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Hophni and Phinehas

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Hophni (Hebrew: חָפְנִי, Modern Hofni Tiberian Ḥop̄nî) and Phinehas (Hebrew: פִּינְחָס, Modern Pinehas Tiberian Pînəħās) were the two sons of Eli. The Books of Samuel describe them as the officiating priests at the sanctuary of Shiloh at the time of Hannah.

In the Biblical narrative, Hophni and Phinehas are criticised for engaging in illicit behaviour, such as appropriating the best portion of sacrifices for themselves, and having sexual relations with the sanctuary's serving women. Their misdeeds provoked the indignation of the people and lead to a divine curse being put on them, and they subsequently both died on the same day, during a battle against the Philistines at Eben-ezer. On hearing of his death, Phinehas' wife gave birth to a son that she named Ichabod, and then she herself died. According to Flavius Josephus (Antiquities 3.354), Phineas officated as high priest, because Eli had resigned as high priest because of his advanced age.

In the Talmud, some commentators argue that Phinehas was innocent of the crimes ascribed to him, and that Hophni alone committed them, though Jonathan ben Uzziel declares that neither was wicked, and that this part of the Biblical narrative, in which the crimes are imputed to them, should be regarded as having a figurative meaning.

According to another part of the Books of Samuel, Ichabod had a brother, Ahitub. That he is referred to as Ichabod's brother, rather than as another son of Phinehas, is considered by biblical scholars to suggest that Ichabod, barely mentioned in the Bible, was actually an important figure.[1].

Some textual critics[who?] believe that the patronym sons of Eli is a cipher for sons of El and merely e son of Eli is simply a generic term for a senior priest.[dubious ]


  1. Jewish Encyclopedia, Ichabod

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain. This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

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