1 Samuel 2:12
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Sons of.—The word Belial is printed here and 1Samuel 1:16, as though Belial were the name of some pagan deity, but it simply signifies “worthlessness.” It is a common term in these records of Samuel, being used some nine or ten times. It is rarely found in the other historical books. “Sons of Belial” signifies, then, merely “sons of worthlessness,” worthless, good-for-nothing men. The Speaker’s Commentary ingeniously accounts for the use of Belial in the English Version here, and in other places in the Old Testament, by referring to the contrast drawn by St. Paul between Christ and Belial, as if Belial were the name of an idol. or the personification of evil (2Corinthians 6:15).

They knew not the Lord.—The whole conduct of these high priestly officials showed they were utter unbelievers. They used their sacred position merely as affording an opportunity for their selfish extortions; and, as is so often the case now, as it was then, their unbelief was the source of their moral worthlessness (see 1Samuel 2:22). “Hophni and Phinehas (the two sons of Eli) are, for students of ecclesiastical history, eminently suggestive characters. They are true exemplars of the grasping and worldly clergy of all ages.

“It was the sacrificial feasts that gave occasion for their rapacity. It was the dances and assemblies of the women in the vineyards and before the sacred feast that gave occasion for their debaucheries. They were the worst development of the lawlessness of the age, penetrating, as in the case of the wandering Levite of the Book of Judges, into the most sacred offices.

“But the coarseness of these vices does not make the moral less pointed for all times. The three-pronged fork which fishes up the seething flesh is the earliest type of grasping at pluralities and Church preferments by base means, the open profligacy at the door of the Tabernacle is the type of many a scandal brought on the Christian Church by the selfishness or sensuality of the ministers.”—Dean Stanley, On the Jewish Churchy Lecture 17, Part I.

2:11-26 Samuel, being devoted to the Lord in a special manner, was from a child employed about the sanctuary in the services he was capable of. As he did this with a pious disposition of mind, it was called ministering unto the Lord. He received a blessing from the Lord. Those young people who serve God as well as they can, he will enable to improve, that they may serve him better. Eli shunned trouble and exertion. This led him to indulge his children, without using parental authority to restrain and correct them when young. He winked at the abuses in the service of the sanctuary till they became customs, and led to abominations; and his sons, who should have taught those that engaged in the service of the sanctuary what was good, solicited them to wickedness. Their offence was committed even in offering the sacrifices for sins, which typified the atonement of the Saviour! Sins against the remedy, the atonement itself, are most dangerous, they tread under foot the blood of the covenant. Eli's reproof was far too mild and gentle. In general, none are more abandoned than the degenerate children of godly persons, when they break through restraints.Sons of Belial - See the marginal reference note. The phrase is very frequent in the books of Samuel. In the New Testament, Paul contrasts Christ and Belial, as if Belial were the name of an idol or the personification of evil 2 Corinthians 6:15. This probably led to the use of the term "Belial" in the the King James Version, instead of expressing its meaning, which is "mischief, wickedness." 1Sa 2:12-17. The Sin of Eli's Sons.

12. Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial—not only careless and irreligious, but men loose in their actions, and vicious and scandalous in their habits. Though professionally engaged in sacred duties, they were not only strangers to the power of religion in the heart, but they had thrown off its restraints, and even ran, as is sometimes done in similar cases by the sons of eminent ministers, to the opposite extreme of reckless and open profligacy.

To wit, practically, i.e. they did not acknowledge honour, regard, love, or serve God; for so words of knowledge are commonly used in Scripture: see Romans 1:28 1 Corinthians 15:34 Titus 1:16

Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial,.... Not that Eli their father was Belial, a wicked man; but though they had so good a father, they were very wicked men, unprofitable abandoned wretches, that cast off the yoke of the law of God, and gave themselves up to all manner of wickedness:

they knew not the Lord; not that they had no knowledge of God in theory, or were real atheists, but they were so practically; they denied him in works, they had no love to him, nor fear of him, and departed from his ways and worship, as much as if they were entirely ignorant of him; so the Targum,"they did not know to fear before the Lord,''or serve him; or, as Kimchi,"they did not know the way of the Lord,''that is, practically.

Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they {k} knew not the LORD.

(k) That is, they neglected his ordinance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12–17. The faithless priests of Shiloh

12. sons of Belial] Worthless men. See note on 1 Samuel 1:16.

they knew not the Lord] Were ignorant of His character and so despised His laws. Cp. Jdg 2:10; Job 18:21; Hosea 4:1.

Verse 12. - Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial, i.e. worthless men (see on 1 Samuel 1:16). They knew not Jehovah. He had never been revealed to their consciences, and so his fear had no influence upon their lives. The next words, in ver. 13, are difficult, but lit. mean, "The legal right of the priests, towards, or as respects, the people." On this account the Vulgate and several commentators couple the sentence with what precedes: "they knew neither Jehovah, nor their own legal rights." But the word also in ver. 15 is incompatible with this rendering; for if what is mentioned there be illegal, so must also the practice be which is recorded here. But neither does custom give the sense; for the Hebrews has not priest's (sing.) as the A.V., but of the priests, of all priests generally, and not of Eli merely and his sons. The right translation is that given by the Sept., Syriac, and Chaldee, namely, "the due of the priests from the people," on which see Leviticus 7:31-35. In the original this is put absolutely "And as to the priests' due from the people, when," etc., but our language requires some insertion to make it read more smoothly. "And as to the due of the priests from the people, the manner of its exaction was as follows: When," etc. But besides the due and legal portion, which, nevertheless, they took in an illegal way, they demanded a part of the flesh reserved for the feast of the offerer, and to which they had absolutely no right (see Leviticus 8:31; 2 Chronicles 35:13). The legal due of the priest was the right shoulder and the wave breast; but before he took them they were to be consecrated to God by the burning of the fat upon the altar (Leviticus 3:5; Leviticus 7:31, 34). It is worth observing that the people seem well acquainted with the words of the Law, and are indignant because the priests, its proper guardians, do not abide literally by them. This contempt of the Law distressed their religious susceptibilites, while the cupidity of Eli's sons offended their moral nature. And so men abhorred the offering of Jehovah. Lit. it is the minchah, the unbloody sacrifice, or meat offering, but it is put here forevery kind of sacrificial offering. 1 Samuel 2:12But Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:34), were בליּעל בּני, worthless fellows, and knew not the Lord, sc., as He should be known, i.e., did not fear Him, or trouble themselves about Him (vid., Job 18:21; Hosea 8:2; Hosea 13:4).
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