Christianity -- Christian Living/What can this refer to?


Dear Barbara,

I do hope everything is going well with you.

This is from a discussion between two Christians, one of whom was exhorting the other on the subject of no compromise whatsoever with sexual sin – unfortunately I can't find Biblical backing for the specific instances yet, while obviously agreeing in principle:

“Don't be like Elijah who he himself was judged because he didn't stand up to his family. What about Samuel, you never hear his sons mentioned.”

Please, what specific incidents in the Bible do they refer to?

Every blessing,


Thank you, Simon.  I’m quite well.  Sorry it took me a bit longer to respond than usual.  My daughter was married this past weekend.  A blessed day to be sure…a lovely wedding…and a great couple. :)

Now, to answer your question,
In terms of sexual sin and Elijah, I have no idea what these Christians are talking about.  

It’s definitely not in the canonical Bible which presents the prophet Elijah as a Tishbite from Tishbe in Gilead (1 Kings 17) but there is really nothing known about whether he had a wife or children or a family aside from obviously his own biological mother and father.  Elijah is constantly portrayed as a phenomenally righteous and obedient man. But one with a difficult calling, and a prophet whose spiritual exhaustion caused his humanity to become evident in fear at the cave, and in his desire to have God end his life under the broom tree (1 Kings 19).  

He is not to be confused with another Elijah-- the son of the priest Harim-- mentioned in Ezra 10:21.  That Elijah had married foreign wives and fell under the punishment of having to send away his foreign wives and their children in accordance with the Law.

Samuel, the priest, on the other hand had sons who did not follow in his ways.  Samuel’s sons are described as doing evil.  In 1 Samuel 8, it is on account of Samuel’s sons being placed as judges (and being wicked ones at that whom Samuel would not remove from their offices) that the people demanded a king.   Samuel’s sons were known to be wicked because they perverted justice and accepted bribes and engaged in dishonest gain--all expressly forbidden in the Law.

All I can think of is that perhaps these Christians to whom you refer are confusing Elijah with Eli…who was the priest under whom Samuel was ministering after Hannah dedicated him to the Lord’s service.  Eli had wicked sons (Hophni and Phinehas) who ate fat portions of the meat, even though it was being offered to God and therefore dishonored God by taking the sacrifice for themselves that was being offered to God.  To make really awful sins even worse, they slept with women in the entrance to the tent of the meeting and were treating the office of priest with contempt and engaging in something that looked suspiciously like fertility rites.  God showed them what he thought of that.  They were both killed in the same day as a sign that God will not be mocked.

Eli got what he deserved.  
Elijah was righteous enough that God took him to heaven in a whirlwind.  
Samuel...?  Well, he didn't remove his sons from office, but basically God rendered them redundant and gave the people a king instead.

What can Elijah and Samuel be criticized regarding?  The only thing that I can think of that Elijah can be criticized for is running for cover out of fear of Jezebel’s threats against his life.  But that’s remarkably unsympathetic to the long spiritual battle and the heavy-hitters God called him to prophesy against.

Samuel’s sons didn’t follow Samuel’s example…which really only goes to prove that obedience and righteousness are not genetically passed along.  Each person cannot blame anyone else for his or her own rebellion.  Just because the father is righteous doesn’t mean the children will be automatically.  And just because the father is wicked doesn’t mean the sons or daughters will be as we see from Jonathan son of Saul and the daughters of Zelophehad whose father died in the wilderness, but they went into the Promised Land and received an inheritance.

So what's the bottom line?  God will not be mocked.  Sin has consequences.  Sons and daughters are responsible for their own actions at adulthood. We need to take God's holiness seriously even over our own families' interests.  We need to fear God more than man.  We need to show grace to those with a tough calling.  We must not make assumptions just because people have the same name.  We should resist judging others, but do our part to snatch those in peril from the fire.  And ultimately we must trust that God will do what is right.

Hopefully this hasn't been confusing.  I'm not sure on what these Christians are basing their arguments, but at least I've described the people involved and maybe it will be clear enough now.

Hope you and yours are well.
Blessings, B<><

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Barbara Shafer


Barbara Shafer (Seminary Gal now also at ) I am an Evangelical Christian who is willing to answer faith questions in a thoughtful, researched manner. In particular, my heart`s desire is to assist those who need answers regarding suffering and those seeking to reconcile the Christian faith with the field of science.


I have a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I particularly enjoy apologetics (defense and explanation of the Christian faith) and systematic theology (understanding how the Bible itself supports various aspects of Christian doctrine). Both of these play a vital role in the "nuts and bolts" of evangelism... but the heart of Christian evangelism is love and compassion. A turning point for me was when I experienced the loss of my daughter Julia. Since then, my heart has been to help people who struggle to understand the Christian faith (and those who may be questioning the goodness of God) in light of the problem of evil and suffering. I've been informally answering Bible questions via other Internet avenues for over 10 years- to skeptics and believers alike. Thank you for blessing me with these opportunities.

Master of Divinity, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

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