Study Guide

Eli in 1 Samuel

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Eli's the one who starts it all.

As a priest in the temple of Shiloh, Eli's main job is to take care of the Ark of the Covenant, but he's also prone to taking care of crying women. Okay, he really only does it the one time that we know of.

This crying woman goes by the name of Hannah. Eli naturally assumes she's drunk (the fool), but really Hannah wants to leave her child at the temple instead (1:14-17). Eli grants this request and takes the child under his metaphorical wing. Eli is not an angel; his wings do not really exist.

Eli is no stranger to being a father figure, having two sons himself. Unfortunately, Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dirty rotten scoundrels. Eli learns that God will punish them for their transgressions which saddens the old, blind man, but who is Eli to argue with God?

Hophni and Phinehas take the Ark of the Covenant into battle, die, and lose it to the Philistines. When Eli hears this news, he topples off his chair, breaks his neck and dies. Clearly Eli learned nothing from Humpty Dumpty (4:5-18).

Eli, though having a small role, is an essential figure. Without this old, almost blind priest at the temple, poor baby Samuel would have nowhere to go. And don't forget that Eli's the one who makes Samuel aware of the fact that God's talking to him. So you think David is the hero of this story? Pssh. We say Eli.

(Not really, David still is the hero.)

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