Poole on 1 Samuel 2:30: The Judgment against Eli's House, Part 3

Verse 30:[1] Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, (Ex. 29:9) I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, (Jer. 18:9, 10) Be it far from me; for them that honour me (Ps. 18:20; 91:14) I will honour, and (Mal. 2:9) they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

[Therefore the Lord saith] The Prophets were wont to insert these words, these things saith the Lord, in their oracles; for two reasons, 1. So that they might procure authority for their oracles: 2. So that they might acknowledge themselves not to be the Messaih, true God and man, but His messengers. Whence Christ was refraining from these words; and He was speaking as one having authority[2] (Mendoza).

[Speaking, I spoke, etc.[3]] It is able to be doubted whether this speech was external, of which God made use to the Prophet; or rather internal, which God declared within Himself. Vatablus and Tostatus insinuate the latter; the remaining interpreters suppose the former (Mendoza). [Some take it of a decree.] I had said, that is, I had altogether decreed, or decided (Vatablus). I had distinctly determined (Grotius). I certainly spoke, that is to say, I had firmly resolved (Lapide). And this does indeed appear to have an improper sense, inasmuch as it denotes the decree of God, as if something mutable; but it is able also to be understood of His antecedent will, as they call it; that is, that, unless Eli and his sons had sinned, they would have retained the dignity of the Priesthood. But on account of their sin God willed, by His consequent will, to deprive them of the Priesthood. See at greater length on 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Kings 2 (Estius). He says that He formerly decreed this, and established it with absolute firmness (Martyr). Not all the decrees of God are absolutely determined, of which sort are those concerning which we treated above on verse 25; but many contain a condition in them, with which failing they fail (Grotius). [Others take it of a promise (thus Mendoza, Sanchez, Junius, Piscator, Malvenda, Menochius).] And this appears more suited to the conviction of Eli; to whom this external promise was more familiar that that internal promise (Mendoza). Question: What promise is here treated? Responses: 1. That in the first institution of the Priesthood, Exodus 28:43; 29:9 (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda, Menochius). In which a perpetual Priesthood is promised to Aaron and his seed (Piscator). This is not satisfying; For that promise was not revoked, but the Priesthood continued in the house of Aaron. 2. He does not speak of the promise made to Phinehas, Numbers 25:12, because Phinehas was not the father of Eli; but both were descending from Aaron by diverse fathers; Phinehas by Eleazar, and Eli by Ithamar; as Josephus teaches in his Antiquities 5:11, and as it will be evident from the things to be said (Mendoza). 3. It is to be asserted that this promise was made, either to Eli himself (perhaps through the same Prophet, through whom he now hears this severe prophecy [Sanchez]), or to the father of Eli, either immediate, or mediate from Aaron: But this promise was first fulfilled in Eli (Mendoza). But two things hinder: 1. That never in Scripture is it found that such a promise was made. Response: Scripture everywhere relates many things as previously said or done that are nowhere found written (Mendoza, similarly Sanchez), as in Genesis 24:51, let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the Lord hath spoken (but nowhere is it found that He had spoken thus); in Genesis 42:21; Luke 11:49; John 11:28; Acts 20:25 (Mendoza). Likewise in Hosea 12:4, it is read that Jacob wept; which is not found in Genesis. And the earthquake under Uzziah, Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5. Concerning which there is nothing in the books of Kings (Sanchez). Similarly, although this promise is not found elsewhere, from this passage it is understood as having been made (Mendoza). Undoubtedly some Prophet spoke to Eli. But at what time, and for what reason, we have nothing certain (Sanchez). 2. The promise of perpetual High Priesthood made to Phinehas hinders, Numbers 25. Responses: 1. That promise was fulfilled; and only for a brief time was interrupted by Eli, and his four descendants; after whom the Priesthood was restored to them, and continued in them unto the destruction of Jerusalem. The promise made to Phinehas, and the promise made to Eli, are not mutually exclusive; since the former was absolute, and was to be brought into effect; [as we already said] the latter was conditional, and, with a want of the requisite condition (which God foresaw as wanting), was going to fail of its effect (Mendoza). But here it is to be observed, that some promises in sacred Scripture appear absolute, which nevertheless are altogether conditional. Which is easily learned from this, that what things are promised in one place without condition, the same [elsewhere] are promised with an express condition. Thus to the posterity of Abraham was promised the eternal possession of the land of Canaan, but, because of their sins, it was not granted to them (Mendoza). Which in the other promises, with one or another excepted, is to be understood (Sanchez). Some of the promises of God have a condition attached; but others are absolute and simple; of which sort is that concerning the sending of the Son;[4] which He fulfilled, although men were proceeding to the very heights of wickedness;[5] and that concerning the gift of a heart of flesh in the place of the stony heart;[6] which He constantly does without any regard for our merit: say not, because we believed: for it was first necessary that the stony heart be removed, so that we might believe (Martyr). God does not change His counsel; for this promise at least tacitly had this condition, if Eli and his posterity should conduct themselves well (Menochius). From this passage it is evident that the High Priesthood was given to Eli by God; and that it was translated from the family of Eleazar to the family of Ithamar, descending from which was Eli; as it is evident from this, that Abiathar, a great-great grandson of Eli, 1 Kings 2:27, is said to have been descended from Ithamar, 1 Chronicles 24 (Lapide). Wherefore some falsely conclude that Eli invaded the Pontificate by his own authority (Lapide, similarly Mendoza). The reason for the translation is unknown; but it appears to have been either idleness or some sin of the Eleazarites (Lapide, similarly Mendoza and Lyra, l’Empereur in his notes[7] on Bertram’s[8] Concerning the Republic of the Jews[9]). And on occasion of this negligence the Priesthood was translated to Eli; hence a new promise of Priesthood was able to be given to him (Mendoza). The reason why the dignity came to Eli was undoubtedly the disobedience of others; although Scripture does not express it, because, both from the history of that time, and from the customary order that God is wont to keep in withdrawing His blessings, it is not obscure. Indeed, in the divine promises the condition of obedience often goes unexpressed, when temporal things are treated; which nevertheless is tacitly indicated just the same. Which is on the face of the text in Jeremiah 18:7-10. This is to be observed in disputations against the Jews. Since they in the promises of the land of Canaan, etc., seek a basis for their obstinacy; as if, since they do not enjoy those goods, they ought yet to expect the Messiah. However, those promises were only conditional, which even Rabbi Lipmann himself says in HaNitzachon[10] 26, All covenants, in which God agrees, both adverse and favorable, He settles under a condition (l’Empereur’s Commentary on Bertram’s Concerning the Republic of the Jews). It is not written how Eli became High Priest; but it is able to be conjectured from this, that, when he was designated as the Judge of the people by the Lord, in those confused times he appears to have been elevated to the High Priesthood as well; especially since among the Priests he was held to be the most well-equipped in all necessary matters for the administration of the Republic (Bertram’s Concerning the Republic of the Jews 15). Moreover, this was the succession of High Priests by their sons: Aaron, Eleazar, Phinehas, Abishua, Bukki, Uzzi, as it is evident out of 1 Chronicles 6:4, 5 and Josephus’ Antiquities 5:11. From Uzzi the High Priesthood was translated to Eli, who begat Phinehas, who died before his father:[11] in the place of Phinehas succeeded Ahitub, and in his place Ahiah,[12] and in his place Ahimelech,[13] and in his place Abiathar[14] (Lapide). In whom these threats had their execution, 1 Kings 2:27 (Lapide).

