1 Samuel 2:12 did you ever wonder what a "son of Belial" was? Essentially it is the Old Testament version of "a complete loser". It's actual translation is "sons of worthlessness". If you imagine Worthlessness as a father and he has a son - well sons are considered a lesser position in the family setup and so calling someone a son of worthlessness is basically saying you are less than worthless or in other words - you are a complete loser. For the scriptures to say this is pretty strong. What else do we learn about Eli's sons that confirm this ignominious title?
"they knew not the Lord"
"the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord"
"they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation"
they "make the Lord's people to transgress"
One of the things they also did was take their portion of the people's sacrifices before making the offering to the Lord. This was the exact opposite of the law and shows a complete lack of respect for the Law and for God. So arrogant were they that when the people tried to point out they had not dealt with the sacrifice properly and would try to withhold the sacrifices from the unrighteous priests, they would forcibly take the sacrifices. Needless to say, they were rightly considered complete losers!
What other effect did the sons' actions have on the people? v.17
Why would Hannah leave her son in this environment still? What lesson can we learn from this?
If these were your children how would you respond?
How did Eli respond? v.22-25 Certainly he seems to remind them of right and wrong and of their proper duty but he also seems a little more concerned about survival and public opinion than about the actual wrong doing. And sure enough, the Lord sends a righteous priesthood leader to point this out v.29 and actually seems to say that Eli was complicit in the stealing of the sacrifices. As a result he is told another will be raised in his stead and that his two sons will die on the same day in their prime (v.33-35).
He is personally rebuked for honouring his sons above the Lord. This is a serious charge. In what ways can we sometimes honour others more than God?
I absolutely love this quote.
President Joseph F. Smith taught: “There should [not] be any of us so unwisely indulgent, so thoughtless and so shallow in our affection for our children that we dare not check them in a wayward course, in wrong-doing and in their foolish love for the things of the world more than for the things of righteousness, for fear of offending them” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 286).
So how can we correct wayward children in a spirit of love but without the fear of offending them? Does spanking work?
"I am satisfied that such punishment in most instances does more damage than good.I recently read a biography of George H. Brimhall, who at one time served as president of Brigham Young University. Concerning him, someone said that he reared "his boys with a rod, but it [was] a fishing rod" That says it all." Gordon B. Hinckley, "Save the Children," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 52
"I have tremendous respect for fathers and mothers who are nurturing their children in light and truth, who have prayer in their homes, WHO SPARE THE ROD and govern with love, who look upon their little ones as their most valued assets to be protected, trained, and blessed." Gordon B. Hinckley, "This Is the Work of the Master," Ensign, May 1995, 69
Children of authoritarian parents (who demand obedience first) learn very young that they may be punished no matter what they do. They begin to believe, consciously or not, that they don’t have any control over their environment. Children of permissive parents, however, learn very early that they will be rewarded no matter what they do. They begin to believe that good things will be given them without reason, and they, too, feel they have no control over their environment.
(Orson Scott Card, “Who’s Minding the Children?” Ensign, Aug. 1977, 11)
Of course, there are a few disobedient souls regardless of training and teaching, but the great majority of children respond to such parental guidance. The scripture says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6.) And if he departs, he will probably return if he has been brought up in the right way. (Spencer W. Kimball “Train Up a Child,” Ensign, Apr. 1978, 4-5)
If you read all of 1 Samuel 2 there is a wonderful contrast weaved throughout the narrative. The old priestly family that is living off the tithes and sacrifices of the people, ruling with greed and without honour, is contrasted with the young boy, Samuel, under Eli's charge. Consider below what we learn of Samuel all the while we are reading about the wickedness of Eli's family. We are told Samuel,
"ministered before the Lord"
"grew before the Lord"
"grew on and was in favour both with the Lord and also with men"
How is it possible that Eli's own sons can be so unrighteous and yet Samuel who is being brought up under Eli's guidance can be so righteous? What is the difference? Parenting and personal choice. Eli does not seem like a bad man but he seems like a weak man. He seems kind and yet too tolerant of unrighteous things in his home.
1 Samuel 3 starts with some interesting descriptions regarding light and darkness. See if you can spot them (v.1-4)
no open vision
Eli's eyes wax dim - he could not see
the temple lights went out
What is the significance of these verses that are filled with references to light? Could it be the Lord is indicating how severe the lack of spiritual leadership was at that time?
Whatever the reason, from that darkness, as Samuel presumably closed his own eyes to sleep, a voice called Samuel by name. We all know the story. Samuel, thinking Eli was calling him, got out of bed and went to Eli and said "Here am I", to which Eli responded by telling him to go back to bed. This happens three times and on the third time Eli recognizes what is going on and teaches Samuel about how to answer the Lord.
Now up to this point we can see that Samuel was learning and growing spiritually but v.7 of 1 Samuel 3 is interesting.
Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him. Has he not been in the temple acting under Eli's guidance all of his young life? What is this scripture telling us?
How many times did the Lord call Samuel? 4 times and on the fourth time he called his name twice. We are often counseled to call upon the Lord but how many check for messages from the Lord?
The Lord told Samuel that Eli's family will lose their status and their blessings.
What reason does the Lord give for punishing Eli himself so heavily? v.13
What does verse 16 tell us about Samuel?
What else do these last few verses (v.19-20) tell us about Samuel that we can add to his list of attributes?:
"the Lord was with him"
the Lord "did let none of his words fall to the ground"
"And all Israel...knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord"
Honoring the World
1 Samuel 8
Samuel's sons also reject the Lord (v.3). How did their unrighteousness affect the people? v.5 "like all the nations"
How strong is that pull today to be like the world?
The temptation to be “like all the nations” is ever present. The standards and images of the world are not to become the ideals of Abraham’s seed. The Old Testament in particular offers a warning to the Lord’s covenant people of today as it chronicles the people of the past. In it we see the results of failing to bless all the families of the world because one desires to be like the world. Eventually Abraham’s seed were lost, scattered, and taken captive by the world they so anxiously tried to imitate (S. Michael Wilcox, “The Abrahamic Covenant,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 47).
v.7 Why would the Lord give in to the people's unrighteous demand, especially when he knows the consequences?
Ezra Taft Benson
God has to work through mortals of varying degrees of spiritual progress. Sometimes he temporarily grants to men their unwise requests in order that they might learn from their own sad experiences. Some refer to this as the “Samuel principle.” The children of Israel wanted a king like all the other nations. The prophet Samuel was displeased and prayed to the Lord about it. The Lord responded by saying, Samuel, “they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” The Lord told Samuel to warn the people of the consequences if they had a king. Samuel gave them the warning. But they still insisted on their king. So God gave them a king and let them suffer. They learned the hard way. God wanted it to be otherwise, but within certain bounds he grants unto men according to their desires. Bad experiences are an expensive school that only fools keep going to. (See 1 Sam. 8.)
Sometimes in our attempts to mimic the world, and contrary to the prophet’s counsel, we run after the world’s false educational, political, musical, and dress ideas. New worldly standards take over, a gradual breakdown occurs, and finally, after much suffering, a humble people are ready to be taught once again a higher law. (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 17-18)
v.9 What parenting lessons can we learn from this?
v.10-18 Why was this king thing a bad idea?
v.19 What parenting lessons can we learn from this?
People will reject the gospel principles for worldly fads and fashions. Even our own children. We must never give up our duty to remind them and to teach them correct principles but ultimately they must choose for themselves.