So this week, we are in 1 Samuel's 3:16- and it is eerily like last week's entry from Ruth. See for yourself:
Rth 3:16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, Who are you, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her.
And 1 Samuel:
1Sa 3:16 And Eli called Samuel and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I.
And thus, we are once again going to have to apply the Kalko rule to learn what is going on. Just like last week, the outer ring first.
The story: Eli is the priest who has judged the tribes of Israel the last forty years. He's gotten old and fat, and his sons Hophni and Phinehas have taken over the business. But if you remember our study on "the fat is the Lord's" on Leviticus 3:16, you recall that these two were termed "sons of Belial" because they had corrupted the priesthood, taking the best for themselves. Now, it's not that Eli didn't chew them out over it....
1Sa 2:23 And he said to them, Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings by all the people.
1Sa 2:24 No, my sons, for it is no good report that I hear. You make Jehovah's people to transgress.
1Sa 2:25 If one man sins against another, the judge shall judge him. But if a man sins against Jehovah, who shall plead for him? But they did not listen to the voice of their father, because Jehovah desired to kill them.
But just chewing them out wasn't going to be enough. Not long after the "stern talking-to", Eli is visited by a prophet of God, and in addition to the very dark fate God had planned for them, this prophet slipped this in:
1Sa 2:29 Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering, which I have commanded in My house? Do you honor your sons above Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?
So you see, it wasn't just the boys being bad- Eli had been growing fat, literally and figuratively, off the offerings to God the boys had been skimming. And that wouldn't be the end of Eli's shortcomings, as we'll see later on.
At this point, we bring in Samuel. Samuel was the firstborn of a heretofore barren woman named Hannah, who promised to turn her firstborn to God should He so bless her. So as soon as Samuel was weaned, he was given to Eli, that he might minister to God all his life.
The Ten Verses Before: So now Samuel was somewhere, depending on your timeline, between 8 and 12 years old. And he begins to get a vision from God- but he doesn't understand what it is. Why not?
1Sa 3:7 And Samuel did not yet know Jehovah, and the Word of Jehovah had not yet been revealed to him.
To which I ask: How is it that a boy who is to be trained in the service of God, by the priest of God, had been with him maybe as much as ten years and STILL didn't know God? You get the point: Whatever Eli had been in his past, he was now a "holy hanger-on" at best. He's not bringing his own house to heel, he's not refraining from the fruit of their loot, and he's not training the next generation.
So God calls Samuel, and Samuel thinks it's Eli. The preceding verses tell us it wasn't yet light enough to put out the lamps- so about the same time of morning when Ruth came home to Naomi last week- and Samuel wakes Eli and says, "you called me?" and Eli says no. Then it happens again, and even a backslidden mockery of a priest like Eli knows what's going on. So Eli says, go back to bed- and if you hear the call again, ask God what He wants.
And what God wanted was to tell Samuel just what the future held in store for the lazy glutton Eli:
1Sa 3:11 And Jehovah said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel at which both the ears of everyone who hears it shall tingle.
1Sa 3:12 In that day I will confirm to Eli all that which I have spoken as to his house, beginning and making an end.
1Sa 3:13 For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile and he did not restrain them.
1Sa 3:14 And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever.
Now, Eli had already been told that his sons would die on the same day as a sign to him; but now, because he hadn't made the first attempt to prevent that day, the curse on Eli's House was going to damage all of Israel. The whole thing reminded me of the verse in Proverbs...
PRV 26:14 As a door turns on its hinges,
So does the lazy man on his bed.
15 The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl;
It wearies him to bring it back to his mouth.
Eli was that lazy man. When David had his sin with Uriah and Bathsheba exposed, and God told him their child would die, he pled to the Lord for the child's life, until the moment of death...
2 Sam 12:22 David said, “While the baby was still alive, I fasted, and I cried. I thought, ‘Who knows? Maybe the Lord will feel sorry for me and let the baby live.’ 23 But now that the baby is dead, why should I fast? I can’t bring him back to life. Someday I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.”
Lesson- we should NEVER give up hope. Eli, however, never BEGAN hope...
