ascent, the high priest when the ark was at Shiloh (1 Sam. 1:3,
9). He was the first of the line of Ithamar, Aaron's fourth son
(1 Chr. 24:3; compare 2 Sam. 8:17), who held that office. The
office remained in his family till the time of Abiathar (1 Kings
2:26, 27), whom Solomon deposed, and appointed Zadok, of the
family of Eleazar, in his stead (35). He acted also as a civil
judge in Israel after the death of Samson (1 Sam. 4:18), and
judged Israel for forty years.
His sons Hophni and Phinehas grossly misconducted themselves,
to the great disgust of the people (1 Sam. 2:27-36). They were
licentious reprobates. He failed to reprove them so sternly as
he ought to have done, and so brought upon his house the
judgment of God (2:22-33; 3:18). The Israelites proclaimed war
against the Philistines, whose army was encamped at Aphek. The
battle, fought a short way beyond Mizpeh, ended in the total
defeat of Israel. Four thousand of them fell in "battle array".
They now sought safety in having the "ark of the covenant of the
Lord" among them. They fetched it from Shiloh, and Hophni and
Phinehas accompanied it. This was the first time since the
settlement of Israel in Canaan that the ark had been removed
from the sanctuary. The Philistines put themselves again in
array against Israel, and in the battle which ensued "Israel was
smitten, and there was a very great slaughter." The tidings of
this great disaster were speedily conveyed to Shiloh, about 20
miles distant, by a messenger, a Benjamite from the army. There
Eli sat outside the gate of the sanctuary by the wayside,
anxiously waiting for tidings from the battle-field. The full
extent of the national calamity was speedily made known to him:
"Israel is fled before the Philistines, there has also been a
great slaughter among the people, thy two sons Hophni and
Phinehas are dead, and the ark of God is taken" (1 Sam.
4:12-18). When the old man, whose eyes were "stiffened" (i.e.,
fixed, as of a blind eye unaffected by the light) with age,
heard this sad story of woe, he fell backward from off his seat
and died, being ninety and eight years old. (See ITHAMAR
Eli, Heb. eli, "my God", (Matt. 27:46), an exclamation used by
Christ on the cross. Mark (15:34), as usual, gives the original
Aramaic form of the word, Eloi.
Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. M.A., D.D., "Biblical Meaning for 'eli' Eastons Bible Dictionary". bible-history.com - Eastons; 1897.