Eli was a respected man in his community. He was the high priest at Shiloh and judge of Israel for 40 years (I Samuel 4:18). By all accounts he was a man of God, but a fault that brought him sorrow was that he was too permissive with his two sons. When news reached him about the sins of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, he treated the news with indifference (I Samuel 2). Eli should have disciplined his sons from when they were young by taking stronger action, but he did not.
The consequences of Eli’s permissiveness were far-reaching. The family’s influence was destroyed (I Samuel 2:22-24). The esteem for Eli’s family was gone forever. The family’s devotion to God was compromised. Eli chose to please his sons rather than to please God. Eli was accused of honoring his sons above Jehovah. Because of the family’s sin, God promised to break the strength of the family (I Samuel 2:31).
Parenting is a challenge to all of us. We learn from Eli valuable lessons on parenting. Do not honor your children above God by excusing or justifying error in their lives. Do not regard God’s commands lightly. Take your parenting responsibilities seriously because what you do with your child will also have a dramatic effect on others (I Samuel 2:30-36).
Realize that a child is a gift from God and brings great responsibility. Realize the importance of implanting spiritual values in young hearts. Understand the need to instruct your children in the ways of the Lord. Eli lacked what today is sometimes termed “tough love.”
On the day the ark of God was captured, Eli and his sons died. On that day a child born into Eli’s house was named Ichabod. The meaning of the name is a commentary on Eli and his family—“The glory has departed from Israel” (I Samuel 4:21-22). Instead, we must train our children to obey us so “that it may go well with [them] and that [they] may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:3, Deuteronomy 5:16).