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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

1 Samuel 8

 

 

Verse 1

And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

When Samuel was old. He was now about 54 years of age, having discharged the office of sole judge for 12 years. Unable, from growing infirmities to prosecute his circuit journeys through the country, he at length confined his magisterial duties to Ramah and its neighbourhood (1 Samuel 7:15-17), delegating to his sons as his deputies the administration of justice in the southern districts of Palestine, their provincial court being held at Beer-sheba. He appointed them to this high and responsible office, not like Eli, from the fondness of doating partiality, but, from the careful training they had received under his direction, as well as from the paternal authority and the good example he had set them, he hoped and believed that they would prove faithful and impartial in the execution of their trust. The arrangement was a good one; and, considering the distance of Beer-sheba from Ramah, where Samuel still exercised the office of judge, it might have been expected to conduce to the convenience and comfort of the people.


Verse 2

Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 3

And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. His sons walked not in his ways. The question may arise in the mind of a reader, Why Samuel was not punished, as Eli, for the misconduct of his sons. But the answer is obvious. Not only was the offence of Samuel's sons of a far less heinous criminality than the unblushing and daring profanity of Eli's, but Samuel might not know, owing to the distance of Beer-sheba, anything of the delinquency of his sons, whereas Eli not only knew, but tolerated the iniquitous courses of his. The young men, however, did not inherit the high qualities of their father; and, they having, at their distant post of duty, where were temptation and opportunity for concealment, unawed by the presence of their father, corrupted the fountains of justice for their own private aggrandizement, a deputation of the leading men in the country lodged a complaint against them in headquarters, accompanied with a formal demand for a change in the government.


Verse 4

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together. This was evidently the general council or assembly of the nation, which is, 1 Sam. ,10,19,21 , called "the people," as represented by the elders as their heads (cf. 1 Samuel 10:17; 1 Samuel 10:19; 1 Samuel 11:14; 1 Samuel 12:1). The limited and occasional authority of the judges, the disunion and jealousy of the tribes under the administration of those rulers, had been creating a desire for a united and permanent form of government; while the advanced age of Samuel, together with the risk of his death happening in the then unsettled state of the people, was the occasion of calling forth an expression of this desire now.


Verse 5

And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 6

But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

The thing displeased Samuel. Personal and family feelings might affect his views of this public movement. But his dissatisfaction arose principally from the proposed change being revolutionary in its character. Though it would not entirely subvert their theocratic government, the appointment of a visible monarch would necessarily tend to throw out of view their unseen King and Head.


Verse 7

And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. They could not by their requisition have rejected the Lord if he had not stood in the relation of a supreme political head to Israel; because they made no proposal of renouncing subjection to Him in any other respect. They did not desire a change in their worship, nor ask a new code of civil laws. Their demand was limited to an alteration in the executive form of government (see Jamieson's 'Sacred History,' 1:, p. 312). God intimated, through Samuel, that their request would, in anger, be granted, while at the same time he apprised them of some of the evils that would result from their choice.


Verses 8-10

According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 11

And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

This will be the manner of the king. The following is a very just and graphic picture of the despotic governments which anciently and still are found in the East, and into conformity with which the Hebrew monarchy, notwithstanding the restrictions prescribed by the law, gradually slid.

He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself. Oriental sovereigns claim a right to the services of any of their subjects at pleasure. Some shall run before his chariots. The royal carriages were generally, throughout the East (see 2 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 1:5), as in Persia they still are, preceded and accompanied by a number of attendants who run on foot.


Verse 12

And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

He will appoint him captains. In the East a person must accept any office to which he may be nominated by the king, however irksome it may be to his taste or ruinous to his interests.


Verse 13

And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

He will take your daughters to be confectionaries. Cookery, baking, and the kindred works, are, in Eastern countries, female employment, and numbers of young women are occupied with these offices in the palaces even of petty princes.


Verse 14

And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

He will take your fields ... The circumstances mentioned here might be illustrated by exact analogies in the conduct of many Oriental monarchs in the present day.


Verses 15-17

And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 18

And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

Ye shall cry out in that day because of your king. Samuel showed them, by these samples of oppression and heavy exaction, the political servitude to which they would be reduced under a regal government; and he concluded his expostulation and protest by warning them to desist ere it was too late, otherwise they would assuredly have cause to repent of their rashness.


Verse 19

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

Nevertheless the people refused. They sneered at Samuel's description as a bugbear to frighten them.

Nay; but we will have a king over us;


Verse 20

That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

That we also may be like all the nations. The first part of this energetic answer implies that they were perfectly aware of the peculiarity of their civil government, by which their governors were only God's vicegerents-officers chosen and appointed by an unseen Power-and they desiderated a visible head. The second part of it, in which they specified the appointment of a king, expressed a strong preference for a permanent rather than an occasional or temporary magistrate, to consult their interests by his domestic administration, and, with regard to their foreign relations, to keep a standing army, ready at all times, under his command, to repel the encroachments or insults of neighbouring states. Perhaps, too, the corruptions that had prevailed to so great an extent under the judges had originated a secret but strong desire to be freed from the government of the priesthood, and they probably expected that, if released from the authority of sacerdotal judges, they would find a regal government less austere and rigid than the old regime.

Determined at all hazards to gain their object, they insisted on being made like all the other nations, though it was their glory and happiness to be unlike other nations in having the Lord for their King, and Lawgiver (Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 33:28). 'This fickle and criminal disposition God exposes and reprobates. Yet the Divinity would not exercise such a resistless control as totally to disregard the choice of His people, and chain down their free-will, this would have been inconsistent with His character as a moral Governor. He, indeed, commands the prophet solemnly to protest, declaring to them His condemnation of their criminal desires, and warning them of the various inconveniences which should attend the kingly government. But on their persisting in their demand, the prophet is commanded to gratify their humour' (Graves, 2:, p. 155). Their demand was conceded; because the government of a king had been foreseen as well as provided for in the law, and they were dismissed to wait the appointment, which God had reserved to Himself (Deuteronomy 17:14-20 : cf. Michaelis, 'Laws of Moses,' 1., pp. 188-196; 3:, p. 141; 4:, p. 1). They did wait; and such was their reverence for God, and their confidence in His prophet, that, instead of proceeding further to claim the right of popular election, their departed in full and patient reliance on God's time and way of granting their request.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-samuel-8.html. 1871-8.

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