(ascension), a descendant of Aaron through Ithamar, the youngest of his two surviving sons (Leviticus 10:1-2, 12, comp. 1 Kings 2:27 with 2 Samuel 8:17 and 1 Chronicles 24:3). He was the first of the line of Ithamar who held the office of high priest. The office remained in his family till Abiathar was thrust out by Solomon (1 Kings 1:7; 2:26-27) when it passed back again to the family of Eleazar in the person of Zadok (1 Kings 2:35). Its return to the elder branch was one part of the punishment which had been denounced against Eli during his lifetime, for his culpable negligence (1 Samuel 2:22-25), when his sons profaned the priesthood (comp. 1 Samuel 2:27-36 with 1 Kings 2:27). Notwithstanding this one great blemish, the character of Eli is marked by eminent piety, as shown by his meek submission to the divine judgment (1 Samuel 3:18) and his supreme regard for the ark of God (1 Samuel 4:18). In addition to the office of high priest he held that of judge. He died at the advanced age of 98 years (1 Samuel 4:18), overcome by the disastrous intelligence that the ark of God had been taken in battle by the Philistines, who had also slain his sons Hophni and Phinehas.
Smith's Bible Names Dictionary (1866).