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and necessary theme, which grows most James Drummond Burns ; Whittier's naturally out of this story, is the re- fine poem, “ Ichabod.” sponsibility of children for their own development of godly character and for the happiness of the home, together THE PLAN OF THE LESSON. with the responsibility of parents, brothers and sisters, pastors and teach- SUBJECT : “The Wages of Sin is
Death.” ers, for the children. It is a most impressive lesson in Christian education. I. BAD SONS OF A GOOD FATHER,
1 Sam. 2 : 12-17, 22.
Grafters, and worse. THE LESSON IN ITS SETTING.
Who are responsible for the children?
Many forms of intemperance. Time. Professor Beecher's conjec
II. ELI WARNING AND WARNED, 1 Sam. tural date for the battle at Eben-ezer and the death of Eli is B.C. 1142.
2 : 22-25, 27-36 ; 3:10-18.
A weak expostulation. Place. — Eben-ezer and Aphek, prob
A warning through an older prophet. ably towns in the plain of Sharon, which A warning through a young prophet. extended from Joppa to Mt. Carmel
"The nurture and admonition of the Lord.” along the coast. Shiloh, about twenty III. PUNISHMENT AND SORRow, 1 Sam. miles to the east.
“The wages - death."
More wages -- woe.
THE TEACHER'S LIBRARY.
the Bible Day by Day. Deane's Samuel
and Saul. Books on Bible characters THE LESSON IN LITERATURE. named in recent lessons. A compre
hensive and fresh manual of temperance Poems : On Eli's Double Censure,” facts is Alcohol and the Human Race, by Francis Quarles ; “ Ichabod,” by by Richmond Pearson Hobson.
I. BAD SONS OF A GOOD FATHER, 1 Sam. 2 : 12–17, 22. This lesson is the greatest contrast to the last. In that lesson we studied the training of a good son of good parents ; in this we have the sad subject of the bad sons of a good father, and the ruin wrought by their misdeeds. The warnings of this lesson may be as effective as the inspiration of the last lesson.
12. The sons of Eli (Hophni and Phinehas) were base men, sons of Belial," that is, of worthlessness, for Belial in the Old Testament is not a proper name. They knew not Jehovah. They knew him with the head, for they were instructed by Eli and were officiating priests ; but they did not know him with the heart. They understood the law, but did not obey it. They had faith, it may be, but their faith was dead without works (Jas. 2 : 17).
13. The custom of the priests. The first sin of Hophni and Phinehas was that of greed and extortion. Lev. 3 : 3-5 ; 7:29-34 prescribe the share of the priests out of the animal offered for sacrifice. The fat of the animal was to be burned on the altar, and the breast and shoulder were to be taken by the priests. They were first to wave them before the altar in token of dedication to the Lord, and then they were to eat them themselves. But the greedy sons of Eli were not satisfied with this ; they sent their servants to demand a further portion, and insisted upon having it even before Jehovah's share had been offered in sacrifice upon the altar. Thus they added impiety to extortion. No sin ever stands alone, but brings other sins with it.
17. The sin of the young men. Hophni and Phinehas were not boys, like Samuel, but were full-grown and amply old enough to know better. Was very great before Jehovah. It is God's view of our acts that counts, and not man's. Doubtless Hophni and Phinehas were hated and scorned by men also, but it was the disapproval of Jehovah that condemned them. For the men despised the offering of Jehovah. " The men
refers to Hophni and Phinehas, who showed by their actions that they had no thought for God's honor and worship, but only for their own enrichment. When God's priests, however, thus slight God's service, it will not be long before others also come to despise it. “ Like priest, like people.”
22. Still another sin of the sons of Eli, added to the sins of greed, extortion, and impiety, was the horrible sin of lust. This sin was committed with the women who had some regular duties about the tabernacle. It was just such abominable acts as were committed in the heathen worship, but it was absolutely foreign to the pure worship of Jehovah. It was not an isolated sin, but was frequently committed, for the verse reads literally, “ Eli used to hear all that his sons were doing,” implying that the deed was often performed.
WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHILDREN ? All that have anything to do with them, or can help them not only parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, and pastors, but those that should teach in the Sunday school, or lead a Junior society, or be a big brother or sister to some neglected child.
