Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ 1-samuel-8.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES—
1 Samuel 8:1. “When Samuel was old.” Many expositors consider that he was now about sixty years of age, others that he was not more than fifty-four. It is plain that he lived for some time after this, and continued to exercise his judgeship. “He made his sons judges,” etc. “The reason assigned for the appointment of Samuel’s sons as judges is his own advanced age. The inference which we might draw from this alone, namely, that they were simply to support their father in the administration of justice, and that Samuel had no intention of laying down his office, and still less of making the supreme office of judge hereditary in his family, is still more apparent from the fact that they were stationed as judges of the nation in Beersheba, which was on the southern border of Canaan” (Keil).
1 Samuel 8:2. “The name of his firstborn was Joel,” etc. “These names may be taken as indications of the father’s pious feeling. The first, Joel, ‘Jehovah is God,’ was, not improbably, a protest against the idolatry of the Israelites. The name of the second son, Abiah, ‘Jehovah is father,’ expresses trust in the fatherhood of God, an idea which hardly appears in the Old Testament except in proper names” (Translator of Lange’s Commentary). “Abiah records doubtless the fervent aspiration of him who devised it as a name, and, we may hope, of many who subsequently adopted it after that endearing and intimate relationship between God and the soul of man, which is truly expressed by the words father and child. It may be accepted as a proof that believers in ancient days, though they had not possession of the perfect knowledge of ‘the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ,’ or of the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, nevertheless ‘received the spirit of adoption,’ that God ‘sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts, whereby they cried Abba, Father’ ” (Wilkinson’s Personal Names in the Bible).
1 Samuel 8:3. “His sons walked not in his ways.” “The question may arise, why Samuel was not punished, as Eli, for the misconduct of his sons? But the answer is obvious. Not only was the offence of Samuel’s sons of a far less heinous criminality, but Samuel might not know, owing to this distance of Beersheba, anything of their delinquency” (Jamieson).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 8:1-3
SAMUEL THE FATHER
Samuel has been called the second Moses of Hebrew history, but though their personal character and their life-work were very much alike, there are some striking contrasts in their individual history. Moses, for instance, was not called to begin his great life-work until he was older than Samuel was at the period of his history to which these verses refer, while this latter servant of God entered upon his special service while he was a child. But he who came last retained his bodily vigour much longer, for at the age of one hundred and twenty years “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (Deuteronomy 34:7), while Samuel, when not more than half so old, began to feel the infirmities of age. Moses continued physically fit for service, yet was forbidden by God to serve longer. Samuel became unfit for active service, and yet was permitted to continue it. Both were compelled, the one by Divine command, the other by bodily infirmity, to hand over their work to others, but Moses is happy in finding a suitable successor, while Samuel is obliged to delegate his authority to those who are very unfit to exercise it. Thus the life of the great law-giver and that of the first of the prophets remarkably illustrate the variety of God’s dealings with his servants, and lead us to exclaim, when we contemplate His providential leadings, “His ways are past finding out” (Romans 11:33). The verses teach us—
I. That time is no respecter of character. Samuel grew infirm although he was so good. Character is by far the most important thing on earth as well as in heaven, yet the greatest saint as much as the greatest sinner realises in his own experience that “the creature is made subject to vanity” (Romans 8:20). In this respect Samuel, the elect servant of God, was no more highly favoured than the most ungodly man in the kingdom of Israel. The “outer man” of one as well as of the other was “perishing day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
II. But the fact that it is so shows the necessity for the full adoption of the body. (Romans 8:23). It must be shown that God is a respecter of persons. That the same destiny should await the body of a saint, which has been an instrument of righteousness, and that of a sinner, which has been altogether devoted to the service of sin, does not accord with our conception of the justice of God. There is that within us which demands that, at some time or other, there should be some difference made, and God in His revealed word tells us that there will be. The body of the saint will have an adoption-day—it will be redeemed from the curse of sin (Romans 8:23), and will be “fashioned like unto the glorious body” of the Son of God (Philippians 3:21).
