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SECTION 1. The Birth, Rise, Prophetic Ministry And Judgeship of Samuel (1-12).
This first section of the book covers the life of Samuel from his birth to the setting up of Saul as king in response to the people’s request. The first three chapters deal with the birth and spiritual growth of Samuel. This is then followed in chapter 4 by the Philistine invasion in which the Ark of YHWH of hosts is lost to Israel, something which takes place while Samuel is still a youth. That loss indicates YHWH’s demonstration of the fact that He no longer sees Himself as king over an Israel that has forsaken Him. However, He then goes on to demonstrate His authority over the gods of the Philistines by bringing disaster on them, so that His Ark is restored to Israel by the Philistines, who also pay Him generous tribute. The Ark is then placed with due honour (after a previous unfortunate incident) in the house of Abinadab where it will remain for many years. It is a recognised symbol that YHWH is still present as King over His people, and will therefore, once they turn back to Him, act on their behalf through His appointed deliverers.
This will firstly be through Samuel in this section, then through Saul before he is finally rejected, in the next section, and then through the young David in the final section, until he is outlawed and then exiled as a result of Saul’s activities. As a result of his exile there will be a lull, and the Philistines triumph. But in the second part of the book David will become the Spirit inspired king, the Philistines will be defeated, and then the Ark will be restored for public worship, having been ‘purified’ by its period spent in the house of Abinadab. The Kingship of YHWH has triumphed.
C). The Judgeship of Samuel At The End Of Which The People Seek And Are Granted A Human King (7:15-12:25).
In this subsection from 7:15-12:25 the writer describes the desire of the people for a king and the way in which that king is appointed. Such an appointment would inevitably be a tricky one in Israel, for Israel was comprised of a number of semi-independent tribes, each of which was jealous for its own position, with Judah and Ephraim, the two largest, being especially protective about their rights. And yet someone had to be found who once appointed would have the support of them all. Furthermore, on top of this, Samuel would want to ensure that whoever was appointed was YHWH’s choice.
Samuel clearly recognised the dangers and therefore waited on YHWH’s guidance, and it is the reconciling of these different problems that explains the slow process towards the appointment of the king, a process which in fact went as follows:
1). Samuel waits and prays for YHWH to indicate the right man for the position. When YHWH brings that man to him he must have been relieved to discover that the man was a Benjaminite. They were only a small tribe (which would serve to prevent tribal jealousy among the larger tribes) and were famed for their warlike ability. So he first interviews him, and then secretly anoints him with oil as YHWH’s chosen appointee. The man’s name is Saul. This satisfies Samuel that he has found the right man (1 Samuel 9:1 to 1 Samuel 10:1).
2). He subsequently arranges for Saul to prophesy among the prophets indicating both to him and to others his suitability as a man of God, and that he is acceptable YHWH. This will serve to satisfy the righteous in Israel, and the prophets themselves, who seemingly had an important part to play in the running of affairs. They too are now satisfied that this is their man (1 Samuel 10:5-13).
3). The next step is to have him accepted in the eyes of popular opinion. So Samuel arranges for the assembly of the tribes of Israel to be called together and in view of the fact that there was no precedent for choosing a king, choice is then made by sacred lot in the sight of all. As expected by Samuel the lot falls on Saul. This method of choice by sacred lot was an accepted one in Israel and was seen as revealing the mind of YHWH. We can compare its use under different circumstances in Joshua 7:16-18. In view of the fact that the choice by sacred lot was seen as publicly revealing the mind of YHWH, was carried out before their eyes, and was accepted as a standard way of making such decisions in Israel, it would be enough to satisfy the people that Saul was their man. Thus this would satisfy the common people (1 Samuel 10:17-24).
However, there was inevitably some dissension, from some ‘worthless men’ who did not see how this upstart from a small tribe could ‘save Israel’. Nevertheless the vast majority were with Saul, and preparations would begin for having him officially enthroned and acclaimed in accordance with practise elsewhere.
4). Meanwhile an Ammonite invasion across the Jordan in Transjordan provides an opportunity for Saul to prove his suitability by gaining a victory over the invading Ammonites. This quells the dissension and makes him acceptable to all (1 Samuel 11:1-13).
