I Samuel 8




         (Chapters 8-31).


THE great interest of the First Book of Samuel lies in the fact that we have

in it the orderly consolidation of two of the main factors in the preparation

for the manifestation of our Lord, namely, prophecy and the kingdom. The

first seven chapters give us the history of Samuel’s birth, and of the gradual

development in him of those spiritual powers which finally made him not

merely a prophet, but the founder of prophecy as a permanent and

regularly organized institution of the Jewish Church. The whole of the rest

of the book, while adding many interesting particulars about Samuel, is

occupied with the establishment of the kingdom and with Saul. We have in

him, both in his uprise and his fall, one of the most remarkable personages

of the Old Testament. But his character for good and for evil will develop

itself as we proceed. Before, however, we can appreciate his history, it is

necessary for us to understand something of the vast issues that depended

upon the change of government effected in his person. With Samuel, then,

and Saul we have come to the time when the prophet and the king take

their due place in the development of Israel. They were both essential to its

progress, and the accomplishment of its Divine mission, and in Deuteronomy

17:14-20, and again in 28:36, the establishment of the monarchy is spoken of as a

virtual necessity. It was not Israel’s highest ideal, far from it. Had religion been as

far advanced as in the days of Hezekiah and Isaiah, the theocracy might have

existed in such a form as would have insured the national safety. But such as the

people were in the centuries which followed the conquest of Canaan, it was

rather a high and glorious idea than a fact capable of being realized. It was

one of those magnificent thoughts which raised the Israelites so high above

the level of ordinary nations, and gave such grandeur and nobleness to the

long struggle of their history; but it was a thought, the value of which lay in

its giving them a future, towards which their faces were ever turned, and

which, by the sublimity of its conception, ever drew them onwards and

upwards to all that was best and most Divine.


To be then Jehovah’s own subjects, ruled directly by Him, a republic with

Jehovah for its chief, and its officers speaking at His command, and under

His direct influence and control this was Israel’s grand ideal. As a matter of

fact, it did not give them peace at home nor security from foreign invasion.

It did not even enable them to advance in the path of culture or morality,

nor did it so work as to bind the twelve tribes together into a harmonious

whole. Throughout the Book of Judges we find the record of a desperate

struggle in which Israel again and again is in danger of being utterly

destroyed from among the nations, and at the end of this period the

Philistines are the dominant power, and Israel is disarmed and virtually at

their mercy. The cause of this was that somehow or other the priests and

Levites were unable to prevent the people from lapsing into idolatry, and

though upon their repentance Jehovah, as their King, aid on every

emergency raise men to be their saviours, yet the system was too cumbrous

and exceptional for ordinary times. It was only in times of trouble that the

nation roused itself to the conviction that it was Jehovah’s realm, and

fought with the heroism which so grand a thought must give it; at other

times it sank down each day to a lower level, till all that the last judge,

Samson, could do was to arouse the national spirit to a prolonged

resistance and a last effort against the dangers and difficulties that were

threatening Israel with gradual extinction (see on ch. 1:3).  This powerlessness

in war was the inevitable result of having no settled ordinary ruler, whose business

it was to convoke the national forces, and provide for the general safety; but it was

by no means the worst evil attendant in practice upon the theocracy. In the three last

chapters of the Book of Judges we have the history of a fearful crime, punished with

equally fearful cruelty. What makes it the more remarkable is that it took

place in the days of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, at a time when the

public morality still stood high, and religion had great influence over the

people. Now, had there been a king he would have punished the

malefactors, as a matter of course; but when it had to be done by an

extraordinary gathering of the people in arms, the Benjamites, always a

high-spirited tribe, imagined themselves bound in honor to resist an

invasion of their territory, and a violent civil war was the result. So

embittered did the feelings of the Israelites become at the brave defense of

the Benjamites, that when at last they had overpowered them, they burned

their cities with fire, and put men, women, children, and cattle to an

indiscriminate slaughter. Repenting soon afterwards of their revolting

cruelty, they treated the men of Jabesh-Gilead with almost equal violence,

on the pretence of their not having taken part in the war, but really to

provide the remaining Benjamites with wives. Now, both at the beginning

and end of this narrative, it is carefully pointed out that all this crime and

cruelty was the result of the state of anarchy which everywhere prevailed.