III. Family life is consistent with the highest spiritual attainments and the most devoted spiritual service. Samuel the prophet of God was a husband and father. The highest ideal of man is not that of a solitary creature bound by no human ties, and fulfilling none of the social duties of life. But the most perfect manhood is that which is developed first of all in the head of a house-hold as the father of a family. When God first created man He did not consider him complete until he became a social head, and it is as true now as it was then that a man is not developed on all sides of his character until he takes the position for which God evidently intended him, and fulfils the duties which belong to that position. And this being so, it is obvious that such a life is no hindrance to a man’s spiritual growth and to his most entire devotion to the service of God. No man in Hebrew history stands before Samuel in purity of life or singleness of aim; no man, excepting perhaps Moses, was more honoured by God as an intercessor on behalf of others, or was more entirely devoted to the highest welfare of his people, yet he was the head of a household, he was a husband and a father. And if we look back upon the history of the Church of God, we shall find that the greater number of her most devoted servants have not been monks and nuns, but husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.
IV. The most godly men cannot transmit their godliness to their children. Samuel’s sons “walked not in his ways.” There were several reasons which we should have supposed would lead them to do so. From their earliest days they had been witnesses of their father’s godly life, and nothing is more powerful than a good example. Yet in this case it had no influence; all Samuel’s integrity was unable to win his sons to the practice of justice. Then there was the position of responsibility in which they were placed. That they held a position in the nation which was only second to that of their father was favourable to the transmission of the virtues which he had displayed as judge of Israel. But this was not the case. We cannot doubt that they also enjoyed the blessing of a father’s prayers and instruction. If Samuel was in the habit of bringing all Israel before God in prayer, it is certain that he did not omit to make special intercession for his own children; if he ceased not to instruct and warn the entire nation, it is most unlikely that he failed to acquaint his children with the law of God—with His dealings with the nation in the past—with the judgment that he had been called to foretell concerning the sons of Eli, and with the great promises which had been made to Israel if they were faithful to their privileges. But he finds himself confronted with the fact that a holy seed is born, not of the blood of prophets, nor of the will of man, but of God. Great as are the moral advantages of being born into a godly family, more than the mere fact of being so born, and of being surrounded by every holy influence, is needed to subdue the will of fallen man, and make him a servant of God.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 8:1. Samuel began his acquaintance with God early, and continued it long; he began it in his long coats, and continued to his grey hairs: he judged Israel all the days of his life. God doth not use to put off His old servants, their age endeareth them to Him the more; if we be not unfaithful to Him, He cannot be unconstant to us.—Bishop Hall.
1 Samuel 8:3. It is amazing how this sin of covetousness perverts the moral faculties. Gold, unlawfully got, sears the conscience. Some of the loftiest minds have been degraded by this sin. Perhaps there was not a greater man in his own age, or in any age, than Lord Bacon. He is the father of modern philosophy, and revolutionised the inquiries of the schools.… His works must ever be read with profit, and they contain a vast store of wisdom expressed in the most felicitous language. Yet, strange to relate, Lord Bacon was one of the most unscrupulous lawyers, and one of the most disreputable judges that ever sat upon the English bench.… This philosopher, who had written so much in praise of virtue, was impeached by the House of Commons, and found guilty of receiving bribes to the amount of £100,100! “This glimpse of the rise and fall of a great man,” says Dr. Tweedie, “proclaims aloud the insufficiency of all but the grace and truth of God to keep a man morally erect.—Steel.
Perhaps Israel had never thought of a king, if Samuel’s sons had not been unlike their father. Who can promise himself holy children, when the loins of a Samuel and the education in the temple yielded monsters? It is not likely that good Samuel was faulty in that indulgence for which his own mouth had denounced God’s judgments against Eli; yet this holy man succeeds Eli in his cross, as well as in his place, though not in his sin; and is afflicted with a wicked succession. God will let us find that grace is by gift, not by inheritance. I fear Samuel was too partial to nature in the surrogation of his sons. I do not hear of God’s allowance to this act; if this had been God’s choice as well as his, it had been like to have received more blessing.… Even the best heart may be blinded by affection.—Bp. Hall.