“He who helps a child helps humanity with a distinctness, with an immediateness, which no other help given to human creatures in any other stage of their human life can possibly give again.” Phillips Brooks.
Rev. Frank Crane, D.D., says that after all the world has only one problem before it : How should we best transmit to children the fruits of our effort ? How best, in education, put them in possession of the knowledge we have gained ? in the church, how hand on to them the gains of our spiritual life ? in art and literature, how pass on to them our visions ? in business, how give them the products of our work ? And so in government, in law, and in all phases of life.
Illustration. The easy-going but anxious mother of a two-year-old boy who was all the time running away complained to an old Scotchman about him : “ Í buttoned the gate, but he soon found out how to open it. I put the button higher, but he climbed up to it. I hid the box he climbed on, and he found another. I then put the button as high as it would go on the gate, and now he gets a stick and opens it. What shall I do ?” The wise old man answered, “ Put the button on the boy."
MANY FORMS OF INTEMPERANCE. The greed which Hophni and Phinehas exhibited was a form of intemperance ; their lust was a still worse form. Drunkenness has been the great intemperance of our land ; now, we trust, we shall be free from it. Gluttony remains, however, and this is a form of intemperance whose ravages are only beginning to be understood. Extravagance, pride, devotion to selfish ambition, the craze for power, all are forms of intemperance. So are the mad pursuit of pleasure, absorption in dress, love of money, even a passion for books or for work. Intemperance in anything soon becomes idolatry ; it puts that object in place of God, and draws us from the following of the divine ideals. Some are tempted to one form of intemperance and some to another. If we are wise we shall recognize what our special temptation is, and conquer it with Christ's help.
The use of tobacco is a terribly common form of intemperance. Thomas A. Edison once wrote that the smoking of cigarettes “ has a violent action on the nerve centers, producing degeneration of the cells of the brain, which is quite rapid among boys. Unlike most narcotics this degeneration is permanent and uncontrollable. I employ no person who smokes cigarettes."
A careful and conservative estimate made by a State authority indicates that there are in the United States about a quarter of a million “ drug fiends.” In fighting this terrible evil the forces of righteousness already have all the law they need ; the drugs are proscribed, not licensed. But their influence is subtle and strong, and constant education against them is needed.
Illustrations. The saloon in the United States was put out of business largely by business men. An example of their methods is the electric sign over the entrance to the great steel plant of Gary, III. : “ Did booze ever do you any good ? Did booze ever get you a better job ? Did booze ever contribute anything to the happiness of your family ? "
A certain colonel who had been dismissed from the army for drunkenness came to Lincoln to be reinstated. Lincoln heard the man with much sympathy, for he knew that he had been a brave officer, but at the close of the interview he had to dismiss him with the sad words : “ Colonel, you carry your own condemnation in your face.”
When Grant was commanding before Vicksburg a number of officers were in his headquarters, and one of them invited the rest to join him in a social glass. Only one officer refused, saying that he never drank. A few days later Grant sent for this officer, reminded him of the incident, and said, “ You are the man I have been looking for to take charge of the commissary department,” and he detailed him to that important duty, serving thus all through the war. When Grant became President, he found other important work for the officer who never drank. It is always such men that are wanted.
II. ELI WARNING AND WARNED, 1 Sam. 2 : 22–25, 27-36 ; 3:10-18. The fact that Eli was very old” is mentioned as a sort of excuse for this weak father ; but there had been a time when he was in his prime and when his boys were very young. Did Eli do his best then?“A stitch in time saves nine" is a proverb homely but true, and nowhere more applicable than in the making of character. It is further said that Eli had to hear of his sons' misdeeds through others, evidently not keeping close watch on them himself, perhaps because of his failing senses. But if Eli had kept better watch over them before he became so blind and feeble, he could safely have left them afterward to their own devices, for they would have been good and upright.
