Eli has heard enough about his sons to stir him to act. He confronts his sons “but they would not listen to the voice of their father” (verse 25b).
I’m going to come out and say it; “Too little too late.” Eli is “very old” (verse 22a) when he confronts his sons. He has been hearing reports about them for quite some time. This isn’t his first report. Yet they were not addressed and corrected when he heard the earlier reports. I suppose it is possible that Eli said something to them earlier and they chose to ignore him then. But this doesn’t appear to be the case.
Eli’s rebuke is vague and includes no specific. It includes no corrective measures they should take. Nor does it include any corrective measures he would take if their behavior continued unabated.
We see that Eli’s reproves not when they were defiling the Lord’s sacrifices but after they started availing themselves of the ‘services’ of the women at the gate of the tent of meeting.
Quick side note here: WHY were they allowing ‘temple prostitutes’ at the Lord’s house?! I will approve neither the men’s nor the woman’s actions where this sin is concerned. BOTH knew this was against the will of God. Even the common men who sought these ‘services’ knew this was sin. But we are in the time of the judges and we are told that they sinned greatly against the Lord and it got worse as time went by. I am NOT going to say Israel jumped back into line with God’s word when they finally had a king but things did move in that direction. This is just prior to that movement.
I can imagine Eli’s heart breaking over the behavior of his sons. I do not doubt that he was deeply ashamed of their actions. They brought shame to themselves, their father, and even the Lord’s temple. How could they be allowed to continue? Why were they not removed from office?
I don’t say this lightly but I believe they were already beyond redemption. “For it was the will of the Lord to put them to death” (verse 25c). I DO NOT believe that the Lord MADE them act this way so He could kill them. He saw the condition of their hearts and the progressiveness of their sin. He knew nothing short of death would stop them. I’m CERTAIN He would have preferred they repent and would have accepted them if they had done so. We will see HIS corrective measures later on. The ones that they fully deserved.
In the end of our reading we see a glaring contrast to Hophni and Phinehas. We see Samuel. Where Hophni and Phinehas were making enemies of the people, Samuel was winning their hearts. Where Hophni and Phinehas were thumbing their noses at God, Samuel was cultivating a right relationship with Him. Where Hophni and Phinehas were drowning in sin, Samuel was wrapped securely in God’s righteousness.
Funny thing is Eli was responsible for seeing to the spiritual development of all three of these individuals. Eli had given up on his sons. Their sins had started before Samuel came to live in the temple. I wonder if Eli saw Samuel as his second chance; a chance to get it right this time.
Father God, as a parent it is hard for me to see the state Eli’s sons got to before he addressed their behavior. As a mother of grown children I also understand that I cannot MAKE them behave. I can show them the consequences of their behavior. I can even separate myself from them as an incentive to correct their behavior. I can also pray that the training they received as children will convict them of their sins. Was that what Eli was counting on? Did Eli have the authority to remove them from office?
I have ALWAYS held to Your promise of training up a child when he is young and that he will not depart from it when he is old. But this REQUIRES discipline and consistency with the child from the beginning. You CANNOT wait until you are ‘very old’ to address their issues. By that time the ‘child’ is no longer trainable.
My children are all past this point in time. I have to release them fully into Your hands and let You direct them back Your way. I can and will keep pointing the way though so that their children can see it too. Thank You Lord for allowing me to have some influence over my grandchildren’s lives. Thank You for bringing them into our lives!