I. The children of good men do not always walk in their parents’ ways. It was not the peculiar affliction of Samuel.… It was early seen that grace was not hereditary. In the family of Adam, there was a Cain, a murderer; in that of Noah, a Ham, who mocked his father; in that of Abraham, an Ishmael, a scoffer at religion; in that of Isaac, a profane Esau. An incestuous Reuben, and a bloody Simeon and Levi, distressed the heart of good old Jacob; two drunkards, Nadab and Abihu, were found in the family of Aaron, “the saint of God;” and Hophni and Phinehas brought disgrace and ruin upon the house of Eli.…
II. The frequent recurrence of this fact need excite no surprise in those who believe in the corruptions of human nature and the sovereignty of Divine Grace.… The children of the godly are “by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” … Something more is necessary than parents can confer, a change of heart, which God alone can accomplish.…
III. Causes why the children of godly parents do not often walk in their parents’ ways. Although this is to be accounted for by the corruption of human nature, there are certain subordinate causes.…
1. The untender and uncircumspect conversation of parents.… They will more readily copy what is bad in your example, than what is good and praiseworthy.… the bad example will be followed, the good advice neglected.
2. Faults in their education. Such as unjust partiality, as in that of Isaac for Esau, and of Rebekah for Jacob.… Or undue indulgence, which seems to have been the error of David, and the ruin of his son Adonijah.… Excessive severity is an error not less fatal, and perhaps as common.
3. The influence of bad company and bad example in others. The ruin of multitudes has proceeded from want of caution in this matter.—Peddie.
1 Samuel 8:4. The unanimity of the people, even as exemplified in their desire for a king, was a result of Samuel’s activity. His former activity was an excellent preparation for royalty. The consciousness of religious and civil union was powerfully re-awakened by his means. An able king had only to reap what he had sown.—Hengstenberg.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES—
1 Samuel 8:5. “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” “This request resembles so completely the law of the king in Deuteronomy 17:14, that the distinct allusion to it is unmistakable. The custom of expressly quoting the book of the law is met with for the first time in the books of the captivity. The elders simply desired what Jehovah had foretold through His servant Moses, as a thing that would take place in the future and for which He had made provision” (Kiel). See also comments on this verse.
1 Samuel 8:6. “The thing displeased Samuel,” etc. “He did not, therefore, take it amiss that they blamed the wrongdoing of his sons, or that they referred to his age, and thus intimated that he was no longer able to bear the whole burden of office” (Erdmann). “Personal and family feelings might affect his views of this public movement. But his dissatisfaction arose principally from the proposed change being revolutionary in its character. Though it would not entirely subvert their theocratic government, the appointment of a visible monarch would necessarily tend to throw out of view their unseen King and Head” (Jamieson). (See also comments on the verse.)
1 Samuel 8:11. “This will be the manner of the king,” i.e., “the right or prerogative which the king would claim, namely, such a king as was possessed by all the other nations, and such an one as Israel desired in the place of its own God-king, i.e., a king who would rule over his people with arbitrary and absolute power” (Keil). “The following is a very just and graphic picture of the despotic governments which anciently were and still are found in the East, and into conformity with which the Hebrew monarchy, notwithstanding the restrictions prescribed by the law, gradually slid. Oriental sovereigns claim a right to the services of any of their subjects at pleasure. The royal equipages throughout the East were generally, as in Persia they still are, preceded and accompanied by a number of attendants on foot.… Cookery, baking, and the kindred works are, in Eastern countries, female employments, and numbers of young women are occupied with these offices in the palaces even of petty princes” (Jamieson).
1 Samuel 8:20. “The first part of this energetic answer implies that they were well aware of the peculiarity of their civil government, by which their governors were only God’s vicegerents—officers chosen and appointed by an unseen power—and they desired a visible head. The second part of it expressed a strong preference for a permanent rather than an occasional or temporary magistrate to consult their interests by his domestic administration, and, with regard to their foreign relations, to keep a standing army, ready at all times, under his command, to repel the encroachments or insults of neighbouring states. Perhaps, too, the corruptions that had prevailed to so great an extent under the judges had originated a secret but strong desire to be freed from the government of the priesthood, and they probably expected that, if released from the authority of sacerdotal judges, they would find a regal government less austere and rigid than the old régime” (Jamieson).
