Eli, the High Priest, had two sons who were “corrupt” and “did not know the Lord” (I Samuel 2:12). Eli’s two children took from people meat offered to God by force and lay “with the women who assembled at the door of the Tabernacle of meeting” (I Samuel 2: 22). Because of their heinous sins, God hardened their hearts and they would not heed their father’s rebukes (I Samuel 2:25).

          In Chapter 2 verse 27 we read that finally God used a prophet to announce his verdict on their behalf: “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” (I Samuel 2: 35). God’s longsuffering had reached its limit, and the axe finally fell inexorably upon both men.

          What if God had not punished Hophni and Phinehas? What if He had simply rebuked the two men without intervening that drastically?

          From the very beginning of His dealings with Israel, God had made it perfectly clear that his expectations for holiness were high and unchangeable. The highest expectations were directed at the priests who represented God and who were to teach and demonstrate His ways to the people.

     Being children of the High Priest, Hophni and Phinehas had the great responsibility of honoring their father and the God of their father. They arrogantly, and knowingly, rebelled against their father’s wishes and the will of God. God had warned in the book of Numbers, chapter 15 and verse 30-31, that any person “who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be cut off; his guilt shall be upon him” (Numbers 15:30-31). Thus, from the very beginning, God made it very clear that dishonoring Him would lead to severe consequences.    

          If God had not intervened with the verdict of death, His word would have been questioned, as would have been His expectations. The Israelites knew what Hophni and Phinehas were up to and, without doubt, were wondering how both their father and God were tolerating their scandalous behavior. The fact that many women were lying with them indicates the level of disregard for God’s laws that had ensued. The people of Israel could have easily concluded that if it’s OK for religious leaders to sin and nothing happens, why not join in.

          If God had not intervened, the trust that Israelites had in God and His holiness would have been greatly questioned; all of Israel would have fallen into moral degeneracy and the priesthood would have lost total respect. This could not be allowed and God finally intervened and “the two of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (I Samuel 4: 11).

          The death of Eli’s children must have clearly reinforced to all that, though God is longsuffering, He will finally intervene drastically against unrepentant sinners – especially those who are His representatives. If God had not intervened, this crucial lesson would not have received the necessary emphasis and many would have been emboldened to sin without fear of retribution.



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Booklet cover: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?