5). Having been fully established as the right candidate Saul is then acclaimed as king at Gilgal before YHWH (1 Samuel 11:14-15).
6). Samuel resigns his judgeship and YHWH expresses His anger at the people’s decision with a storm at harvest time (1 Samuel 12:1-25).
By these means the acceptability of Saul as king was established, both among the prophets and throughout all the tribes. This would ensure that there would only be minimal dissension in the future, because Saul was now seen as ‘YHWH’s anointed’. All recognised that Samuel had selected him, that YHWH was pleased with him, that the lot had confirmed his acceptability to God, that he had proved himself a suitable war-leader (a most necessary qualification in those days), and that he had been finally and officially crowned and acclaimed.
The whole subsection may be analysed as follows:
a Samuel judges Israel faithfully and well (1 Samuel 7:15-17).
b Samuel’s sons prove unworthy and the people call for a King (1 Samuel 8:1-6).
c The manner of the King that they will receive (1 Samuel 8:7-22).
d Saul is brought to Samuel by God and is revealed and greeted by him as the new king (1 Samuel 9:1-21).
e Saul is feasted and then secretly anointed, and learns that the asses have been found (1 Samuel 9:22 to 1 Samuel 10:2).
f The signs of Saul’s acceptance and his coming enduing with the Spirit of YHWH (1 Samuel 10:3-7).
g Saul is to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to come in order to offer offerings and sacrifices and to show him what he is to do (1 Samuel 10:8).
f The promised signs are fulfilled and the Spirit of YHWH comes on Saul (1 Samuel 10:9-13).
e Saul returns to his uncle and informs him that Samuel had told him that the asses had been found, but maintains the secret of the kingship (10:14-16).
d Saul is brought before the people, revealed as their king by lot and greeted by them as the king (1 Samuel 10:17-24).
c Samuel records ‘the manner of the kingship’ and writes it in a book (1 Samuel 10:25-27).
b YHWH delivers His people from the Ammonites through Saul and the kingship is finally confirmed at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:1-15).
a Samuel hands back the judgeship to the people and charges the people to be faithful to YHWH (1 Samuel 12:1-25).
While Samuel was fit and well and did not flag in looking after the people they remained fully loyal to him and to YHWH. It was a minor golden age. All fear of the Philistines had gone, and they knew the way in which they should walk, and responded to Samuel’s authority. There was no question of ‘every man doing what was right in his own eyes’ as they often had during the period preceding his arrival (Judges 21:25). All responded to the prophet Samuel.
But as he grew older they became wary. For he had appointed his sons as judges over a section of Israel in the territory of Judah which was almost due west of the southern end of the Dead Sea. Its main town was called Beersheba, the southernmost city in Israel, and beyond it lay the semi-desert of the Negev. They had probably applied to him for help in finding suitable oversight, and who better than his sons? They had had no objection to the appointment of his sons, but his sons then proved unsuitable and took advantage of their positions to further their own wealth by unscrupulous means.
This rang alarm bells in the minds of the people of Israel, for they could foresee trouble once Samuel was gone. They did not want a repetition of what had happened with the sons of Eli. What this should have done, of course, was to turn their thoughts towards seeking YHWH. But that required continual repentance, and genuine trust and obedience and they were not really ready for either.
So, probably without fully realising it (so dark is man’s heart), they were rejecting their heritage. Perhaps they remembered back to stories about the period of the Judges, when, in between YHWH’s successful appointees, there had always been those dreadful periods of humiliation which were made clear in their history. Those days were something that they did not want to go back to. They conveniently overlooked the fact that each time those humiliations had occurred it was because the people had fallen away from YHWH. What they really wanted was a stable and permanent government under a king who could fight their battles for them and which would not be dependent on the ups and downs of history (in other words would carry on whether they were totally loyal to YHWH or not). So they came to Samuel pleading with him to set a king over them. After all, had not God promised that one day they would have such a king (as the writer has already made us aware - 1 Samuel 2:10)? Let Him then appoint one for them now. They were sure that this would then solve all their problems. They would never have to worry about leadership again.
