1 Samuel 2 is filled with significance. We began 1 Samuel with Hannah praising YHWH for giving her a son as she follows through to dedicate him to the LORD’s service at the temple. Through strong faith she was joyful and trusting in the LORD’s plans for Samuel. She still came to him and provided him new clothes annually and she was blessed with quite a few additional children.
In contrast, we see Eli’s sons committing rebellious and deeply offensive acts before YHWH. Eli rebukes, somewhat lightly, and does not really deal with the situation. At that point, the LORD determines that he is no at fault as well as his sons for not resolving the situation. As the Creator puts it, Eli has put his corrupt sons above YHWH himself. We can read then the repercussions of this in the chapter. They are significant. Though Eli rebuked his sons, he was light and did not stop the offensive behavior. It was not enough. In the end, he did not do his sons any favors either. They would have done better with more consequences from Eli and perhaps had more likelihood to repent.
If there is one message to take from this chapter, and there are actually a handful, let us remember that we are to hold YHWH in higher regard and priority than our children. Of course, we also see the LORD will discipline those of his people who rebel openly against him and defile his name. We do not always see the discipline or identify it as discipline, but all of us face judgment ultimately before him. Many of us also face consequences in our lives as a result of sin and we may not even connect that the sin is the cause. Let us be humble before the LORD, ask him to show us our sin and to help us repent from it.
The Sin of Eli’s Sons
12Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD 13and the custom of the priests with the people. When any man was offering a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand. 14Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. Thus they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest meat for roasting, as he will not take boiled meat from you, only raw.” 16If the man said to him, “They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,” then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.” 17Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for the men despised the offering of the LORD.
Samuel before the LORD as a Boy
18Now Samuel was ministering before the LORD, as a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the LORD give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the LORD.” And they went to their own home.
21The LORD visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew before the LORD.
Eli Rebukes His Sons
22Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 23He said to them, “Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people? 24“No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the LORD’S people circulating. 25“If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the LORD desired to put them to death.
26Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men.
27Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Did I not indeed reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house? 28‘Did I not choose them from all the tribes of Israel to be My priests, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, to carry an ephod before Me; and did I not give to the house of your father all the fire offerings of the sons of Israel? 29‘Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?’ 30“Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD declares, ‘Far be it from Me—for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed. 31‘Behold, the days are coming when I will break your strength and the strength of your father’s house so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32‘You will see the distress of My dwelling, in spite of all the good that I do for Israel; and an old man will not be in your house forever. 33‘Yet I will not cut off every man of yours from My altar so that your eyes will fail from weeping and your soul grieve, and all the increase of your house will die in the prime of life. 34‘This will be the sign to you which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them will die. 35‘But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always. 36‘Everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and say, “Please assign me to one of the priest’s offices so that I may eat a piece of bread.”’”