Lesser known characters :: Hophni and Phineas


One of my favorite movies that is based on a true story is “The Ghost and the Darkness” which is the story of two lions that terrorized and killed over a hundred people in Tsavo (Kenya) in the late 1800s. The people in that land felt that these lions were in fact evil incarnate as they continued their rampage, until John Henry Patterson, a military engineer, sent to build a railroad bridge.

In the Bible we see another kind of “The Ghost and the Darkness“; Eli’s two sons – Hophni and Phineas. Even though they were the sons of God’s priest, Eli, the Bible calls them the sons of Belial (the lawless, rebellious and worthless one who can have no concord with Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:15)). In order to gratify lust of their eyes (their own SELFish desires), they rebelled against God by abhorring the sacrifices and taking the choicest portion of the meat from the sacrifice even before it was offered to God, even by coercion; in a sense robbing God (1 Samuel 2:13-17). In order to gratify the lust of the flesh (their own SEXual desires), they slept with the woman who assembled at the entrance door of the tabernacle, making the LORD’s people to sin (1 Samuel 2:22-24). Hophni and Phineas were wicked and they brought judgment on Eli’s family, that no one in Eli’s bloodline will reach an old age (1 Samuel 2:31). God informs Eli through another person (referred to as the man of God) that both his sons will die on the same day (1 Samuel 2:34). Eli’s sin was that he honored his children more than he honored God (1 Samuel 2:29) and God had to send a priest (man of God) to a priest (Eli) because of the wickedness of his children and his misaligned priorities.

When the Philistines attack the armies of Israel, the ark of the Lord that held the glory of God is taken captive by the Philistines and both Hophni and Phineas die that day.  Upon hearing the news of the ark of the Lord being taken and the death of his sons, ninety-eight year old Eli falls back from his chair, breaks his neck and dies as well. His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phineas, who was carrying child and near her due date, upon hearing the news of the ark of the Lord being taken and the death of her husband, and in-laws, goes into labor and delivers a child whom she names, “Ichabod” meaning that the glory [of the Lord] has departed from Israel (1 Samuel 4:11-22).

What can we learn from Hophni and Phineas?
We may be children that hail from Christian priestly families, but we can still be called the sons and daughters of Belial, if we do not have concord (communion) with Christ Jesus and if we continue in the ways that war against the Spirit of God, gratifying our SELFish (lust of the eyes) and SEXual (lust of the flesh) desires. As children, when we rebel in such manner and sin, without giving God the honor that is due unto him, we are liable to inherit a curse, not just on ourselves, but on our bloodline as well. As parents, if we honor our children more than God, it is possible that God’s voice can be stopped from directly reaching us. But the worse of all is that a wicked lifestyle that gratifies the evil desires of the eyes and flesh can lead to Ichabod – the departure of God’s glory from one’s life. Let us be warned and be careful that we do not follow in the ways of Hophni or Phineas.

1 Samuel 2:13-17; 22-24 (KJV)
12
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
13
And the priest’s custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand;
14
And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.
15
Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.
16
And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
17
Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

22
Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
23
And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.
24
Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’s people to transgress

1 Samuel 4:11-22 (KJV)
11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
12 And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.
13 And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out.
14 And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.
15 Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see.
16 And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?
17 And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.
18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
19 And his daughter in law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.
20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.
21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.
22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.

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