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God did not punish Eli for the sins of his sons but rather for failing to restrain or stop his sons from doing evil. “Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever’” (1 Samuel 3: 11-14).
What were the sins of Eli’s sons and what should he have done?
A-“Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt” (1 Samuel 2: 17).
B- “Now Elie [Eli] was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?’ But they would not listen to the voice of their father…. (1 Samuel 2: 22-25).
Instead of Eli stopping his sons from their evil at once, Eli merely rebuked them. The Lord God expected Eli to restrain his sons. Though Eli knew his sons as priests had treated the offering of the Lord with contempt and had immoral affairs with women, he didn’t really do anything that would have made an effective stop to their wickedness. As High Priset, he could have removed them from their positions.
The failure of Eli to restrain his children led to his death, the death of his children, defeat in war for the Israelites, and the capturing of the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4: 17-18). This all could have been avoided if Eli would have done his part in putting an end to his children’s evil acts thus setting an example of godliness to his nation.
The lesson of this story is that parents should correct their children at an early age before they cause their downfall. “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24). He who neglects to discipline his children puts self before his children and in reality would be hating his child. Patient, persistent discipline is an expression of affection “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:6).
In His service,