Neglected parenthood: Lessons from disobedient of Eli and his sinful sons

December 19, 2016

There are many things that one can learn from the Biblical story in the first book of Samuel chapter 4 to 7. The story teaches us about famous examples of neglectful parenting, the power and mercy of God, the repulsiveness of sin, the eventual fall of the haughty, the blessing of the righteous, the demise of the impudent, etc.  Moreover, it is the symbolic depiction of the salvation presented in New Testament teachings. The following is the breakdown of this story.

Part – 1

  The captivity of the Ark of the Covenant (1Sam.4:1-22)

During the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, the Israelites were defeated and four thousand of them were killed. At this point the elders of Israel deliberated on the issue and said, “Today we are defeated by Philistines because we entered the battle field without the Ark of the Covenant”.  

 Thus, in order to overcome the Philistines, the Ark of Zion shall come to us; the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, shall come with the Ark of Zion, they decided.  When The Ark of Zion arrived at the battlefield there was great joy and chanting; since in the past Israelites enjoyed victory whenever the Ark of the Covenant is with them. However, contrary to their expectation, in the battle that followed thirty thousand Israelites were killed, the two sons of Eli the High Priest, Hophni and Phinehas died, and the Ark of the Covenant was taken.  

A man, who escaped from the battle, went to the city and told Eli the priest about the captivity of the Ark of the Covenant, the death of Hophni and Phinehas and the loss of many heroes of Israel in the fighting. Eli was stricken with great sorrow, and fell from his chair and died. When, his daughter in law Tamar, Phinehas’ wife, near her delivery time, heard the tidings of the battle and that the Ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, great pain gripped her and her delivery began. She gave birth to a son, whom she named ‘Chabod’ meaning glory is gone from Israel.

In the past, Israelites, thanks to the Ark of Zion, parted and crossed the sea of Jordan; defeated the Ammonites, Persians, Moabites and brought down the wall of Jericho to enter the promised land.

Here one can raise questions about the Israelites being crushed by the Philistines, the captivity of the ark of Zion, the death of Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. The main reason for all these is the Sin committed by Hophni and Phinehas and the disobedience and neglectful parenting of Eli.

This story of the sin committed by Hophni and Phinehas and the disobedience of Eli and his neglectful parenting is significant in its relevance to Christians because it revolves around a man who knew the Lord and yet tolerated the sins of his adult children and provoked God’s Wrath as a result. 

God endowed Eli both the privilege of priesthood and forty years of reign over Israel. But Eli served the interests of his children more than God. The Lord sent a prophet to rebuke Eli the High Priest because he failed to discipline his two adult sons. Yet Eli remained a passive parent to the end.  God revealed Himself to Prophet Samuel and called him to be his prophet because Israel’s priesthood under Eli’s leadership grew increasingly corrupt.  The wicked behavior of Eli’s two sons caused many Israelites to despise the offerings at the Lord’s temple.

Despite this rebuke, Eli took no action against his sons other than pass on weak warnings that they were in danger of provoking God’s wrath.   Eli’s sons had grown into hardened sinners. Eli’s greatest mistake was his negligence in reprimanding his children. Because of Eli’s lack of action in response to God’s reprimand, He took measure, “Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?”  (1 Samuel 2:29) As it is stated in (Mat.10:37) “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”. 

Eli was separated from God because the one who couldn’t reprimand his children doesn’t love them which in turn abuses God’s Command. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Prov.13:24).  Parents, who don’t reproach and follow up on the day today activities of their children, not only expose them to risky life but to eventual destruction of the country. 

Parents, who raise their children in accordance with Church teachings, produce responsible descendants who shoulder duties from the Church and the country in general. Eli lost himself and his children because of his negligence to rebuke his sons. Today also, parents who fail to discipline their children are straying away from the right path, and ignore to correct undesirable conduct in their children, must learn from the fate of Eli.
  To be continue…


• መጻሕፍተ ነገሥት አርባዕቱ ፤ በአንድምታ ትርጓሜ፤ 2000 ዓ.ም፡፡ ትነሣኤ መሳተሚያ ድርጅት፤ አዲስ አበባ ኢትዮጵያ፡፡ (Commentary on the four books of kings: 1Samuel, chapter 4-6 (2008); Tinsae printing press, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.)

• በመ/ር ብዙነህ ሺበሺ (ኅዳር 1-15፣ 2008 ዓ.ም ስምዐ ጽድቅ ጋዜጣ)፤ ፄዋ ጽዮን – የጽዮን ምርኮ፤ ገጽ 8-9፡፡  (Adopted and translated from: Memher Bezuneh Shibeshi (November 11-25, 2015,).The Captivity of Zion. “Sem’atsidk Newspaper” a bimonthly Newspaper published by Mahibere Kidusan.pp.8-9.)
  Translation: Mesfin Zegeye & Kassa Nigus