Question: "Who were Hophni and Phinehas?"
Answer: First Samuel offers much important information about the sins of Eliís sons, Hophni and Phinehas. The summary of their lifestyle is given in the introduction to these men in 1 Samuel 2:12: ďEli's sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD.Ē
Because Eliís sons did not know or regard God, they acted in many wicked ways. First, we are told that Eliís sons took a three-pronged fork and ate whatever meat they brought out of the pot when sacrificing an animal. This was in contradiction with the law for priests, who were commanded to eat the breast and upper thigh of the animals (Leviticus 7:30–34). Second, they ate raw meat that had not been cooked (1 Samuel 2:15–16). This was against Godís command to not eat meat with blood in it (Leviticus 17:12). Third, Eliís sons were sleeping with the women who were dedicated to the service of the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22). This was against Godís law forbidding adultery (Exodus 20:14).
A ďman of GodĒ came to Eli and revealed the judgment that would come upon Eliís sons for these actions. The sign that the judgment was divine was included: ďWhat happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same dayĒ (1 Samuel 2:34).
Soon after this time, Eliís two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, took the Ark of the Covenant out to battle against the Philistines. The Israelites were defeated, and judgment befell Eliís sons, as 1 Samuel 4:10–11 states: ďThe Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eliís two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.Ē
Worse, when Eli heard the news, he fell backward from his seat, broke his neck, and died on the same day. The pregnant wife of Phinehas heard the news, and she went into labor and died while giving birth (1 Samuel 4:19–21). The son was named Ichabod, a name meaning ďthe glory has departed.Ē
While these judgments may seem harsh to todayís reader, the holiness of Godís priests was demanded in the Law of Moses, along with the judgments that come upon those who disregarded Godís ways. In fact, two of Aaronís sons were struck dead for presenting unauthorized offerings in the early days of the tabernacleís use (Leviticus 10:1–2). Eliís sons would have been aware of what happened to Aaronís sons, yet they directly disregarded the warning in pursuit of personal satisfaction.
In the aftermath of these judgments, Samuel became the spiritual leader of Israel, serving as judge, priest, and prophet and anointing both Saul and David as Israelís first two kings. Even in these most difficult of times, God was at work to continue His plan to lead His people.