What does 1 Samuel 3:13 mean?
ESV: And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.
NIV: For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them.
NASB: For I have told him that I am going to judge his house forever for the wrongdoing that he knew, because his sons were bringing a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.
CSB: I told him that I am going to judge his family forever because of the iniquity he knows about: his sons are cursing God, and he has not stopped them.
NLT: I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them.
KJV: For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
Verse Commentary:
The Lord is declaring a prophecy to Samuel, still a boy, in the middle of the night (1 Samuel 3:1, 3, 10–12). It must not have been an easy one to hear. The Lord states He is about to punish Eli's house, meaning him and his descendants to follow, forever. This judgment is God's response to the sin of Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas. It's also a condemnation of Eli's passive, permissive attitude towards his sons' abusive behaviors. Those sins were detailed in the previous chapter. Hophni and Phinehas abused their power as priests over Israel to serve their appetites. They demanded the best cuts of meat from the sacrifices of the people before they were offered to the Lord (1 Samuel 2:12–17), and they had sex with the women serving outside of the tent of meeting (1 Samuel 2:22).

And yet, the Lord's judgment, is phrased as falling on their father, Eli. The Lord says Eli knew his sons were blaspheming God, and failed to restrain them (1 Samuel 2:22–25). As the high priest of Israel, Eli's sons were under his authority as lower priests. His duty, once he knew about their blasphemy before God by their corruption, was to remove them from office. Eli failed to do that, so in practice he gave greater honor to his sons than He did to the Lord (1 Samuel 2:29).

Eli's sin against the Lord went beyond failing to discipline his sons. Because of their positions as leaders in the nation, his greater sin was to fail to uphold God's holiness before the people. Eli also allowed his sons to sin against the people and to disrupt their worship of God (1 Samuel 2:16–17, 22). When Jesus cleared the temple, He seems to have done so in response to similar sins (John 2:13–17; Mark 11:11, 15–17).
Verse Context:
First Samuel 3:1–14 finds both Samuel and Eli a bit older, though Samuel is still called a boy. Sometime before dawn, Samuel is sleeping in the temple and hears his name called. He runs to Eli, who tells him to go back to bed. When it happens a third time, Eli tells Samuel it is the Lord. The Lord reveals to Samuel that He is going to bring judgment on Eli and his household for Eli's failure to restrain the blasphemy of his sons against the Lord.
Chapter Summary:
Samuel is just a boy when the Lord calls Him to serve as a prophet in Israel. Sleeping in the temple, Samuel hears his name and thinks Eli the priest is calling him. Eli finally tells Samuel it is the Lord. The Lord tells Samuel that He is going to fulfill His judgment against Eli and his household for the sins of Eli's sons and for Eli's failure to restrain them. Samuel delivers the entire message to Eli and begins his lifelong career as an official prophet of the Lord.
Chapter Context:
First Samuel 3 follows the prophecy of judgment against Eli and his household at the end of the previous chapter (1 Samuel 2:27–36) with a repeat of the prophecy through the words of young Samuel. Eli helps the boy to understand the Lord is speaking to him, and Samuel delivers the Lord's harsh message. Eli accepts Samuel's word, passively accepting whatever God will do. The next chapters explain Eli's death and Israel's renewed conflict with the Philistines.
Book Summary:
First Samuel introduces the key figures who led Israel after the era of the judges. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally part of a single text, split in certain translations shortly before the birth of Christ. Some of the Bible’s most famous characters are depicted in this book. These including the prophet Samuel, Israel’s first king, Saul, her greatest king, David, and other famous names such as Goliath and Jonathan. By the end of this book, Saul has fallen; the book of 2 Samuel begins with David’s ascension to the throne.
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