5 Lessons from the Life of Hophni and Phinehas

The Scripture contains several stories of people whose lives, history, and experiences portray lessons to us - both good and bad. Two of these Bible characters as we would examine in this article today, were Hophni and Phinehas.

Hophni and Phinehas were the two sons of prophet Eli (1st Samuel Chapters 2, 3 and 4). In those days the Nation of Israel was yet to have a King, so they depended solely and directly on God through his ordained Prophets for their instructions and sustenance.

5 Lessons from the Life of Hophni and Phinehas

Eli, who was father to Hophni and Phinehas, was an anointed Prophet and well respected all over Israel. However, his two biological sons were the stigma attached to his name. To imagine and some what measure the extent of evil they wrought, several books, articles, and instruction manuals in our world have been written to detest their attitude and to train children not to be like them.

So what exactly was their offense? Why are they labelled as bad examples and what can we learn from them? As you will read below in continuation of this article, we have highlighted 5 lessons from their lives.

1. Wickedness is Evil

The Bible labelled Hophni and Phinehas "wicked" for their actions and attitude. In those days, according to God’s command, the people offer sacrifices which are initiated and overseen by the priest and his servants. In 1st Samuel 2:13-17, which holds the account of the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, we see that they were fond of helping themselves with portions of the people’s offerings and sacrifices. They took out of the best portions of both the boiled and the raw meats and eat them at the temple. That was detestable to God and brought down God’s anger upon them.

Other shameful acts like sleeping with the women who served at the entrance of the temple of the meetings were also recorded, [1 Sam 2:22]. Such terrible things were unspeakable in Israel and unacceptable before the Lord.  

Surely these are not the kinds of children you’d love to raise. However, this disgustful lifestyle of Hophni and Phinehas was associated with parental failure and neglect, as discussed on the next paragraph. 

2. Home Training was Lacking, and Parental Negligence is to Blame.

It is said that ‘an individual is the son of the society, and everyone was raised from a home. Therefore, it’s safe to say that everyone is primarily a product of their parental upbringing. For Hophni and Phinehas, God personally arraigned Eli for their immoral and ungodly lifestyle. In [1st Samuel 2:27-36], God sent a message through his servant to Eli, telling him of his judgment over him and his sons for their detestable deeds. 

It was clear from God’s reaction that He expected more from Eli, who would have trained his sons better and raised them in the ways of the Lord to become responsible and honorable men. As a result of this irresponsibility, God punished Eli’s entire household and cut them off from the line of priesthood. 

This is quite a lesson and a warning to all parents and guardians and to oversee the affairs of their ward with maximum training and supervision, for God will not condole improper behavior even from children.

3. We have the Power to Choose our Lifestyle

The arrival of Samuel was a miraculous one—a covenant between Hannah and God which was facilitated by Eli in 1st Samuel 1:11-17. Hannah was barren for many years, but she was visited by the God at Shiloh, and prophet Eli sealed it for her when he made a decree in [1 Sam 1:17]. When the boy Samuel was older, he was dedicated to God, and he lived and served at the temple with Eli. He was a child with character and moral excellence. 

Even though they lived under the same covering and were seemingly raised by the same guardian, there appear to be distinct difference between Samuel and Eli’s Sons in terms of character and lifestyle. The contrast in lifestyles was so obvious and it is shocking how there’s so much difference in their lives. But then, the story did not end well for both Eli and his Sons. So, what was God’s ultimate judgment and reaction towards these children? 

4. God does not tolerate Indiscipline

The story of Hophni and Phinehas shows God's attitude and verdict against indiscipline. One of the ways to attract God’s wrath is through disobedience and indiscipline. God’s attitude towards this is clear right from the days of our Father Abraham. 

Hophni and Phinehas received a severe punishment from God for their sins, and Eli their father got his own share too. It wasn’t long when God brought this judgement upon Eli’s family, after God’s message to Eli in [1 Sam 3:27-36]. 

Israel went to battle one day and were losing, then they thought of bringing the Arc of God (from Shiloh) into the battle field to turn the ties in their favor. 

The Ark of the Lord was brought into the battle field and guess what, Hohpni and Phinehas were the hands holding the Ark. Unlike what they expected, the Philistine’s army grew stronger and slew even more of the Israelites [1 Sam 4:2-10]. 

The two sons of Eli were killed, the Ark of the Lord was captured and seized, and a great number of the Israelite’s army was destroyed, while the remnants retired back home hastily. 

Words was taken to Eli at home. Meanwhile, Eli was already old with his eyes dim and unable to see clearly again. The report of Israel’s defeat at the battle reached Eli, and as soon as he was told that the Ark of the Lord was captured, we learned from the Bible that he fell backwards down off his chair, brock his neck and died. 

It was unlikely that he was going to survive that kind of fall—it was an inglorious death. What then shall we say? Despite his 40-years of dedicated service to the Lord as Priest, should he have suffered such unimaginable fate? Here’s your answer.

5. You Can Be Replaced in God’s Plans and Destiny.

On several accounts in the Bile we saw how God ‘repented’ (regretted his action) from gifting men certain privileges. The accounts of Samson, King Saul, and the latter part of King Solomon’s life best captures this explanation.

God undoubtedly had a long-lasting plan for Eli, his sons, and their children after them, to maintain the priestly office in Israel forever. However, their abominable practices made them lost this privilege. 

Samuel inherited the promise as he won the heart of God while serving under Eli. He replaced Eli as prophet in Israel [1 Sam. 3:1-21]. Just like Samson was replaced, and Saul as substituted in God’s plans, Eli and his family too were knocked out of the priestly office of Israel. 



Several people have lost their place in their God-ordained paths in life and destiny for following the paths and nature of Hophni and Phinehas.  As believers, it is important that we abstain from evil and detest everything the Lord detests. Listen to instructions from Parents/Guardians, and, if you’re a guardian, you must not fail to raise Godly children/ward, or risk a similar fate from God.

0/Post a Comment/Comments

Please drop a comment and use the Social Media Buttons below to share to friends and family.