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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 8

 

 

Verse 1

1 Samuel 8:1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

Ver. 1. And it came to pass, when Samuel was old.] Sixty at least, say interpreters; and so less able to do all himself. Omnia fert aetas, animum quoque … fert, i.e., aufert. Age disableth for duty many times.

That he made his sons judges over Israel.] Substitutes to himself, not without God’s permission and consent likely, being so holy a man. It may well be thought that he had given them good breeding, and had great hopes of their good behaviour in executing their office. It is probable also that at first they carried the matter well, till puffed up with their new dignity, and corrupted by gifts. Nero’s first five years were such that Trajan was wont to say, that none ever attained to the perfection of them. Be it that Samuel was some way faulty in setting up his sons, as there is no pomegranate but hath one or more rotten kernels in it, yet it is no way likely that he was guilty of that indulgence for which his own month had denounced God’s judgments against Eli: yet he succeeded him in his cross as well as his place, though not in his sin.


Verse 2

1 Samuel 8:2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: [they were] judges in Beersheba.

Ver. 2. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel.] Which some (a) will have to be Joel the prophet, the son of Pethuel, that is, of Samuel, say they, [Joel 1:1] as this Joel is called Vashni. [1 Chronicles 6:28; 1 Chronicles 6:33] He might afterwards repent of his government without righteousness, which is but robbery by authority, and be a prophet as was his father. Howsoever, he had a good son - viz., Heman the music master and a prophet. [1 Kings 4:31 1 Chronicles 6:33; 1 Chronicles 25:1 Psalms 88:1]

They were judges in Beersheba,] i.e., From Dan to Beersheba, saith Junius: the one in Dan, the other in Beersheba, saith Josephus. Pellican thinketh they dwelt both at Beersheba, purposely to vex the people with long journeys for judgment: or at least out of a neglect toward them. Others hold that their father set them there to exercise that authority by him delegated unto them in the southern parts of the land, because they were so far remote from Ramah, and that he knew not of their bribery, &c.


Verse 3

1 Samuel 8:3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

Ver. 3. And his sons walked not in his ways.] Heroum filii noxae. Grace is by gift, not inheritance. {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 3:12"} This was no fault of Samuel’s, as hath been said. Plato worthily blameth Darius for so ill breeding his son Xerxes, whereas he had seen the evil consequence in Cyrus’s breeding Cambyses, whom Darius succeeded in the empire.

But turned aside after lucre.] Whereas a public person, as he should have nothing to lose, so nothing to get: he should be above all price or sale. Nec prece, nec precio, should be his motto.

And perverted judgment.] Which to prevent, the Areopagites judged always in the dark, that they might neither respect persons nor take gifts.


Verse 5

1 Samuel 8:5 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.

Ver. 5. Behold, thou art old.] But what of that? was he therefore to be cast off as a Depontanus, a dotard? Or were they weary of receiving so many benefits by one man? But this is Merces mundi. Samuel was not so old but he could do his office, and did for many years after: but they had the itch of innovation, and would needs be of the mode of other nations. And besides all this, there was another pad lay in the straw, and that was the fear of Nahash, king of Ammon, who was now making great preparations against them. See 1 Samuel 12:12. And hence this headlong and preposterous desire of theirs to change their aristocracy, or rather theocracy, as Josephus calleth it, into a monarchy: a king they would have upon any terms.

And thy sons walk not in thy ways.] But might they not have amended by wholesome admonition? or better judges have been set in their room? Must they needs be exauthorated, and the government altered?

Now make us a king to judge us.] Ut iudicet seu vindicet nos. But were they sure that their king would prove any better than Samuel’s sons had been? And was it so long since they had suffered deeply in Abimelech their king, set up by some of them to their cost? But these men are set upon it, being pricked forward by that unruly evil, ambition, that rideth without reins; they are stiffly resolved contra gentes, to have an absolute, constant, powerful, and pompous king as other nations had, though their condition were far unlike. Planeque non sine exemplo amentiae, praeoptabant libertatem servitio mutare, saith Sulpitius, (a) i.e., so madly bent were they to change their liberty for slavery.


Verse 6

1 Samuel 8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

Ver. 6. But the thing displeased Samuel.] Chiefly because he knew it was displeasing to God, [1 Samuel 8:7] and then as an indignity done to himself, by shaking off his government even while he lived. But this is the manner of the many headed multitude, Cui praesentia fastidio, insueta desiderio sunt, (a) to loath things present, and to affect novelties; αει γαρ το παρον βαρυ, saith Thucydides, the present government is ever grievous; neither is the beauty of benefits seen but on the backside, that is, till men are bereft of them.

And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.] (b) He was not so far displeased at the ungrateful people, but that he could, at the same time, pity them and pray for them. So did Moses before him, [Exodus 32:19; Exodus 32:31] and our Saviour after him. [Mark 3:5] Samuel prayed for the pardon of that sin of theirs, which they afterwards came to a sight of, and confessed against themselves. [1 Samuel 12:19] He also prayed, doubtless, for direction in that weighty work whereupon the people had put him.


Verse 7

1 Samuel 8:7 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.

Ver. 7. Hearken unto the voice of the people.] Verba sunt irati, these words were uttered in anger, as appeareth by Hosea 13:11, q.d., Let them have a king, since they will needs have it so, but they shall soon have enough of him. Deus saepe dat iratus, quod negat propitius. It is not safe to prescribe to God, nor to be too importunate for any temporal blessing. Those in the gospel that indented for a penny a day had it, but had no good content with it.

