Poole on 1 Samuel 2:25: Eli's Rebuke of His Sons, Part 2

Verse 25:[1] If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man (Num. 15:30) sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, (Josh. 11:20; Prov. 15:10) because the LORD would slay them.



[If one man sin against another (thus Montanus, Pagnine [similarly all interpreters]), אִם־יֶחֱטָ֙א אִ֤ישׁ לְאִישׁ֙] If any sin against another (Junius and Tremellius). Rather, man against man, because of the emphasis of the antithesis, whereby Jehovah is set in opposition to man (Piscator).


If one man sin against another, by doing any injury.


[God is able to be reconciled to him, וּפִֽלְל֣וֹ אֱלֹהִ֔ים] They take it in a variety of ways. For פִּלֵּל signifies both to appease/reconcile, and to entreat, and to judge (Mendoza). They translate it, God shall judge him (Montanus). He shall entreat the Lord (Syriac, similarly the Arabic); they shall pray for him to the Lord (Septuagint). Shall judge him the judge (Pagnine, Vatablus, Munster, Kimchi in Drusius), or the magistrate (Junius and Tremellius, similarly Piscator, Drusius, Dutch, English). The judges judge of this (Tigurinus). The judges shall be able to be arbiters (Munster); the arbiters arbitrate (Castalio); shall they not go before the judge? and shall he not hear their speeches, and inquire among them? (Jonathan): that is to say, If he be summoned unto law, he shall also have an advocate, who will defend him before the judge (Vatablus). פָּלַל has the signification of judgment; whence פִּלִילִים, judges; and תְּפִלָּה, prayer to God, because in it we judge of our deeds, judging ourselves to be guilty before God, and finding fault with and condemning all our deeds (Drusius). The sense: If a man offend a man, there is a civil or ecclesiastical inquiry, whereby matters are able to be composed (Junius). The magistrate is able to interpose his authority, and to pacify both; upon whose sentence even the injured party is compelled to stand, and to rest from vengeance (Osiander).


The judge shall judge him; the magistrate shall by his sentence end the difference, and both parties shall acquiesce in his determination, and so the breach shall be made up. The sense is, if only man be wronged, man can right it, and reconcile the persons.



[But if a man sin against the Lord, who shall pray for him?וְאִ֤ם לַֽיהוָה֙ יֶֽחֱטָא־אִ֔ישׁ מִ֖י יִתְפַּלֶּל־ל֑וֹ] And, or but, if unto, or against, God, or the Lord, a man sin (Montanus) [similarly all interpreters], who shall pray for him? (Montanus, Septuagint), who would entreat Him? (Junius and Tremellius), that is, Jehovah (Piscator). I prefer, for him (Piscator, Munster, Drusius, Dutch, English); whom, then, shall he entreat? (Syriac, Arabic); from whom shall he ask, and it shall be remitted to him? (Jonathan). Who shall judge (or, shall arbitrate [Castalio, Tigurinus Notes]) for him? (Pagnine, Vatablus). Who shall arbitrate against the Lord for him? that is to say, there is no place for excuse, when the sin is against the Lord (Vatablus). It is able also to be translated in this way, Who shall enter for him into the judgment of God? (Munster). Question 1: What does he mean here by a sin against God? For everyone that sins, sins against God (Lapide). Response: All sins are against God as Lawgiver, because they are against His law; but certain ones are against God as a private person, to which the whole injury and offense directly pertains: for example, if one should worship another God (Tostatus). The sons of Eli were sinning against God, because they were sinning around the worship of God (Estius). If one sin against God, that is, willingly, and with a high hand (Junius). It is sinned against God, 1. by Idolatry. 2. When any of those things that pertain to divine worship, whether the sacred place, or a sacred person, or a sacred action, is defiled (Mendoza). Question 2: Why does he say that no one is going to pray to God on behalf of sinners? etc. Response: He speaks after the manner of men; that is to say, a rare man, or no man, is found, that dares to intercede before a prince on behalf of a guilty man that has immediately injured the prince: otherwise, intercession is easy, when there is injury among private individuals (Malvenda, similarly Menochius). It is not difficult to entreat the judge, etc., if you wish something of the severity of the laws to be remitted; when it is a judgment concerning injury inflicted on others: but who shall dare to require this from the judge, if it be a sin against the judge himself. He speaks in a human manner. Men avenge, or judge, their own injuries, but it is quite different in the matter of the injuries of others (Sanchez). All sins offend God, but especially those are brought directly against His Majesty. See Acts 5:5, and what things were said by us on Matthew 12:31. Now, in such crimes God does not always hear supplications; as it appears in 1 Samuel 3:14; Jeremiah 7:16; Ezekiel 8:18; 1 John 5:16 (Grotius). The sons of the priest had profaned the tabernacle of the Lord with unclean lying together, etc., had trampled upon the sacrifices and all divine laws, and thus, as far as it was in them, had removed from their midst all helps, whereby according to the institution of God favor and mercy are wont to be obtained for sinners: that is to say, Therefore, with these things removed by you, who shall pray for you? that is, who shall furnish another sacrifice, or solemn prayer, wherewith God might be reconciled to you, and ye might be cleansed of sins? (Tirinus out of Sanchez). When he says, who shall pray for you? it is not the sense that there is no one; but rather that the man is rare that will pray for such. Thus in Hosea 14:9, Who is the wise? etc.; and in Luke 12:42, who is the faithful steward? (Mendoza). Who dares to pray for such a wicked public minister of God? (Lapide). And what is difficult is said to be impossible in Scripture, and in all literature; as in Jeremiah 13:23, Can the Ethiopian change his skin, etc.? and in Matthew 12:34, How can ye speak good thing? Etc. (Mendoza).


