Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Wayward Sons

While the Biblical canon has many stories of redemption and miracles, it also records narratives that demonstrate the true struggles of real people.  Real people know of the commonly heard lament that raising children isn’t easy, and that certain children are more difficult than others. Such were the sons of Eli, the High Priest who served in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in Shilo in the years just before and after the birth of the Prophet Samuel. The sons’ names were Hophni and Pinchas.

Now Eli was very old. When he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel and how they had illicit relations with the women who performed tasks at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I get evil reports about you from the people on all hands. Don’t, my sons! It is no favorable report I hear the people of the Lord spreading about. If a man sins against a man, the Lord may pardon him; but if a man offends against God, who can obtain pardon for him?” But they ignored their fathers plea (I Samuel 2:21-25).

For this, Eli is informed that his family would lose its exalted position and would be cut off from the benefits of the priesthood. The consequence would not immediately go into effect - perhaps so Eli could continue the important work of raising Samuel, but would begin, he was told, on the day that Hophni and Pinchas die.

Several years passed until this occurred. When Eli was 98 years old, and the Israelites were at war with the Philistines, it was reported to him that both of his sons had been killed in battle and that the Ark of the Lord had been captured. Out of distress, Eli fell off of his seat, broke his neck and died. At the same time, his daughter-in-law, Pinchas’ widow, gave birth to the new generation that would feel the actual consequences of God’s reprimand (Ibid. 4:1-19).


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