And the man of yours, whom I shall not cut off from my altar, shall be to consume your eyes, and to grieve your heart: and all the increase of your house shall die in the flower of their age.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)To consume thine eyes and to grieve thine heart.—The Speaker’s Commentary well refers to 1Samuel 2:36 for an explanation of these difficult words. “Those who are not cut off in the flower of their youth shall be worse off than those who are, for they shall have to beg their bread.”
And all the increase of thine house shall die.—In the Babylonian Talmud the Rabbis have related that there was once a family in Jerusalem the members of which died off regularly at eighteen years of age. Rabbi Jochanan ben Zacchai shrewdly guessed that they were descendants of Eli, regarding whom it is said (1Samuel 2:33), “And all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age; “and he accordingly advised them to devote themselves to the study of the Law, as the certain and only means of neutralising the curse. They acted upon the advice of the Rabbi; their lives were in consequence prolonged; and they thenceforth went by the name of their spiritual father.—Rosh Hashanah, fol. 18, Colossians 1.1 Samuel 2:33. The man of thine — That is, of thy posterity. Shall be to grieve thy heart — Shall be so forlorn and miserable, that if thou wast alive to see it, it would grieve thee at the heart, and thou wouldst consume thine eyes with weeping for their calamities. The increase of thy house — That is, thy children. Flower of their age — About the thirtieth year of their age, when they were to be admitted to the full administration of their office.1 Samuel 2:36. Those who are not cut off in the flower of their youth shall be worse off than those who are, for they shall have to beg their bread. (Compare Jeremiah 22:10.)
Thine eyes ... thine heart - For a similar personification of the tribe or family see Judges 1:2-4.The man of thine, i.e. those of thy posterity.
From mine altar, i.e. from attendance upon mine altar; whom I shall not destroy, but suffer to live, and wait at the altar.
Shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart; shall be so forlorn and miserable, that if thou wast alive to see it, it would grieve thee at the very heart, and thou wouldst consume thine eyes with weeping for their calamities. So the phrase is like that of Rachel weeping for her children, Jeremiah 31:15, which were slain long after her death.
The increase of thine house, i.e. thy children.
In the flower of their age; about the thirtieth year of their age, when they were to be admitted to the plenary administration of their office, Numbers 4:3, then they shall die.
shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart; that is, the eyes and heart of his posterity; who though they should see of their family ministering in the priest's office, yet should make so poor a figure on account of their outward meanness and poverty, or because of their want of wisdom, and intellectual endowments, or because of their scandalous lives, that it would fill their hearts with grief and sorrow, and their eyes with tears, so that their eyes would fail, and be consumed, and their hearts be broken:
and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age; or "die men" (k); grown men, not children, when it would not be so great an affliction to part with them; but when at man's estate, in the prime of their days, perhaps about thirty years of age, the time when the priests entered upon their office to do all the work of it; the Targum is,"shall be killed young men:''it is more than once said in the Talmud (l), that there was a family in Jerusalem, the men of which died at eighteen years of age; they came and informed Juchanan ben Zaccai of it; he said to them, perhaps of the family of Eli are ye, as it is said, 1 Samuel 2:33.And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)33. And the man, &c.] or, Yet every man of thine will I not cut off from mine altar, to consume thine eyes and to vex thy soul; i.e. some will still survive to mourn over the ruin of their family. “Thine eyes,” “thy soul,” because Eli is identified with his posterity. But the Sept. has “his eyes,” “his soul.”
increase] = offspring, Lat. incrementum.