If a man sin against the Lord, to wit, in such manner as you have done, directly and immediately, in the matters of his worship and service, wilfully and presumptuously. Who shall entreat for him? the offence is of so high a nature, that few or none will dare to intercede for him, but will leave him to the just judgment of God. He speaks after the manner of men, who do oft intercede with the prince for such as have injured any private person; but will not presume to do so when the injury is committed against his own person. The words are, and may be thus rendered, Who shall judge for him? Who shall interpose himself as umpire, or arbitrator, between God and him? Who shall compound that difference? None can or dare do it, and therefore he must be left to the dreadful, but righteous judgment of God; which is your case and misery.



[And they hearkened not to the voice of their father: because the Lord would slay them, וְלֹ֤א יִשְׁמְעוּ֙ לְק֣וֹל אֲבִיהֶ֔ם כִּֽי־חָפֵ֥ץ יְהוָ֖ה לַהֲמִיתָֽם׃] [That כִּי/because some translate, therefore, on that account.] And they attended not to the voice of their father, wherefore Jehovah willed to slay them (Glassius’ “Grammar” 628, thus Sanchez, Menochius). That is, therefore He openly declared the sentence of His judicial will, of punishing the contumacious sons of Eli with death, as it follows in verses 27, 34. Buxtorf,[2] in his Lexicon, expounds כִּי with this signification. The causal conjunction is sometimes put in the place of the conclusive (Glassius’ “Grammar” 628). Thus in Hosea 9:15, all their wickedness is in Gilgal, for [that is, therefore] there is hated them[3] (Samaritan Text in Sanchez). Thus in Luke 4:47, many sins are remitted to her, ὅτι/because (that is, therefore) she loved much (Sanchez, Stella[4] in Glassius). Thus in Psalm 116:10, I believed, כִּי/therefore I have spoken: in 2 Corinthians 4:13, ἐπίστευσα, διὸ ἐλάλησα, I believed, therefore I have spoken (Glassius’ “Grammar” 628). [But others take the כִּי otherwise, and thus translate the place:] because the Lord willed to slay them (Montanus, thus the Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Castalio, Osiander, English, Dutch, Malvenda). Thus the Septuagint, ὅτι βουλόμενος ἐβούλετο κύριος διαφθεῖραι αὐτούς, because the Lord, being willing, was willing to ruin them. By which repetition of the verb is signified the will of God, both inclined and absolute, or altogether to be accomplished (Mendoza). Because the will was before the Lord to kill them (Jonathan). Because He willed to kill, that is, because the Lord had determined to subject them to a violent death, because of so great sins. Wherefore He did not give to them the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that they might repent, and flee death. God is not bound to give repentance to sinners (Osiander). The Lord did not bestow upon them His extraordinary helps of grace, being destitute of which, they perished in their own vice (Menochius). From those that sin greviously, having been warned for a long time and often, God withdraws prudence, so that before punishment their wickedness might be open. This is a peremptory hardening. This is what Æschylus[5] meant:

—θεὸς μὴν αἰτίαν φύει βρότοις

Ὅταν κακῶσαι δῶμα παμπήδην θέλῃ.

