Poole on 1 Samuel 2:23, 24: Eli's Rebuke of His Sons, Part 1

Verse 23:[1] And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings (or, I hear evil words of you[2]) by all this people.



[Why do ye things of this sort? (thus Junius and Tremellius, similarly Pagnine), כַּדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה] According to those words? (Vatablus, Piscator). Reproof is wont to be offered by interrogation; both so that the reprover might express the severer affection of his soul; and so that the reproved, not discovering anything that he might answer in response, might ask forgiveness (Mendoza). This reproof was too soft and lenient (Menochius). In this they reprove Eli, 1. because he calls them his sons, whom he ought rather to have called sons of Belial (certain interpreters in Mendoza). That my sons sounds somewhat more fawning, than it was fitting for a soul inflamed with zeal for God. He expressly mentioned himself as their father, not as their judge (Sanchez). But, unless something be added, I do not approve. For even God, when He rebukes, calls them sons, Jeremiah 3:14; Luke 16:25. Thus Joshua addresses Achan, Joshua 7:19; similarly also Lot the Sodomites, Genesis 19:7 (Mendoza). 2. Because he calls a no good report what he ought rather to have called most wicked and diabolical. But neither do I approve of this. For magnified senses are figuratively expressed by moderate words, Job 27:14, they shall not be satisfied with bread, that is, they shall die with hunger; Psalm 49:17, he shall not carry away all things,[3] that is, he shall carry nothing with him, 1 Timothy 6:7. Thus in Virgil’s Georgics 3:

…Who has not heard of cruel Eurystheus,

Or the altars of wicked Busiris?

That is, has not strongly censured (Mendoza). 3. Because he mentions their vices only in a general way; which is gentler and easier to hear, than if with authority individual faults were brought up as a reproach: and what things are individually heaped up disturb and disquiet more vehemently. 4. He does not reprove them with a definite accusation, but only conditionally. Thus it has come to me, etc. That is to say, if they be true (Martyr). 5. Because he quickly ceased from rebuking them, lest he sadden his sons (Fagius[4]). But he was obligated to reprove them sharply and repeatedly (Lapide). 6. He does not reprove voluntarily and willingly, but was compelled to some extent by the complaints of the people (Martyr). 7. His admonition was late, when their crimes had already overtaken all Israel. He appears to be inattentive to the discipline of his sons: and to be roused only by the great clamors of the people. For which reason, when he desired to meet the evil, he did not prevail. 8. He admonished in secret, when he ought to have done it publically; for they were public sins; see 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Timothy 5:20. 9. He rebuked them with a smooth, rather than furrowed, brow; see 1 Samuel 3:13. 10. He proceeded with words only, not with punishments (Mendoza). When he saw that reproof accomplished nothing, he ought to have humbled them (Jerome in Fagius), and to have put them from the sacrifices, and to have deprived them of the priesthood (Theodoret in Lapide). The father, forgetful of the name of father, and mindful of the public and sacred matter, of which he was custodian and protector, ought to have corrected more severely (Martyr). See how many reprove evil deeds with harsh and severe words (lest they perchance should also be reproved by others), which evil deed they nevertheless leave unpunished; so that it is rather flattery than rebuke (Calvin). These sons of Eli were worthy of death according to the law of God, because they despised their admonishing father.[5] But Eli used paternal leniency, rather than high priestly authority. He was old; and at that age men are wont to be more inclined toward mercy (Martyr). Those that have the responsibility to punish, when they admonish only, do not discharge their office. See what things we have in The Law of War and Peace 2:30:11, and in the Annotations. See also on 1 Samuel 3:13 (Grotius).


Such things, as those above mentioned, verses 13, 22. Eli’s sin in this matter was not only that he reproved them too gently, and generally, and sparingly; but especially that he contented himself with a verbal rebuke and did not restrain them, as is said 1 Samuel 3:13, and inflict those punishments upon them, of putting them out of their priest’s office, and cutting them off from God’s people; which such high crimes deserved by God’s law, and which he as judge and high priest ought to have done, without all respect of persons.