1 Samuel 8:22. “Go ye every man,” etc. “We must here read between the lines that Samuel communicated the Divine decision to the people, and, dismissing the elders, took into consideration, in accordance with the Lord’s command, the necessary steps for the election of a king” (Erdmann). “He gave them time to reconsider their request, as well knowing that God’s permission was a punishment” (Wordsworth). “Such was their reverence for God, and their confidence in His prophet, that, instead of proceeding further to claim the right of popular election, they departed in full and patient reliance on God’s time and way of granting their request” (Jamieson).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 8:4-22
A KING DESIRED AND GRANTED
I. The generality of mankind prefer the visible to the invisible. There have been men in all ages of the world who have chosen as their portion that which is unseen in preference to what is seen, and they have done so on the most reasonable and substantial grounds. The Invisible King had more power to influence the actions—to control the choice—of Moses than the visible and mighty monarch of Egypt. He was so ruled by a desire to serve Him whom he had never seen that he counted the wrath of Pharaoh as nothing in comparison. In the day of battle his eye was not fixed upon the visible enemy, but it was raised to that unseen friend whose help he sought for the people whom he led. His whole life was an “enduring as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27). Samuel also was ruled by an abiding sense of the presence of the Unseen King. To Him he cried in the day of his people’s danger, and with reference to Him he regulated his whole life. And in the present day, as in all past days, there are those who are ruled, not by the things which are seen and temporal, but by those which are unseen and eternal, who “endure as seeing Him who is invisible.” But these have always been in the minority—most men, like Israel of old, prefer the visible and the seeming to the invisible and the real. Those who have this preference justify it because it makes them like the majority. “Nay,” said Israel, “but we will have a king to reign over us, that we also may be like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:19-20). The influence of numbers has always had great weight with mankind. They do not like to be singular, and they find a reason for doing what they do, and for having what they desire, in the fact that the generality of men have and do it. The great majority of the Hebrew nation were unwilling to be different from the nations around them; those nations had a visible king, and although he was but a man like themselves, Israel desired to have such a king rather than render allegiance to God only as their King.
II. Even when a desired thing is shown to be injurious, men will often persist in desiring it. Sometimes a physician finds a patient who is so self-willed that he will persist in desiring food which has been proved to be injurious to him. And so a godless soul has sometimes the injurious consequences of a certain course plainly set before him, and yet persists in his determination to continue in it. Samuel, like a wise moral physician, laid before Israel the consequences of persisting in their desire to have a king like the nations. But, although he plainly pointed out to them the bondage to which they would subject themselves by gratifying such a desire, they refused to relinquish it. In the face of the remonstrances of one whom they knew desired their real welfare, they held to their determination simply because it was theirs.
III. God, rather than force the human will, will grant petitions which displease Him. God will not force any man to take His yoke. If men persist in desiring a heavier one, He will often grant their desire. This was more than once the case with the Hebrew nation. He once wrought a miracle to meet their wishes, when they incurred His deep displeasure by desiring their own way in preference to His. Is was an act of Divine judgment when He “gave them quails to the full” (Numbers 11:33), and in the instance before us God granted their desire, but “He gave them a king in His anger” (Hosea 13:11), and Israel soon found that the gratification of their self-will brought its own punishment, and that their self-imposed yoke was a very different one from that which their Divine King had laid upon them. But God leaves men free to choose or to reject His guidance. He will have none but voluntary subjects.
