Eli, whose name means the Lord is uplifted, was a priest in Shiloh. He was a faithful servant of the Lord and performed his priestly duties as well a being a judge (leader) of Israel for forty years.
Ask anyone; they would have said that Eli was a great man and held a fatherly influence in their lives. He solved their disagreements and he interceded with the Lord for them. As priest, Eli was entrusted with the rearing and training of Samuel, a boy who had been dedicated to the Lord at birth. Samuel went on to become a man of God and was known as Israel's greatest judge.
However, did these qualifications make Eli a great father in his own home? Apparently not. The Bible tells us of his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. These young men were corrupt and took advantage of their privileged position as sons of the priest. The Bible says that they took the meat offered in sacrifice before the fat had been burned off according to the law, thus treating the Lord's sacrifices with contempt. They unlawfully had sexual intercourse with the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Their sinful conduct was obvious to everyone but Eli chose to look the other way.
God sent a prophet to confront and condemn Eli. He accused him of honoring his sons more than God. Some parental problems have been around since the beginning of time. Don't we often overlook disobedience because we can't bear to punish our children as they deserve? Failure to discipline according to what is right is a fatal flaw. Eli lost the honored position that God had given him and his family. God had promised that Eli's house would minister before Him forever. But, with the curse, Eli's descendants would never even see old age. God later sent young Samuel with a similar prophesy. Eli knew God's will for him. He said, " Let the Lord do what is good in His eye." But he failed to act upon what he knew.
Eh did scold his sons for their behavior but they showed no more respect for their earthy father than they did for the Lord God of Israel. Certainly they knew that his word was weak and no discipline would follow. However, God�s word was strong and He did follow through with the discipline he had promised. Eli�s two sons met their death on the same day in a battle with the Philistines. (1Samuel 4:17,18) Eli was 98 when he heard of their death. At the same time, he heard that the Arc of the Covenant had been lost to the Philistines. The Arc was the symbol of God's presence. God had already withdrawn his favor from Eli's house but it was the symbol the Eli valued. Its loss upset him so much that he fell off his chair, broke his neck and joined his sons in death.
True to his name, Eli uplifted the Lord to the people of Shiloh but failed to do this in his own home. God expected Eli to teach his sons respect for their Lord.
God expects all fathers to teach their children respect. Their earthly father is the first glimpse they see of their Heavenly Father.