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Hophni and Phinehas


HOPHNI AND PHINEHAS (Heb. חָפְנִי, Egyptian ḥfn (r), "tadpole"; Heb. פִּנְחָס, Egyptian pi-nḥsy, "the dark-skinned one"), the two sons of *Eli who served with him as priests in Shiloh (i Sam. 1:3). The fact that both had Egyptian names may be explained by the family's Pharaonic connection (i Sam. 2:27). The Bible designates them "sons of *Belial," "thoroughly worthless individuals" (Sperling), and describes in detail the ways in which they abused their priestly privileges. They intimidated sacrificers into giving them meat for their own use (i Sam. 2:13–17), and took sexual advantage of the women who worked at the entrance to the tabernacle (i Sam. 2:22). Hophni and Phinehas disregarded their father's rebuke (2:22–25), and he did not admonish them further (3:13). Accordingly, Eli received prophetic messages of doom (2:27–36; 3:11–18), foretelling, among other things, the death of Hophni and Phinehas on the same day (2:34). At the time of the battle between the Philistines and Israel at Aphek (i Sam. 4), the Ark of the Covenant of God was taken from Shiloh by Hophni and Phinehas in the belief that its presence on the battlefield would ensure victory. Instead, the results were disastrous: Israel's army was defeated, Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. When the news reached Eli (4:14ff.), he, too, died. Phinehas' pregnant wife went into labor on hearing of the calamity and died while giving birth. She called her orphaned son Ichabod ("where is the glory?"; 4:19–22).

The narrative of Hophni and Phinehas, which is also the account of the decline of the priestly house of Eli, is accompanied by the parallel narrative of the ascent of Samuel. The text emphasizes the character differences between Hophni and Phinehas and Samuel (cf. e.g., i Sam. 2:11 with 12; 2:13–17 with 18–20; 2:22–25 with 26).


S.R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel (19132), 29–50; H. Ranke, Ägyptishe Personennamen, 1 (1935), 239; T.J. Meek, in: ajsll, 56 (1939), 113–20; L. Waterman, in: ajsll, 58 (1941), 55–56; Koehler-Baumgartner, 321, 759; W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 143, esp. n. 34. add. bibliography: S.D. Sperling, in: ddd, 169–71.

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