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We must now concentrate on the two terms “Eli’s house”, and “Eli’s father’s house” and determine the scope of the operation of divine wrath in the offspring of Ithamar in punishment of its sins. The distinction “Eli’s house”, and “Eli’s father’s house” is contained in the doleful message of the unnamed prophet to Eli, “Behold the days come that He—the Lord—will cut off thine arm and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house,” I Sam. 2:31. Aaron had four sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Nadab and Abihu were killed by the Lord for their having offered strange fire on God’s altar. They had no offspring, I Chron. 24:2. There were thus two priestly houses in Israel, and only two, Eleazar’s and that of Ithamar. After the death of Aaron, the high priestly office was filled by Eleazar, but was later transferred, for a reason not revealed, from his house to that of Ithamar. We are now ready to deal with the term, “Eli’s father’s house”. This house, as the context of the above-cited scripture and other related scripture passages indicate, was a race of high priests descended in a line from Ithamar to the last male offspring of Eli. From Eli’s son on—Eli was a descendant of Ithamar—this race would be Eli’s house. And as Eli’s father’s house and the house of Eli were segments of the same genealogical line, the arm of Eli’s father’s house was cut off through the cutting off of the arm of the house of Eli. So, doubtless are we to understand the divine communication of the “man of God” to Eli, “I had said indeed that thy house and the house of thy father should walk before me ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; . . . .Behold the days shall come that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house. . . .” As was said, the arm of a house or family is its power, strength. God would cut off the arm of Eli’s house, its strength, by removing through death all its members in the flower of their manhood. Thus spake the unnamed prophet to Eli, “There shall not be an old man in thy house.”

However, there is ground in the Scriptures for the view that “Eli’s father’s house” included not merely the genealogical line of high priests that proceeded from Ithamar but Ithamar’s whole offspring as well—his offspring contemporary with Eli and in active service in Shiloh under Eli’s jurisdiction, and later on his offspring contemporary with Eli’s grandson, the high priest Ahimelech and in active service in Nob under Ahimelech’s jurisdiction. If this view is correct, and doubtless it is, as we presently shall see, the curse of God was operative not only in Eli’s descendants but also in Eli’s brethren, descendants of Ithamar, contemporary with Eli and serving God’s altars in Shiloh under his oversight. As was said, there is ground for this view in the scriptures. I Chron. 24:4 states that “there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar. . . . Among the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar according to the house of their fathers.” According to this passage there were eight more chief men among the descendants of Eleazar’ then living, than among the offspring of Ithamar. This doubtless indicates that the total number of Ithamar’s living offspring was remarkably small in comparison at the time. If this interpretation of these figures is correct, and doubtless it is, we have here in this text a good ground for the view that the curse of God, spoken over Eli’s house, was operative in the whole offspring of Ithamar contemporaneous with Eli, and in all the descendants of this offspring and thus not merely in the seed of Eli. Looking into the Scriptures, we plainly see that curse operative through the years in that wider circle also. The first to fall was Eli. Next his two sons were overthrown on the same day that Eli died. Then the Philistine s came to Shiloh—the Philistines, flushed with their victories over Israel’s armies and over Israel’s God, so they thought. And they killed many priests there in Shiloh, all descendants of Ithamar, as we shall prove, serving under Eli. We learn of this massacre of priests from Ps. 78. Stating that the Lord forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, on account of Israel’s sins, the psalmist goes on to relate the other calamities that befell the nation at that time, also that “their priests fell by the sword.” The reference here is not merely to the fall of the two sons of Eli, but to the slaughter of a large number of priests, as is indicated by the character of the statement, which is general and impersonal.