I said indeed. Question: Where or when did God say this? Answer: Either, 1. When he made that promise for the perpetuation of the priesthood in Aaron’s family, Exodus 28:43; 29:9. Objection: If Eli and all his family had been cut off, yet that promise had been made good in Eleazar’s family: how then was that promise recalled by this sentence against Eli? Answer: It was recalled and made void, though not absolutely and universally to all Aaron’s family, yet respectively to Eli and his family, which were wholly excluded from the benefit of it, wherein otherwise they should have shared; even as God’s keeping of the Israelites out of Canaan and in the wilderness for forty years, and destroying them there, is called his breach of promise, Numbers 14:34, although the promise of Canaan was not simply made void to all the Israelites, but only to that evil generation of them; or as God’s covenant with David, and with his seed, of which God saith that it should stand fast, Psalm 89:28, and that he would not break nor alter it, verse 34, yet is said to be made void, verse 35, to wit, in regard of some particular branches or members of that family. Or, 2. To Eli himself, or to his father, when the priesthood was translated from Eleazar’s to Ithamar’s family, for some cause not mentioned in Scripture, but most probably for some great miscarriage of some of them. If it be said that there is no such promise recorded in Scripture, it may be so replied, That there are many sayings and doings noted in Holy Scripture which were not spoken of in their proper times and places, as Genesis 24:51; 42:21; Hosea 12:4; Luke 11:49; Acts 20:25. So the sense of the place may be this, That promise and privilege of the perpetuation of the priesthood in Phinehas and his family, made to them Numbers 25:12, 13, namely, upon condition of his and their faithfulness in their office, which is plainly understood, I now take away from that family for their wickedness, and I transfer it to thee and thine, and will fix it there upon the same condition.

[That thy house…should minister in my sight, יִתְהַלְּכ֥וּ לְפָנַ֖י] They should walk before me (Pagnine, Vatablus). That is, they would be connected to the High Priesthood in my Tabernacle (Vatablus, similarly Drusius).

Should walk before me, that is, minister unto me as high priest. Walking is oft put for discharging one’s office; before me may signify that he was the high priest, whose sole prerogative it was to minister before God, or before the ark, in the most holy place. For ever; as long as the Mosaical law and worship lasted, as that phrase is oft used.