“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was

right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). There was no regular administration of

justice, no person whose business it was to maintain law and order, no one whose

authority kept malefactors in awe, and who, when a crime had been committed,

would punish it in a regular manner, and with the general approval of all parties;

and so every species of villainy could be practiced with impunity (It is hard to

believe, that in my lifetime – 1943-2016 – that this is close to the state of affairs

in the United States of America!  CY – 2016) - until the patience of the community

was exhausted, and it visited the offenders with a violence so summary as to

make it repent afterwards of its own cruelty.  The position of these three chapters,

immediately preceding in the Hebrew the Books of Samuel (for the insertion of

the Book of Ruth is a modern attempt at a chronological arrangement), seems

intended to point out that the king was as absolutely necessary for the well being

of the Hebrew commonwealth as he was essential for the perfecting of the Messianic

idea.  It is in Christ’s kingdom that the theocracy becomes a realized fact, and

Christ is above all things a King. Now in Israel the King was emphatically

the Anointed One, i.e. the Messiah or Christ (ch.  2:10, 35; 10:1; 12:3, etc.).

True it is that in Christ all offices must be united, and He must be a Priest to make

atonement and a Prophet to teach as well as a King to rule; yet we find in Israel,

as the type of Christ’s kingdom, that priest and prophet stood at the king’s beck.

In Solomon we have the delineation of Israel’s king in his full power and glory;

and we find him thrusting out Abiathar from being high priest (I Kings 2:27),

appointing the order of service for the priests and Levites (II Chronicles 8:14),

and having the prophets in attendance upon him to record his noble deeds

(II Chronicles 9:29). To Solomon’s reign the Israelites ever looked back as

giving the ideal of what their “anointed one” should be, and onward they

looked to the coming of One who should perfect this ideal, and instead of

staining it with sin, as Solomon did, should raise it to the full and vast

dimensions of Israelite thought. Most painful must it have been to the

nation that each one of its first three kings, though rising every one far

above the level of ordinary men, yet fell so very far short of their ideal. And

then came the rent in the kingdom, and an ideal king was possible no longer.

But the prophets kept the thought ever alive in the hearts of the people,

and in the fullness of time THE MESSIAH CAME!   Meanwhile the

establishment of the earthly monarchy was an essential condition for the security,

the continuance, and the development of Israel. Without a king Israel could

never have performed its work of preparing for Christ. Even the

organization of prophecy was delayed till there was a king, because when a

nation has to fight for its very existence there is no room for a literary and

educated order of men. Learning would have died out in the middle ages

had there not been cloisters into which men who loved mental culture

might retire. Still it was not this which made the people cling so tenaciously

to the hope held out to them by Moses, but the daily vexation of Philistine

misrule. And what the Philistines were to them now all the neighboring

nations had previously been in turn. Throughout the Book of Judges we

find a state of things described from which all thoughtful men must have

desired deliverance, and the few exceptions, as when they flourished for a

time under the strong hand of Gideon, only served to bring out the contrast

more clearly between times when they had a ruler and times when they had

none. We need not wonder, therefore, at the persistency with which the

people urged their demand, even after the dark pictures which Samuel had

drawn of what a king might become if he degenerated into a tyrant. But

our admiration is due to the patriotism and generosity which made this

noble-minded man grant their request, though he knew that he thereby

limited his own powers, and gave his sons an inferior place. So also had

Moses done before. While he gave Aaron high and perpetual office, he let

his own family fall back into the position of ordinary Israelites. And,

moreover, the king whom Samuel chose was a grand hero, though, like so

many men gifted with great powers of command, he fell through that self-will

which is the besetting sin of ruling natures. Few men can endure the

trial of the possession of absolute power, and least of all those endowed

with an energetic and resolute temperament. It is a noble testimony that

David bears to Saul and his heroic son in the “Song of the Bow” (II Samuel

1:19-27): “mighty” they were, and “the beauty of Israel,” though

Saul marred his glory by great and ruinous faults. With Saul, then, the rest

of the book is occupied, and it divides itself into two parts:


Ø      the founding and establishment of Saul’s kingdom (chs. 8-15); and

Ø      its gradual decay and final fall (chs. 16-31.).





