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1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 8
Samuel makes his sons judges over Israel; their names, and ill government, 1 Samuel 8:1-3.
The people ask a king: Samuel is grieved; prays, 1 Samuel 8:4-6.
God is displeased with the people; but commands Samuel to hearken to them, and to represent to them the tyrannical government of kings, 1 Samuel 8:7-9; which he doth, 1 Samuel 8:10-18.
The people continue in their request: God commands Samuel to yield to them, 1 Samuel 8:19-22.
when Samuel was old, and so unable for his former travels and labours, he made his sons judges; not supreme judges, for such there was to be but one, and that of God’s choosing, and Samuel still kept that office in his own hands, 1 Samuel 7:15; but his vicegerents or deputies, who might go about and determine matters, but with reservation of a right of appeals to himself. He advanceth his sons to this place, not so much out of paternal indulgence, the sad effects whereof he had seen in Eli; but because he had doubtless instructed them in a singular manner, and fitted them for the highest employments; and he hoped that the example he had set them, and the inspection and authority he still had over them, would have obliged them to diligence and faithfulness in the execution of their trust.
In the southern border of the land of Canaan, where he placed his sons, because these parts were very remote from his house at Ramah; where, and in the neighbouring places, Samuel himself still executed the office of the judge; sending his sons to reside and judge in distant places, for the ease and convenience of the people.
Opportunity and temptation drew forth and discovered the corruption in them, which till now was hid from their father, and, it may be, from themselves.
The elders; either for age, or dignity and power.
They feared that Samuel would not live long; and that either he through infirmity and indulgence might leave the government in his sons’ hands, or that they would invade and keep it after their father’s death; and therefore they jointly make their complaints against them, and procure their removal from their places. Thus they are brought low, and crushed by those very wicked ways by which they desired to advance and establish themselves. So true is it, that honesty is the best policy, and unrighteousness the greatest folly.
Make us a king to judge us: their conclusion outruns their premises, and their desires exceed their reasons or arguments, which extended no further than to the removal of Samuel’s sons from their places, and the procuring some other just and prudent assistance to Samuel’s age. Nor was the grant of their desire a remedy for their disease, but rather an aggravation of it; for the sons of their king might and were likely to be as corrupt as Samuel’s sons; and if they were, would not be so easily removed as these were.
Like all the nations, i.e. as most of the nations about us have. But there was not the like reason, because God had separated them from all other nations, and cautioned them against the imitation of their examples, and had taken them into his own immediate care and government; which privilege other nations had not.
The thing displeased Samuel; not their complaint of his sons, but their desire of a king, as is apparent from the following words, and from the whole course of the story; which was so grievous to him, partly because of their injustice and ingratitude to himself, whose government, though it had been so sweet and beneficial to them, they plainly show themselves weary of; and principally because God was hereby dishonoured and provoked, by that distrust of God, and that vain-glory and ambition, and that itch after changes, which were the manifest causes of this desire; and because of that great servitude and misery which he wisely foresaw the people would hereby bring upon themselves, as he particularly informs them, 1 Samuel 8:11, &c.
Samuel prayed unto the Lord, for the pardon of their sin, and desire of direction and help from God in this great affair.
Hearken unto the voice of the people; God grants their desire in anger, and for their punishment, as is affirmed, Hosea 13:11. Compare Numbers 22:13,Numbers 22:20; Deuteronomy 1:22; Psalms 77:20.
They have not rejected thee, i.e. not thee only, nor principally; compare Genesis 32:28; Exodus 16:7; Hosea 6:6; Matthew 10:20; but this injury and contumely reflects chiefly upon me and my government,
that I should not reign over them, to wit, by my immediate and peculiar government, which was the great honour, safety, and happiness of his people, if they had had wit to know it, or hearts to prize it. And all the infelicities of Israel, under this kind of government, did not proceed from the nature of the government, but from the ungovernableness and wickedness of the people, which, they might be sure, would produce the same or greater calamities under their kingly government.
Quest. First, Did not God reign over them when they had kings?
Answ. Yes, in a general way, but not in such a peculiar manner as he did by the judges, who were generally raised and called by God’s particular appointment, endowed and sanctified by his Spirit, directed and assisted by his special providence upon all emergencies; whereas all things were for the most part contrary in their kings.