For they have not rejected thee.] That is, Thee only, but me also. And if Phocion could say to one that was to die with him, Mayest thou not be glad to fare as Phocion fareth? (a) how much more might Samuel take his rejection well, since God also was rejected. Christ was in like sort afterwards cast off by those that cried, We have no king but Caesar!


Verse 8

1 Samuel 8:8 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.

Ver. 8. According to all the works which they have done.] Populus hic antiquum obtinet, these are no changelings, but as naught as need to be, and as they ever have been η παλαι γυνη, as it was said of Helena after her return from Troy, the same woman still; and as the Lord somewhere complaineth of this perverse people, "This hath been thy manner from thy youth."

And served other gods.] Who never did anything for them, nor could do: therefore Samuel had the less reason to repine. See John 13:16, Matthew 10:24-25. King Alphonsus professed that he wondered not so much at his courtiers’ ingratitude toward him, as at God’s patience toward them and himself.


Verse 9

1 Samuel 8:9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

Ver. 9. Now therefore hearken.] See 1 Samuel 8:7.

Protest solemnly unto them.] That they may fall with open eyes, and be left as inexcusable as they are wilful.

And show them the manner of the king.] Rationem istam, παμβισιλειαν, (a) how he will domineer with Sic volo, sic iubeo: setting up his will for a law, as an absolute monarch. [Luke 22:25]


Verse 10

1 Samuel 8:10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.

Ver. 10. And Samuel told, &c.] But he lost his sweet words; for the people were set and would not be reclaimed.


Verse 11

1 Samuel 8:11 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.

Ver. 11. This will be the manner.] Loquitur hic non tam de iure quam de more. The prophet here speaketh not so much of the office of a king what he ought to be, as of the manner of his rule, and what he is like to be: and it proved accordingly, as they soon found, [1 Kings 12:4] and more cause they had afterwards: many of their kings being of Nero’s mind, who ruled by lust, rather than law: and like Constantius, who, commanding certain orthodox bishops to communicate with the Arians, yielded no other but this, Quod ego volo, pro Canone sit; Do as I bid, or get you into banishment. Claudian gave his Honorius better counsel -

Tu civem patremque geras, tu consule cunctis,

Non tibi; nec tua te moveant, sed publica damna. ”

He will take your sons.] Perforce, and without any considerable recompense: as the Turk doth at this day.


Verse 12

1 Samuel 8:12 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.

Ver. 12. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, &c.] Who shall use the common soldiers as the Turkish commanders do their asapi, only to blunt the swords of the enemy, and to fill up ditches with their dead bodies, &c. (a)


Verse 13

1 Samuel 8:13 And he will take your daughters [to be] confectionaries, and [to be] cooks, and [to be] bakers.

Ver. 13. And he will take your daughters.] Whereat you may fret, but cannot help it.

Vanae sine viribus irae.

All your comfort will be, Etsi actio est iniusta, tamen passio est iusta, No remedy but patience.


Verse 14

1 Samuel 8:14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, [even] the best [of them], and give [them] to his servants.

Ver. 14. And he will take your fields, &c.] As if you were not masters of so much as a molehill, but all were his. But what saith God? "The prince shall not take of the people’s inheritance by oppression, to thrust them out of possession." [Ezekiel 46:18] And what saith Seneca? Non civium servitutem Regi traditam sed tutelam, (a) And what said the clergy of England to Rustand, the Pope’s legate, when he said that all the churches were the Pope’s? They answered, that they might be so tuitione, non fruitione … defensione, non dissipatione. (b)


Verse 15

1 Samuel 8:15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

Ver. 15. And he will take the tenth of your seed.] Violently, and not by order of law; pilling and polling you unreasonably, though he receive of his subjects no less sums of curses than of coin, as our King John did, gathering money, the sinews of war, but losing love, the cement of peace. (a)


Verse 16

1 Samuel 8:16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put [them] to his work.

Ver. 16. And he will take your men-servants.] Nero’s word to his officers was, Hoc agamus nequis quicquam habebat. (a) Make the slaves know that they can call nothing at all their own.


Verse 17

1 Samuel 8:17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

Ver. 17. And ye shall be his servants.] His slaves to do his drudgery, more like peasants of France than yeomen of Kent, as he said.


Verse 18

1 Samuel 8:18 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.

Ver. 18. And ye shall cry out.] As the Romans once did of Marius and Sulla, that the remedy was worse than the disease.

And the Lord will not hear you,] viz., To change your monarchy again into an aristocracy, your kings into judges.


Verse 19

1 Samuel 8:19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

Ver. 19. Nay; but we will have a king.] Why then you shall, saith God, for a mischief to you. [Hosea 13:11] You shall have your will, and then I will have mine another while. See the like, Ezekiel 24:13.


Verse 20

1 Samuel 8:20 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.

Ver. 20. That we also may.] So ambitious they were of losing their liberty, being heroines ad servitutem parati, as Tiberius said of the Romans.


Verse 21

1 Samuel 8:21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.

Ver. 21. In the ears of the Lord.] Whereof he had the royalty, as a favourite.


Verse 22

1 Samuel 8:22 And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

Ver. 22. Go ye, &c., ] q.d., Your request is granted, and shall shortly be accomplished. Meanwhile wait God’s pleasure.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-8.html. 1865-1868.

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