[I hear the worst things from all the people] Who come to Shiloh to sacrifice; or from the citizens of Shiloh, who were making mention of your crimes to all (Drusius).


By all this people, that dwell here, or come hither to worship.

Verse 24:[6] Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’S people to transgress (or, to cry out).



[Be not willing, my sons] It is Aposiopesis,[7] which is consistent with angry men; understand, so to do (Vatablus, similarly Drusius, Piscator, Mendoza).


[It is not a good report that I hear, that ye cause the people of God to transgress, מַעֲבִרִ֖ים עַם־יְהוָֽה׃] The report that I hear, which the people of Jehovah cause to pass: understanding, concerning you (certain interpreters in Vatablus). [All the rest explain it otherwise.] Causing to transgress (or to pass over [Piscator]) the people of the Lord (Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus); that is, ye cause that they transgress the commandments of God (Piscator). That ye turn the people of God aside (Syriac, similarly Junius and Tremellius), namely, from the worship of God, verse 17 (Piscator). For in doing so, ye drive the people of Jehovah from here; that is, ye cause the people not to come here to offer sacrifices (Vatablus). That ye cause the people of God not to serve (Septuagint); that ye discourage, etc. (Arabic); that ye cause to transgress, etc. (Dutch); ye make to cry out (English in the Margin). Ye give them occasion to sin, by not coming to Shiloh to sacrifice (Drusius); then ye also injure them with your example. For the people readily adjust themselves to the example of the priest (Drusius, similarly Mendoza). Moreover, they were making the people to transgress, by bringing it to pass, that they share in their sins with them, inasmuch as the women were drawn into consent to their crime; then, by bringing it to pass, that the people blaspheme God, as idle and inactive, who left such ministers unpunished (Mendoza).


It is not good report that I hear:Words too mild for such diabolical actions. Ye make the Lord’s people to transgress; either, 1. The women that by your instigation were drawn to folly. Or, 2. Others who are easily brought to follow your pernicious example. Or, 3. Other persons of pious and honest minds, whom therefore he calls the Lord’s people by way of distinction from the children of Belial, who were so highly offended with the great dishonour done to God and to his worship, and with the horrible wickedness of the priests, that upon that occasion they were hurried into the other extreme, and lived in the neglect and contempt of their own indispensable duty of offering sacrifices, because they came through the priests’ hands.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֔ם לָ֥מָּה תַעֲשׂ֖וּן כַּדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֙ר אָנֹכִ֤י שֹׁמֵ֙עַ֙ אֶת־דִּבְרֵיכֶ֣ם רָעִ֔ים מֵאֵ֖ת כָּל־הָעָ֥ם אֵֽלֶּה׃ [2] Hebrew: אָנֹכִ֤י שֹׁמֵ֙עַ֙ אֶת־דִּבְרֵיכֶ֣ם רָעִ֔ים. [3] Psalm 49:17: “For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away (כִּ֤י לֹ֣א בְ֭מוֹתוֹ יִקַּ֣ח הַכֹּ֑ל): his glory shall not descend after him.” [4] Paul Fagius (1504-1550) was among the early Reformers and a Hebrew scholar of some ability. He studied in Germany and labored there, first as a schoolmaster, then as a minister. Feeling pressure from the rising tide of the Counter-Reformation, he left Germany for England in 1549, and died at Cambridge in 1550. His bones were later burned during the reign of Queen Mary. [5] See Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Proverbs 30:17. [6] Hebrew: אַ֖ל בָּנָ֑י כִּ֠י לֽוֹא־טוֹבָ֤ה הַשְּׁמֻעָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָנֹכִ֣י שֹׁמֵ֔עַ מַעֲבִרִ֖ים עַם־יְהוָֽה׃ [7] An aposiopesis is a sudden breaking off of dialogue.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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