Quest. Secondly, Was it simply unlawful for the people to desire a king?
Answ. No, as appears from Deuteronomy 17:14; but herein was their sin, that they desired it upon sinful grounds, of which see on 1 Samuel 8:7, and in an impetuous manner, and at an unseasonable time, and without asking leave or advice from God; which in so weighty and difficult a case they could not neglect without great sin.
Thou farest no worse than myself. This he speaks for Samuel’s comfort and vindication.
Protest solemnly unto them; that, if it be possible, thou mayst yet prevent their sin and misery.
The manner of the king, i.e. of the kings which they desire, like the kings of other nations. He speaks not of the just authority, or the right of their kings, but of their practice, as is evident from divers of the following particulars, which are expressly forbidden and condemned in Scripture, as we shall see.
He will take your sons, to wit, injuriously and by violence, as this Hebrew word is oft used, as Genesis 20:3; Genesis 27:36; Job 5:5; and so it must be here; because otherwise the king would have no more privilege than any of his subjects; for any man might take a son with his own or parents’ consent.
And to be his horsemen, or, and for his horses; for so the Hebrew word parash sometimes signifies, as Isaiah 21:7,Isaiah 21:9; Isaiah 28:28; to ride his horses.
He will appoint him, Heb. to or for himself emphatically, i.e. for his own fancy, or glory, or conveniency, or evil design, and not only when the necessities of the kingdom or commonwealth require it, as the judges did. And though this might seem to be no encumbrance, as it is here represented, but an honour and advantage to the persons so advanced, yet even in them that honour was accompanied with great dangers, and pernicious snares of many kinds, which those faint shadows of glory could not recompense; and as to the public, their pomp and power proved very burdensome and oppressive to the people, whose lands and fruits were taken from them, and bestowed upon these, for the support of their state, as it follows below, 1 Samuel 8:14,1 Samuel 8:15.
And to reap his harvest, at his own pleasure, and without their consent, when possibly their own fields required all their time and pains.
To make his instruments of war, and
instruments of his chariots; he will press them for all sorts of his work, and that upon his own terms.
Which would be more grievous to their parents, and more dangerous to themselves, because of the tenderness of that sex, and liableness to many injuries.
He will take your fields, to wit, by fraud or force, as Ahab did from Naboth.
And give them to his servants: He will not only take the fruits of your lands for his own use, but will take away your possessions to give to his servants.
He will take the tenth: besides the several tenths which God hath reserved for his service and servants, he will, when he pleaseth, impose another tenth upon you.
To his officers, Heb. to his eunuchs; which may be properly understood, and may imply a further injury, that he should, against the command of God, make some of his people eunuchs, and take those into his court and favour which God would have cast out of the congregation.
By constraint, and without sufficient recompense
i.e. He shall use you like slaves, and deprive you of that liberty which you now enjoy.
Ye shall cry out in that day; ye shall bitterly mourn for the sad effects of this inordinate desire of a king.
The Lord will not hear you in that day, because you will not hear him, nor obey his counsel, in this day. Compare Proverbs 1:24, &c. Zechariah 7:13.
They said, Nay, i.e. these things shall never be, these are but vain suppositions to affright us from our purpose. Thus they are not ashamed to give Samuel the lie, of whose modesty, integrity, and prophetical spirit they had so great assurance, as if he had reigned those pretences merely to keep the power in his own and his sons’ hands.
We will have a king over us; we will have a king, whatsoever it cost us, although all thy predictions should be verified.
That we also may be like all the nations: woeful stupidity! whereas it was their glory and happiness that they were unlike all other nations, Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 33:28, as in other glorious privileges, so especially in this, that the Lord was their only and immediate King and Lawgiver.
He repeated them privately between God and himself; partly for his own vindication and comfort; and partly as a foundation for his prayers to God, for direction and assistance in this difficult case.
Betake yourselves to your several occasions, till you hear more from me in this matter; for God hath heard your words, and will give way to your irregular and obstinate desire; and accordingly I shall wait upon God for the determination of the person, which he hath wholly reserved to himself, as for judges, so for the king also, Deuteronomy 17:15, and for the regulation of all the circumstances.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany