Priestly Misconduct

A man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Didn’t I reveal Myself to your ancestral house when it was in Egypt and belonged to Pharaoh’s palace? I selected your house from the tribes of Israel to be priests, to offer sacrifices on My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in My presence. I also gave your house all the Israelite fire offerings. Why, then, do all of you despise My sacrifices and offerings that I require at the place of worship? You have honored your sons more than Me, by making yourselves fat with the best part of all of the offerings of My people Israel.’

“Therefore, the Lord, the God of Israel, says:
‘Although I said
your family and your ancestral house
would walk before Me forever,
the Lord now says, “No longer!”
I will honor those who honor Me,
but those who despise Me will be disgraced.

“‘Look, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your ancestral family, so that none in your family will reach old age.’” (1 Samuel 2:27-31)

Eli thought he loved his sons. But his choices showed he loved neither them nor God. Eli did nothing to change things. He criticized his sons and told them they should change their behavior, but he did nothing more than talk. Though he had the power to strip them of their position and to replace them with others, he abdicated his responsibility as a priest and as their father. He allowed them to continue serving.

God therefore told Eli that he would do what Eli wouldn’t: he’d remove Eli’s sons from their positions. This couldn’t have come as a surprise to Eli. Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, had died simply for offering “unauthorized fire” (see Leviticus 10:1-2). Eli’s sons were guilty of far worse: greed and idolatry.

Although God had promised Aaron’s grandson that his descendents would always serve as priests, God was forced to make a modification to his promise. Although God’s gifts, his promises are irrevocable (see Romans 11:29), the contracts he makes, like any contract, can be modified. There were other descendents of Aaron, others who could be priests. Just the one piece—Eli’s piece—of Aaron’s family would be cut off.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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