Unknown to them YHWH had already been planning a king for them, but as yet he was too young to take up the position, and had not yet been shaped by YHWH. Thus YHWH would provide them with a king who would both teach them a lesson about kingship and would in the end have to make way for David. They could have no complaint. They had asked for a king like all the nations round about, and that was what God gave them, a kingly figure who fought well for them, but also manoeuvred things to his own advantage, and had not been especially prepared by YHWH. We must presume that YHWH gave them the best that was available.
The People Seek For The Appointment of a King Over Them (1 Samuel 8:1-6 ).
Outwardly the desire of the elders for a king appears reasonable, but what they ignored was the fact that once there was a dynasty there could be good kings followed by bad kings. It was a lesson that they should have learned from Eli’s sons and Samuel’s sons. What they should therefore rather have done was to trust in YHWH, and fully follow Him, for while they did so His appointees would always be dependable. Unfortunately, however, their desire arose from an evil heart of unbelief, and it was thus a rejection of YHWH’s kingship.
a And it came about that when Samuel was old, he made his sons judges over Israel (1 Samuel 8:1).
b Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abijah. They were judges in Beer-sheba. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after ill-gotten gain, and took bribes, and perverted justice (1 Samuel 8:2-3).
c Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel to Rama (1 Samuel 8:4).
b And they said to him, “Behold, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).
a But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to YHWH (1 Samuel 8:6)
Note that in ‘a’ Samuel makes his sons judges over Israel, and in the parallel they seek rather for a king to be judge over them. In ‘b his sons do not walk in his ways, and in the parallel that is the complaint of the elders about them. In ‘c’ all the elders gather in an assembly of the tribes at Rama in order to settle the future leadership question.
1 Samuel 8:1
‘ And it came about that when Samuel was old, he made his sons judges over Israel.’
Samuel had been mainly responsible for judgeship in the central part of Israel, but as a prophet of YHWH his influence would have reached much further throughout the whole of Israel. Thus when he was growing old he assigned to the judgeship of his sons the southernmost region of Israel to his sons. The fact that he did so when he had not been acting there himself would suggest the probability that the people around Beersheba had come to him asking for suitable ‘judges’ to rule over them. In response to their request he had felt that he could trust his sons. No father likes to feel that his sons cannot be trusted, and he felt that they were now ready to take independent authority. Unfortunately he was to be proved wrong. Perhaps it was because he had been neglectful over the bringing up of his own sons. Many a man who blesses many fails to be the blessing to his own family that he should be
1 Samuel 8:2
‘ Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abijah. They were judges in Beer-sheba.
The names of his sons are given. His firstborn was Joel, while his second son was called Abijah. It will be noted that both names compound with the name of YHWH, Yo-el (Yah is God) and Abi-yah (My divine father is Yah), and witness to Samuel’s faith. In 1 Chronicles 6:28, however, they are named ‘the firstborn Vashni and Abijah’. This is quite possible because it was not unusual in Israel for a man to have two names. They were appointed as joint judges in Beersheba which was the southernmost region in Israel (compare 1 Samuel 3:20).
(Many, however, think that in 1 Chronicles 6:28 the name Joel has somehow slipped out of the text, and that it should read, ‘the firstborn Joel and the second Abijah’, for vashni could be pointed to signify ‘and the second’. There is, however, no textual evidence to support the suggestion. LXX reads ‘the first-born Sani, and Abia’ which supports MT).
1 Samuel 8:3
‘ And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after ill-gotten gain, and took bribes, and perverted justice.’
Sadly, as so often happens, their authority went to their heads and instead of walking in their father’s ways they used their positions for their own ends. Thus they used their new positions in order to build up personal wealth. They sought to obtain ill-gotten gains, accepted bribes and perverted justice. And it was not a momentary lapse. For this to come to the notice of all Israel it must have gone on for a few years.
1 Samuel 8:4
‘ Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel to Ramah’
The behaviour of Samuel’s sons clearly had a profound effect on many of the elders of Israel who were no doubt watching to see how the sons got on. And it was seemingly that that brought them to a decision, for it was soon clear to them that the sons were not walking in the prophetic tradition of their father, and would not be able to follow in his footsteps. So summoning all the elders of the tribes together, and no doubt discussing the matter thoroughly, they came to Samuel at Ramah.