IV. In the time of displeasure and perplexity we should take the cause of both to God. Samuel, in this day of disappointment and uncertainty, “cried unto the Lord;” and every child of God should do the same. He is prompted to this act by a spiritual instinct, and encouraged in it by the Divine promises. It is an instinct in human nature to turn to the strong in seasons of weakness, and to those who are wiser than we are in the season of perplexity. The child runs to the parent for help, and the inexperienced turn to those who have more wisdom than they have when they feel that their own wisdom is insufficient to guide them. In times of great extremity almost every human creature instinctively cries out for supernatural help, but when a man has a closer relation to God than that which is common to every human creature—when he can look up to Him and cry, Abba, Father—he not only turns his eye upward as naturally as a flower opens its petals to the sun, but he is encouraged and emboldened to do so by the Divine promises of succour. God has commanded His children to “call upon Him in the day of trouble,” and has promised them deliverance (Psalms 50:15). “Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him:.… He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him” (Psalms 91:14-15). Samuel’s experience at this time is an illustration of the truth of these Divine promises.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 8:5. The request of Israel brings before us—
I. A melancholy view of the progress of degeneracy in a community. Looking at their history from the time of their entrance into Canaan, on the whole the scene presented is that of successive generations rising up to depart farther and farther from God, and now we have the dismal consummation in their effort to destroy, as far as they were concerned, that peculiar and interesting link between themselves and God which existed in the fact that besides being to them, as He is to all creatures, their Supreme Ruler, He condescended to act as such in a direct and immediate form, standing actually, and to all intents and purposes, in the same relation to them as that which an earthly sovereign sustains towards his subjects.… It was the sin of the fathers living over again, but with greater intensity, in the persons of the children. This view of the case is, in a high degree, admonitory. None of us perhaps think enough of the connexion between ourselves and the future, and yet, when we do, there is much that may well fill our minds with awe.… Each age exerts a very considerable influence on that which succeeds it, and the men of any particular age are responsible in a very large and affecting measure for the characteristics of the period which may come after them.… In looking at the clamorous assembly which the narrative brings before us, we cannot recognise in that crowd the immediate descendants of a race of God-fearing fathers and of God-honouring mothers.
II. It teaches us the perilousness of allowing our thoughts to run in an improper direction, and our wishes to centre upon a wrong object. And this because of the absorbing effect of one wrong thought, and its consequent power to throw into oblivion all those counteracting thoughts and objects which from any other source might be suggested.… Trace the progress of this one wrong desire in Israel. Was there nothing to be said on the other side? Is it not exceedingly easy to conceive of the counteracting effect which might have been presented to such a wish by a recollection of their actual privileges at the moment? There is a matchless sublimity about the very idea of a theocracy. But if its sublimity did not appeal to their moral sense, its peculiar advantageousness might have appealed to their self-regard. No other form of government could be compared with it for beneficial results to its subjects. For consider what it involved—the equal accessibleness of the Sovereign to all His subjects—the certainty of having the best counsel under all circumstances—the largest resources, both of power and skill, at their command—the impossibility of wrong motives affecting the Sovereign’s acts—the freedom from the ordinary burdens of government when He was king who could say, “Every beast in the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” … Nor did they admit another recollection which might well have offered the strongest contradiction to their one wrong desire, even that of the faithfulness and the loving-kindness with which God, as their King, had ever treated them.… Beware of the first misdirection of thought. Be sure you are right at first in your plans and purposes, because afterwards, by reason of the very force by which wrong thoughts indulged exclude all suggestions to the contrary, it may be too late to alter.—Miller.
1 Samuel 8:6. A beautiful example of prayer to obtain the composure of ruffled feelings and to have the judgment directed aright by God’s Holy Spirit, when it is in danger of being overswayed by personal motives.—Biblical Commentary.
In this there was a twofold ungodly element.
(1). They desired a king instead of the God-established and nobly-attested judge Samuel.… The scheme is characterised as an injustice against Samuel, and therefore a sin against the Lord who sent him (1 Samuel 8:7-8).
(2). At the bottom of the people’s desire for a king lay the delusion that God was powerless to help them, that the reason of their subjection was not their sin, but a fault in the constitution, that the kingdom would be an aid in addition to God. This point of view appears oftener in the narrative than the first (Isaiah 10:18-19; Isaiah 12:0).—Hengstenberg.
