Hannah’s Blessing; Eli’s Curse

Posted: August 13, 2009 in 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 1-2, “Hannah’s Blessing; Eli’s Curse”
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Introduction:
If 1 Samuel were a novel, it might have several appropriate names: “The Rise & Fall of King Saul”… “The foundation of King David”… “Israel’s United Kingdom”… All would be appropriate because all takes place in the book. 1-2 Samuel seems to have been originally composed as one book (Samuel), with the book of the Kings following. LXX changed that by combining them all into one series of books (1-4 Kings), and our canon eventually gave the Hebrew name back to the book, but kept the Greek division. Regardless – there’s uniformity in theme: the beginnings of the monarchy – the reign of David – the fall of David’s sons – the divided kingdom & eventual exile.

All the way from 1 Samuel to the end of 2 Kings, there’s a feeling of “Is that all there is? What about the glorious promises made to David by God?” That’s probably exactly what we’re supposed to feel, because there IS someone greater-than-David in which those promises are fulfilled! In His 1st coming, Jesus suffered for sin & conquered death – in His 2nd coming, Jesus will reign on David’s throne, finally fulfilling every jot & tittle of prophecy given by God.

But before we get to David, we have to get a monarchy. And before we get a monarchy, we have to transition away from the judges – and that’s exactly how 1 Samuel begins. The nation of Israel is in moral & spiritual decline, and though not every Hebrew is an apostate, many are (including some priests!). And it’s in this environment that God brings forth the last (and greatest) of the judges: Samuel.

1 Samuel 1 (NKJV)
1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. 3 This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.

A. All the main characters in the 1st few chapters are introduced here…
__a. Elkanah: going to be Samuel’s father. He’s actually a Levite (1 Chr 6:26). To say he was an “Ephraimite” here only means that is where his Levitical city was located.
__b. Hannah: One of Elkanah’s wives – going to be Samuel’s mother. To this point, she’s been childless.
__c. Peninnah: Another of Elkanah’s wives. She did have children, and caused Hannah much pain.
__d. Eli: The priest of the Tabernacle at Shiloh – perhaps high priest at the time.
__e. Hophni & Phinehas: Eli’s sons. They were priests, but disobedient & evil…

B. Why Shiloh? That was where the Tabernacle of the Lord eventually came to rest. It didn’t get to Jerusalem until the command of David. [PIC]
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4 And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. 8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

A. Yet one more example of why God allowed multiple wives but did not endorse anything except one man & one woman made into one flesh in marriage (which Jesus makes plain in Matt 19:6, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh”). Jealousy between spouses would be inevitable (as seen between Rachel & Leah) & it wreaks havoc with the picture of marriage that we see between Jesus & the Church.

B. Hannah was suffering. Being childless was a stigma in the society (and in some places, still is), and when someone has a desire to be a mother, very few things can fill that void. Elkanah attempted to comfort her, but couldn’t. Husbands can fill a lot of needs for their wives, but this isn’t one of them.
__1. Elkanah obviously loves Hannah, but he almost comes across as callous here. “Why are you sad?” He knows why she’s sad; he just doesn’t get why Hannah wanted something more than him… Sometimes if we don’t know the right words to say in comfort, it’s best not to say anything at all. Silent hugs can say a lot more than flippant words of advice…

C. Peninnah didn’t help matters. She flagrantly attempted to sow seeds of jealousy in Hannah by flaunting her own children. But it’s possible that her taunting of Hannah was a result of Elkanah’s favoritism towards Hannah & was acting out in jealousy… (Again, polygamy always leads to bad results!)

D. Question: had Hannah done anything wrong to be childless? That’s how the culture would have viewed it. Answer: No! “the LORD had closed her womb…” Why God allows some women to go childless is a mystery (and likely a result of the Fall)…in this case, it was to bring about the right child at the right time. Whatever it may be, it certainly wasn’t Hannah’s fault.
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9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

A. Intense prayer! She wept – her soul felt bitter to her – she prayed fervently with her lips moving & no sound, pouring her heart out to the Lord. This is good prayer!
__a. It’s ok to weep in prayers – or let God know of your anger – or share your anguish with Him. God has given you freedom as His child in Christ to come boldly before the throne of grace to find help in your time of need. We don’t have to be uptight & formal in our prayers – we just need to be reverent & real. (Still unsure? Read the Psalms! There are passionate prayers there!)