The next slaughter among these priests—offspring of Ithamar—was by Saul in his frenzy. We read of this in I Sam. 22. The tabernacle at the time was at Nob. Thither the wrath of the Philistines had driven the high priest and his brethren in service—the house of Ithamar. And they had taken the tabernacle with them. Fleeing from the wrath of Saul, David came to this city, inhabited solely by the house of Ithamar, as appears from the sequence, and was given some bread by the high priest Ahimelech. Hearing of it, Saul was furious. He summoned the high priest and his colleagues into his presence to answer to the charge of conspiring against the king. Eighty five of their number obeyed the summons and all were slain. Then Saul or perhaps Doeg went to Nob, the city of priests, and smote there everything that breathed—“men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen and asses and sheep.” All the slain priests were descended from Ithamar. This is indicated by the statement that “Then the king sent to call Ahimelech the Priest—high priest —the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests that were in Nob.” As was stated, Ahimelech was the grandson of Eli and thus the offspring of Ithamar, and likewise all the priests of Nob, being as they were the house of Ahimelech’s father. All these priests were slain to a man with the exception of Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech. He escaped the slaughter and sought safety with David. , These divine visitations over the house of Eli’s father leave but little room for doubting the correctness of the view that the curse of God operated also in that wider circle of Ithamar’s seed. It would have to be considered rather remarkable, if it had been otherwise. For this would needs have to imply that of all Eli’s colleagues in active service in Shiloh, and there must have been several of them, common priests, only the two sons of Eli were profane men. Now this is not likely. But it may be considered certain that all the rest of those priests, members of the house of Eli’s father, exposed themselves to the wrath of God, if not by doing the very things that the two sons of Eli did, then by assuming toward their atrocities Eli’s lax and indifferent attitude. These sons were not being condemned by the public opinion of Shiloh, the city of priests. They were not being restrained by Eli nor by his colleagues. Not one priest in that city of priests frowned upon their doing. They were permitted to do with Israel’s sacrifices as they pleased so far as that body of priests in Shiloh was concerned. Therefore did the curse of God, pronounced upon Eli and his house, work also in the house of his father. Also the increase of this house was dying in the flower of their age.

As was said, this state of things must have been a cause of grief to the faithful in Israel. They knew and saw before their eyes that the high priests—sons of Eli—were laboring under the curse of God, as also the house of Eli’s father. They perceived that the Lord had rejected this priesthood, as He refused to return to the holiest place of the tabernacle in which this priesthood was serving. There was no organized priesthood after the fall of Eli, certainly not after the slaying of the high priest Ahimelech, the grandson of Eli, and of the other priests of Nob. But the Lord had given His people a promise whereby to live. He had said to His people by the mouth of the “man of God”: And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and he shall walk before my anointed forever,” I Sam. 2:85. This prophecy implied that the house of Eli and the house of Eli’s father would be ejected from the office of priest. It implied, did this prophecy, the virtual ejection of Eli’s house and of the house of his father from the office of priest in the very moment that this prophecy was uttered; and this prophecy was known to all Israel. Yet at I Chron. 18:16 Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar, the great grandson of Eli is mentioned as sharing with Zadok the position of high priest at the close of David’s reign. Thus at this time the house of Eli had not yet been thrust out from being priest. This can be explained. Though the Lord had let it be known by the mouth of the unnamed prophet that according to His counsel, the house of Eli was to be deposed, He had not commanded its deposition. Nor do we read anywhere of the giving of such a command. Yet was this house thrust out from the office of priest. It eventually fell through its own wickedness in the person of Abiathar and his son Ahimelech. When David was old and stricken in years, Abiathar supported Adonijah, who wanted to be king. Solomon was crowned, and now Adonijah again began to plot, his aim once more being to seize the kingdom for himself; and Abiathar again was among his followers. Summoning him into his presence, the king told him that he had made himself worthy of death and ordered him to his own fields, I Kings 2:26. And the comment of the sacred writer reads, “So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the Lord; that he might fulfill the word of the Lord, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh,” verse 27.

The “faithful priest” now appeared. This priest was Zadok, the offspring of Eleazar, who now was installed as sole high priest. The fall of Abiathar may have involved the fall of the whole house of Eli’s father. As was stated in a former article, the Zadokite family continued in an unbroken line to Christ. It means that the Lord built this priest a house indeed. But the final fulfillment of the promise of a “faithful priest” was Christ. He did according to that which was in God’s heart and mind perfectly. Him God build a sure house—the church—which He purchased by His own blood.