1 Samuel 8:7. It was not, then, the mere desire for reform in civil polity. It was the outburst in a new form of an ancient sin; it was a new disguise for a well-known delinquency; it was of a piece with their frequent backsliding. Ungodliness was at the root of their discontent.… God, who judgeth the heart, recognised the former disobedience in this new request. How different it seemed, yet how radically the same! Man would have judged otherwise and imputed the desire to other motives; God, who is infallible, attributed it to the same. It is well to consider our motives for conduct, this would enable us to detect an old sin in a new form.—Steel.
The condescension of this answer is very remarkable. Samuel’s wounded feelings are soothed by being reminded of the continual ingratitude of the people to God Himself, upon whom, in fact, a greater slight was put by this request for a king “like the nations,” than upon Samuel. It is in the spirit of our Lord’s saying to the apostles, “The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his lord” (Matthew 10:24, comp. John 15:18; John 15:20).—Biblical Commentary.
Such an answer sounds at first most strange, most perplexing! Hearken unto them, for they have rejected me. Yield to them, because they are doing a worse thing than you supposed they were doing.… No contradiction can seem greater. And yet no Jewish statesman or prophet could do the work that was given him to do, could be God’s faithful witness, if he did not enter into the very heart of this contradiction, if he did not mould his own conduct according to the deep truth that was implied in it. His impulse was to maintain the order of things which he found established in his day. He believed that order was God’s order; he dared not refer it to any lower source. He administered that order in this faith; if it forsook him, he became careless and corrupt. Could God’s order then be changed? Was He not, by His very nature, the Unchangable? Was it not the highest duty to make the people feel that this was His character? Was it not thus that their own frivolity and passion for change would be corrected? When the impulse passes into reasoning you cannot easily detect a flaw in it; and yet it was stronger still while it was still an impulse and did not pass into reasoning. Nothing but prayer to the unchangable God could show wherein both were false and might lead to falsehood. The unchangableness of God is not to be confounded with the rigidness of a rule or a system. If it is so confounded, the purpose and nature of His government are forgotten. He—the Perfect and Absolute Will—has created beings with wills, beings made in His own image. He educates them; He desires that they should know His Will, that is to say, Himself. They are to learn what they themselves are, what they would make of themselves, what He would make of them, partly by an experience of their own wilfulness, partly by results which He brings to pass in spite of that wilfulness, yea, by means of it. This is the explanation of the paradox … “Let them know what the general of armies, whom they crave for as a deliverer, will do to bring them into deeper bondage, but do not resist a desire which has in it a deeper meaning than you know, which will produce immediate sorrows, but in which is hidden a Divine purpose for the good and not for the destruction of your people.” In a very remarkable sense, then, the vox populi was the vox Dei, even when the two voices seemed most utterly out of harmony. The prophet was not merely to notice the outward and obvious discord between them; he was to listen with purged ears till he found where one became really the echo of the other.—Maurice.
The sin of Israel did not consist simply in wishing to have a king. God had promised to Abraham that kings should come out of him (Genesis 17:6), and also to Jacob (Genesis 35:11). The Holy Spirit had prophesied by Jacob that “the sceptre should not depart from Judah until Shiloh come” (Genesis 49:10); and Balaam, that a “sceptre should arise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17); and God had provided certain laws for the kingdom which should arise in Israel (Deuteronomy 17:15-20). But their sin consisted in not waiting patiently for God’s time, when He might think fit to give them a king. It consisted in not leaving the season of the kingdom and the choice of a king in His hands. It consisted in not asking Samuel to inquire of God whether the time had arrived when they might have a king; and in presuming that they were themselves the best judges of what conduced to their own welfare, and needed not to ask counsel of God. St. Paul notices this in his historical address to the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia. “God gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, and afterwards they desired a king” (Acts 13:20-21). It consisted in the unthankfulness and discontent of the people dissatisfied with their present condition, when “God was their King.” It consisted in an eager desire to be “like all other nations,” who had earthly kings; whereas they ought to have deemed it a high privilege to be unlike other nations, in that they had been separated from all other people (Leviticus 20:26) and chosen from out of other nations to be a peculiar treasure to God above all people, a holy nation, a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:5-6), “a special people unto the Lord their God, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). They thought lightly of this prerogative, and, like a national Esau, they profanely bartered their birthright for what they deemed a temporal benefit.—Wordsworth.