[Be it far from me] That I should establish thy whole house by that law (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda).

Be it far from me, to wit, to fulfil my promise, which I repent of, and hereby retract.

[Him that glorifies me, I will glorify] But what glorifiers does he glorify? Namely, those that glorify God in good works, both internal, of faith and charity, and external. But in what manner does God glorify them? Responses: 1. This is able to be understood more narrowly of Priestly glory. 2. Or more broadly of whatever sort of glory with which He adorns them, either in this life, or in the future (Mendoza).

Them that honour me; that worship and serve me with reverence and godly fear, and according to my will, which I esteem as an honour done to me. I will honour; I will advance them to honour, and maintain them in it.

[But those that despise me shall be ignoble, וּבֹזַ֥י יֵקָֽלּוּ׃] And those despising me shall be slighted, or shall be despised (Pagnine, Montanus, similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Syriac, Jonathan, Septuagint), or shall be made light, as it is pronounced in Leviticus 10:3 (Junius and Tremellius). But then יֵקָלּוּ should be pointed differently with a Hireq (ִ) under the Yod (י), and a Dagesh (ּ) in the Koph (ק), as in Isaiah 30:16.[15] Among the Hebrews כָּבַד signifies both weight, and honor. Contrariwise, קָלַל signifies both lightness, and vileness (Drusius). Moreover, a distinction in the mode of speech is to be noted here. In the former member, God speaks actively of Himself, I will glorify him; in the latter, passively, they shall be ignoble (Mendoza). He does not say, I will slight them, but they shall be slighted; that is to say, If not by me, they shall be slighted by others (Drusius). From this distinction it is plainly revealed, how much more inclined God is to confer glory, than to inflict punishment (Mendoza). And hence after the curses, Deuteronomy 27:15, etc., the people were shouting, Amen; but not likewise after the blessings, Deuteronomy 28:1, etc. So that it might be signified that the curses do indeed emnate from men, but the blessing from God alone (Mendoza out of Jerome). Or he says this for the greater shame; those that glorify God, are glorified by God: but those that despise God, are despised also by men: so that the contempt of them might be all the more shameful, as it arises from more contemptible agents. Moreover, as those that observe the divine precepts are said to glorify God; so those that transgress the divine law are said to despise God. See 1 Samuel 12:9, 10. For, from contempt of the law, they come to contempt of the Lawgiver (Mendoza).

They that despise me; not formally and directly; for so Eli’s sons did not despise God; but indirectly and by consequence, by presumptuous disobedience of my commands; by defiling and disgracing my worship and ordinances, either by transgressing the rules I have given them therein, or by their ungodly and shameful conversation; and by making my service contemptible and abominable to others through their scandals: all which are manifest arguments of contempt of God, and are so called, as Numbers 11:20; 1 Samuel 12:9, 10; Malachi 1:8, and all which were eminently found in Eli’s sons. Shall be lightly esteemed, both by God and men.

[1] Hebrew: לָכֵ֗ן נְאֻם־יְהוָה֮ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ אָמ֣וֹר אָמַ֔רְתִּי בֵּֽיתְךָ֙ וּבֵ֣ית אָבִ֔יךָ יִתְהַלְּכ֥וּ לְפָנַ֖י עַד־עוֹלָ֑ם וְעַתָּ֤ה נְאֻם־יְהוָה֙ חָלִ֣ילָה לִּ֔י כִּֽי־מְכַבְּדַ֥י אֲכַבֵּ֖ד וּבֹזַ֥י יֵקָֽלּוּ׃ [2] See Matthew 7:29; Luke 4:32. [3] Hebrew: אָמ֣וֹר אָמַ֔רְתִּי. [4] See Genesis 3:15. [5] See Genesis 6:5; 8:21. [6] Ezekiel 36:26. [7] Constantin l’Empereur (1591-1648) was a Dutch Hebraist and Orientalist. He served as Professor of Hebrew and Theology at Harderwijk (1619-1627), and then at Leiden. He wrote Commentarius ad Betramum de Republica Hebræorum. [8] Bonaventure Cornelius Bertram (1531-1594) was minister of the Gospel and Professor of Hebrew at Geneva, at Frankenthal, and at Lausanne. His revision of the French Bible is used by French Calvinists to the present day. [9] De Republica Judæorum. [10] Yom-Tov Lipmann ben Solomon Muhlhausen (late fourteenth-, early fifteenth century) was an eastern European Rabbi and scholar. He was thoroughly acquainted with the Hebrew Bible and Talmud, Kabbalistic and Kairite literature, the New Testament and Latin, making him a formidable controversialist. His HaNitzachon is a refutation of Christianity. [11] See 1 Samuel 4:11, 17. [12] See 1 Samuel 14:3. [13] See 1 Samuel 22:9. [14] See 1 Samuel 22:20. [15] Isaiah 30:16: “But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift (יִקַּלּוּ, be light, in the Niphal).”


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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