A WEAK EXPOSTULATION. In the pleading of Eli with his evil sons there is no righteous indignation such as a stronger man would have expressed. There is not even a hint of depriving them of their position as priests, which they dishonored a course which Eli certainly should have taken. Why do you act so ? ” is all that Eli can say ; and he goes on to quote a popular proverb :
“If a man sin against a man, then Elohim shall judge him :
But if a man sin against Jehovah, who shall intercede for him ? ” But neither the sad question nor the sage proverb moved Hophni and Phinehas. “ Jehovah was minded to slay them,” the stern account reads. We are reminded of the saying that God hardened Pharaoh's heart in the days of the plagues ; but that was only after Pharaoh had hardened his own heart. God's doom was laid upon the base priests, but only in righteous confirmation of the doom which they themselves had definitely and irrevocably chosen. "When barren Hannah, prostrate on the floor,
“But when his lustful sons, that could abuse In heat of zeal and passion did implore
The House of God, and ill God's offerings use, Redress from Heaven, censorious Eli thought
Appeared before him, his indulgent tongue She had been drunk, and checked her for her fault; Compounded rather than rebuke the wrong. Rough was his censure and his check austere;
He dare not shoot for fear he wound his child; Where mildness should be used, we're oft severe. Where we should be severe, we're oft too mild.
- Francis Quarles. A WARNING THROUGH AN OLDER PROPHET. The “man of God” who came to Eli to warn him of the dangers of his course with his sons (1 Sam. 2 : 27–36) was a prophet. The term is applied to Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and others who lived close to God, did his deeds and spoke his words. This prophet reminded Eli of his descent from the first high priest, Aaron, and therefore of his supreme duty to guard the high priest's sacred duties and keep them pure. Because he had allowed his sons to desecrate the holy office, the promise that his family should hold their high office forever is withdrawn by the Almighty, and Eli is told that his house is to perish. The token of the ruin that is to come will be the death of both Hophni and Phinehas in one day. Only one man of the family was to be left, and that was Eli's great-grandson Abiathar, the high priest whom Solomon deposed and banished (1 Kings 2 : 27). But God's cause was not to fail, though Eli and his sons failed ; God would raise up in Samuel'a faithful priest, and God would build him a sure house.
A WARNING THROUGH A YOUNG PROPHET. All that the man of God” said seems not to have changed Eli's weak course with his sons, for in the next scene we find the same warning repeated. Eli had evidently allowed the evil practices of Hophni and Phinehas to continue. He may have expostulated with them again ; but if he did, it was too mildly to accomplish a reform.
Therefore God repeated through Samuel the same stern warning and doom (1 Sam. 3:10-18). He would give Eli one more chance. Perhaps the old man would be ashamed that he must be rebuked through the lips of a mere boy. Perhaps the repetition of the warning would stir him to action. But, alas ! it was again in vain. Eli expressed his resignation : “ Let the Lord do what he thinks best." Eli had no business to be resigned ; he should have stirred himself to vigorous action.
And yet we must not forget that Hophni and Phinehas were old enough to know better. They had doubtless had good instruction and guidance, though it was not firm enough. Their father's noble example was always before them. They sinned
5. And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.
against great light, and theirs, not sad old Eli's, is the heaviest blame. The best of men may be cursed with the worst of sons. And in one conspicuous instance Eli showed what he could do, for“ who was it that trained Samuel, the strong, powerful Samuel, who crushed abuses and corruptions, drove out idolaters, and won battles for Israel ?”. Professor Elmslie.
" THE NURTURE AND ADMONITION OF THE LORD " (1) begins in the hearts of parents and teachers ; (2) begins as soon as the child is able to understand anything ; (3) covers all the child's nature and interests ; (4) gathers up what others have learned as to wise methods ; (5) and above all depends on the love, patience, and wisdom which come only from the Holy Spirit, the great Teacher.
III. PUNISHMENT AND SORROW, 1 Sam. 4:1-18. Evil practices may continue for some time with no evil results that are apparent; but soon or late will come the emergency that calls for manhood, and the manhood will be lacking. Hophni and Phinehas, yes, and poor old Eli, were like a tree into which the borers and decay have been eating for years. The tree is fair and strong to the eye, but its trunk is only a hollow shell. A hard storm comes, there is a crack, a mighty crash, and the great tree lies on the ground.
