1 Samuel 3:13
For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
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(13) Because his sons made themselves vile.—The enormity of the sin of Eli and his house, which was to be so fearfully punished, must be measured by the extent of the mischief it worked; well-nigh all Israel were involved in it. The fatal example the priests had set at Shiloh filtrated through the entire people; the result was, that unbelief in the Eternal was becoming general throughout the land. The old pure religion was rapidly dying out of the hearts of the men, and the profligacy and covetousness of Shiloh would soon have been copied only too faithfully in all the homes of Israel. This fearful state of things was known to the high priest and judge, and still the weak and indulgent father refrained from removing his sons from their high office.

1 Samuel 3:13. For the iniquity which he knoweth — Here we see the crime of Eli, and cause of all the awful judgments executed on his house. He knew the wickedness of his sons: the man of God told him of it: he heard of it from all the people, 1 Samuel 2:23. And he knew he ought to punish it, and that he was guilty of great iniquity in not doing so. Because his sons made themselves vile — Hebrews מקללים להם mekallelim lahem, literally, rendered themselves execrable, or accursed. And he restrained them not — ולא כהה בם velo chehah bam, non fuit corrugatus in eos, he did not frown upon and knit his brows at them in righteous anger, as the word means. It does not signify that he showed no sign of displeasure against their wickedness, for he did chide them, though too gently, for it; but he did not severely reprove them; and, when that would not restrain them, turn them out of their office, or suspend them till they were reformed. For which cause God passed this severe sentence upon the whole family; that they should lose the dignity of the high-priesthood, and be made as contemptible as they had rendered God’s service. “Unhappy those superiors,” says Dr. Dodd, “and more particularly those parents, who, by a blind indulgence, omit to chastise their inferiors and children for their crimes! They provide for themselves the most chagrining evils and afflictive punishments.” And what shall we say of those ministers of religion, who, like Eli’s sons, instead of doing honour to, and recommending the service of God by an exemplary conduct, bring it into disgrace, and expose it to contempt, through their impieties and immoralities? Or, what shall we think of their superiors in the church, who know of this their wickedness, and use no means to restrain or check it?

Surely, in every department of society, and especially in the sacred office of the ministry, they who can, and do not, restrain others from sin, make themselves, like Eli, partakers of their guilt. And even civil magistrates will have a great deal to answer for, if the sword they bear be not a terror to evil-doers.

3:11-18 What a great deal of guilt and corruption is there in us, concerning which we may say, It is the iniquity which our own heart knoweth; we are conscious to ourselves of it! Those who do not restrain the sins of others, when it is in their power to do it, make themselves partakers of the guilt, and will be charged as joining in it. In his remarkable answer to this awful sentence, Eli acknowledged that the Lord had a right to do as he saw good, being assured that he would do nothing wrong. The meekness, patience, and humility contained in those words, show that he was truly repentant; he accepted the punishment of his sin.Made themselves vile - Rather, "have cursed themselves," i. e. brought curses upon themselves.

He restrained them not - In the sense of punishing. He did not remove them from their office, which he ought to have done.

5-18. he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me—It is evident that his sleeping chamber was close to that of the aged high priest and that he was accustomed to be called during the night. The three successive calls addressed to the boy convinced Eli of the divine character of the speaker, and he therefore exhorted the child to give a reverential attention to the message. The burden of [the Lord's message] was an extraordinary premonition of the judgments that impended over Eli's house; and the aged priest, having drawn the painful secret from the child, exclaimed, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good." Such is the spirit of meek and unmurmuring submission in which we ought to receive the dispensations of God, however severe and afflictive. But, in order to form a right estimate of Eli's language and conduct on this occasion, we must consider the overwhelming accumulation of judgments denounced against his person, his sons, his descendants—his altar, and nation. With such a threatening prospect before him, his piety and meekness were wonderful. In his personal character he seems to have been a good man, but his sons' conduct was flagrantly bad; and though his misfortunes claim our sympathy, it is impossible to approve or defend the weak and unfaithful course which, in the retributive justice of God, brought these adversities upon him. I will judge, i.e. condemn and punish or destroy, as the word judge is oft used, as Genesis 15:14 John 3:18 16:11.

His house; his children and posterity, as is manifest by the story; as the word house is frequently taken, as 2 Samuel 7:11 1 Kings 21:29. So the house of Judah, of Aaron, of David, are oft taken for their posterity. And to build a house, in Scripture use, is to increase their posterity, as Exodus 1:21 Deu 25:9 Ruth 4:11. Compare Genesis 16:2 30:3.

For ever; till they be utterly rooted out; or for a long time, as that phrase is oft used.

Which he knoweth; either by the information of the prophet, 1 Samuel 2:27, &c., or by his own guilty and self-accusing conscience. But these and the foregoing and following words may well be and are rendered thus;

for this iniquity, because he knew (both by common fame, and by his own observation)

that his sons, & c. He cannot pretend ignorance, or want of proof of their wickedness, which aggravates his sin.

Vile; not only hateful to God, but contemptible to all the people, whereby they also brought their sacred office and God’s holy ordinances into contempt. Heb. cursed themselves, or made themselves execrable or accursed, both to God and men: by their lewd and cursed practices they put themselves under the curse of God, by such a gross violation of God’s commands: compare Joshua 6:18 7:12,13. This expression may be used by way of reflection upon their father, because he did not denounce the curse of God against them, nor put them out of the priesthood, as accursed persons, although they were so vile, that they had prevented their father’s censure, and meritoriously cast themselves out, and cut themselves off from the priesthood and congregation of the Lord, which their father should have done judicially.

