God accused his priests in a very severe manner: ĎYou are taking the best parts of the meat that my people in Israel are giving to me. And you are using that meat to make yourselves fat.í
You can read what the priests were doing in 1 Samuel 2:12-17. They were taking pieces of meat that Godís law did not allow them to take. They were doing it because they were greedy and wicked. Their behaviour offended God. It also upset Godís people in Israel.
Godís words here may refer to the same word-picture that appears in James 5:5. Before a farmer kills an animal, he gives it plenty of food in order to make it fat. James compared those animals to some rich people who were behaving in a wicked and cruel manner. Those rich people had plenty of everything now, but God would soon punish them. That was Godís message to the priests in Eliís family too. Soon, God would punish them; he would stop their evil deeds.
However, Godís words about Eliís family were not just a word-picture. 1 Samuel 4:18 says that Eli was a heavy man. 1 Samuel 2:12-16 shows that Eliís sons were taking even more meat than him. It seems that they cared about nothing, except their own desires. They neither cared about God nor about his people.
All this was happening during a period of history when Israelís people were poor. Judges 6:1-5 describes how Israelís enemies used to steal and to destroy everything in Israel. Often, as in Ruth 1:1, the people had to leave their country because of a lack of food.
In the ancient world, only the richest people could eat plentifully. Most people were poor; they were hungry, and thin. So their priests, Eliís family, were imitating the bad habits of the richest people.
The person who gave an animal to God had the right to eat most of its meat, with his family. Only the shoulder and breast of the animal belonged to the priest. So by their actions in 1 Samuel 2:12-16, the priests were stealing meat from the person who brought the animal.
However, the priests were offending against God, and not just against the person who brought the animal. Eli, and not only his sons, was responsible. Eli was giving honour to his sons that only God deserved. These arrangements about the meat were not just customs. God had made these rules in order to show fellowship (friendship) between himself, his priests and his people. When the priests did not obey, they were acting against God.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.