Eli (biblical figure)
Eli (Hebrew: עלי, Modern ʻEli, Tiberian ʻĒlî, meaning "Ascent" or "[God is the most] high", "[God on] high"; Ancient Greek: Ἠλί Ēli; Latin: Heli) was, according to the Books of Samuel, a High Priest of Shiloh.
Hannah is the wife of Elkanah. Elkanah also has another wife (Peninnah) who bore him children. Peninnah, at every chance, teases and criticises Hannah about her barrenness to the point of Hannah's deep despair. Her husband sees her distress and tries to uncover her deep despair with these questions. "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?" The story indicates that Hannah gave no answer to the questions and rose and presented herself before God weeping bitterly in the temple.
When she is found in the temple by the priest she is praying silently, but her lips are moving. The priest witnesses this odd posture and concludes she is drunk. In her despair she prays to God for a child and if her prayer is granted she will give the son back to God. After Hannah's explanation of her sobriety, Eli blesses her with peace and a guarantee that God of Israel will grant her request. She went home, ate and drank with her husband, and was filled with hope. Subsequently Hannah becomes pregnant; her child is named Samuel. The time had come to offer the yearly sacrifice at the temple but Hannah stayed home. She promises to go with him to the temple when Samuel is weaned and planned to leave him with Eli to be trained as a Nazirite.
The book of Samuel records Hannah's prayer to God. She rejoices and exalts the Holy One there is no father like God, therefore, the nation should rejoice also in this Holy One. This story of Hannah intertwines itself with the culture of the nation of Israel. Eli is the high priest of Shiloh, the second-to-last Israelite judge (succeeded only by Samuel - see 1 Samuel 7:15) before the rule of the kings, therefore, the Shiloh tradition will become an old and lost tradition that when the prophet Jeremiah comes on the scene in the history of God's people, he will seek to renew and to bring back the way of the Shiloh tradition to the people of Israel because the kings have become wicked and defiled the temple and tradition of God.
The sons of Eli
The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, meanwhile, were behaving wickedly, for example by taking for themselves all the prime cuts of meat from sacrifices, and by committing adultery with the women who served at the sanctuary entrance. Eli is aware of their behavior but he rebukes them too lightly and is unable to stop them. The sons continue in their sinful behavior, and so, according to the text, a man of God prophesies to Eli that Eli and his family will be punished for this, with all male descendants dying before reaching old age and being usually placed in positions subservient to prophets from other lineages. The curse alludes to a previous (not appearing elsewhere in the Bible) promise from God of Eli's lineage continuing eternally (c.f. similar promises to King David and Jehonadab). While this continuation is not revoked, a curse is placed on all of Eli's male descendants forever. As a sign of the accuracy of this future, Eli is told by the man of God that his sons will die on the same day.
Eli goes on to train Samuel. When Samuel hears God speaking to him, he at first thinks it is Eli; Eli, who doesn't hear God calling Samuel, eventually realizes the truth, and instructs Samuel on how to respond. Samuel is told that God's threat (which isn't elaborated further) will be carried out on Eli and his family, and that there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. Eli asks Samuel what he had been told, insisting that he be told the whole truth, and so Samuel does; Eli reacts by saying that God will do as he judges best.
Philistine attack and the death of Eli
|Judges in the Bible|
|Italics indicate individuals not explicitly described as judges|
|Book of Joshua|
|Book of Judges|
|First Book of Samuel|
Some years later, when Samuel had become an adult, the Philistines attacked Eben-Ezer, eventually capturing the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites and killed Eli's sons, who accompanied the Ark to battle as priests. (The Israelites had brought the Ark with them to battle under the premise that there was no possible way God would allow it to enter enemy hands, an assumption that proved to be incorrect.) Eli, who was nearly blind, was unaware of the event until he asked about all the commotion. Eli, sitting in a chair, was told what had happened by a soldier who had fled the battle. In reaction to the news that the Ark of God had been captured, Eli fell backwards out of the chair he was sitting in, and died from a broken neck, on the 10th day of Iyar He was a Judge of Israel for a total of 40 years, and died at the age of 98. His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the Ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and husband were dead, she went into labour and gave birth, but was overcome by labour pains. As she was dying, the women attending her said, Don't despair; you have given birth to a son. But she did not respond or pay any attention. She named the boy Ichabod, saying The Glory has departed from Israel- because of the capture of the Ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband.
The Philistine incursions spanned a period of 40 years; and Samson, who fought the Philistine incursions, judged Israel for 20 years. Some scholars, like Kessler, and Nowack have argued that there is likely to have been some overlap between the time of Samson and that of Eli. However, the Book of Judges always mentions the years of oppression in contrast to the period of a judge's dispensation; since the early parts of Eli's rule do not appear to occur during a time of oppression, this appears to rule out any overlap with the Philistine oppression that Samson, a previous judge, had lived under.
Though his own genealogy is not given by the text, a number of scholars have determined a genealogy for Eli, based on that given to his sons in other passages. Abiathar is described by the Book of Chronicles as being a direct (paternal) descendant of Ithamar; the Books of Samuel state that Abiathar was a son of Ahimelek and that Ahimelek was a son of Ahitub, who is the brother of Ichabod. Consequently, since the narrative states that Ichabod was the son of Phinehas, and that Phinehas was the son of Eli, a number of scholars have drawn the conclusion that Eli must be a descendant of Ithamar.
- Ahimelech great-grandson of Eli; slain by Doeg the Edomite-fulfilling part of the curse on the House of Eli that none of his male descendants would live to old age. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia on David descendant Jehoash of Judah: In Rabbinical Literature: As the extermination of the male descendants of Saul was a divine retribution for the extermination of the priests by Saul (comp. I Sam. xxii. 17-21), Joash escaped death because in the latter case one priest, Abiathar, survived (Sanh. 95b).
