Eli’s End

Eli led Israel as a judge, and we have seen how he was a failure as a father.  This theme continues right up to the very end of his life, when a messenger returns from a fresh battle with the Philistines:

Eli heard the outcry and asked, “What is the meaning of this uproar?”

 The man hurried over to Eli, who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes were set so that he could not see.  He told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.”

Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”

 The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”

 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy. He had led Israel forty years.  — 1 Samuel 4:14-18

I have always found it interesting that even though the news of his sons’ death is told first, it is actually the news of the capture of the ark which topples Eli from his chair.  Though he was a poor father with disobedient sons, it seems that Eli had one of his priorities in the correct place – God came first.


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