B. What was Hannah promising? Basically to give her baby to the Lord as a Nazirite. The vow Hannah promises is virtually identical to what Samson’s mother was told to do when the Angel of the Lord told her about her pregnancy (Judg 13). It’s quite possible that Hannah was familiar with the Scriptures (Elkanah seemed to be a Godly husband who worshiped the Lord rightly) & that she was taking the Scriptures surrounding Samson’s birth to herself for her own prayers to the Lord.
__a. We obviously don’t want to take Scriptures out of context – there are some promises God gives that are simply not to the Church. But the principles that are there that are available to all who are in Christ Jesus. Pray through the Scriptures – it’s God’s perfect Word & you can be sure you’re praying the things that are on God’s own heart…

C. Basically talking about complete & total dedication to the Lord from birth to the grave. Not unlike what happens to us in our salvation… The Holy Spirit gives us a new birth & we are sanctified & set apart as God’s saints to minister to Him until our dying day (and beyond)…
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12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” 15 But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.” 17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” 18 And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

A. Eli thought she was drunk & initially chastised her… (Which doesn’t speak highly of the folks that usually came to worship at the Tabernacle! This was an immoral time in Israel.)

B. Hannah firmly corrects him, but she did it in humility of heart. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Hannah sticking up for herself (it was the truth!), but she did it in a way that maintained respect for the priest & ultimately the Lord. The stage is being set here – this is a Godly, honorable woman.

C. Eli blessed her & did so prophetically (though we don’t know if he realized it). She received the blessing in faith (Heb 11) & her whole countenance changed. What her husband could not provide for her, the Lord could. And she was confident that the Lord heard her prayers.
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19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.”

A. Translation of “Samuel” = “asked/heard of God” – which is exactly what happened.

B. Just as with Ruth & Boaz, we see that conception begins with the Lord. …
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21 Now the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the LORD and remain there forever.” 23 So Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the LORD establish His word.” Then the woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him. 24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli.

A. Was Hannah looking to go back on her vow? On the contrary! She wanted to fulfill it in total the day she went back to the Tabernacle. She couldn’t do it if the baby wasn’t yet weaned… 3 years old

B. Elkanah wanted to ensure the vow was kept as well… Says a lot of his spiritual maturity & his trust of his wife… This was HIS son as well that was going to be leaving home at 3 years old. Keep in mind Elkanah had the right to annul his wife’s vow, if he thought it was rash (Num 30). He didn’t, so obviously he wanted to honor the Lord in this way as much as Hannah did.

C. When they did come back, they didn’t come empty-handed. They brought a large sacrifice…basically what the law required about the fulfillment of the Nazirite vow (Num 6). Obviously Samuel’s vow was a life-long commitment – so they seem to have brought more than what was required.
__a. What do we bring to the Lord? Obviously the one true sacrifice has already taken place at the cross. As Christians, our only logical/reasonable response to what Jesus has done for us is to bring a lot more than bulls & meal offerings: it’s to bring our lives! Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. []
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26 And she said, “O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the LORD. 27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there.

A. The day she gave Samuel back to the Lord… Was she truly “lending” him to God? Not really – this was an expression to denote a gift back to God. Obviously Hannah was not going to just take Samuel home one day saying, “Ok, my time of lending is up!” She was giving him to God, because God gave him to her.

B. This is not a day of sadness, but a day of praise & worship! She came offering sacrifices & thanking God for answered prayer… Often, that’s the part we forget. We’ll plead in prayer to God for the need – we’ll continue to pray during the trial – but as soon as it’s all over, we’ll often forget to give God thanks. May we be a praise-filled people – ready to give God thanks for what He’s done for us through Christ Jesus!
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1 Samuel 2 (NKJV)
– The song of Hannah…beautiful psalm & seems to have been referenced by Mary in the Magnificat…
1 And Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. 2 “No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

A. We find our victory in God. The “horn” was symbolic for strength (often used by David in the psalms). For Hannah, she who was once weak was made strong – she was lifted up by the Lord.
__a. We who are weak in sin & prey to death find our victory in Jesus! Our horn is exalted in Him!

B. We find our salvation in God: In Hebrew, “salvation” is the idea of “deliverance.” (And is where Jesus gets His name: Yeshua, “Yahweh who saves”) Hannah needed a deliverer, and she found One in the Lord God! And in Him she could rejoice!

