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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 8

 

 

Verse 1

1. Made his sons judges — Not with authority equal to his own, but assistant judges, who might attend to judicial matters in remote places, to which Samuel’s age prevented his going. “As we do not find that either God or the people censured him for making his sons judges in Israel, we may infer that he had properly educated them, and that they appeared well qualified for the office, and were appointed to it for the good, and by the approbation of, the people.” — Scott. At the same time there is not sufficient reason to believe that Samuel designed to make the judgeship hereditary, and expected his sons to succeed him in the government of Israel. See on 1 Samuel 12:2.


Verse 2

2. In Beer-sheba — Their chief seat was there, as Samuel’s was at Ramah. Probably the recovery under Samuel of many cities from the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:14) made it expedient to have some kind of magistrates appointed in the southern part of the country.


Verse 3

3. Turned aside after lucre… took bribes… perverted judgment — Three evils which cannot be too strongly reprobated in a judge. The Hebrew word בצע, here translated lucre, means properly ill-gotten gain — that which is obtained by violence or fraud. The judge who covetously puts his hand on ill-gotten gain will be easily overcome with bribery, and he who takes bribes will necessarily pervert judgment and truth.


Verse 5

5. Make us a king — What higher tribute of esteem and confidence could a people show their governor than to submit entirely to his hands the reorganization of their government, and the selection and appointment of a king? They probably wished to follow the law of Moses, (Deuteronomy 17:15,) “Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose,” and they knew no other way of ascertaining the Lord’s choice than by this holy prophet. But this action seems to have been attended with a clamorous and mandatory spirit which was displeasing in the sight of God and of Samuel.

Like all the nations — Perhaps their heathen neighbours had taunted them as being a nation without a king, and therefore they aspired to rival these nations in the appearance of worldly power and grandeur. “The Eastern mind is so essentially and pervadingly regal that to be without a sovereign is scarcely an intelligible state of things to an Oriental, and the Israelites must have had occasion to feel that the absence of a king gave them an appearance of inferiority in the eyes of their neighbours, incapable of understanding or appreciating the special and glorious privileges of their position. Even good men, able to appreciate the advantages of existing institutions, would eventually become weary of a peculiarity which the nations would obtusely persist in regarding as discreditable.” — Kitto.


Verse 6

6. The thing displeased Samuel — The elders presented the matter very skilfully to Samuel, implying (1 Samuel 8:5) that they would be quite content if they could always have him for their ruler, or be sure that he would have a worthy successor; yet Samuel felt personally affronted, and could not but see that there was among the people a growing disaffection with the manner of their government.


Verse 7

7. They have not rejected thee, but… me — These words imply that in his intercourse with Jehovah, Samuel had complained that the people had rejected him, and were dissatisfied with his administration; but it was rather against the Theocracy itself that their disaffection lay. They failed to understand or acknowledge that their misfortunes came not from lack of power and care on the part of Jehovah, but because of their own sins. Had they humbly and devoutly inquired the will of God in the matter, and asked for a governor after his own heart, and not after the model of the heathen powers, a most propitious change might have been effected in their form of government. To punish them for their ingratitude and disaffection he gave them a king in his anger, and took him away in his wrath. Hosea 13:11.


Verse 8

8. According to all the works — All their rebellions and murmurings since the time of the exodus had been provocations to their Divine King, and now they add to all these offences by demanding the government of a human king. This being the case, Jehovah cannot now grant the desired change, except after solemn protest.


Verse 9

9. Protest solemnly — Their ill-judged notions of a monarchy needed rebuke, and a monarchical form of government has its peculiar dangers. Israel must not take the responsibility of adopting that form of government without solemn warning as to the possible, and even probable, consequences.

The manner of the king — The powers and privileges which a king will think it his right to exercise. See next verse.

That shall reign over them — If we render this, as is equally proper, that may reign over them, the sense will be more plain. The Lord would fully warn his people of the possible dangers of a human monarchy, but he does not say that the king must necessarily, or would certainly, exercise despotic power and purposely afflict the people. It is clear from this passage that Jehovah did not favour Israel’s adoption of a monarchical form of government. But his wisdom and power did not interfere with their free action. The nation had long suffered from the neglect to fix upon a central place of worship, and the lack of a strong national government, whose proper authority should be heeded in every part of the land.


Verse 11

11. This will be the manner of the king משׁפשׂ, judgment, right, claim. The judgment or manner of the king is what he would claim as his prerogative and right. 1 Samuel 8:11-17 contain a statement of what an eastern king, like those of the nations around Israel, would claim. The items of his claim (which extends both to the persons and properly of his subjects) may be classified thus: 1. Over their persons; to seize them arbitrarily for his court-servants and attendants, (1 Samuel 8:11,) and appoint them to his military, agricultural mechanical, or domestic service, (1 Samuel 8:12-13.) 2. Over their property, whether it consist in lands, harvests, slaves, or beasts. 1 Samuel 8:14-17. Here are presented the main features of an absolute monarchy; but observe, they are set forth as the possible manner or judgment of the king himself, not as divine or God-given rights which every king must claim. In Deuteronomy 17:16-20, we learn that the king of Jehovah’s choice must in divers ways be limited in his power.


Verse 18

18. Ye shall cry out in that day — By this dark picture of regal prerogative Samuel hopes that the people will withdraw their request for a king like those of the nations.


Verse 19

19. The people refused to obey — They had counted the cost, and were willing to submit to regal exactions for the sake of having a government like the nations around them. “On this Samuel sorrowfully dismissed them to their homes, that he might have time to take the necessary measures for effecting this great change.” — Kitto.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-8.html. 1874-1909.

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