in the flower of their age] Heb. men: i.e. when they come to manhood.Verse 33. - The man of thine, etc. The meaning of the Hebrews is here again changed by the insertion of words not in the original. Translated literally the sense is good, but merciful, and this the A.V. has so rendered as to make it the most bitter of all denunciations. The Hebrews is, "Yet I will not cut off every one of thine from my altar, to consume thine eyes and to grieve thy soul;" that is, thy punishment shall not be so utter as to leave thee with no consolation; for thy descendants, though diminished in numbers, and deprived of the highest rank, shall still minister as priests at mine altar. "But the majority of try house - lit, the multitude of thy house - shall die as men." This is very well rendered in the A.V. "in the flower of theft age," only we must not explain this of dying of disease. They were to die in their vigour, not, like children and old men, in theft beds, but by violent deaths, such as actually befell them at Shiloh and at Nob. 1 Samuel 2:27. Before the Lord interposed in judgment, He sent a prophet (a "man of God," as in Judges 13:6) to the aged Eli, to announce as a warning for all ages the judgment which was about to fall upon the worthless priests of his house. In order to arouse Eli's own conscience, he had pointed out to him, on the one hand, the grace manifested in the choice of his father's house, i.e., the house of Aaron, to keep His sanctuary (1 Samuel 2:27 and 1 Samuel 2:28), and, on the other hand, the desecration of the sanctuary by the wickedness of his sons (1 Samuel 2:29). Then follows the sentence: The choice of the family of Aaron still stood fast, but the deepest disgrace would come upon the despisers of the Lord (1 Samuel 2:30): the strength of his house would be broken; all the members of his house were to die early deaths. They were not, however, to be removed entirely from service at the altar, but to their sorrow were to survive the fall of the sanctuary (1 Samuel 2:31-34). But the Lord would raise up a faithful priest, and cause him to walk before His anointed, and from him all that were left of the house of Eli would be obliged to beg their bread (1 Samuel 2:35, 1 Samuel 2:36). To arrive at the true interpretation of this announcement of punishment, we must picture to ourselves the historical circumstances that come into consideration here. Eli the high priest was a descendant of Ithamar, the younger son of Aaron, as we may see from the fact that his great-grandson Ahimelech was "of the sons of Ithamar" (1 Chronicles 24:3). In perfect agreement with this, Josephus (Ant. v. 11, 5) relates, that after the high priest Ozi of the family of Eleazar, Eli of the family of Ithamar received the high-priesthood. The circumstances which led to the transfer of this honour from the line of Eleazar to that of Ithamar are unknown. We cannot imagine it to have been occasioned by an extinction of the line of Eleazar, for the simple reason that, in the time of David, Zadok the descendant of Eleazar is spoken of as high priest along with Abiathar and Ahimelech, the descendants of Eli (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 20:25). After the deposition of Abiathar he was reinstated by Solomon as sole high priest (1 Kings 2:27), and the dignity was transmitted to his descendants. This fact also overthrows the conjecture of Clericus, that the transfer of the high-priesthood to Eli took place by the command of God on account of the grievous sins of the high priests of the line of Eleazar; for in that case Zadok would not have received this office again in connection with Abiathar. We have, no doubt, to search for the true reason in the circumstances of the times of the later judges, namely in the fact that at the death of the last high priest of the family of Eleazar before the time of Eli, the remaining son was not equal to the occasion, either because he was still an infant, or at any rate because he was too young and inexperienced, so that he could not enter upon the office, and Eli, who was probably related by marriage to the high priest's family, and was no doubt a vigorous man, was compelled to take the oversight of the congregation; and, together with the supreme administration of the affairs of the nation as judge, received the post of high priest as well, and filled it till the time of his death, simply because in those troublous times there was not one of the descendants of Eleazar who was able to fill the supreme office of judge, which was combined with that of high priest. For we cannot possibly think of an unjust usurpation of the office of high priest on the part of Eli, since the very judgment denounced against him and his house presupposes that he had entered upon the office in a just and upright way, and that the wickedness of his sons was all that was brought against him. For a considerable time after the death of Eli the high-priesthood lost almost all its significance. All Israel turned to Samuel, whom the Lord established as His prophet by means of revelations, and whom He also chose as the deliverer of His people. The tabernacle at Shiloh, which ceased to be the scene of the gracious presence of God after the loss of the ark, was probably presided over first of all after Eli's death by his grandson Ahitub, the son of Phinehas, as his successor in the high-priesthood. He was followed in the time of Saul by his son Ahijah or Ahimelech, who gave David the shew-bread to eat at Nob, to which the tabernacle had been removed in the meantime, and was put to death by Saul in consequence, along with all the priests who were found there. His son Abiathar, however, escaped the massacre, and fled to David (1 Samuel 22:9-20; 1 Samuel 23:6). In the reign of David he is mentioned as high priest along with Zadok; but he was afterwards deposed by Solomon (2 Samuel 15:24; 2 Samuel 17:15; 2 Samuel 19:12; 2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 2:27).
Different interpretations have been given of these verses. The majority of commentators understand them as signifying that the loss of the high-priesthood is here foretold to Eli, and also the institution of Zadok in the office. But such a view is too contracted, and does not exhaust the meaning of the words. The very introduction to the prophet's words points to something greater than this: "Thus saith the Lord, Did I reveal myself to thy father's house, when they were in Egypt at the house of Pharaoh?" The ה interrogative is not used for הלא (nonne), but is emphatic, as in Jeremiah 31:20. The question is an appeal to Eli's conscience, which he cannot deny, but is obliged to confirm. By Eli's father's house we are not to understand Ithamar and his family, but Aaron, from whom Eli was descended through Ithamar. God revealed himself to the tribe-father of Eli by appointing Aaron to be the spokesman of Moses before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:14. and Exodus 4:27), and still more by calling Aaron to the priesthood, for which the way was prepared by the fact that, from the very beginning, God made use of Aaron, in company with Moses, to carry out His purpose of delivering Israel out of Egypt, and entrusted Moses and Aaron with the arrangements for the celebration of the passover (Exodus 12:1, Exodus 12:43). This occurred when they, the fathers of Eli, Aaron and his sons, were still in Egypt at the house of Pharaoh, i.e., still under Pharaoh's rule.
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