Examples of Eli and Samuel -1 Samuel 2:11-36; 3:2-18; 4:10-22; 8:1-5

The Psalmist says “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is its reward”. This means that parents have great responsibility in training their children the way of the Lord. Apart from discipline, they have to provide for the material, social and spiritual guidance of their children.

The divine role of every parent is to bring up his children in the fear of God and man. Some parents perform this biblical injunction to the core, while others forget about it as soon as they give birth. This chapter teaches or narrates the story of parents who fulfilled their parental roles; as well as those that did not, and the outcome. The bible describes the two sons of Eli, the high priest at Shiloh as worthless men. Their sins were as follows:


The sins of Hophni and Phinehas

Eli was a priest in Israel. When he became old, his two sons – Hophni and Phinehas succeeded him. They were wayward children. They had no regard for God. They were greedy, corrupt and treated the offering of the Lord with contempt. They took the meat of sacrifice raw instead of allowing it to boil. At times, they took it by force. They took bribes and perverted justice. Apart from this, they lay with women who served at the entrance of the tent of meeting. They blasphemed God.


God’s Warning

Meanwhile, God sent a man of God to Eli to warn him about his sons’ misdeeds. He was even told that they would perish together on the same day. It was therefore time for God to take action because Eli was unable to reform them in spite of rebuke. He was warned that God would withdraw the privilege of priesthood from his family and leave no old man again in his family.

However, Eli – their father, now old, did his best to caution his children over their sins, but he did not back it up with action. The boys refused to repent and return to the path of righteousness. God had already been preparing young Samuel to succeed Eli. Samuel, a little boy, was ministering to the Lord in Eli’s house. God revealed Himself to Samuel, telling him all he planned to do against the house of Eli because of the sins of Eli’s sons. All Eli could make was a defeatist, clumsy comment: “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him. “That is to say, he accepted with philosophical calmness, the fate he was certain will surely come to pass.


God’s Punishment

Thus, there came a war between Israel and their archrivals – Philistia, in which Israel was routed, slaughtered beyond belief and scattered terribly. The defeat was total and conclusive that the surviving soldiers ran home. Altogether thirty thousand foot soldiers were slaughtered that day. Eli’s two sons became war casualties. God had enumerated one after the other, all he would do to Eli’s house. All what God said came true.

Eli, on hearing the news and hearing that the ark of God was captured, died instantly. Phinehas’ pregnant wife, on hearing these disheartening news, especially the death of her husband, gave birth to a premature baby-boy named ‘Ichabod’ meaning – “The glory has departed from Israel”. She also died after child-birth. The whole of Eli’s family was wiped out in one day, and the priesthood fell on Samuel who had been ministering under Eli.


The Sins of Samuel’s Sons

Upon Eli’s death, Samuel began to rule Israel. But when he became old, he made his sons – Joel and Abijah judges over Israel (1 Samuel 8:1). They judged from Beersheba. However, his sons did not walk in his ways, but followed the path of Eli’s sons by taking bribes and perverting justice.

Thus, the whole Israel rejected them as judges and came to Samuel at Ramah, demanding a king, having lost confidence in his sons. (1 Samuel 8:1-6). This was the beginning of the introduction of kingship to the nation of Israel. The original focus on God as their king now shifted to earthly king.



  1. Priest Eli and Prophet Samuel who were mightily used by God failed in their responsibility to bring up their children in God’s fear.
  2. For when both of them grew old and left their service to God in the hands of their children, they could not perform, hence were found wanting.
  3. Eli’s children were warned by the boy Samuel of their destruction ahead.
  4. Samuel’s children were rejected by the people having found them unfit.
  5. Eli admitted God’s intended punishment; for he could only talk to his children mildly. They were later destroyed in a battle. Eli also died the same day.
  6. But in Samuel’s case, a king was demanded and their request was granted.


Lessons To Learn

  1. Parents and guardians are charged with great responsibilities of training their children to fear God.
  2. Proper upbringing of children brings blessings and glory to a family. But failure brings shame.
  3. God will judge and reward parents according to their responsibilities in training their children.
  4. Parents serving God are not to neglect their responsibilities at – home especially in supervising and training their children.
  5. Parents are under divine obligations to watch over the physical, moral and spiritual welfare of their children.
  6. The future of the parents depend on how well they have brought up their children.