C. Only God is like God: There is truly none like the Lord because there are no other gods but God. He is above all creation & He is the only rock of salvation!
__a. Those aren’t merely statements of faith; they’re statement of fact. Those who try to find salvation in any other god other than the One True God are sorely mistaken. There is NONE like God – even if we want it to be otherwise…
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– God is merciful…
3 “Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed. 4 “The bows of the mighty men are broken, And those who stumbled are girded with strength. 5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, And the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, And she who has many children has become feeble.

A. Peninnah had been proud, but without cause… Those who are proud will have to answer to the Lord, who is “the God of knowledge…”

B. Several paradoxes laid out… Mighty men are humbled in battle, but those who stumble are made strong. The rich are hungry & the hungry are full. The barren are mothers & the mothers are childless. Sound familiar? It should – Jesus frequently affirmed the same thing. (1st last. Save life lose it…) Things are turned upside-down in God! Those who would exalt themselves & find comfort in their own flesh & abilities will eventually come to naught… The only things that will last are those things the Lord does… see vs. 6…
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– God is sovereign…
6 “The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. [Resurrection!] 7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. 8 He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory. “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, And He has set the world upon them.

A. Ultimately, everything in the universe is in the hands of our Lord God! In Him we live & move & have our being… He is absolutely sovereign over His creation…

B. Not only is God sovereign over the mundane things (like money, etc.); He’s also sovereign over spiritual things. WE were the ones who were poor & in the dust! WE were the beggars in the ash heap, spiritually speaking. And God HAS set us among princes – especially the Prince of Peace! We are co-heirs with Jesus & we’ve received the right to be called children of God…
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– God is just…
9 He will guard the feet of His saints, But the wicked shall be silent in darkness. “For by strength no man shall prevail. 10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed.”

A. Hannah knew what it was like to experience injustice – but God turned everything around for her. So will it be with all injustice. ALL injustice either has or will be answered by God. Either it has been answered at the Cross of Jesus Christ… Or it will be answered at the Great White Throne Judgment seat of God…

B. Note the Messianic promise at the end. To this point (aside from one rebellious judge), there had been no king in Israel. In fact, Samuel was the prophet & judge that would establish the monarchy… So vs. 10 couldn’t possibly be speaking about Samuel; it has to be speaking about Christ! “anointed” = Mashiach = Messiah…the chosen one of God – the King of Kings & Lord of Lords…
__a. God has given Jesus strength… God has exalted Jesus’ horn (position)… Just as Hannah rejoiced in what God had done for her, God has done (“will do”, from Hannah’s perspective) for Jesus.
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11 Then Elkanah went to his house at Ramah. But the child ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest.

A. We’ll come back to this in a bit – but note how Samuel ministers before the Lord, even as a child. Remember he was probably 3 years old at this point – and he’s already being used by the Lord to glorify God.
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12 Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD. 13 And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling. 14 Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15 Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, “Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.” 16 And if the man said to him, “They should really burn the fat first; then you may take as much as your heart desires,” he would then answer him, “No, but you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force.”

A. Huge contrast between young Samuel & the sons of Eli! Samuel was faithful to minister before God; the sons of Eli were only faithful to their own greed & lust for power…

B. The sad part here is that God still had a provision for the priests; but God’s provision wasn’t good enough for Hophni & Phinehas. Instead of taking a portion out of what a person had already given unto the Lord as sacrifice, they wanted to take what rightly belonged to the Lord for themselves…they were enriching themselves by stealing from God.
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17 Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

A. Hophni & Phinehas had sinned, no question. But what was it that made their sin worse? Because they were priests (and sons of the priest), their actions made other people abhor to offer anything to God. …

B. How sad it is for us (not just pastors; but anyone claiming the name of Christ) who acts in such a way that it causes someone else to say, “Well if THAT’s what Christianity is all about, I want nothing to do with it!” …
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18 But Samuel ministered before the LORD, even as a child, wearing a linen ephod. 19 Moreover his mother used to make him a little robe, and bring it to him year by year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 And Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “The LORD give you descendants from this woman for the loan that was given to the LORD.” Then they would go to their own home. 21 And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

A. Even as a child, Samuel is ministering to God… Awesome! … Does this mean that Samuel was offering the sacrifices, etc.? Probably not – there was some age-appropriate work that Samuel would be doing. BUT no matter how menial it may have seemed to someone else, it was still seen by God as ministry unto Himself…
__a. Our ‘minor’ ministry is never minor when it’s received by God!
__b. You’re never too young to start ministering to the Lord…

B. Hannah obviously hadn’t abandoned her son never to see him – she came to Shiloh once per year with the sacrifice & always brought new clothes…

C. Eli’s blessing was prophetic…Hannah apparently bore many more children.
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22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. 24 No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD’s people transgress. 25 If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.

