“The sad story of Eli and his sons is set in contrast to the story of little Samuel, who was sent to live with Eli and serve the Lord at a very young age.
If you remember the story, Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was barren and cried out to the Lord for a child. If God would give her a son, she promised to give her boy back to God to serve Him all of his life.
When Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to Eli at the temple in Shiloh. So here was little Samuel, serving the Lord. But right down the hall were the bedrooms of Hophni and Phinehas, the no-good, wicked, grown-up sons of Eli who had no regard for the Lord (2 Samuel 2:12). They were the preacher’s kids, messing around while Dad faithfully served the Lord. Ouch! “By the time we meet Eli’s family, his boys were assisting him in the ministry of the temple. They were going to church with him every Sunday. They were wearing the veneer because Dad was the holy man of Israel.
But these brothers had a racket going. They were dipping their hands in the offering plate; only it wasn’t money they were taking. They were taking more of the sacrifices than the priest’s rightful share. If anyone called them on the scam, he would be threatened by force. And that’s not all; the sons were also seducing the women who served at the entrance to the temple.
By now you are probably saying, “Please, tell me what Eli did or didn’t do as a father so I can run as far and as fast the other way as possible.” Well, Eli was a man of God. No question about that. But evidently he didn’t take a strong hand in training his sons. Maybe they ran wild around the temple, getting into trouble. We don’t know. “How many times have you been in the grocery store or mall and heard a parent say to a screaming “obnoxious two-year-old who’s pitching a fit, “Now, now, don’t do that, dear. Here, let’s stop that.” “Meanwhile, the kid is wreaking havoc. I don’t know if that’s how Eli got started with Hophni and Phinehas when they were young. We’re not given any details of their childhood. What we have here in 1 Samuel is the bottom line, which is this: Eli’s sons were vile before the Lord, and he did absolutely nothing about it. Now it’s true that he did speak to them:
So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the LORD’s people. If a man sins against another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the LORD’s will to put them to death. —2:23-25”
“Eli heard about the terrible things his sons were doing and said, “Now, boys, you ought not do that. No, no. Bad, bad.”
And the boys said, “Yes, Daddy,” then went right back to robbing the people who came to the temple and misusing the women. And from all indications, Eli just turned away from it (look ahead to 3:12-14).” “The issue was not that Eli didn’t tell his children the right things, for clearly he did. It’s that he didn’t enforce the right things he was telling them. I don’t know any parents who go out and tell their kids, “Go rob a bank. Go find someone to kill. Ten or twenty years in prison will do you good.” I suspect you don’t know any parents like that either.
No, the parents we know probably say the right things, just as Eli did. A lot of prison inmates’ parents probably said the right things too. But “what is missing in so much of our well-intentioned parenting is enforcement, which represents the strength of our convictions.
Eli was not enforcing the truth. He was only stating it. He didn’t pull his sons from their posts; he didn’t strip them of their privileged access to the temple and to the people of Israel. He knew what they were doing, but he let them keep on doing it while mouthing platitudes that they should stop.
Discipline includes more than telling your children what they ought to do. We talked about that earlier. The reason that telling isn’t good enough is that our kids are born in sin. And you do not leave sinners to decide things for themselves because they will inevitably go the wrong way. “Now I can’t stop all the neighbors’ kids from messing up because they are not part of my family. But my kids, that’s a whole different story because I love them. If you want to love your children the way God loves His children, chastening and correcting have to be part of the equation.
Love means you’d better say something. And if that doesn’t take care of the problem, you’d better do something. If you love me and you see that I’m destroying myself, yet you keep quiet, you’re killing me. The most loving thing a parent or any spiritual leader can do is chastise in love.

vision, purpose, destiny,



  1. It is too bad that the modern world seems to think that we should discipline our children in the manner of Eli. As I often have told my own children, the parent who does not discipline his/her children doesn’t love them because a loving parent wants his/her children to become honest servants of the Lord.

  2. Very important message. The fact that one is a Christian or they spiritual doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wonderful parents. We must be purposeful and intentional at parenting – not forgetting to seek God’s counsel in order to point our children to the Lord. The rod, as long as it is done in the Lord will not kill them.
    Thanks for sharing.

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