1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 8
Israel Demands a King.
SAMUEL DISPLEASED AT THE INSISTENT DESIRE. — V. 1. And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel, the increasing infirmities of old age prompting him to take this step, whereby his sons became his assistants. V. 2. Now, the name of his first-born was Joel (Jehovah is God), and the name of his second, Abiah (Jehovah is Father); they were judges in Beersheba, in the extreme southern part of Canaan, important in those days as a station on the trade-route between Asia and Egypt. The very names which Samuel gave his sons are an evidence of his piety even in the days of Israel's misery and disgrace. V. 3. And his sons walked not in his ways, they did not follow the pious example of their father, but turned aside after lucre, they were covetous, avaricious, they desired money, and took bribes, and perverted judgment, thereby transgressing the Law of the Lord, Ex. 23, 6. 8; Deut. 16, 19, and bringing the judicial office into disrepute in the eyes of the people, thus causing the latter to desire a higher authority to guide the affairs of the nation. V. 4. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and came to Samuel unto Ramah, as a delegation representing the whole people, v. 5. and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways, his advancing age was robbing him of the vigor and energy needed in the government of the nation, and the misgovernment of his sons resulted in a general degeneration of all authority; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. All the heathen nations round about had kings to rule over them, and this the petition of the elders, which undoubtedly had in mind Deut. 17, 14, emphasized, especially since Moses virtually had such a contingency in view. V. 6. But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, Give us a king to judge us. It was not the reference to the mismanagement of his sons nor to his own advancing age which hurt Samuel, but the fact that their faith was not grounded soundly enough upon Jehovah, who till now had directly managed the affairs of the nation. They wanted an external, visible kingdom as a means of safety and protection against their enemies, whereas the invisible, royal rule of Jehovah had till now been fully sufficient to protect them. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord, taking this difficult matter to Jehovah for solution. Instead of simply insisting upon his own wish, this humble, consecrated hero, in this important crisis in the history of his people, proved that his trust in God could not be shaken, that the Lord could be relied upon to give the right decision. V. 7. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee, the demand of the people agreed with the counsel of God, He was ready to have a temporal kingdom established in Israel; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me that I should not reign over them. While He was ready to grant their request, He nevertheless expressed His dissatisfaction with that attitude of mind and heart on their part which showed that they did not appreciate the divine-rule, but put themselves in opposition to the royal majesty of God. V. 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. So it was the disposition of their hearts and minds which displeased the Lord, the state of mind which had ever caused them to rebel against Jehovah's rule, to forsake Jehovah for the purpose of serving other gods. In the person of Samuel they rejected the Lord and His kingdom, because they foolishly believed that their interests were not sufficiently safeguarded under the present arrangement. V. 9. Now, therefore, hearken unto their voice, he was to accede to their demands; howbeit, yet protest solemnly unto them and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. Samuel was to explain to the people in detail just what they were loading upon their own shoulders by asking for a king, what the rights of the king were, and what powers he might arrogate to himself; and he was to attest and set before them their sin against Jehovah that they might purify their hearts of their proud and distrustful temper. In the midst of the Christian Church also men are found time and again who object to the easy yoke of Christ and to the beneficent instruction of the divine Word, demanding, instead, that the honor and pride of this world be introduced into the Church. Such tendencies are a source of grief to the Lord and to all sincere Christians.
THE DISADVANTAGES SET FORTH TO THE PEOPLE. — V. 10. And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king, thereby exhorting them to repentance. V. 11. And he said, This will be the manner of the king, the way in which he would probably comport himself, that shall reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for himself, press them into his own service, for his chariots, namely, as drivers, and to be his horsemen, to make up the cavalry in his army or in his body-guard; and some shall run before his chariots, as runners, or heralds. It is a description of the usual Oriental royal cavalcade on state occasions. V. 12. And he will appoint him, simply press into service, captains over thousands and captains over fifties, men for every position in his army, from the highest to the lowest; and will set them to ear his ground, to till the soil of the royal dominion, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war and instruments of his chariots, the tools, vessels, and vehicles which he used in peace times. V. 13. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, to prepare fine oils and ointments for perfumery, and to be cooks, and to be bakers, for the household of an Oriental prince was organized on a gigantic scale, with a great deal of luxury and pomp. V. 14. And he will take your fields and your vineyards and your olive yards, even the best of them, the choicest land for agricultural and horticultural purposes, and give them to his servants, to his courtiers. V. 15. And he will take the tenth of your seed and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, the eunuchs of the Oriental courts, and to his servants. v. 16. And he will take your men-servants and your maid-servants, the very slaves whom they had purchased for their own work, and your goodliest young men, rather, your oxen, and your asses, and put them to his work. V. 17. He will take the tenth of your sheep, the small cattle, including goats; and ye shall be his servants, they would lose all their political and social freedom and place a yoke upon their necks which they would not be able to remove. V. 18. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; finding their condition unbearable, they would pray for deliverance; and the Lord will not hear you in that day, all their lamentation would be unavailing, as a just punishment of the Lord; the yoke once assumed they must bear forever. The description given by Samuel summarizes the tyranny and despotism of the average Oriental monarch, especially in ancient times, and some of the oppressions mentioned were later experienced by Israel in full measure. V. 19. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel, they would not be dissuaded from their intention; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us, v. 20. that we also may be like all the nations, like all the heathen people surrounding them; they no longer wanted the proud distinction of being ruled by Jehovah only; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. Those were the duties of the king as they saw them, to be the leader and the governor of the people, in peace and in war. V. 21. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord, again laying the whole matter before the Lord, after his unsuccessful dealing with the people. V. 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. He needed some time to consider, with the Lord's advice, the necessary steps for the selection of a king. Thus the Lord, in yielding to the demand of the people, laid a punishment upon them. Sinful men cannot be kept in check but by force and oppression; that is a result of man's natural disobedience.