1 Samuel (01) - The Fall of Eli’s House and Rise of Samuel (chs 1-4)
The Story - The book 1 Samuel gives us some of the greatest stories in the Bible. It is set in a time of great transition for Israel. After the conquest of the Land (1400 BC) under Joshua a few hundred years earlier, now the Tabernacle rests in Shiloh. This time (1100 BC) overlaps with the book of Judges. As the cycle of Judges comes to an end, Israel is not only threatened by the Philistines from the outside, corruption in the priesthood rots away their core. Enter Samuel, then Saul, then David. These first four chapters weave the story of the miraculous birth and faithful service of Samuel with the fall of Eli’s house. This intentional contrast highlights God’s redemptive grace in the midst of wickedness to preserve His people.
The Story of Eli - The failure of Eli is the failure of a father and leader in Israel. He was not only the High Priest, but also a Judge. While no specific evil actions are recorded of Eli, the text suggests his failures as a father and his increasing spiritual blindness. His sons, Hophni and Phinehas are wicked (2:12ff). They “despised the offering of the LORD.” They reject Yahweh in ritual disobediences, departing from the “customs” (2:13). Their false worship corresponds to their immorality, committing adultery with the women servants at God’s house (2:22). Their departures from Mosaic custom were not petty, but driven from greed. They (1) took the wrong parts of the meat/sacrifices, (2) didn’t dedicate the offering, (3) invented a new method (the use of a fork), (4) took the fat that belonged to God, and (5) threatened the worshippers. “They would not listen to the voice of their father” (2:25). Finally, when judgment comes, these evil spawn fall with many Israelites at the battle of Aphek, against the Philistines. In this battle Israel sought to use the Ark of the Covenant as if it were a magic box (cf Raiders of the Lost Ark). They misjudged God and over 30,000 people perished. Upon hearing of the deaths of Eli and Phinehas and of the capture of the ark, Eli fell and broke his neck and Phinehas' wife died while giving birth to a son named Ichabod (“not glory/glory has left”) (1 Samuel 4:19-22). Unfortunately, the Eli saga is repeated in Israel’s history.
The Story of Samuel - The story of Samuel is a story of God’s grace during a time of tribulation. Samuel (“God has heard”) is a gift to renew Israel. Hannah, who was oppressed by her rival, knows Israel needs a leader empowered by the Spirit. She prays that her womb would be resurrected so that she might provide a Nazarite (warrior) leader to dedicate to the Lord. Her song is the basis for the Magnificat (of Mary, Lk. 2). God answers this prayer with Samuel. As a Prophet, Samuel functions as High Priest and a Judge (a Levite of the Kohathite line, 1 Chr. 6). Samuel arises to lead just as Eli’s dynasty was killed-out. (“Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent” 3:1). Samuel is a powerful forerunner and “type” of Christ. Even before he was born, he was an instrument of God’s faithfulness to Israel and he led God’s people with wisdom and strength. “Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail” (3:19).
Remember the Salvation of God, the deliverances of our gracious and powerful Savior. Despite the disobedience of the leaders of Israel (both Eli & sons, and the elders who took the Ark to battle), God was kind in raising up Samuel. God answered a mother’s prayer and vow. Our gracious and merciful Father often answers the prayers of such mothers. Remember Monica, the mother of Augustine . . .
This example shows the significance of fatherhood. Fathers you must take responsibility for your children. You must teach them to obey.
Why - Let us consider the why of obedience/5th commandment. 1) It is for your children’s good and blessing. This is explicitly stated in the 5th commandment. This is a great blessing to the parents, as well. Ill. Doug Wilson’s house - … Ok, Dad. It is important to realize children, because they are sinful, have foolish impulses. They desire to do things that are not reasonable, practical, safe, or healthy. Without cultivating them to restrain themselves, they will harm themselves and others. So training them to obey your voice is not an arbitrary use of power. It like patching holes in a boat; like putting air in bike tires; like washing a dirty window; it frees a person to have true liberty. Virgil Hurt’s spaniel needed to be constrained so that when he took her out for a walk, she could run and chase