Hophni and Phinehas

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Depiction by William de Brailes.

Hophni (Hebrew: חָפְנִי, Modern Hofni, Tiberian Ḥop̄nî) and Phinehas or Phineas (Hebrew: פִּינְחָס, Modern Pinehas, Tiberian Pînəħās) were the two sons of Eli. The Books of Samuel describe them as the officiating priests at the sanctuary of Shiloh at the time of Hannah.

In the biblical narrative, Hophni and Phinehas are criticised for engaging in illicit behaviour, such as appropriating the best portion of sacrifices for themselves, and having sexual relations with the sanctuary's serving women. They are described as "sons of Belial" in (1 Samuel 2:12 KJV), or "scoundrels" in the NIV. Their misdeeds provoked the wrath of Yahweh and led to a divine curse being put on the house of Eli, and they subsequently both died on the same day, when Israel was defeated by the Philistines at the Battle of Aphek near Eben-ezer; the news of this defeat then led to Eli's death (1 Samuel 4:17-18). On hearing of the deaths of Eli and Phinehas, and of the capture of the ark, Phinehas' wife gave birth to a son that she named Ichabod, and then she herself died (1 Samuel 4:19-22). According to Josephus (Antiquities 3.354), Phineas officiated as high priest, because Eli had resigned as high priest because of his advanced age.

In the Talmud, some commentators argue that Phinehas was innocent of the crimes ascribed to him and that Hophni alone committed them, though Jonathan ben Uzziel declares that neither was wicked, and that this part of the biblical narrative, in which the crimes are imputed to them, should be regarded as having a figurative meaning.

According to another part of the Books of Samuel, Ichabod had a brother, Ahitub. That he is referred to as Ichabod's brother, rather than as another son of Phinehas, is considered by biblical scholars to suggest that Ichabod, barely mentioned in the Bible, was actually an important figure.[1]


  1. ^  Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Ichabod". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.