1 Samuel 8:8. Old sins are not forgotten with God, if they are all the time kept up and not repented of (Exodus 32:34).—Wuertemb. Bible.
1 Samuel 8:18. Cries that will not be heard.
1. Self-will often brings us unto distress.
2. This distress makes us cry to the Lord.
3. Such cries the Lord does not promise to hear.—Tr. of Lange’s Commentary.
These words should make us tremble. For they teach us that after having for some time followed with delight the wanderings of our own heart against the advice of our counsellors, we shall some day find ourselves involved in many evils. This often happens to men. One binds himself in one way, and one in another—each walks according to the desires of his heart, and in the way which he has marked out for himself, and is followed by sorrows which compel him to cry to heaven for help. But God will not hear these cries, unless they are the fruit of a true repentance, and then the ills that are suffered in the path which has been chosen are the just punishment for our wilfulness in having entered it.—De Sacy.
1 Samuel 8:19. Like little children, the passions of a people are blind to the future.… Thus the sinner will have his desire, though it imperil his soul for ever. The avaricious will have gold, though it become his idol, and his immortal spirit worship the golden calf. The inebriate will have his drink, though he degrade his being, blast his character, beggar his family, and damn his soul.—Steel.
We will have a king. Why then, you shall, saith God, for a mischief to you (Hosea 13:11). You shall have your will, and then I will have mine another while. (See the like, Hosea 13:11.)—Trapp.
1 Samuel 8:21. Samuel can go back to God with the same uprightness as he had come from that sacred place. The tides of popular feeling did not bear him away. He could stand alone in his devotedness to God, if the people should all reject the word of the Most High.… He was willing to abide by the Divine decision. His will was according to God’s. High attainment for a sinful man!—Steel.
1 Samuel 8:22. The history of the world cannot produce another instance in which a public determination was formed to appoint a king, and yet no one proposed either himself or any other person to be king, but referred the determination entirely to God. Ambition of royal authority certainly was not the motive in the leading men who supported this measure. The whole of their proceedings, even in this highly improper determination, shows how fully convinced they were that the law of Moses was from God, and that, even in appointing a king, His directions must be observed, or rather, that the decision must be referred implicitly to God Himself.—Scott.
Few who rebuke so sharply and are not followed, escape the animosity of the people, but this man of God conducted himself with such rectitude and godliness as to come forth from the ordeal with the confidence and respect of all the people.… There are times when such consistent piety would have made him a martyr; nevertheless, it insures respect, and is most likely to invest its possessor with an invulnerable character in the esteem of the very people who often refused his counsel, but had been often benefited by his prayers.—Steel.
Samuel sorrowfully dismissed them to their homes, that he might have time to take the necessary measures for effecting this great change.… It was not the wish of the prophet to leave them to all the consequences of their infatuation. With wise and noble patriotism it was henceforth his solicitude, while accomplishing their wishes, to save them, as far as possible, from the consequences they declared themselves willing to incur. And if, in the result, we find the Hebrew monarchy less absolute than generally among eastern nations—if the people retained possession of more of their national and social rights than in other eastern kingdoms—and if the strong exertion of kingly power was, in after ages, resented by them as a wrong instead of being recognised as a just prerogative, it is entirely owing to the sagacious care and forethought of Samuel, acting under Divine direction, in securing from utter destruction at the outset the liberties which the people so wilfully cast into the fire. In fact, the more we contemplate the character of Samuel, the more its greatness grows upon us, and the more distinctly we recognise the most truly illustrious character in Hebrew history since Moses.—Kitto.
This history exhibits the relation of the Divine will to the human will, when the latter stands sinfully opposed to the former. God never destroys the freedom of the human will. He leaves it to its free self-determination, but when it has turned away from His will, seeks to bring it back by the revelation of His word. If this does not succeed, human perversity must nevertheless minister to the realisation of the plans of His kingdom and salvation, and also, in its evil consequences, bring punishment, according to His righteous law, on the sin which man thus freely commits.—Lange’s Commentary.