Vicarious Liability

“And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.
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.” (1 Samuel 3:11-13)
Eli was a priest in Israel. His two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also priests, but they were wicked. “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.” (1 Samuel 2:12) They would take meat that people had brought for sacrifice to God and keep it for themselves.

God had commanded that the fat of sacrifices be burned as an offering to Him: “And he shall offer thereof his offering, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them,…” “And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: …all the fat is the LORD’S.” (Leviticus 3:14-16)

People objected to what the priests did, obviously because they knew God’s command: “And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he [the priest’s servant] would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.” (Leviticus 2:16) The priests, of all people, openly defied God’s command and committed robbery!

These two priests poisoned the attitudes of the people about offering sacrifice: “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.” (1 Samuel 2:17) Not only did they steal sacrifice meat, they also seduced women who came to the temple.

Meanwhile, a godly lady named Hannah could not have children. She told God that if He gave her a boy, he would serve the Lord: “…I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life,” (1 Samuel 1:11) God answered her prayer. She named the baby Samuel. After he was weaned, she took him to Eli, and he became Eli’s protege, serving in the temple. God also blessed Hannah, giving her five more children.

One night, God called Samuel. Samuel went to Eli, thinking he had called. This happened three times. The third time, Eli realized God was calling the boy. He told Samuel that if he heard the call again, he should say, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.” (1 Samuel 3:9) God called Samuel again. Samuel replied. Our opening passage is part of what God told Samuel about how He would judge Eli.

Eli knew what his sons did and how it harmed Israel’s people, yet he didn’t stop it. That, in legal terms, is vicarious liability. God would judge him for that. If you are a parent, elected leader, supervisor, or other authority, and you allow wrong things to be done by those under you, you’re also responsible before God.

Also, Samuel was young when God appeared to him, so God did not give him details about what Eli’s sons were doing. God kept it age-appropriate and just said they were being vile. Samuel told Eli what God said. Eli knew what was meant, even if Samuel didn’t. The point is, young children don’t need their minds filled with details about sexuality. When people try to introduce info about sexuality to innocent children, especially sexuality that is contrary to God’s Word, the question must be asked, Why are they doing this?

The most important information in God’s Word is how to have your sins forgiven and eternal life by receiving Jesus, God the Son, as your personal Saviour. If you want to know more, please go to, click “Helpful Links,” then “How Do I Go to Heaven?”

Brian Miller 3/10/2023

Cleveland Baptist Church 4431 Tiedeman Road, Brooklyn, Ohio 44144 216/671-2822