1Sa_2:1-3. And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
This is a very suggestive and forcible expression. God does not judge our actions by their appearance, but puts them into the scales of the sanctuary, and weighs them as carefully as bankers weigh gold.
1Sa_2:4-8. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.
What a clear view Hannah had of the sovereignty of God, and how plainly she perceived that God overrules all mortal things, and doeth as he wills! How she seemed to glory in the power of that almighty hand whose working unbelievers cannot discern, but which, to this gracious woman’s opened eye, was so conspicuous everywhere!
1Sa_2:9-12. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed. And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest. Now the sons of Eli were one of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
Yet they were priests, and when a man stands up to minister in holy things, and by virtue of his office is supposed to know the Lord, yet really does not, he stands, not only in a position of the utmost guilt, but also in a position in which he is never likely to get a blessing. He seems to be beyond the reach of the ordinary agencies of mercy, because he has assumed a position to which he has no right.
1Sa_2:13-14. And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.
There was no such rule or regulation given by God; but these sons of Eli had made rules for themselves. It is always wrong to alter the regulations of the Lord’s house. Even the least of them should be obeyed exactly as it stands.
1Sa_2:15-16. Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
There were sacrifices in which God had his portion in the burning of the fat upon the altar, and the priest had a portion allotted to him; and the offerer himself had a portion upon which he fed, in token of his communion and fellowship with God. The priest ought to have been content with what was an ample portion for him; but the greed of these young men prostituted holy things, and defiled the house of the Lord.
1Sa_2:17. Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
They not only grieved God, but they also grieved his people so much that they ceased to come where their consciences were wounded, and where their tenderest sensibilities were perpetually shocked.
1Sa_2:18. But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.
What a contrast there was between little Samuel and the sons of Eli! He was not led astray by the evil example of those who were older than himself, and to whom he would naturally look up because of their high office. This dear child escaped contamination because God’s grace preserved him and also because his mother’s prayers, like a wall of fire, were round about him.
1Sa_2:19-21. Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went unto their own home. And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.
She lent one child to the Lord, and she had five others given to her. God always pays good interest on all his loans. “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord.” It would be well if more would see how much per cent they could get from such a loan as that.
1Sa_2:22-25. Now Eli was very old, and heard as his sons did unto all Israel and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil doings by all this people, Nay my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’S people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall entreat for him?
That is the way Eli rebuked his sons. “And very gently he did it, dear old man,” says someone. Yes, but don’t you imitate him; for, if you do, you may also inherit the curse that came upon his house. There are other virtues in this world besides gentleness. There is sometimes needed the power to speak sternly, — to rebuke with firmness and severity; and Eli had not this. He was an easy-going old soul. Ah! but when the honour of God is at stake, such action as his is out of place. It is all very well to have everybody saying, “Mr. So-and-so is such an amiable man; there is no sectarianism and no bigotry about him; he never says a word to offend anybody.” Just so, but Martin Luther was not at all that kind of man, and where should we have been without such protests as his?
1Sa_2:25. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.
They had gone so far in their sin that the Lord permitted them to go further still, and to bring punishment upon themselves for their evil deeds.
1Sa_2:26. And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.
How vividly the Holy Spirit brings out the contrast between Samuel and these two wicked young men! They grew on in sin, but the child Samuel grew on in favor both with God and with men. The Lord loves to watch his lilies growing among the sharp thorns, and to see how brightly his stars are shining in the blackest night.
1Sa_2:27-28. And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? And did I choose him —
That is, Aaron, —
1Sa_2:28-30. Out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel? 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? Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever:
There was a condition attached to that promise, — a condition implied, if not expressly stated.
1Sa_2:30-31. But now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, —
That is, “the strength of thy family shall be taken away,” —
1Sa_2:31-33. And the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house. And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever. And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.
God does not think little of sin in his ministers, and in his sanctuary. There is a difference between sin and sin. The place where it is committed may make a difference, and the office of the man who commits it may make a difference. Sin makes its culmination when the sinner is highly favored, and brought into close relationship with God by office.
1Sa_2:34-35. And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them. And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.
No doubt first referring to Zadok, who succeeded afterwards to the priests office; but looking further forward still to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the ever-faithful High Priest who always does according to that which is in the mind and heart of the Father.
1Sa_2:36. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.
Or, rather, as the margin has it, “Put me, I pray thee, into somewhat about the priesthood.” “Put me into something that has to do with the priesthood.” So the house of Eli passed from it honourable elevation into degradation and poverty. However highly favored any of us may have been, let us never presume upon that, and turn aside to sin. If we do not know the Lord, and do not honour him in all the acts that we perform in his name, it may be that a like degradation to that of Eli’s house may come upon us because we have despised the will and the words of the Most High.