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Eli's Fall

Eli, from the Hebrew word pronounced ay-lee, meaning lofty, or ascent, was of the line of Ithamar, the son of Aaron. He served as the judge and high priest of Israel when The Ark Of The Covenant, containing The Ten Commandments, was at Shiloh. He lived in a dwelling adjoining The Tabernacle (1 Samuel chapters 1-4). Although himself a good and righteous servant of God, his unwillingness to remove his two corrupt sons from the priesthood brought about the doom of them all.

Priest The first mention of Eli in Bible History was when Hannah prayed to The Lord at the Tabernacle. When her prayer was answered, and a child that she asked for was born (see Samuel), she dedicated him to the service of God and placed him in the care and custody of Eli (1 Samuel 1:1-28, 1 Samuel 2:1-11).

Eli's own sons, Hophni and Phinehas, fell far short of their father's good character, however Eli still permitted them to serve as priests at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 1:3; 2:12-17). Their corrupt and contemptuous behavior in God's service, and Eli's poor judgment by allowing them to remain and defile the Holy Place, brought about the disgust of the people, and condemnation from God:

"Therefore The Lord [see Rock Of Ages] the God of Israel declares: 'I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before Me for ever'; but now The Lord declares: 'Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming, when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity which shall be bestowed upon Israel; and there shall not be an old man in your house for ever. The man of you whom I shall not cut off from My altar shall be spared to weep out his eyes and grieve his heart; and all the increase of your house shall die by the sword of men. And this which shall befall your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day." (1 Samuel 2:30-34 RSV)

As declared, the judgment was fulfilled in a single day:

"So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. And the Ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain." (1 Samuel 4:10-11 RSV)

"He who brought the tidings answered and said, "Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great slaughter among the people; your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the Ark of God has been captured." When he mentioned the Ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years." (1 Samuel 4:17-18 RSV)

The priesthood remained in Eli's family line until Solomon removed Abiathar and appointed Zadok, of the line of Eleazar (see Levites), in his place.(1 Kings 2:26-35)

Fact Finder: Did Jude warn Christians not to let the presence of corrupt people bring down the righteous?
Jude 12-23

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