He restrained them not; he contented himself with a cold and gentle reproof, and did not severely rebuke, and punish, and effectually restrain them from their abominable courses, nor use that authority which God had given him, as a father, as a high priest, and as a judge, or chief magistrate, against them, as by the law of God he was obliged to do.

For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever,.... That is, bring his judgments upon them, which should continue on them to their utter destruction; this, as to the substance, he said before by the man of God:

for the iniquity which he knoweth; for the iniquity of his sons, which he thoroughly informed of, and fully acquainted with by others; and somewhat of which he must have been sensible of, and seen with his own eyes, and therefore was inexcusable:

because his sons made themselves vile; mean and contemptible in the sight of men, abhorred and accursed in the sight of God, by taking the flesh of the sacrifices of the people, which did not belong to them, who came to sacrifice, and by debauching the women that came to the door of the tabernacle for religious service. It is said this clause was originally written, "because his sons made light of me"; or cursed the Lord, and is one of the eighteen places called the correction of the Scribes, who corrected it as we have it; and it may be observed, the Septuagint version is, "because his sons spake ill of God"; or cursed him; however, this they did, they preferred their lusts, and the indulging of them, to the honour and glory of God: this Eli knew:

and he restrained them not; from their evil practices; he did not make use of his authority, neither as a father, and especially not as high priest, and the judge of Israel, who ought not only to have sharply reproved them, which he did not, but to have censured or punished them, and turned them out of their office: "or did not frown upon them" (t), as in the margin of our Bibles; he did not knit his brows, or wrinkle up his face, and by his countenance show his displeasure at their proceedings, but in an easy, smooth, gentle manner, expostulated with them about them.

(t) "et non contraxit frontem", Osiander; "non contraxit rugas", Belg. De Dieu.

For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
13. For I have told him] The Hebrew may be translated either (a) And I have shewed him that I do judge his house for ever: or (b) And I will shew him that I to judge his house for ever. If the first rendering is adopted, the words refer to the doom already pronounced by the prophet: if the second, the words are to be taken in connexion with the previous verse, to signify that the impending catastrophe would be a sign to Eli that the judgment upon his house was permanent and irreversible. Cp. 1 Samuel 2:34.

judge] i.e. punish, as in Ezekiel 7:3, &c.

for the iniquity which he knoweth] The Vulgate, followed by Luther, renders ‘for his iniquity because he knew that his sons dealt shamefully:’ describing the judgment as inflicted upon Eli for his own sin in neglecting his duty as father (Deuteronomy 21:18), high-priest (Deuteronomy 17:12), and judge, and failing to restrain the misconduct of his sons. But the rendering of the E. V. which makes the iniquity of Eli’s sons the ground of judgment, is possible, and agrees better with 1 Samuel 3:14.

made themselves vile] Elsewhere the Heb. word always means to curse, or to blaspheme, and is here best rendered made themselves accursed. There is a Jewish tradition that the original reading was ‘cursed me,’ which was altered by the scribes from motives of reverence. The rendering of the LXX. ‘because his sons were blaspheming God,’ gives the same sense, corresponding to a slight alteration of the present Hebrew text. Eli’s sons had blasphemed God and made light of him by their infamous conduct in His very presence.

he restrained them not] But contented himself with gentle expostulation (1 Samuel 2:23), instead of thrusting them out of the sacred office they had so grossly abused. By this weak indulgence he became partaker of their sins.

Verse 13. - For I have told him, etc. These words may be translated, with the Septuagint and Vulgate, "For I have told him that I would judge his house," referring back to the message of the man of God; or, with the Syriac, "And I will show him that I do judge his house." Forever. I.e. finally; his house shall pass away. His sons made themselves vile. The verb used here invariably means to curse; but "they cursed themselves" does not, without straining, give a good sense. The Septuagint for "themselves" reads God, and the Syriac the people. Buxtorf says ('Lex. Rab.,' sub תִּקּוּן) that the right reading is me, and that this is one of eighteen places where the scribes have changed me into themselves or them. But while thus there is much uncertainty about the right text, the evidence is too uncertain to act upon, and it is best to translate, "His sons have brought a curse upon themselves," while acknowledging that the ordinary rendering would be "have cursed themselves." And he restrained them not. The Versions generally take the verb used here as equivalent to one differing only in having a softer medial consonant, כהה = כאה, and translate rebuked; but that really found in the Hebrew text signifies "to weaken, humble, reduce to powerlessness." The A.V. takes neither one verb nor the other in the rendering restrained. Eli ought to have prevented his sons from persisting in bringing disgrace upon God's service by stripping them of their office. Their wickedness was great, and required a stern and decisive remedy. 1 Samuel 3:13On that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house (see 1 Samuel 2:30.), beginning and finishing it," i.e., completely. דּבּר את־אשׁר הקים, to set up the word spoken, i.e., to carry it out, or accomplish it. In 1 Samuel 3:13 this word is communicated to Samuel, so far as its essential contents are concerned. God would judge "the house of Eli for ever because of the iniquity, that he knew his sons were preparing a curse for themselves and did not prevent them." To judge on account of a crime, is the same as to punish it. עד־עולם, i.e., without the punishment being ever stopped or removed. להם מקללים, cursing themselves, i.e., bringing a curse upon themselves. "Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli, that the iniquity of the house of Eli shall not (אם, a particle used in an oath, equivalent to assuredly not) be expiated by slain-offerings and meat-offerings (through any kind of sacrifice) for ever." The oath makes the sentence irrevocable. (On the facts themselves, see the commentary on 1 Samuel 2:27-36.)
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