We meet Eli, the high priest, sons. They are “worthless men” who liked nothing more than to use their office to their own benefit. “They did not know the Lord” (verse 12b).
That last phrase says it all! There are MANY people who do not know the Lord but they are not usually the ones serving in the place of ministers to the people for the Lord. Yes, it still happens today but it ought not be!
These two men were and they were abusing the power that their office afforded them. We are not given their names until a bit later in this book but I’m going to name them now. Hophni and Phinehas are Eli’s sons. And their biggest sin was serving in an office OF the Lord but not FOR the Lord.
Hophni and Phinehas served their own appetites. They liked the prestige that went with the office and all the perks it brought them. The perk we see spoken of today is that of receiving part of the sacrifices being offered.
The sacrifice order was God received His portion (the fat and prescribed organs) FIRST, the priest received his leg portion, then the one offering the sacrifice boiled the remainder and ate it with his family. Apparently the priest was also allowed to stick a fork in while the meat was boiling and pull out a bit more. I don’t know for certain if the priest received the leg portion at every sacrifice but it sounds like they were allowed to pull out some no matter what was already given. Not a big deal I suppose for all the work they contributed. I wonder how big the fork was. Was it an eating utensil or a cooking one? There is a BIG difference in skewer power between these two.
Hophni and Phinehas put their wants first. They put themselves above God. They further separated themselves from ‘the common people’ by requiring their portion to be cooked without touching the commoner’s and in a different fashion. And they wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. “You must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force” (verse 16b).
God DOES NOT take seconds! Lucifer found this out the hard way as he was cast out of Heaven for trying to be first. Hophni and Phinehas will learn this lesson too, but not today. God will give them PLENTY of time to repent and mend their ways.
While this is going on year after year Eli is doing nothing to correct their behavior. He is hearing about it but doesn’t confront them on their actions for quite some time.
Meanwhile, young Samuel is growing up under Eli’s care. I would be afraid of what he would turn out like, under the influence of a man who refuses to address his sons’ behaviors if it weren’t for the fact that God placed Samuel here. God will see to Samuel’s upbringing. He will protect him from being influenced by Eli’s sons. I wonder if Eli learned from his mistakes in raising his sons and is doing a better job of introducing Samuel to the Lord than he did the first and second time around. It is hoped that we learn from our mistakes. Maybe Samuel was isolated and insulated from Eli’s sons. Samuel was busy working in the house of the Lord. This probably kept him busy and away from polluting influences.
Hannah and Elkanah hadn’t forgotten about Samuel when they left him with Eli. Every year they would visit him when they came to Shiloh for their sacrifice. Hannah made him a new robe each year. His uniform in the temple was the same as the priest’s, a linen ephod but the robe Hannah brought served him outside of his duties.
I wonder how little he was when he went into the temple the first time. I wonder what kinds of jobs he did. He couldn’t perform the sacrifices at this age. A Levite wasn’t allowed to serve until the age of 30. At age 25 they began their training but didn’t begin service until five years later. Samuel was NOWHERE near that age and he WASN’T a Levite. He wasn’t training to be a Levite.
He was training to be tender hearted towards the Lord. He was training in obedience.
We see our last mention of Hannah in Samuel’s story. We already discussed the gift she brought him each year but she would return with something more, brothers and sisters for Samuel. I wonder if he ever questioned them returning home with his mother and him not. I believe he felt so “at home” in the presence of the Lord that he had no desire to leave.
Father God, I can’t imagine growing up bathed and secluded in Your presence. I was introduced to You as a young child but I had MANY worldly influences around me as I grew. I’m grateful for the insulating jobs my parents did for me. But I’m MORE than grateful for the hunger in my soul that You placed there. Without that I would have never desired to search you out and learn of You.
I tried to raise my children in Your presence and Your word. I KNOW I made mistakes along the way. But I’m trusting in Your promises to bring them back to yourself because of their foundation. I’m GLAD I didn’t have the ‘hands off’ policy Hannah did!