1 Samuel 1 & 2 – Samuel and Eli

Hannah Giving Her Son Samuel to the Priest
Hannah Giving Her Son Samuel to the Priest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Story of Hannah is a classic one: married with no children while her husband’s other wife had children. Her husband loved her and treated her very kindly, but she wanted children. She prayed to God, promising to give the child back to him if she got one. God gave her a child – Samuel – and she kept her word and let him grow up in the temple.

  • The story begins strangely. Elkanah and his wives are introduced, but not the priests (Hophni, Phinehas and Eli). It almost seems as if the writer expected his readers to know them. (1: 1 – 3)
  • Elkanah’s kindness to Hannah was evident. He didn’t divorce her. Rather, he gave her twice the portion he should have given her of the sacrifices  they made every year. On the other hand Hannah’s rival (Peninnah) taunted her and made her life miserable. (1: 3 – 7)
  • Hannah, like her husband, was a good, godly woman. When her son was born, she kept her promise and gave him to God with no need for coercion. It is no wonder God saw fit to bless her. (1: 21 – 28)
  • Hannah also had pretty solid theology. Awesome woman, she was. (2: 1 – 10) She had many more children.
  • Eli’s sons (Eli was a priest) were accurately described as ‘scoundrels’. The priesthood was a very important and prestigious position. It also came with a lot of perks – first dibs on the sacrifices, for instance. It was also restricted to male descendants of Aaron. Hophni and Phinehas, however, abused that position. They stole from the sacrifices (taking more than they were allowed and in an improper manner) and slept with the women who served in the temple. Eli warned them, but they refused to take heed.
  • His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death (1 Sam 2:25).”: One thing I have noticed is the manner in which responsibility for actions is attributed in the OT. They are divided into two causes – the primary  cause (whoever was doing the act) and the secondary cause (God). The writings portray the idea that God was responsible for Hophni and Phinehas’ refusal to listen. He most probably was not responsible for their sins in the first place, but I have been told that when people sin enough, he punishes them by enabling them to continue their sins, thereby leading them to their just end. I’m not sure if that a technically legal punishment, but it is definitely harsh. It is interesting to note that the idea is not that he makes  them continue in their sin. He just enables them to do what they already want to do. So, instead of setting up roadblocks in their path to make them do the right thing, he clears their path of obstacles e.g. their parents’ warnings.
  • God eventually passes judgment for the wrongdoing of Eli’s sons. The judgment was revealed to Eli. God stated that he (Eli) had shown contempt for God by not stopping his sons and allowing them to continue in their acts. The consequences were as follows:
    • A time would come when no one among Eli’s descendants (probably males) would make it into old age. They would all die in the prime of life.
    • Any one of them whom he allowed to serve as priest’s, he will destroy their eyes and their strength
    • Hophni and Phinehas would die on the same day. That was to be a sign to Eli.
  • I believe it to be pretty obvious from the above events that God does punish the children for the sins of their parents – not in the sense of declaring them guilty, but because he brings about situations that affect the children even though the crime was their parents’. This is evident in nature and even in human law. The courts do not hesitate to sentence a man to death or prison because doing so would hurt his children. Children inherit some of their parents’ characteristics, for good or for ill. As long as such a punishment is actually a punishment on the man and not on his children, then the mere fact that it affects the children should not make it unjust. On the flip side, children also share the fortunes of their parents. That’s probably just too. Or maybe not.

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I’m Tracy

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