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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 8

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-22

1 Samuel 8:3 . His sons walked not as their father, who always came into court with clean hands. Seeking to aggrandize their families they took bribes, and by consequence perverted judgment. The history of all nations abounds with complaints of the same sin.

1 Samuel 8:5 . Make us a king. Moses had foreseen all this, Deuteronomy 17:14, and therefore provided that the king should govern by law. Primitive governments commenced with a patriarch, surrounded with elders, without whom he could not act. But men in power take advantage of the changes induced on the state to encrease their power; so that the happiest forms of liberty and law are eventually impelled towards aristocracy, and thence to monarchy. And monarchy, under a Sesostris in Egypt, a David in Israel, an Augustus in Rome, is certainly happy. A just prince makes just magistrates. Under a monarchy the British empire has risen to the highest splendour of wealth and power. The sin of the Hebrews, however, consisted in a distrust of the covenant, with him to whom they had sworn as their God and king, for they were his peculiar people; and the good kings of Judah still owned the Lord as their God, their pastor and king. What nation was ever so signally preserved and saved as the Hebrews, when they sought the Lord.

1 Samuel 8:11 . This will be the manner of the king. Oppression of the subject to support the fastidious splendour of royalty, is here expressly forbidden. The courts of Egypt, Persia, and Babylon seem to have supported their splendour by tenths from the farmer: 1 Samuel 8:15.


Perhaps it is a weakness inseparable from human nature for a father to lean to his sons. This was Eli’s great fault; and if Samuel did err, perhaps it was in making his two sons judges in Beersheba; that is, associating them with himself, in judging the people from Beersheba to Dan.

If Samuel’s sons corrupted themselves under the eye of so holy a father, we have another dreadful proof of original sin. Adam begat a son in his own image, so called to distinguish it from the image of God. Noah, a perfect and an upright man, had his Ham. And Job, celebrated as one of the most perfect characters human nature can boast, had ten dissipated children. The sin of Adam affected all the branches of the covenant; and hence the death in paradise was not annihilation, but an alienation of the soul from the life of God. Hence regeneration is not from our parents, but from Jesus Christ, of whom the first Adam was the figure. So St. Paul has fully taught us. Romans 5:12-13. Ephesians 2:1-4. To ask for proof of original sin, when our sole embarrassment is a superabundance of proof, is an equal insult to reason and revelation. It is like asking to see the sun when he shines in all his splendour.

The Israelites, seeing Samuel’s sons corrupted with bribes; the father growing old; the Ammonites increasing their power; and well remembering what they had suffered from invasions when there was no judge whom all the tribes revered; solicited a king. This, considering the lenient character of their government, was a most extraordinary request. The theocracy of Israel, when properly connected with faith and piety on the part of the people, was the happiest government that ever existed. Under Joshua, under Gideon and others, the nation enjoyed liberty to an excess; liberty too indulgent for a nation ever prone to err. They paid no taxes, they feared no foes; and every man enjoyed the entire fruits of his labour. But they waxed fat and kicked against the Lord; and sometimes actually fought against his judges. The fact is, Israel was not worthy of a government so paternal. Hence the extraordinary wish, to make a sudden transition from perfect liberty to absolute monarchy, must have arisen from a dread of past calamities, inflicted on the nation by the heathen yoke.

This request displeased the Lord, as it implied a distrust of his covenant care. While obedient, he had never failed to deliver Israel from invaders, and he never designed them to make offensive wars against their quiet neighbours. And if this nation were disobedient, no form of government could save it from the visitations of his hand. Hence, consenting in anger to their wishes, he invested their sovereigns with a rod to scourge both them and their foes. Let the christian Israel therefore be instructed, having once put their necks under the yoke of Jesus, never to change their Lord and Master. Satan, the world, and the flesh, are all tyrants to the soul. Let us stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.

A farther objection arose from the splendour, as well as from the power of their prince. He would not live in simplicity, like Joshua and Samuel. He would take their sons and their daughters, their cattle, corn, and vineyards for his establishments; and when they should cry unto the Lord, there would be no redress. Thus the world will ask life and fortune to be wasted on its fashions and follies; and thus our pride and our passions impose taxes upon us of the severest kind. And when we cry unto the Lord in poverty and pain, on what ground, after a life of obstinate wickedness, can we expect redress. We may all learn of Israel the best wisdom for man to learn, that to reject the milder sovereignty of divine love, and to set up our blind and youthful passions for kings, is the worst of folly, and the last of evils to the soul.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-samuel-8.html. 1835.
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