God furnishes causes or occasions to mortals,

when He desires utterly to destroy any house.

Velleius Paterculus de Varo,[6] The fates were even now prevailing over his counsels, and had blunted the force of his mind; for thus the matter stands, that He that is going to change a man’s fortune frequently corrupts his counsel.[7] Ammianus Marcellinus, in his Matters Conducted[8] 14, says, with the fates inserting a hand, the senses of men are deadened and blunted. This is a true thing. See 2 Chronicles 10:15 (Grotius). The first cause, and that direct and proper, why they would not hear the admonition of their father, was their own depraved will. Nevertheless, the Sacred Scripture, according to its own custom, assigns another indirect cause; namely, it refers it to the highest Providence and judgment of God; namely, because God was unwilling to show them mercy on account of such crimes, or to give to them efficacious grace, whereby they might repent, and escape death (Sanchez). Take care that thou thinkest not to attribute their contumacy to God, as if God Himself were the author of their sin, but they themselves were beyond blame: but contrariwise it is indicated that they were delivered by God unto a reprobate sense,[9] that they might for a long time allow to themselves the license to sin securely (Calvin). Moreover, the inconviences that we suffer do not at all befall us unmerited; because something always precedes in us, from which it could be understood that we are not at all undeserving, who were afflicted with this evil (Martyr). [But let these things suffice to indicate the mind of the Holy Spirit on this passage, and the sense of Interpreters concerning it. The one desiring more, let him address himself to the writers on controversies, which controversies it is the plan here to pass by, as far as the nature of the work and the literal interpretation of Scripture allow.] Question: What did God do, from which the sons of Eli took occasion to harden themselves? Response: God permitted them to be reproved by their father with words alone, but to be scourged with no whips: while therefore He was permitting them to go on unpunished, they were all the more loosening the restraints of sins, and were exposing themselves to greater punishments to be inflicted by God (Mendoza).


Because the Lord would slay them, that is, because God hath determined to destroy them for their many and great sins; and therefore would not and did not give them grace to hearken to Eli’s counsel, and to repent of their wickedness, but hardened their hearts to their destruction.

[1] Hebrew: אִם־יֶחֱטָ֙א אִ֤ישׁ לְאִישׁ֙ וּפִֽלְל֣וֹ אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְאִ֤ם לַֽיהוָה֙ יֶֽחֱטָא־אִ֔ישׁ מִ֖י יִתְפַּלֶּל־ל֑וֹ וְלֹ֤א יִשְׁמְעוּ֙ לְק֣וֹל אֲבִיהֶ֔ם כִּֽי־חָפֵ֥ץ יְהוָ֖ה לַהֲמִיתָֽם׃ [2] Johann Buxtorf, Sr. (1564-1629) was a renowned Reformed Hebraist, known as the “Master of the Rabbis”. He served as Professor of Hebrew at Basel from 1590 to 1629. [3] Hosea 9:15a: “All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there (כִּי־שָׁם) I hated them…” [4] Diego de Estella (1524-1578) was a Spanish Franciscan mystic and theologian. His commentary on Luke was banned by the Spanish Inquisition. [5] Æschylus (525-456 BC) was perhaps the earliest of the Greek tragedians. [6] Marcus Velleius Paterculus (c. 19 BC-c. 31 AD) was a Roman historian. [7] Roman History 2:118. [8] Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330-c. 390) was Roman noble, soldier, and historian. His Res Gestæ covered the period of Roman history from the reign of Nerva in 96 to the Battle of Adrianople in 378; unhappily, only the last portion (353-378) survives. [9] See Romans 1:28.

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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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