“The elders of Israel.” Israel had been run by a group of ‘elders’ while in Egypt (Exodus 3:16), and ‘elders’ were appointed from among the tribal elders to support Moses in judging Israel in the wilderness (Numbers 11:16; Numbers 11:24-25). Elders of the different cities were responsible for jurisdiction in that city (Deuteronomy 21:3; Joshua 20:4; Judges 8:16; 1 Samuel 4:2). So ‘elder’ was the name given to those in authority both at a local and a tribal level. The elders mentioned here would be the ‘senior’ elders who ruled over the different tribes and sub-tribes. While not all old, the tendency would be for them to be older men, simply because it was such who would be ‘fathers’ of wider families, and because age was thought to bring wisdom.
1 Samuel 8:5
‘ And they said to him, “Behold, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” ’
And there they announced the decision that they had made. In view of the fact that Samuel was ageing, and that his sons had proved unsuitable, they wanted a king to act from now on as their judge and war-leader, a king ‘like all the nations round about’. Outwardly they were simply asking for what Moses had said that they would one day want to ask in Deuteronomy 17:14. But they were doing it in the wrong way, and in the wrong circumstances. Their request was not that YHWH provide them with another prophetic man or a man of God, nor that He appoint a suitable replacement for Samuel. It was not even a request for a king in line with YHWH’s intentions as expressed in Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 17:14-20, someone appointed alongside a suitable prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15). There was no spiritual basis for their request at all. Basically they were indicating that they no longer wanted to go along in the same old way of having to look to YHWH every time they wanted a ‘judge’. They wanted something more permanent, just as the other nations had.
They had had plenty of opportunity to study other kings, for each city state in Canaan had its own king, as had the Philistine cities (even if the Philistines did call them ‘seren’), and they were envious at the way that this appeared to ensure a relatively smooth transition of leadership, and provide a war-leader when trouble lay ahead. They had seen how they could also set up efficient standing armies. (They only noted the successful ones). And with the danger of the Philistines ever looming once Samuel had gone they wanted to be prepared. They felt that having a king appointed while Samuel was still alive would take away the uncertainty. And that was what they wanted, at whatever cost. YHWH did not come into it except to help them in choosing a king.
1 Samuel 8:6
‘ But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to YHWH.’
But their words displeased Samuel when they said ‘give us a king to judge us’. He recognised it for what it was, an unwillingness to continue trusting in YHWH to provide them with leadership. They wanted a more independent regime, not totally dependent on YHWH, and to depend on a man and his descendants. And so Samuel did the only thing that he could think of. He took the whole matter before YHWH. Godly man that he was, he knew that it was not for him to make the decision.
YHWH’s Response To Their Call For A King Was To Warn Them What Having A King Might Mean For Them (1 Samuel 8:7-22 ).
It is typical of sinful human beings that they did not recognise that having a king would involve a similar experience to the one that they had already experienced. Their very problems in the past had resulted from failing successors who had followed on after successful leaders. And they should have recognised that with kings that would happen constantly. But they were near sighted, and they were revealing that Canaanite traditions had taken possession of their hearts. They no longer thought theocratically. This Canaanite influence was seen elsewhere in the way in which they so easily turned to the worship of foreign gods. And it was also seen here in the way that they wanted a king. They did not like being shepherds. They wanted to be sheep.
a And YHWH said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them”. In accordance with all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, in that they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also to you” (1 Samuel 8:7-8).
b “Now therefore listen to their voice. However, you shall protest solemnly to them, and shall show them the manner of the king who will reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:9).
c And Samuel told all the words of YHWH to the people who asked of him a king, and He said, “This will be the manner of the king who will reign over you. He will take your sons, and appoint them to him for his chariots, and to be his horsemen, and they will run before his chariots” (1 Samuel 8:11).
d “And he will appoint them to him for captains of thousands, and captains of fifties, and to plough his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots” (1 Samuel 8:12).
e “And he will take your daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks, and to be bakers” (1 Samuel 8:13).
f “And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants” (1 Samuel 8:14).
f “And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants” (1 Samuel 8:15).
e “And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your finest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work” (1 Samuel 8:16).
d “He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you will be his servants” (1 Samuel 8:17).
c “And you shall cry out in that day because of your king whom you will have chosen for yourselves, and YHWH will not answer you in that day” (1 Samuel 8:18)
b But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:19-20).
a And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the ears of YHWH. And YHWH said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice, and make them a king.” And Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Go you every man to his city” (1 Samuel 8:21-22).