The Ten Verses After: So a few more years go by, and the Lord is with Samuel in a powerful way. But Israel is still led by Eli and the "sons of Belial"; and they thought the best way to beat the Philistines would be what one commentator ( and a tip of the hat to Bobby G for his link last week that I used here) called "Rabbit's foot theology". They would go forth, with Hophni and Phinehas leading the Ark Of The Covenant at their head, and surely God- their lucky rabbit's foot- would lead them to victory. And for a moment it looked like it would work...
1Sa 4:5 And it happened when the ark of the covenant of Jehovah came into camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.
1Sa 4:6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What is the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they saw that the ark of Jehovah had come into the camp.
1Sa 4:7 And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God has come into the camp, And they said, Woe to us! For there has not been a thing like this before.
1Sa 4:8 Woe to us! Who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods that struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.
Rather ironic, that, just like when Abraham made Sarah claim to be his sister rather than his wife in Egypt, the pagans had more faith in God's ability to protect Israel than they did. But the rub was, God was NOT with them. You can't spend a life of nothing but sin and ignoring God and expect Him to pop up and save you when the chips were down. The Israelites were slaughtered, the sons of Belial were slain, and the Ark was captured.
And the funny thing? Nobody mourned Hophni or Phinehas. When the messenger came to the fat, blind, 98-year old Eli and told him the bad news, he was okay with the loss, he was okay with the boys being dead. BUT...
1Sa 4:18 And it happened when he (the messenger form the battle) spoke of the ark of God, he (Eli) fell backward off the seat, by the side of the gate. And his neck broke, and he died, for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
It was the loss of the Ark that killed Eli- for perhaps the first time, he realized he had presided over the abandoning of Israel by God. And it wasn't just him, either...
1Sa 4:19 And his daughter-in-law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, ready to be delivered. And when she heard the report that the ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed, for her pains came upon her.
1Sa 4:20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said to her, Do not fear, for you have borne a son. But she did not answer, nor set her heart.
1Sa 4:21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory has departed from Israel, because the ark of God had been taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband.
The loss of the Ark- and what it TRULY meant- is what killed her, as well. And her naming of the child tells us what was on her mind at the end, because Ichabod means, "No glory".
And now, the verse: And just like last time, our verse is the hinge at the midpoint of the story. Last time, it was Naomi wondering how the "test" had gone. Would Ruth remain a woman without an identity- or would God provide her one through Boaz? Here, though, we see the man Eli about to have his identity- and the identity of his family AND HIS PEOPLE as well- stripped from them. Now remember, Naomi- who had every reason to give up, and in fact had been very close TO that- went on to encourage Ruth in the Lord. And Eli? Well, the contrast is chilling. First, revisit Ruth:
Rth 3:18 And she said, Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will fall. For the man will not rest until he has finished the thing today.
Which is a lot like the psalmist over and over urging us to wait for the Lord. And now, Eli's story:
1Sa 3:17 And he said, What is the word which He has said to you? Please do not hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide a thing from me of all the words that He said to you.
1Sa 3:18 And Samuel told him all the words, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is Jehovah; let Him do what seems good to Him.
That wasn't Naomi urging Ruth to faith in God; that was Eli saying, "Whatever, dude." He thought that no matter what he did- or didn't do- life would go on, and God would still be with Israel. It was God's responsibility, not his. Eli was the priest of God- he KNEW God might have mercy had the people repented, had the brothers been shut down, had they come to God- but Eli, the man who was supposed to take them TO God, the man whose very name means "lifted up", he didn't have the time, energy, or inclination to "lift his hand from the bowl."
And the results: Through Naomi and her willingness to do what she could and wait on the Lord, grafted Ruth into the tree of salvation, from which Jesus himself was sprung. And Eli, too apathetic to even care until the enormity of his failure sprung upon him too late- He saw his line die out. For whatever happened to little Ichabod, it is not chronicled, outside of that his nephew Ahiah, son of Ichabod's older brother Ahitub, became High Priest in the days of Saul. Ahiah, also named Ahimelech, was the priest murdered by Saul's henchman Doeg the Edomite, thus completing God's curse on the House of Eli.