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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Samuel 8

Verse 3

1 Samuel 8:3. And his sons walked not in his ways Eli was punished for the wickedness of his sons, but Samuel was not; because it does not appear that the crimes of Samuel's sons were in any respect so flagrant as those of the sons of Eli, nor does it appear that Samuel knew of their crimes. They lived at a great distance from him, and might receive the bribes secretly: nor, further, does it appear, that he was wanting in a proper chastisement of them when he did know of their enormities; at least nothing of this kind is recorded in history.

Verse 7

1 Samuel 8:7. They have rejected me, &c.— Samuel had now, by a wise and painful direction of affairs, restored the purity of religion, and rescued the nation from the power of the Philistines, and their other hostile neighbours, against whom they were utterly unable to make head when he entered upon the administration. At this very time, the people, debauched as usual by power and prosperity, took the pretence of the corrupt conduct of the prophet's two sons, to go in a tumultuous manner and demand a king: but the secret spring of their rebellion was the ambition of their leaders, who could live no longer without the splendor of a regal court and household. Give me, say they, in Hosea 13:10 a king and princes, where every one of them might shine a distinguished officer of state. They could get nothing when their affairs led them to their judges' poor residence, in the schools of the prophets, but the GIFT of the Holy Spirit; which a courtier, I suppose, would not prize even at the rate at which Simon Magus held it, of a paltry piece of money. This it was, and this only, that made their demand criminal; for the choosing regal rather than aristocratic viceroys, was a thing plainly indulged to them by the law of Moses. Deuteronomy 17:14-15. Div. Leg. vol. 4: p. 80.

Verse 11

1 Samuel 8:11. This will be the manner of the king They had desired such a king to judge or rule over them as all the nations had. Now it is very well known, that all the eastern nations were under despotic government. It is, therefore, such a kind of government which Samuel sets forth in the following verses, in order to dissuade them from their purpose. This is very evident from the 18th verse particularly. The people of Israel, says Baron Puffendorff, had hitherto lived under governors raised up by God, who had exacted no tribute of them, nor put them to any charge; but, little content with this form of government, they desire to have a king like other nations, who should live in magnificence and pomp, keep armies, and be ready to resist any invasion. Samuel informs them what it was that they desired, that when they understood it they might consider whether they would persist in their choice. If they would have a king splendidly attended, he tells them, that he would take their sons for his chariots, &c. If they would have him keep up constant forces, then he would appoint them for colonels and captains, and employ those in his wars who were accustomed to follow their family business: and since, after the manner of other kings, he must keep a stately court, they must be content that their daughters should serve in several offices, which the king would think below the dignity of his wives and daughters; 1 Samuel 8:13. Many ministers also, in several departments both of war and peace, must have salaries to support them, which must be paid out of their fields and vineyards; 1 Samuel 8:14. In one word, that, to sustain his dignity, their king would exact the 10th of all they possessed, and be maintained in a royal manner out of their estates. See Puffendorff de Rebus Gestis Philippi.

Verse 20

1 Samuel 8:20. That we may be like all other nations What unaccountable blindness was it in the Israelites, not to perceive that their happiness principally consisted in their not being like other nations, but under the immediate government of that Almighty King who had chosen them for his own peculiar people and possession!

REFLECTIONS.—We have here a motion made for the alteration of the government, and the introduction of monarchy among the Jewish people.

1. Taking occasion from the ill conduct of Samuel's sons, some intriguing spirits excite the people in general to a change of government; and for this purpose they assemble in a body at Ramah, with a remonstrance of their grievance, and a petition for redress in the appointment of a king over them, like the nations around them, that he might keep a court, and appear in state and dignity among them: a request not only highly sinful against God, but most ungrateful to Samuel, whose own administration had been so upright, and who deserved no blame for his sons' ill conduct, having given them better advice, and being ready to supersede their commissions on the people's just complaints. Note; It is not unusual for those to meet with ungrateful returns, and to be neglected when they are old, who have spent their lives in the service of the public.

2. Samuel deeply resents the proposal, not because of their ill usage of himself, but sensible of their great sin against God; and therefore, ere he returns an answer, he flies to God for direction, and probably intercedes with him for their pardon, fearing lest wrath should go forth against them. Note; (1.) When we are in difficulties, it is a great relief to have a God of wisdom and love to fly to. (2.) They who use us ungratefully must have a remembrance in our prayer, not only to engage God to pardon them, but ourselves to forgive and love them.

3. God answers his prayer, and gives him directions what to reply to the people. He must not be grieved at the insult offered him, since it was more directly aimed against God himself. He was their king, and is rejected by them; nor was their ingratitude to their governors a new thing: ever since they came from Egypt they had acted thus, even to Moses and Aaron; nor was it to be wondered that they sought a new king, when they had so often sought new gods: let them, therefore, have their request; but it shall be a king in anger, and of this Samuel must solemnly warn them. Note; (1.) When we come to God in prayer, he will answer us for our direction and comfort. (2.) We need not expect kind returns from those who have shewn their ingratitude to others before us.

4. Samuel makes a faithful report of the Divine message; admonishing them of God's displeasure at their request, and the consequences that would follow from the establishment of that kingly government upon which their minds were so bent. They looked only to the pomp, but considered not that they must bear the burden. Under his despotic sway, their sons would be enslaved, listed in his guards as soldiers, or as footmen attendant on his chariots, or as servants employed to till and reap his ground. His table, covered with luxury, would require their daughters' laborious service to prepare for it provisions and delicacies: to gratify his favourites, or reward his officers, the instruments of his oppression, the best of their possessions would be plundered; whilst, rivalling the tabernacle of God, another tenth of their increase must be paid for support of his grandeur. When these burdens were felt they would complain, but to no purpose: God would justly reject their petitions, and leave them to the misery they had courted. Note; (1.) The gratification of our inordinate desires brings a plague along with it. (2.) They who reject God are justly rejected by him.

5. Far from desisting on this representation, they obstinately persevere in their demands, and will have a king, discrediting Samuel's report, perhaps suspecting him of design. They will be like the nations, though slaves; and have a king to go before them to battle, though taught by late experience, how much better it was to have God to fight for them than to fight for themselves. Note; (1.) No reproofs will restrain the obstinate sinner. (2.) The kindest advice is sometimes liable to be misrepresented as selfish and designing.

6. Samuel, at God's command, consents to their request. Having retired, to wait upon God and know his final resolution, he is commanded to assure them that they shall have a king; and he bids them in the mean time return, and expect shortly to hear the nomination of the person that God would choose to reign in Israel.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.