In the Book of First Samuel, we read of the brutal slaughter of the people and animals of Nob by order of King Saul:

1 Samuel 22:18-19: "Then [Saul] said to Doeg [the Edomite], 'You turn around and attack the priests.' And Doeg the Edomite turned around and attacked the priests, and he killed that day eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 19And he struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; also oxen, donkeys, and sheep he struck with the edge of the sword" (emphasis added).

Much earlier in the same Book (1 Samuel) we read of a curse on Eli the priest:

1 Samuel 2:27, 31-34: "Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him... 31'Behold, the days are coming when I will break your strength and the strength of your father’s house so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32You will see the distress of My dwelling, in spite of all the good that I do for Israel; and an old man will not be in your house forever. 33Yet I will not cut off every man of yours from My altar so that your eyes will fail from weeping and your soul grieve, and all the increase of your house will die in the prime of life. 34This will be the sign to you which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them will die.

Was Saul's slaughter of this city a fulfillment of the curse on the house of Eli earlier in the text?

3 Answers 3


The prophecy of the future of Eli's house is contained in 1 Sam 2:31-35 -

31 Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that no older man will be left in your house. 32 You will see distress in My dwelling place. Despite all that is good in Israel, no one in your house will ever again reach old age. 33 And every one of you that I do not cut off from My altar, your eyes will fail and your heart will grieve.f All your descendants will die by the sword of men.h

34 And this sign shall come to you concerning your two sons Hophni and Phinehas: They will both die on the same day.

35 Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest. He will do whatever is in My heart and mind. And I will build for him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed one for all time.

Note that this prophecy has several components:

  1. There will be no old men - partly fulfilled at the slaughter of the city of Nob as recorded in 1 Sam 22.
  2. Hophni and Phinehas will die on the same day - fulfilled in 1 Sam 4 when the two sons were killed in battle
  3. God would replace the priesthood of Eli with "another" faithful priest.

The final prediction is probably twofold - that of the Judgeship if Eli and that of the High Priesthood of Eli.

  • Eli's leadership position as "judge" of Israel for 40 years ended with the bad news of his son's death (2 Sam 4:18).
  • The high priesthood of Eli's house ended when the last high priest from the family of Eli, Abiathar, was "fired" from his position as high priest by Solomon (1 Kings 1:7, 2:26, 27 for his part in the attempted (& failed) insurrection of Adonijah (1 Kings 1). Abiathar was replaced as high priest by Zadok (1 Kings 1:32, 34, 38, 2:35, 4:4, etc.)

Note the comments of Gill about 1 Kings 4:4 -

The high priests, to wit, successively, first Abiathar, and then Zadok.

Quest. Why is Abiathar named when he was deposed?

Answ. First, Because it is ordinary for persons to retain the names and titles of those places which in reality they have lost. Secondly, Because though he was deposed from the high priesthood, yet he was a priest, and the chief of one of the priestly families: and as Zadok was jointly named with Abiathar, when Abiathar alone was the high priest, as 2 Samuel 8:17 20:25; so now Zadok and Abiathar are joined, although the high priesthood was rested in Zadok alone. Thirdly, Possibly Abiathar, though he was deposed from the supreme priesthood, yet upon his serious repentance, and by the intercession of his friends, was restored to the execution of the priestly office, and put into that place which Zadok enjoyed when Abiathar was high priest. Fourthly, Some say that here is mention made of all Solomon’s chief officers, both such as now were, and such as had been, and such as were afterwards, as they gather from 1 Kings 4:11,15, where two persons are named who married two of Solomon’s daughters, which could not be till many years after this time.

  • Thanks for a very thorough response. +1.
    – Xeno
    Sep 10, 2021 at 22:49

1 Samuel 2:27-36 is obviously a declaration of judgement on the House of Eli. But ultimately, I think that it talks about replacement of the Levitical priesthood. It uses the same language as the messianic 2 Samuel 7:12-13.

1 Samuel 2:

35 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 I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever. 36 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests' offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.

2 Samuel 7:

12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: 15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. 16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.

Both 1 Samuel 2:35 and 2 Samuel 7:12-16 talk about the same person that Zechariah 4:12-14 and Zechariah 6:11-13, the priestly king Messiah.

Zechariah 4:

12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? 13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.

Zechariah 6:

11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; 12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: 13 Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.

  • Perhaps a thought on Zech. 4:14: "Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." Think, then, of the Transfiguration: Who stood in that moment? What this not Moses and Elijah ("the two anointed ones") of the O/T while Christ stood between them as the "lampstand"? IMO, the two olive trees represent Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, along with the perfect: Christ and the N/T that would eventually emerge. Just some observations. +1.
    – Xeno
    Sep 11, 2021 at 18:58
  • @ Xeno Thanks for your excellent suggestion. Sep 13, 2021 at 20:59

This is the prophecy, 1 Samuel 2:

30“Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31The time is coming when I will cut short your strength

This was fulfilled but not by Doeg's slaughter at the city of Nob.

and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age,

This was fulfilled quite a bit by the Nob slaughter.

32and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age.

Not fulfilled by the Nob slaughter. Abiathar escaped and fled to join David (1 Samuel 22:20).

33Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.

Not fulfilled by the Nob slaughter.

34“ ‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day.

Not fulfilled by the Nob slaughter.

35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.

Not fulfilled by the Nob slaughter.

36 Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.” ’ ”

Not fulfilled by the Nob slaughter.

Overall, there was little that was fulfilled by the Nob slaughter.

  • Yours is an interesting take on the matter. I found this from Coffman: "In this bloody and unscrupulous murder of so many, one must recall the judgment that the 'man of God' pronounced against the house of Eli (1 Samuel 2:27-36). Of course, in this destruction, Abiathar escaped; but in time, the judgment of God overcame him also." I asked this question because someone brought it up in a recent Bible study. Thanks!
    – Xeno
    Sep 11, 2021 at 20:19

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