How do you respond to 1 Samuel 2:25?

Eli’s sons “would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to kill them.”

Compatibilists sometimes cite this text as an example of how God determines events for which humans are morally responsible. Eli’s sons were evil in not listening to their father, yet it was the Lord who prevented them from doing this. If read in context, however, the passage does not support the compatibilist interpretation.

Eli’s three sons had willfully persisted in abusing their priestly office for a long time. The Lord detested their vile activity (1 Sam. 2:17). Eli warned his sons about the severity of their wickedness, but it was too late. God had already decided to bring judgment on them. God’s sovereign act of preventing the sons from heeding Eli’s warning was an act of judgment and was consistent with the wicked character the three sons had freely developed for years.

Now, if the passage said that the sons were wicked in the first place because God wanted to judge them, it might support compatibilism. Or if the passage said that the sons were godly people until the Lord changed their heart and prevented them from heeding their father’s words, it might support compatibilism. But the passage does not teach this. It only teaches that God determined to judge the sons because they were persistently wicked while making it very clear that this wickedness was not God’s will.

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