Note that in ‘a’ Samuel was to listen to the voice of the people in all that they said to him (their request for a king) and in the parallel he was to listen to their voice and make them a king. In ‘b’ they are to be shown what manner of king they will discover that they have, and in the parallel they declare that they do know, for he will be like the kings of all the nations round about. In ‘c’ He begins to describe the glories that the king will take for himself, and in the parallel warns that they will groan under his requirements. In ‘d’ He describes the service that will be required of them, and that he will take of their time to plough his fields, and in the parallel tells that they will be his servants, and that he will take a tenth of their flocks. In ‘e’ he will set their daughters to work and in the parallel he will take their servants and their young men. In ‘f’ He will take their best fields and vineyards and oliveyards and will give them to his courtiers, and in the parallel he will take a tenth of their seed and of their vineyards and give them to his officers and courtiers.
1 Samuel 8:7
‘ And YHWH said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them.”
YHWH knew the true heart of the people. The ‘golden age’ under Samuel had resulted in their again becoming apathetic in their attitude towards Him. They felt that things were good now, and they wanted to keep them that way, and yet not be too restricted in the way that they lived. They felt that they had found the right balance between keeping YHWH satisfied and at the same time enjoying the good things of life. And like many societies after them, they had a dream that once they had the right leadership in place things would go well. They were naturally unaware of the adage, ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ which might have acted as a warning to them. Thus they were rejecting their long tradition of decentralised leadership for a leader who would bind them together as one whole, but who could become corrupt
They overlooked the fact that the system of decentralised leadership, inherited from the tribal system combined with YHWH’s provision of the covenant, had kept them a free people, at least within their own society. But that system of decentralised leadership had only been successful because YHWH Himself had been its centre through the Tabernacle and its priesthood, and through His prophets. All had looked to Him as their King. And it only worked when they did so. Now that that was to be set aside things would be different. And they did not realise what they were losing.
But YHWH knew what they were losing. And He knew that the reason for it was because they were rejecting the essential heart of the covenant, and in essence were rejecting His overlordship. From now on they would have divided loyalty, and God knew that in such a circumstance He would come off second best. Thus, as He reluctantly acquiesced with their request, He made clear to Samuel that it was not he, Samuel, whom they were rejecting, it was Himself. The problem was that they no longer wanted to be under His rule. They no longer wanted Him as their king. Their religious dedication was half hearted.
1 Samuel 8:8
“ In accordance with all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, in that they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also to you.”
And He pointed out that this was not new. Indeed it had been the tendency of the hearts of His people ever since He had brought them out of Egypt. Since then they had constantly forsaken Him and served other gods. And in a similar way they were now rejecting all that Samuel had brought them (‘so they do also to you’). And they were replacing YHWH’s authority with that of a man’s. From now on their response to YHWH would on the whole very much depend on who was their king.
1 Samuel 8:9
“ Now therefore listen to their voice. However, you shall protest solemnly to them, and shall show them the manner of the king who will reign over them.”
So Samuel was to listen to them and grant their request. However, before doing so he was to reveal to them exactly what will be involved in having ‘a king like the nations’.
1 Samuel 8:10
‘ And Samuel told all the words of YHWH to the people who asked of him a king.’
So Samuel returned to the elders who had asked of him a king and told them all the words of YHWH. He pointed out that YHWH was giving them a choice, and was warning them of the consequences of making the wrong choice.
1 Samuel 8:11-12
‘ And he said, “This will be the manner of the king who will reign over you. He will take your sons, and appoint them to him for his chariots, and to be his horsemen, and they will run before his chariots (see 2 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 1:5), and he will appoint them to him for captains of thousands, and captains of fifties. And he will set some to plough his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots.” ’
The first requirement that this king will have will be concerning his own splendour. The picture is firmly based on the lifestyle of Canaanite kings. He will want ceremonial chariots, and horsemen, and it will be their sons who will drive his chariots and be his horsemen, ever at his beck and call. And some will be appointed to run before the chariots proclaiming that the king is coming. Others will be made captains of military units, both large and small. Still others will be called on to plough his fields and reap his harvests, thus either losing their own land, or having far less time to work on it. And yet others would be set to making his instruments of war and all the requirements for his chariots. It would introduce a totally new subservient lifestyle, along with any punishments that the king decided to mete out.
