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Parent and Child | Jacob W. Byers

The Sin of Eli

It would not seem proper to close this series of articles on the subject of parental duty and responsibility without a brief notice of the sad failure of Eli, and the sin he committed against God and his people. The first we notice concerning his sons is, they were “sons of Belial”—that is, they were worthless and profane—and they “knew not the LORD.”* (1 Samuel 2:12) They had no respect for their father, nor his office as the priest of God. They were idle, loose, and indolent. In some way their father had made the sad mistake that so many parents are making today—permitting their sons to have their own way, and to rise up in rebellion against home government and law, to do what they please, to go where they please and when they please. And if the parent should say a word of opposition against them, there would be a storm of anger poured out upon them, and the home made so miserable that the poor subdued and defeated parents would be glad to keep still and let the young rebels have their way, rather than disturb the peace of the home by any further efforts to correct or restrain.

The sons of Eli were doubtless permitted to grow up in this manner. Their father was occupied with his duties in the office of priest much of the time, no doubt, and may have felt justified in the negligence of his family; but God did not look at it in this manner. What the attitude of the mother of these sons was toward them, we have no knowledge. Whether she was tolerant toward their misbehavior and failed to fill the place of a true mother or not, this did not excuse the father from his responsibility, he had to answer before God for his neglect, and the sons with him had to suffer the penalty.

These sons were permitted to defile the sacred sacrifices of God, and the people were caused to abhor the true worship. The failure of the father was that he did not teach them and in their younger years compel them to respect and reverence the worship of God. It was his business as the very leader of worshipers to see that every man who brought his offerings and sacrifices to God did so in the most sacred and reverential manner, and above all it was his business to see that his own household set the example for the people to follow. Eli had the authority to execute every command of God, and see that order and sacred devotion were maintained in Israel. But he failed to do this. He permitted his boys to run loose and careless and bring disorder in the tabernacle of God. The very place and spot that was to be the most sacred on earth was desecrated in this manner. He certainly knew that this was wrong, but neglected to correct and instruct his children in these necessary things. They grew up in this improper manner, and thus brought upon themselves exposures to greater evils.

Being unrestrained and unpunished in their first offenses of defiling the offerings and sacrifices, they were hardened and lost all respect for God, their father, the people of God, and themselves, and actually committed open adultery at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. The same weakness and lack of parental management that Eli had before manifested, is strikingly noticeable now in his remonstrance with his sons in this abominable crime. He said unto them: “Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’S people to transgress.”* (1 Samuel 2:23-24) Of course, the boys did not care for such a plea. They were too far gone in debauchery and iniquity, and simply scorned such correction. It would take the most sensitive and conscientious person to be affected by such soft reproof as this. These calloused-hearted sinners cared nothing for it, and went right on in their wickedness.

We see parents today treat their children just as Eli did. They say: “Boys, you must not do such things; you ought not to smoke or chew or swear or dance or play cards and such things. It does not look well to see such things in our home. You know it is contrary to our principles to have such things going on,” etc. The proud, haughty young fellow just sneers at such entreaty, and goes ahead in his open disobedience and rebellion as long as he pleases to do so. Then when he pleases to go away from home and have his own way, he soon finds himself face to face with a violated law, inside some prison wall, or in some other way a reproach to his family, himself, and his country.

Had Eli brought down upon the backs of those boys the rod of correction when they first began their wicked deeds, or had he executed the penalty of disobedience upon them as he heard of their misconduct, he would have saved them and himself the sad results that followed. He sinned in that he honored his sons above God (1 Samuel 2:29), and therefore his sons hearkened not unto the voice of their father. He thought too much of his sons to punish them when they needed it. He would rather displease God than punish the child. This is the same soft-heartedness that Satan imposes upon many a parent today, and causes a sad neglect in the proper training of our rising generation; and the result is a crop of worthless vagabonds, unfit for any responsible position in life, in the home, in the community, or in the nation. Who is to blame? The parents who failed to instruct and correct their children from their infancy up to as long as they had shelter under the parental roof.

Listen how God charged Eli with kicking at His sacrifice and offering which He had commanded in Israel. Why was Eli charged with this? Because he tolerated the evil in his sons. He was partaker of this evil in that he tolerated it. God hates such things in our children no less than He did in the sons of Eli; and if we permit anything in our home or meetings that desecrates the sacredness of God, we become partakers of the evil and will have to give account of the same.

Dear parents, let us take a united stand against sin in every respect. Let us rise up and execute judgment against every evil spirit that is ready to swoop down upon our unsuspecting child and destroy it. Let us administer punishment and correction whenever and wherever it is needed, and hold our children under our perfect control as long as we are responsible for them, and keep them in the love and fear of God. We must answer for our children at the great day of reckoning, and we must fill our responsibility toward them for their earthly and eternal good. Whether they are large or small, they do not know what is for their best good as well as we do; therefore they must be taught from infancy that our laws and commands must be obeyed. Our children must become used to obedience to their parents, as they are accustomed to coming to our table or going to their beds. It must become as natural to them as to breathe; then with the grace of God and heavenly wisdom in our hearts, we shall guide them past the hidden pitfalls along the path of youth and childhood, and they will become partakers of the grace of God, and with mature judgment and discretion be able to stand.

The awful evil that befell Eli and his sons stands on the records of history as a warning to every parent. God in His mercy means that we take heed and escape even a sorer punishment than this. Notice what the decree says: “For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever.”* (1 Samuel 3:13-14) In due time God fulfilled the decree, and in one day these two sons were slain in battle and Israel was defeated, the ark of God fell into the hands of the Philistines and Eli died. Surely these are some of the things that were written for our admonition, and by being careful lest we let some of the precious truths on this subject slip, we can profit by the mistakes of those who have gone over this parental pathway before us. We can see by the Word of God what is required of us, and grasp our opportunities with a stronger determination that we will, by the grace of God, conquer every opposing power that is bent to overthrow the well-being of our loved ones whom God has entrusted to our care.

Let us take courage, dear fellow parents. We shall accomplish the desire of our hearts. Our children will become all that we have labored and prayed for if we follow the sacred instructions of the blessed Word of God.