Eli: High Priest, Judge, Father


Eli was one Old Testament person with a very modern problem. The recognition and respect he earned in public did not extend to his handling of his private affairs. He may have been an excellent priest, but he was a poor parent. His sons brought him grief and ruin. He lacked two important qualities needed for effective parental discipline: firm resolve and corrective action.

Eli responded to situations rather than solving them. But even his responses tended to be weak. God pointed out his sons’ errors, but Eli did not correct them. The contrast between God’s dealings with Eli and Eli’s dealing with his sons is clear – God gave warning, spelled out the consequences of disobedience, and then acted. Eli only warned. Children need to learn that their parents’ words and actions go together. Both love and discipline must be spoken as well as acted out.

But Eli had another problem. He was more concerned with symbols of his religion than with the God they represented. For Eli, the ark of the covenant had become a relic to be protected rather than a reminder of the Protector. His faith shifted from the Creator to the created.

It may be easier to worship things we can see, whether buildings, people, or Scripture itself, but such tangible things have no power in themselves. This book you hold is either merely a respectable religious relic, or it is the sharp and effective Word of God. Your attitude toward it is largely shaped by your relationship to the God from whom it comes. A relic or antique has to be carefully stored away; God’s Word has to be used and obeyed. Which attitude accurately describes your approach to the Word of God?

The ESV Study Bible, Large Print edition features the content of the award-winning ESV Study Bible with a highly readable, large-print type. Extensive study notes, charts, maps, and articles make this study Bible a valuable resource for serious readers, students, and teachers of God’s Word.

Strengths and Accomplishments

  • Judged Israel for 40 years.
  • Spoke with Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and assured her of God’s blessing
  • Reared and trained Samuel, the greatest judge of Israel

Weakness and Mistakes

  • Failed to discipline his sons or correct them when they sinned
  • Tended to react to situations rather than take decisive action
  • Saw the ark of the covenant as a relic to be cherished rather than as a symbol of God’s presence with Israel

Lessons From His Life

  • Parents need to discipline their children responsibly
  • Life is more than simply reacting; it demands action
  • Past victories cannot substitute for present trust

Vital Statistics for Eli

  • Where: Shiloh
  • Occupations: High Priest and judge of Israel
  • Relatives: Sons: Hophni and Phineas
  • Contemporary: Samuel

Key Verses for Eli

“And the Lord said to Samuel: ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family – from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, “The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice of offering” ‘ “ (1 Samuel 3:11-14).

His story is told in 1 Samuel 1 – 4. He is also mentioned in 1 Kings 2:26, 27.

Scripture Study Resources

ESV Study BibleStudy Bibles give you a deeper understanding of God’s Word with tools for life application like commentary, maps, charts, concordance, and study notes. Search our popular translations- NIV, ESV, NKJV, KJV and more!

Believer’s Bible Commentary: Second Edition – A Bible commentary is a written, systematic series of explanations and interpretations of Scripture. Commentaries often analyze or expound on individual books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Some commentary works provide analysis of the whole of Scripture.

The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible – The best concordance for word study! This exclusive new edition of a legendary classic puts generations of biblical research at your fingertips. A valuable tool for pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible. 

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words – This classic word study resource allows you to study the meaning of biblical words in the original languages without spending years learning Greek or Hebrew. A great resource for students, seasoned pastors, and anyone who enjoys biblical word studies–even if they have little to no formal training in Hebrew or Greek.

Halley’s Bible Handbook – The beloved and classic Bible companion has been thoroughly updated, while retaining its time-honored features and Dr. Halley’s highly personal style, to offer even greater clarity, insight, and usefulness.

Click here to print or download the scripture character study of “Eli: High Priest, Judge, Father


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