1. Israel went out against the Philistines. These powerful foes of the Hebrews, unconquered until the time of David, gave its name to the Holy Land, for “ Palestine" is only a form of “ Philistine." The Philistines were Aryans, coming from Crete or southern Asia Minor. They were strongly organized under the leadership of five great lords whose seats of government were the cities of Ashdod, Ekron, Ashkelon, Gaza, and Gath. Occupying the coast from Joppa southward, they hemmed in the Hebrews from the Mediterranean Sea. It is possible that this war was caused by the tragic death of Samson. Either the Hebrews went forth to avenge their champion, or Samson's death emboldened the Philistines to attack the Hebrews. The Hebrews were stationed at Eben-ezer, the Philistines were at Aphek. The location of these towns is unknown ; probably they were in the plain of Sharon, north of Joppa and west of Samaria.
2. Israel was smitten before the Philistines ... in the field, the open plain where the invaders could use their armed chariots. There the Israelites lost four thousand men, but they were able to retire in good order to their camp and hold a council of leaders (elders), the formal executive body of the tribes.
3. Wherefore hath Jehovah smitten us to-day? The Israelites had had so many proofs that they could conquer if Jehovah was with them that they correctly ascribed any defeat to his opposition. We should do well to do the same. They were wise in looking carefully to learn the “ wherefore," but they did not look far enough. They thought that a mere exterior was lacking, a mere box of gilded wood ; they should have looked deeper and purged the people of sin. How often we ourselves make the same mistake ! Let us fetch the ark of the covenant. The ark was the sacred chest made by Moses, containing the tables of the covenant (those on which the Ten Commandments were engraved), a golden pot of manna, and Aaron's rod that budded. The ark had led the victorious procession around Jericho (Josh. 6:6), and doubtless the elders remembered that event at this time. Perhaps the Philistines had brought their idols upon the battlefield, as they did at Baal-perazim (2 Sam. 5:21), and the elders wished something to set over against them. The superstitious idea would not have occurred to them if they had been living closer to God.
Illustration. “In the same manner a brigand might expect an amulet or charm to preserve his life, while violating the laws of God and man. Our only safety lies, not in an outward act or token, but in simple, pure-hearted and unbroken fellowship with God. Then we become invincible.” – F. B. Meyer.
4. Hophni and Phinehas were there, doubtless as the bearers of the ark. Their presence alone would have prevented the Lord from honoring this use of the ark, which was the symbol of holy presence.
5. Al Israel shouted, for now they were sure of victory. “ Israel” was the people's name for themselves ; “ Hebrews,” in the next verse, was the name of foreigners for them. “ Hebrew" is derived from eber (beyond), a name given because Abraham came from beyond the Euphrates ; or from Eber (Gen. 10 : 21, 24), great-grandson of Shem.
6. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp.
7. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.
8. Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods ? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.
9. Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.
10. And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.
II. And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
12. And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.
7. The Philistines were afraid. “ Observe how vividly the successive emotions of the Philistines are painted : astonishment, when they heard the triumphant shout of the vanquished army ; dismay, when they learned its cause; manly resolution, when they had recovered from the first panic.” - Cambridge Bible.
8. These mighty gods. The Philistines were idolaters, and naturally ascribed a plurality of gods to the Hebrews. That smote the Egyptians with all manner of plagues.
“ With an utter overthrow," it may be translated, for the reference is not to the ten plagues, but to the overthrow of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, on the border of the wilderness.
9. Be strong and quit (acquit) yourselves like men. Paul uses the same stirring words in 1 Cor. 16:13. The heathen origin of this slogan need not blind us to its magnificence. Let us imitate Paul and take it up into our Christian living.
10. They fled every man to his tent. Of course the Israelites were no longer living in tents, but this expression is a relic of their wilderness wanderings. It simply means that the Israelites were driven before the victorious Philistines in utter rout; it was every man take care of himself. Thirty thousand was a terrible loss for so small a nation ; the killing of the sons of Eli would be felt, in spite of their bad character, as a national blow; but the Israelites can hardly have so far forgotten their religion that they did not feel most keenly the loss of the ark. Permission of the Sunday School Times Co. To their minds, living evidently on the surface
From Studies in Oriental Social Life.
An Eastern Runner. of things, it would signify that Jehovah had abandoned them to their fate. “Never had such a calamity befallen the people since they left Egypt. Their glory had departed ; their political independence was in jeopardy; hopeless servitude was their future destiny." —Deane.
12. There ran a man of Benjamin. In our days of newspapers, of telegraphs and “ wireless,” it is hard to imagine the world when all news must be brought by word of mouth. Compare, for example, the almost instantaneous news of the end of the