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Poole on 1 Samuel 2:22: The Debauchery of Eli's Sons

Verse 22:[1] Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with (see Exod. 38:8) the women that assembled (Heb. assembled by troops[2]) at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

[Now, Eli was very old] Either ninety years old (Tostatus); or (which is more certain) about seventy years old, as Torniellus[3] says (Mendoza). Now, this is noted, either, 1. so that the occasion of the sinning, which the sons had, might be understood. For those very elderly are not suited for magistracy. Whence Plato, in Concerning Laws 6, keeps septuagenarians away from the republic, as Seneca the philosopher testifies in Concerning the Brevity of Life 19. But the Romans were also casting sexagenarians from the bridge; that is, they were removing from them the right to vote (Mendoza): because of old age Eli was not engaged in the priesthood; therefore, his sons were doing whatever they might wish (Drusius). The more burdensome cares of the Temple and of the republic he had relinquished to his sons (Sanchez). Or, 2. to aggravate the guilt of Eli, that is, that he did not charge his sons with sufficient keenness, as befitted his old age (Piscator).

Eli was very old; and therefore unfit either to manage his office himself, or to make a diligent inspection into the carriage of his sons in holy administrations; which gave them opportunity for their wickedness. All that his sons did unto all Israel; whom they injured in their offerings, and alienated from the service of God.

[And they were lying with the women that were watching at the door of the Tabernacle, אֶת־הַנָּשִׁ֔ים הַצֹּ֣בְא֔וֹת פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃] With the women that were gathered (or that were keeping watch [Munster, Tigurinus], or that by troops (or by armies [Drusius], were assembling, as in Exodus 38:8:[4] See what things were said there [Junius and Tremellius, Dutch, English, Vatablus, Drusius]) at the door of the Tabernacle of the church (Pagnine). Others: that were coming to pray, etc. (Arabic, similarly Jonathan, Syriac). Hebrew: that were warring (Piscator). Now, these women are said to war, or to keep watch after the manner of an army, 1. because of their multitude; 2. because of compliance and obedience, which is wont to be greatest in armies; 3. because of the spiritual war that they were declaring; 4. because of their order (Mendoza). They were warring, that is, they were worshipping God in good order. It is a Metaphor. Thus in Exodus 38:8, where the Greeks have, they were fasting; for fasting was an eminent part of those sacred exercises: which is also expressly commended in Anna the Prophetess, Luke 2:37 (Piscator). Among the Hebrews there were women that, with the vanity of the world despised, consecrated themselves to attend upon the services of the tabernacle. Now, these services were either temporal, by spinning, sewing, weaving, washing, etc.; or spiritual, by praying, keeping watch, fasting, etc. In addition to these women, who were staying in the temple, many others were frequenting the temple for the sake of prayer or sacrifice; to whom a certain place in the temple was allotted for entering and sitting: as Josephus testifies in his Antiquities 8:2, Jewish Wars 6:6, and Against Appion 2. And the priests were aiming at the chastity of all these (Mendoza). There were virgins or widows serving in the tabernacle in ministries of this sort, that require womanly art and industry; they were devoted perpetually, or for a time (Menochius). This was both adultery and sacrilege; because they were violating women dedicated to God, and that in the sacred place of the tabernacle (Lapide). Some understand woman after childbirth, who were coming so that they might be purged and pray to God[5] (Lyra, Hebrews in Vatablus, similarly Drusius). Some expound to keep watch as to pray: others as to sacrifice; a certain law of sacrifices was appointed for women after childbirth (Munster). But rather these were religious women, who were encamping around the tabernacle cells and lodges, for vigils, prayers, etc. (Malvenda). He says, at the door of the tent: For women were not entering (says Kimchi) the tent of meeting (Drusius in Martyr). For the women consecrated to the temple, there were certain private chambers in the Temple, or at least adjoining the Temple, in which they might live apart from the multitude of the people: Josephus’ Jewish Wars 5:12 (Sanchez). Moreover, observe that the companion of Gluttony is luxury; and the belly agitated with wine discharges the foam and froth of lusts,[6] says Jerome (Lapide). Lust without gluttony is considered unnatural, says Tertullian (Mendoza).

Assembled, or warred; which expression is used of them, either because they came to the service and worship of God in the tabernacle, which is often called a warfare; or because they came in considerable numbers, and due order, like to an army. At the door; the place where all the people, both men and women, waited when they came up to the service of God, 1 Samuel 1:9, 12; Luke 1:10, because they could not have admittance into the tabernacle, and because the altar on which their sacrifices were offered was by the door. Hence it seems probable that these women were not such as devoted themselves to the service of God and of his tabernacle, either by fasting and prayer, etc., or by sewing, spinning, etc., which, if then there were any such, had their stations not at the door, but in divers places allotted to them round about the tabernacle; but of such as came up to worship God at his tabernacle; as women ofttimes did, with their husbands, as here Hannah did, and the blessed Virgin Mary, Luke 2:41, or with their parents. And this exposition may receive strength from Exodus 38:8, where the very same phrase is used, and that when the great tabernacle was not yet built: and so there was no occasion for any women to come to the other less tabernacle then used, save only to pray or offer sacrifices.

[1] Hebrew: וְעֵלִ֖י זָקֵ֣ן מְאֹ֑ד וְשָׁמַ֗ע אֵת֩ כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֙ר יַעֲשׂ֤וּן בָּנָיו֙ לְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאֵ֤ת אֲשֶֽׁר־יִשְׁכְּבוּן֙ אֶת־הַנָּשִׁ֔ים הַצֹּ֣בְא֔וֹת פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃ [2] Hebrew: הַצֹּבְאוֹת. [3] Augustine Torniellus (1543-1622) was a member of the Society of Barnabites, a Counter-Reformation order. His work, Annales Sacri et Profani, cleared up many geographical and chronological difficulties and obscurities, especially in the Old Testament. [4] Exodus 38:8: “And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling (הַצֹּבְאֹת; τῶν νηστευσασῶν, of those fasting, in the Septuagint), which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation (אֲשֶׁ֣ר צָֽבְא֔וּ פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃; αἳ ἐνήστευσαν παρὰ τὰς θύρας τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου, that fasted by the doors of the tabernacle of witness, in the Septuagint).” [5] See Leviticus 12. [6] Epistles 69.

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