1 Samuel 8:13
“ And he will take your daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.”
And the splendour of his court will require their daughters to become perfumers, cooks and bakers. They will become lower palace servants, again subject to his discipline, and all the temptations of a royal court.
1 Samuel 8:14
“ And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.”
But worse. He will want to reward his favourites. And in order to do this he will take the very best of their fields, and their vineyards, and their oliveyards, and will give them to his favourite courtiers. They will not have any choice in the matter. It will be required of them. And they will have no one to whom to appeal.
1 Samuel 8:15
“ And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.”
And he will put a tax on them and require one tenth of the product of their seed and their vineyards so that he can pay his officers and reward his favourite courtiers.
1 Samuel 8:16
“ And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your finest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.”
And he will take their servants for himself, and especially their finest young men (as he has previously taken their daughters - 1 Samuel 8:13), and also their asses and set them to work for him.
LXX has ‘cattle’ instead of ‘young men’ which requires only a slight change in the Hebrew text and would be more in line with Deuteronomy 5:14. On the other hand ‘young men’ is a good parallel for ‘your daughters’ in the chiasmus, and is the more difficult reading. Thus we should retain ‘young men’.
1 Samuel 8:17
“ He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you will be his servants.”
And he will want a tenth of their flocks, and will make them his slaves. They will have lost their rights as free men under YHWH. All will be subject to the king.
1 Samuel 8:18
“ And you shall cry out in that day because of your king whom you will have chosen for yourselves, and YHWH will not answer you in that day.”
And when in the midst of their distress they cry out, as they inevitably will, they will have no one to cry to. For YHWH will no longer be their King, and will no longer answer them and interfere between them and the king. They will have chosen the rod for their own backs.
Part of what is said might not sound so bad to us. We might even compare it to our own society and look on it favourably. But we must remember that the working conditions, and the length of time that they would have to work daily, and the amount that they would be paid (if at all), would not be regulated except by the king, and scant regard would be had to many of them. And above all that they could not resign and walk away. We must measure their total loss of freedom by the freedom that was once theirs and was guaranteed to them by YHWH, and which while they were obedient to YHWH made life so worth while. All the miseries of the future are in fact being described in these words. And they could all be observed by looking more carefully under the surface at the Canaanites round about them.
It would in fact not be quite so bad for Israel as for other nations because they would still have the covenant Law, and heed would be taken to the priests and the elders, but it would certainly gradually become a different, and harsher, type of society.
1 Samuel 8:19
‘ But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.” ’
However, the people were quite adamant, in spite of the fact that it was being made clear to them that at this time He did not desire them to have a king. They blatantly refused to listen to Samuel’s words, and said, ‘No, we will have a king over us so that we can be like all the other nations and so that he may judge us (rule over us) and go out before us and fight our battles.’ Fear of the Philistines once Samuel was dead may well have been partly at the root of their request. Without Samuel they were not quite so sure that YHWH would intervene for them, whereas they could be sure that a king would always be there. But there was clearly also a desire to be like the other nations. They envied the sophisticated nations around them who seemed to be doing so well (they did not look at the failures. That was for pessimists) and they wanted to be like them.
1 Samuel 8:21
‘ And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he went over them in the ears of YHWH.’
Having heard what they had to say Samuel went back to YHWH and went over with Him all that they had said (there was clearly much more that had been said than is recorded for us above).
1 Samuel 8:22
‘ And YHWH said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice, and make them a king.” And Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Go you every man to his city.”
YHWH then instructed Samuel to give them their wish. If they would not listen they must learn the lesson the hard way. So He tells Samuel to listen to what they are saying and give them a king. And He no doubt already had His man in mind.
The question that as far as Samuel was concerned would now have to be resolved was as to whom that king would be. Upset though he was Samuel wanted to do his best for them. So he told the elders to return to their cities while he took the matter in hand. He would consult with YHWH on the matter.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany