homes.

References
Believer’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995).
Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
Faithlife Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
King James Version Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988).
KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991).
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012).
With the Word Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997).
Woman’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995).
Word In Life Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

 


[1] Life Essentials Study Bible

[2] Life Application Study Bible

[3] Spirit Filled Life Study Bible

[4] Disciple's Study Bible

[5] Disciple's Study Bible

[6] The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe

[7] Spirit Filled Life Study Bible

[8] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[9] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[10] The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe

[11] Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible

[12] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[13] With the Word Bible Commentary

[14] Life Application

[15] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[16] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[17] Faithlife Study Bible

[18] Believer’s Study Bible

[19] Believer’s Study Bible

[20] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[21] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[22] Life Application

[23] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[24] Faithlife Study Bible

[25] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[26] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[27] King James Version study Bible

[28] Word In Life Study Bible

[29] New Bible Commentary

[30] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[31] KJV Bible Commentary

[32] Life Essentials Study Bible

[33] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

[34] Disciple's Study Bible

[35] The Woman’s Study Bible

[36] Disciple's Study Bible

[37] Life Essentials Study Bible

[38] King James Version study Bible

[39] Life Essentials Study Bible

[40] Spirit Filled Life Study Bible

[41] Life Application Study Bible

[42] Life Application Study Bible

[43] Life Application Study Bible

[44] Disciple's Study Bible


May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Brothers and sisters . . . Be joyful and happy. Grow to maturity in Christ. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet each other warmly with Christian love. . . . May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 

2 Corinthians 13:11-12, 14