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Eli was the priest of Israel. It’s a classic model: An enthusiastic visionary founds an organization and steers it to excellence, but over time the organization is drained dry as less dedicated leadership allows things to grow more and more lax. That must have been the general tenor of things by the time Eli’s priestly ministry in Shiloh was winding down.
Eli himself is not necessarily spoken of in scripture as corrupt or sinful, but it appears that he had let his own sons, who also served as priests, become very corrupt and abusive of their office (1 Samuel 2:10–18).
Because of this, Eli’s family was cursed by God—and this may be the reason that few people received special messages or visions from the Lord (1 Samuel 2:27–36).
In the meantime, God was raising up Samuel to replace Eli’s sons as priests and leaders of the people. Samuel had been brought to Shiloh as a young boy and left in the care of Eli (1 Samuel 2–3). The final blow to Eli’s family came when the Israelites were fighting against the Philistines. Both of Eli’s sons were killed as they carried the ark of the covenant into battle, and even Eli himself fell over backward and broke his neck when he heard the news that the ark had been captured (1 Samuel 4).
It is very shortsighted to think that all we need to concern ourselves with is our own spiritual walk. But this attitude leaves the spiritual lives of those who come after us in jeopardy. What are we doing to promote faithfulness to God in the lives of our children and others entrusted to our care?