A Meaningful Reminder from Two of the Bible’s Worst Dads


Happy Father’s Day! Today, children around the world celebrated their “old man.” This is surprising when you think about it. Society doesn’t exactly portray Dad as a person worth celebrating!

Several stereotypes cast dads in a negative light. There’s the absent father, the selfish father, the workaholic father, etc. Even when we’re doing right by our families, we’re regarded as the inferior parent. Or we’re seen as dorks who make bad jokes and constantly embarrass our kids. Dads just can’t win!

There’s probably more truth to these stereotypes than we’d like to admit. And to a certain degree, we’re all tempted by the tendency to overlook our wives and children. This isn’t limited to unbelieving men, either. Even Christian dads fall within these categories.

The Bible shows that being a godly man is no guarantee of being a good father. It’s possible to follow God’s calling to the point that we neglect other areas of our lives, including our family. This was the case with Eli and Samuel.

Good Men Bad Dads

Eli and Samuel were priests at the tabernacle during the time of the judges (1400 – 1050 BC). Samuel was given into Eli’s care as a young child. He grew up ministering before God. Eli taught him to offer sacrifices and to listen and respond to God’s voice.

Ironically, Eli failed to teach these same lessons to his own sons! The Bible says they were “scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12). They treated God’s sacrifices with contempt and were sexually immoral. Eli raised Samuel to be the finest priest and judge Israel had ever seen! Yet he failed in his duties as a father.

The same is true for Samuel. He spoke the very words of God to Israel and led them to victory over the Philistines. He even installed their first two kings! When he grew old, he appointed his sons to be Israel’s leaders.

But Israel rejected them because “they did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3). It seems he too failed to be a good dad.

Cutting Dad Some Slack

It doesn’t seem possible for godly men to be bad dads. After all, the Law says to “impress God’s commandments on your children” (Deuteronomy 6:4). But maybe we should give Eli and Samuel a break. It would be unfair to hold them accountable for decisions made by their adult children.

Maybe we need to cut dads some slack in our own day too. There is no excuse for an absent or negligent father. But 3 out of 4 kids are growing up with a dad in the home, and most of us are doing the best we can.

Our expensive and complicated economy makes providing for our families difficult. We’re also working against the stereotypes society throws at us. On top of that, some dads are struggling not to follow the poor example set by their own fathers. Being a good and godly dad isn’t easy!

But Not Too Much

But we shouldn’t give dads too much of a break. And we shouldn’t cut ourselves too much slack in our own fathering. Most of the ills facing our society can be traced back to fatherlessness. It’s quite possible Eli’s and Samuel’s sons turned out the way they did because their dads didn’t give them enough attention.

Jesus expects us to raise our children to know Him. The Bible says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Obviously, we cannot do this unless we are present and engaged with our families.

Being a good, godly dad isn’t easy. But it’s the most important thing you can do. Are you spending enough time with your kids? Are you giving them as much as you can? Can you spend less time on other things to give them more?

Paul asks, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5). His question applies just as much to us who aren’t pastors. Does anything I do really matter if I’m not even a good dad to my own kids?

Feel free to share this post with your men’s minister or other dads!

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