Now Eli's sons were despicable men who didn't know the LORD.
This was how the priest was supposed to act with the people: Whenever anyone made a sacrifice, while the meat was boiling, the priest's assistant would come with a three-pronged fork in hand.
He would thrust it into the cauldron or the pot. Whatever the fork brought up, the priest would take for himself. This is how it was done for all the Israelites who came to Shiloh.
But with Eli's sons, even before the fat was burned, the priest's assistant would come and say to the person offering the sacrifice, "Give the priest some meat to roast. He won't accept boiled meat from you."
If anyone said, "Let the fat be burned off first, as usual, then take whatever you like for yourself," the assistant would reply, "No, hand it over now. If not, I'll take it by force."
The sin of these priestly assistants was very serious in the LORD's sight because they were disrespecting the Lord's own offering.
Now Samuel was serving the LORD. He was a young boy, clothed in a linen priestly vest.
His mother would make a small robe for him and take it to him every year when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.
Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife: "May the LORD replace the child of this woman that you gave back to the LORD." Then they would return home.
The LORD paid attention to Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the LORD's service.
Eli was very old, but he heard everything his sons were doing to the Israelites, and how they had sex with the women who served at the meeting tent's entrance.
Eli said to his sons, "Why are you doing these terrible things that I'm hearing about from everybody?
No, my sons. Don't do this. The report I hear spreading among God's people isn't good.
If someone sins against someone else, God can intercede; but if someone sins against the LORD, who will intercede then?" But they wouldn't obey their father because the LORD wanted to kill them.
Meanwhile, the boy Samuel kept growing up and was more and more liked by both the LORD and the people.
Now a man of God came to Eli and said, "This is what the LORD says: I revealed myself very clearly to your father's household when they were slaves in Egypt to the house of Pharaoh.
I chose your father from all of Israel's tribes to be my priest, to go up onto my altar, to burn incense, and to wear the priestly vest in my presence. I also gave all of the Israelites' food offerings to your father's household.
Why then do you kick my sacrifices and my offerings—the very ones I commanded for my dwelling place? Why do you respect your sons more than me, getting fat off the best parts of every offering from my people Israel?
Because of all that, this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: I had promised that your household and your father's household would serve me forever. But now—this is what the LORD declares: I'll do no such thing! No. I honor those who honor me, and whoever despises me will be cursed.
The days are coming soon when I will eliminate both your children and the children of your father's household. There won't be an old person left in your family tree.
You'll see trouble in my dwelling place, though all will go well for Israel. But there will never be an old person in your family tree.
Any one of your descendants whom I don't eliminate from serving at my altar will cry their eyes out and be full of grief. Any new children in your household will die by the sword.
And what happens to your two sons Hophni and Phinehas will be a sign for you: they will both die on the same day.
Then I will establish for myself a trustworthy priest who will act in accordance with my thoughts and desires. I will build a trustworthy household for him, and he will serve before my anointed one forever.
Anyone left from your household will come and beg him for a bit of silver or a loaf of bread, saying: ‘Please appoint me to some priestly duty so I can have a scrap of bread to eat.'"