Study Notes

1Samuel 2:12-3:21


Last week, we were introduced to Eli, who was the priest during the time of Samuel's birth. He had two sons, Hophni and Pee-nekh-AWS.

2:12 Sons of Eli

Hophni and Pee-nekh-AWS are described as worthless men. The King James renders this more accurately to the original Hebrew:

1Sam. 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial...

The word Belial means worthlessness, wickedness, destruction. So what the text is telling us literally is "the sons of Eli were sons of wickedness."

2:13-17 Didn't Know The Customs Of The Priests

These "priests" didn't know the Lord, or the customs of the priests with the people. It has really surprised me since I've entered the ministry how many people I've met that are priests, pastors, chaplains, or ministers that do not know the Lord. They've never been born again, and for some reason chose the ministry as their career.

There is also a huge neglect of the Word of God, even among people in ministry that are saved. The sons of Eli didn't even know the customs of the priests with the people. You've probably worked with people like this before: someone who doesn't know their job, and doesn't care to learn. They know they'll never get fired, so they do things wrong or do nothing at all. These are the kind of people that Hophni and Pee-nekh-AWS were.

Taking The Meat

Remember in our study of the book of Leviticus we saw that God had provided food for the Levites from the sacrifices.

Lev. 7:31-34 "And the priest shall offer up the fat in smoke on the altar; but the breast shall belong to Aaron and his sons. And you shall give the right thigh to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifices of your peace offerings. The one among the sons of Aaron who offers the blood of the peace offerings and the fat, the right thigh shall be his as {his} portion. For I have taken the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the contribution from the sons of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons as {their} due forever from the sons of Israel."

The law was specific - the priests were to receive the breast and the right thigh. But Hophni and Pee-nekh-AWS sent their servants to take portions of the sacrificial meat while it was boiling.

Taking Raw For Roasting

Also, you may recall, fat was forbidden to eat - it was only for sacrifice.

Lev. 3:16-17 "And the priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar {as} food, an offering by fire for a soothing aroma; all fat is the LORDS. It is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or any blood."

But again, the sons of Eli were wicked. They sent their servants to take the sacrificial meat raw, along with the fat. They strong-armed them into submission. It is interesting that Hophni's name means, "pugilist," (pyoo-jul-ist) or "boxer" in our terms. He could certainly resort to violence to get his way.

This is of course opposite to the way that God has taught us to minister.

1Pet. 5:2-3 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to {the will of} God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

Peter certainly could have given these two priests a lesson in leadership!

Despising The Offering

The NIV renders verse 17 as,

1Sam. 2:17 (NIV) This sin of the young men was very great in the LORD's sight, for they were treating the LORD's offering with contempt.

God hates sin. But there are certain sins he hates much more than others - specifically, sins that cause little ones to stumble and that make Him look bad. These He takes deadly serious.

2:18 Ministering Before The Lord

In contrast to Eli's corrupt sons, here was the little boy Samuel, ministering with a genuine heart before the Lord.

A Linen Ephod

An ephod is an apron of sorts, with two shoulder straps. It was the garment of the high priest, but as the years progressed, and ephod became known as more of a general priestly garment.

Remember in Judges that Gideon melted the pile of earrings he got as a reward for his victory into an ephod. This became an idol in his city. Also, Micah made an ephod so that one of his sons could be his priest.

So here is little Samuel, elementary school age, wearing an ephod and ministering to the Lord in the tabernacle in Shiloh.

Notice Samuel's devotion even in his youth. You know, in America, we make excuses for our kids. We say, "Oh, they're so young - we cant expect them to have a heart for God yet." And then in their teen years, we say, "well, they're teenagers, how much can you really expect from them?" But I say, "nonsense!" It is not necessary for a person to reach adulthood before they begin to serve the Lord and have a heart for God.

2:19-21 Hannah's Yearly Gift And Blessing

Samuel's parents, Hannah, and El-kaw-NAW, continued to make a yearly trip to Shiloh to offer their sacrifices. Each year, Hannah would bring Samuel a little robe (probably because he was outgrowing them) to go with his linen ephod.

2:22 Eli's Sons Sexual Sins

Not only were Hophni and Pee-nekh-AWS intimidating those offering sacrifices, but they were also sinning in fornication with the women serving at the tabernacle. This really demonstrates the lack of respect they had for God's house, and the lack of fear they had for God.

