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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 8

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-22

However, old age often brings weariness with it. The time comes when Samuel considers it necessary to have others as judges in the land, and it was quite natural (not spiritual) that he should give this place to his sons, specially since God had evidently not raised up any one else to take this responsibility. In fact, people generally expect something like this. What was Samuel to do? Certainly he could have earnestly sought the Lord's face first about a matter so important, entreating His guidance as to what to do; but we are only told, "he made his sons judges over Israel." However, godliness is not inherited, and "sons of the prophets" are too frequently far from being prophets themselves. The corruption of Samuel's sons was serious, in taking bribes and perverting justice, though it was not the same loathsome evil as that of Eli's sons, who committed abomination in the things of God.

The corruption of proper rule in Israel is the occasion the elders use for gathering together to Samuel to voice their own opinion as to what should be done about it. Since Samuel was old and his sons did not walk in his ways, the one alternative they saw was to have a king over them. They did not consider the obvious question: would a king be any more satisfactory than a judge? Their one argument was that other nations were ruled by kings: why not they? The people of God too frequently descend to this level. Instead of depending fully upon the leading and grace of God, they observe what others are doing; they see some apparent surface results, and decide on the basis of outward appearances what course of action to take. This is not faith.

Samuel was rightly displeased, yet it did not seem to have occurred to him to remove his sons from their position as judges and seek God's guidance as to finding others who were honorable men. However, he did pray to the Lord about the matter. No doubt things had already gone too far, and God Himself does not suggest any alternative, but tells Samuel to listen to the people's demand. For He adds that they had not merely rejected Samuel, but had rejected the Lord from reigning over them. This was consistent with their character from the time the Lord brought them out of Egypt. Over and over again they had left the Lord in order to serve idols. Now the same spirit was moving them.

God allows this, therefore, not merely as a concession to Israel's folly, but in order that they might learn by painful experience the results of that folly. Later God tells Israel, "I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath" (Hosea 13:11). Though Saul's beginning as king seemed rather favorable, his end was pathetically sad.

Yet behind the scenes we can surely see the wisdom of God working for good It is right that Israel should have a king, but only one King has any title to this place, the One who came once and was rejected, but who will come again in power and glory and assert His right to the throne. Saul provides a dark background by which the glory of the true King is made to shine the more brightly by contrast. Saul is an example of mere man in the flesh wanting and clinging to the place of authority and rule of which he is incapable, and must be put out of it. David, who replaced him, is a type of Christ, a refreshing character insofar as he does represent Him, but whose personal failure emphasizes the fact that Christ alone is fitted to be King.

God, knowing well the sad future for Israel, instructs Samuel to warn them solemnly as to what they must expect if they are given the king they desire. Samuel, a true prophet faithful to his Lord, tells all the words of the Lord to the people. Their king would take their sons for his own servants, to be chariot drivers and horsemen, to be trained for army service, both officers and privates, to make instruments of war, etc. He would take their daughters also for every kind of female service. He would, as he pleased, appropriate their fields, olive yards and vineyards for his own servants. The best of their servants he would take for his work, and their animals. If people want such government, they must pay the costs. Of course it will be easily argued that all these things are necessary taxes, whether the people like it or not. But the Lord warns them they will not like it, and would eventually cry out for relief, but could not expect the Lord to give it. They would have to learn deeply the results of their own wilfulness.

The solemn warning falls on deaf ears. The most considerate wise reasoning is lost on those who are determined to have their own way. They have no answer for the warning, but reply to Samuel, "No; but we will have a king over us," because, first, they want to be like the nations, Just as many Christians today want to be like the world; and secondly, they expect a king to fight their battles for them. In both of these things they lose sight of God. How can they represent God before the nations if they choose to be like the nations? this would effectively take away any real testimony to a difference that God had made because of His love for them. Also, in the past, who was it who fought their battles for them at those times when they gained victories? SeeExodus 14:13-14; Exodus 14:13-14.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-samuel-8.html. 1897-1910.
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