The stories in this section of 1 Samuel 2-4 compare the destinies of two families. One family was cursed and one family was blessed. God promised to curse the family that ignored and rebelled from His promises. God promised to bless the family that served Him in humility.
The family that was cursed is a tragic story of Eli and his two sons; Hophni and Phinehas. Eli was an incompetent Jewish priest living in the days of the judges and serving God at the tabernacle in Shiloh. Eli had two dreadful sons named Hophni and Phinehas. There is no more appalling story of wickedness than the story of Eli’s two sons. The bible describes their dreadful circumstance, “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they did not respect the Lord.” They were violating the Law of God and “treated the Lord’s offering with contempt.” Hophni and Phinehas would keep the best portions of meat from the sacrifices that were not apportioned to them. They also treated the women who served at the doorway to the tent of meeting like pagan temple prostitutes.
Everyone knew about the evil behavior of Eli’s sons and a shocking report came back to Eli. When he found out about these things, he rebuked his sons but failed to make them stop, allowing them to continue to disrespect the Lord in the tabernacle.
As we discovered last week, Eli was spiritually bungling and inept in his service to the Lord. He lacked zeal and wisdom. Perhaps most unfortunately, Eli’s heart was with his sons and not with the Lord.
God takes priestly misconduct very seriously and these two sons and their father will be punished for disregarding God’s promises. Hophni and Phinehas teach us that being related to a high priest is no substitute for a genuine relationship with God. They also teach us that having a religious pedigree or social power is no match to genuine purity. Hophni and Phinehas received and ignored a priestly rebuke (1 Samuel 2:23–25). Actually, they receive a death sentence from the Lord (2:25).