Prov. 16:6 ...By the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.

These guys were the Old Testament equivalents to today's pastor's that commit adultery with the church secretary. There is no fear of God in their hearts.

2:23-25 Sinning Against The Lord

Eli knew what his sons were doing. And their sin had gotten so blatant that everyone else knew about it too. Finally, after all these years without discipline or correction, he confronts his sons, saying,

1Sam. 2:25 "If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?..."

When we sin against our fellow man, God is able to mediate and show mercy. But what happens when our sin is directed against the Lord Himself? Sins like blasphemy. The ten commandments say,

Exod. 20:7 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain."

There is a certain wrath that descends upon those who sin directly against the Lord Himself. And what a greater degree that wrath is when it is a minister of God who sins against God!

Luke 12:42 -48 And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, {both} men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect {him,} and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know {it,} and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

The priests were held so accountable for their sins against God. Their punishment will be severe.

2:26 Samuel's Character

Again, Samuel's character is contrasted with the wicked sons of Eli, the sons of Belial. Samuel had both righteousness and godliness - he was living rightly before God, and before men.

2:27-36 The Prophecy To Eli

When Eli did nothing about his son's lack of repentance, God sent a prophet to give him this message, cursing his house.

As the high priest, Eli was being held accountable for the actions of the priests. As a father, Eli was being held accountable for the actions of his sons. He had also personally profited from their corruption - Eli himself was very fat from eating the choicest of meat.

The Lord is replacing the family of Eli as the priestly line. Samuel is going to take over the priesthood. Ultimately, we will see that during the days of Solomon, Abiathar, the last descendant of Eli to be a priest, will be fired, and the family of Zadok will take their place.

1Kgs. 2:27 So Solomon dismissed Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD, which He had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.

This word of the Lord will come to pass in just a few generations.

The more immediate fulfillment will come when Hophni and Pee-nekh-AWS die on the same day in chapter four.

3:1 Words And Visions Rare

The nation is nearing the end of the period of the time of the judges, when

Judg. 21:25 ...everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

There were very few godly men around through which the Lord could speak. We should not wonder why we do not hear the Lord speaking to His people frequently, when our nation is living the same way that Israel did during that time in history.

3:2-9 The Lamp Of God

In Leviticus, Moses was instructed,

Lev. 24:2-4 "Command the sons of Israel that they bring to you clear oil from beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. Outside the veil of testimony in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the LORD continually; {it shall be} a perpetual statute throughout your generations. He shall keep the lamps in order on the pure {gold} lampstand before the LORD continually.

The golden lampstand in the tabernacle was to be filled with oil and its wicks trimmed every night and every morning, so that it never burned out.

The Lord Calls Samuel

One night, in the middle of the night, when Samuel was sleeping in the Holy Place of the tabernacle, he heard the voice of God audibly calling him. But although he had served God since he could remember, he had never heard the voice of God. Therefore, he assumed that it was old Eli calling for him to help him.

After three misunderstandings, Eli finally figured out that Samuel was hearing the voice of God, and told him what to do.

3:10-14 The Word Of God Comes To Samuel

God promises that the thing He is going to do in Israel will make everyone's ears tingle. This word means to vibrate, and is used three times in the Bible (1Sam. 3:11; 2Kings 21:12; Jer. 19:3) - each time to describe the shock of hearing that God is going to judge you.

He tells Samuel that he is cursing Eli...

1Sam. 3:13 "...because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them."

Parents, notice this. You are not held accountable for your children's sin - but for your failure to rebuke them and make them accountable for their sin.

3:15-18 The Bad Report

At Eli's urging, Samuel told him everything that the Lord had spoken. It's never easy to be the bearer of bad news, but if it is from the Lord, we must speak it all in love.

3:19-20 None Of Samuel's Word Failed

Samuel was called to be a prophet of God. There was a big responsibility put on anyone who claimed to be a prophet.

Deut. 18:20-22 'But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' And you may say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken...

In all Samuel's days, none of his words failed. All throughout Israel, he became known as a prophet of God.

3:21 The Lord Appeared Again

The Lord appeared again because He had been revealed by His Word. You know, the Lord will reveal Himself to you as well, by His Word. It is through the true knowledge of His that we attain everything we need for godliness in this life.

Ps. 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping {it} according to Thy word.

Ps. 119:105 Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.

Let God reveal Himself to you in His Word this week.

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