A. For anyone who’s ever had a child in prodigal living, it’s easy to relate to Eli. Eli wasn’t a perfect father (as we’ll see), but he did grieve over his sons’ sins against the Lord & the Lord’s people. Parents want to see their children glorify God & Eli was no different. Especially as a chief priest, it must have torn him up inside.

B. Their problem? They weren’t just being greedy for themselves; they were causing the Lord’s people to transgress… And beyond the issue of the meat & sacrifices, apparently Hophni & Phinehas were taking physical advantage of the women who had come to the tabernacle to sacrifice!
__a. God has harsh words to say to those who claim to be “ministers” & yet cause others to sin. Ezekiel 34:9-10 (9) therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord! (10) Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.” []

C. He poses a great question in vs 25: “If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Will a man contend with God? He’s GOD! If we commit a criminal sin, there’s always a higher court we can appeal to – and if nothing else, we have a possibility of pardon. But when a man sins against the LORD? (Heb 10:21) “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Left on our own, we have no hope.
__a. But praise God He hasn’t left us on our own! He’s given Jesus Christ! Only Jesus can be our intercessor!
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26 And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men.

A. Again – huge contrast between young Samuel & the sons of Eli…
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27 Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? 28 Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? 29 Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’

A. Who was the “man of God”? We don’t know – obviously a prophet. There were many unnamed prophets in the Scriptures… What the prophet SAYS is far more important!

B. God is referencing the choosing of Aaron as Eli’s “father”… God gave the Levitical priesthood perpetually to those of Aaron’s line. Eli was of the line of Ithamar (1 Chr 24:3), Aaron’s 4th son…thus he served as priest. What an honor! What a privilege! How did Eli (through his sons) respond to this honor? By despising it & kicking at the sacrifices of God… By making themselves fat off the sacrifices of the people… Instead of treating it like the grace it was, they trampled it underfoot & thought the priesthood was their deserved status. God’s going to change that misconception!
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30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. 31 Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever. 33 But any of your men whom I do not cut off from My altar shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart. And all the descendants of your house shall die in the flower of their age. 34 Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of them.

A. Is God ripping the priesthood away from Levi? No. Samuel is also a Levite & Levites are seen attending to the temple of the Lord far into the future (including Ezekiel’s temple – the priests of Zadok… ) … Instead, God is taking the priesthood away from the house of Eli – “there will not be an old man in your house.” Eli’s descendants would die out & be unable to serve as priests. The sign that all these things would take place? Eli’s 2 sons would die on the same day…(1 Sam 4)
__a. Bad news! Can’t imagine Eli’s grief over this… Is God unjust? Absolutely not…God is good. He won’t allow sin to continue forever…

B. Why does God punish Eli for the actions of his sons? Because even though Eli is not shown directly sinning & even though he’s shown to be grieved over his children’s sin, he’s also not shown actually doing anything about it. As high priest, Eli had a responsibility to maintain the holiness of the sacrifices of the Lord – and that included disciplining his own sons before God had to. Plus – as a father, he spoke words to his sons, but didn’t take action. He could have removed his sons from the priesthood – he could have made restitution – he could have done many things, none of which are mentioned here. Eli had a responsibility to teach his children the fear of the Lord, and that begins with personal example…in this area, Eli failed.
__a. At a certain point, parents cannot be responsible for their children’s actions. But they ARE responsible for how they respond to their children’s actions…
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35 Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever. 36 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and say, “Please, put me in one of the priestly positions, that I may eat a piece of bread.” ’ ”

A. What’s God going to do instead of Eli? Raise up a different priest… In the near future, this will be the house of Zadok (who takes the primary position of the priesthood during the reign of Solomon). But eventually this seems to speak to the new order of priesthood altogether: the order of Melchizedek, when Jesus serves as the ultimate High Priest.

Conclusion:
Quite a contrast here:
A. God blessed one who sought the Lord (Hannah)
B. God chastened one who ignored the Lord (Eli & sons)

What does that tell us? Seek the Lord!

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  1. […] Hannah's Blessing; Eli's Curse […]

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