- Abiathar son of Ahimelech; the only survivor of the massacre at Nob; great-great-grandson of Eli and last High Priest of the House of Eli; deposed from office of High Priest which went to the house of Zadok after God deserted Abiathar and without which the Urim and Thummin could not be consulted (fulfilling the other part of the Curse on the House of Eli that the priesthood would pass out of his descendants hands-the house of Zadok was descended from the family of Eleazar and Phinehas)
- Jeremiah it is suggested that Jeremiah was descended from Abiathar
- Rabbah bar Nahmani Babylon Jewish Talmudist (Amora)
- Abaye Babylon Jewish Talmudist-nephew of Rabbah bar Nahmani (Amora)
- Bebai ben Abaye Babylon Jewish Talmudist-son of Abaye
The Samaritans assert that Mount Gerizim was the original Holy Place of Israel from the time that Joshua conquered Israel and the ten tribes settled the land. According to the Bible, the story of Mount Gerizim takes us back to the story of the time when Moses ordered Joshua to take the Twelve Tribes of Israel to the mountains by Shechem and place half of the tribes, six in number, on the top of Mount Gerizim (Mount of the Blessing), and the other half in Mount Ebal (Mount of the Curse). The two mountains were used to symbolize the significance of the commandments and serve as a warning to whoever disobeyed them.
|“||The Samaritans have insisted that they are direct descendants of the Northern Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who survived the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The inscription of Sargon II records the deportation of a relatively small proportion of the Israelites (27,290, according to the annals), so it is quite possible that a sizable population remained that could identify themselves as Israelites, the term that the Samaritans prefer for themselves.
Samaritan historiography would place the basic schism from the remaining part of Israel after the twelve tribes conquered the land of Canaan, led by Yahshua. After Yahshua's death, Eli the priest left the tabernacle which Moses erected in the desert and established on Mount Gerizim, and built another one under his own rule in the hills of Shilo (1 Samuel 1:1-3; 2:12-17). Thus, he established both an illegitimate priesthood and an illegitimate place of worship.
Abu l-Fath, who in the fourteenth century C.E. wrote the major work of Samaritan history, comments on Samaritan origins as follows:
|“||A terrible civil war broke out between Eli son of Yafni, of the line of Ithamar, and the sons of Phineas, because Eli son of Yafni resolved to usurp the High Priesthood from the descendents of Phineas. He used to offer sacrifices on an altar of stones. He was 50 years old, endowed with wealth and in charge of the treasury of the children of Israel...
He offered a sacrifice on the altar, but without salt, as if he were inattentive. When the Great High Priest Ozzi learned of this, and found the sacrifice was not accepted, he thoroughly disowned him; and it is (even) said that he rebuked him.
Thereupon he and the group that sympathized with him, rose in revolt and at once he and his followers and his beasts set off for Shiloh. Thus Israel split in factions. He sent to their leaders saying to them, Anyone who would like to see wonderful things, let him come to me. Then he assembled a large group around him in Shiloh, and built a Temple for himself there; he constructed a place like the Temple (on Mount Gerizim). He built an altar, omitting no detail - it all corresponded to the original, piece by piece.
At this time the Children of Israel split into three factions. A loyal faction on Mount Gerizim; a heretical faction that followed false Gods; and the faction that followed Eli son of Yafni on Shiloh.
Further, the Samaritan Chronicle Adler, or New Chronicle, believed to have been composed in the 18th century C.E. using earlier chronicles as sources states:
|“||And the children of Israel in his days divided into three groups. One did according to the abominations of the Gentiles and served other Gods; another followed Eli the son of Yafni, although many of them turned away from him after he had revealed his intentions; and a third remained with the High Priest Uzzi ben Bukki, the chosen place, Mount Gerizim Bethel, in the holy city of Shechem.||”|
According to the Samaritans this marked the end of the Age of Divine Favor called רידון (Ridhwan) or רהוּתה (Rahuta), which began with Moses. Thus began the פנוּתה (Fanuta) Era of Divine Disfavor when God looks away from the people. According to the Samaritans the age of divine favor will only return with the coming of the Taheb (Messiah or Restorer).
Likewise according to Samaritan sources the high Priests line of the sons of Phineas died out in 1624 C.E. with the death of the 112th High Priest Shlomyah ben Pinhas when the priesthood was transferred to the sons of Ithamar; see article Samaritan for list of High Priests from 1613 to 2013-the 132nd High priest of the Samaritans was Aharon ben Ab-Chisda ben Yaacob who was succeeded by Aabed-El ben Asher ben Matzliach (ironically Eli was of the House of Ithamar).
Notes and references
- 1 Samuel 2
- Eli the High Priest, the chabad society
- Kessler, The Chronology of Judaism and The First of the Kings
- Nowack, Richter-Ruth
- Jewish Encyclopedia
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- Ohr for explnation of this curse
- Jewish Encloyedia "Jeremiah"
- How many prophets were there? – AskMoses.com
- The Emergence of the Samaritan Community (Lecture given by Professor Abraham Tal at Mandelbaum House, August 2001) 
- The Keepers, An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Samaritans, by Robert T. Anderson and Terry Giles, Hendrickson Publishing, 2002, pages 11-12
- The Keepers, page 12
- The Keepers, page 13
- Media related to Eli (Bible) at Wikimedia Commons
Eli (biblical figure)
|Judge of Israel||Succeeded by
|High Priest of Israel||Succeeded by