Eli: The Leader Who Was Asleep

Eli was a priest and one of the judges of the nation of Israel, as a matter of fact he was the last but one judge that Israel had. After his death, Samuel became judge and was the last judge as the nation moved from being led by judges to being led by kings.
Eli was without any doubt a very weak leader, the Bible described him as an old man who was overweight and the three times he is mentioned, he is in a position of ease, either lying down, a position which connotes inactivity or sitting down, a position which connotes rest. Three scenes that depict this are as follows; Scene one, Hannah was in the temple praying, the Bible records, concerning Eli, “Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord.” Scene two, the night the Lord called the young Samuel, the Bible records, “And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place.” Scene three, a man of Benjamin returned with evil tidings that the ark of God had been captured, the Bible records, “Now when he came, there was Eli, sitting on a seat by the wayside watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God.” So in all three scenes, we see this man, who was the spiritual leader of the nation, either in a state of rest or in a state of inactivity. It is interesting to note that Eli as spiritual leader of the nation could sit down and lie down when the nation he led was in chaos as was his household. We know this for a fact because the Bible records concerning the nation of Israel, “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.” Then concerning the household of Eli, the Bible has this to say, “Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord.”
While Eli was not a bad man, he was not a firm man either and this is clearly seen in his failure to call his sons to order even after he heard of their evil doings while they occupied the office of the priest. Eli failed miserably in leading his family and so he failed miserably in leading the nation and ultimately lost the priesthood. According to the Bible, Eli’s sons were not only corrupt; they did not know the Lord. The fact that they did not know the Lord suggests that while Eli in his office as priest and religious leader taught the nation about God he failed to carry out the same duty in his home with his children. The little boy Samuel, who became priest after Eli, was raised by Eli and Samuel grew before the Lord and knew the Lord. Samuel was raised by Eli, what he knew of the Lord, Eli taught him. But, while Eli raised Samuel to know the Lord, he did not do the same with his sons. He was a leader who tried to lead outside his home without first leading inside his home and failed woefully both ways.
Eli’s weakness is clearly seen in the way and manner in which he handled his sons’ actions. While he pointed out to them that he had heard of their misbehaviours, there was no sign of remorse on their part for the Bible says, “Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father.” This is a sign they had no regard for his authority as leader of their family and nation. Also there is no record of Eli taking any drastic action to stop their actions, a sure sign of weakness on his part.
Twice, after that Eli was warned about God’s displeasure with his son’s actions but he did not speak to his sons again neither did he take any action to punish them for their deeds. Also he failed to show any remorse for his failure to lead his family. In the first instance, an unnamed priest warned Eli that he honoured his sons more than he honoured the Lord and made himself fat with the best of the sacrifices of God’s people. At that point Eli should have risen to his responsibilities and addressed the wayward actions of his sons but he did not. Then God gave him a second warning through the little boy Samuel and all Eli could say was, “it is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” No remorse, no action taken to correct his sons or the wrong they had done, or intercede in prayers, he did absolutely nothing. His response reveals the weak, laid back, at-ease disposition of a man who at the time was supposed to be the spiritual leader of the nation.
Little wonder that in his days the ark of God went into battle and was captured by the enemies. Little wonder that both his sons died in the field of battle. Little wonder that the glory of God departed from the nation, not to return for many years, and thousands of men lost their lives needlessly in the battle against the Philistines. All this happened because the nation was led by a leader who was “fast asleep” and oblivious of the happenings around him.
Eturuvie Erebor
Taking-the-Lead Seminars.

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