Useful Bible Studies > 1 Samuel Commentary > chapter 2

The work of the priests

1 Samuel 2:28

God reminded Eli, the chief priest, about the importance of the work that Israelís priests carried out.

In Israel, a priest was not just someone whom the people had appointed to look after their relationship with God. God himself had chosen Aaronís family to act on his behalf as priests. So, they were responsible to God for the work that they did as priests. In 1 Samuel 2:28, God mentions some of their most important tasks.

(1) Godís law only permitted Israelís priests to work at his altar. The altar was the place where the priests burned sacrifices as a gift to God. The sacrifices were the animals that Israelís people gave to God. The wrong things (called sin) that people do, separate them from God. They could not even offer their own sacrifices; the priests had to do it on their behalf. So, by their work at the altar, the priests were dealing with sin. They were making it possible for Israelís people to have a relationship with God.

(2) Only the priests had the right to enter the sacred tent (called the tabernacle), which was the house of God. There they burned incense (a substance with a sweet smell). That incense was an expression to God of the prayers and love of his people (Psalm 141:2). It was the proper way to praise God in that holy place.

(3) The ephod was a long shirt. The priests (and also the boy Samuel - 1 Samuel 2:18) wore a plain white shirt (Exodus 39:27). However, the chief priest alone wore the splendid and beautiful ephod that Exodus 39:2-21 describes. The sacred objects called the URIM and THUMMIM were in the ephod (Exodus 28:30). By means of those objects, God guided the chief priest when Israelís people inquired of God.

So, the priestsí work was to deal with sin and to praise God. Also, by means of the chief priest, God guided his people. These were extremely important tasks. Together, these tasks were essential for the relationship between God and his people.

God did not ask his priests to do this work without proper payment. God himself paid them from the gifts that people gave for his altar. God gave them their proper part of each of the sacrifices (see, for example, Leviticus 7:28-36). So, their food was sacred food.

It was those rules that Eliís sons, the leaders of Israelís priests, were refusing to obey. Their wicked behaviour insulted God. That was why God had decided to act against his own priests, the family of Eli.

Next part: Priests who were greedy (1 Samuel 2:29)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.