(Chapters 8-15).





1 “And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons

judges over Israel.”   As Samuel lived for very many years

after this time, till towards the close of Saul’s reign, he was probably not

more than sixty when this happened. The dates are all very uncertain, but

he was probably between twenty and thirty when Shiloh was captured, and

no doubt, according to Israelite custom, had married as soon as he arrived

at manhood. Then came the most important and active period of his life,

during which the ark rested for twenty years in the house of Abinadab, and

Samuel was traversing every part of the country, preaching repentance, and

preparing the people for a revolt from the tyranny of the Philistines. Upon

this followed the victory at Mizpah, and the establishment of Samuel as

judge. Now some considerable time would elapse before Samuel so felt the

weight of increasing years as to delegate a part of his authority to his sons,

and more again before the national discontent at their covetousness became

general. The Talmud, however, represents Samuel as being at this time

only fifty-two years of age, while Abravanel says seventy, and the latter

number is by no means impossible; for as a Nazarite Samuel would lead a

life of perfect temperance, and his predecessor Eli lived to be ninety-eight,

and died then by an accident. Still, probably, Abravanel’s calculation is too

high, and we must remember that besides the misconduct of Samuel’s sons,

there was the growing danger of the re-establishment of the domination of

the Philistines to quicken the people’s movements. They had garrisons

again in Israel when Saul was chosen king, and it was this which made the

nation long for a change, but their choice would probably have fallen upon

one of Samuel’s sons had either of them been worthy. A king they had long

wished for; it is only when they saw that none of Samuel’s race would give

them internal peace and security that they took public action for the

appointment of some one else.


2 “Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his

second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba.”  The names of Samuel’s

sons are pledges of his faith — Joel meaning Jehovah is God, and Abiah

Jah is Father. The name given in I Chronicles 6:28, Vashni, is a

mistake. It means, “and the second,” the name of Joel the firstborn having

somehow been omitted. The names of Saul’s sons, and even of Jonathan’s,

unlike those in Samuel’s family, bear witness to their religion having been

of a curiously mixed character. In Beer-sheba. Not, therefore, in any of

the places to which Samuel went in person, and which were all near

Ramah, his home. Beer-sheba was in the extreme south of the tribe of

Judah (see on Genesis 21:31), on the Philistine border, and his being

able to place his sons there in authority proves, not merely that his rule was

acknowledged throughout the whole country, but also that the Philistines

did not interfere much with the internal arrangements of the Israelites.

Josephus (‘Antiq.,’ 6:3, 2) represents only one son as placed at Beer-sheba,

and says that the other was judge at Dan, but it may be doubted whether

the northern tribes were sufficiently under control to submit to be governed

by a southern judge.


3 “And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre,

and took bribes, and perverted judgment.” His sons…took bribes. This sin

was expressly forbidden in Exodus 23:6, 8; Deuteronomy 16:19, and it marks

the high spirit of the nation that it was so indignant at justice being thus perverted.

They walked not in his way (singular — so the written text); for Samuel’s own

administration of justice had been most upright (ch. 12:4), nor is

it laid to his charge that he connived at the misconduct of his sons. On the

contrary, after remonstrance indeed, not for his sons’ sake, but for the

honor of the theocracy, and that the people might be on their guard

against a despotic exercise of the power with which they were about to

entrust a single man, he superseded not them only, but also himself. His

conduct in this trying conjuncture was most admirable, and few

commentators have done justice to the man, who, possessed of what was

virtually kingly power, yet gave it over for the nation’s good into the hands

of another.



Ignoble Sons of an Honored Father (vs. 1-3)


Nearly all that is known of Samuel’s household is here stated. He had atleast two

sons, Joel (Jehovah is God) and Abiah (my father is Jah), whose names were

indicative of the devout spirit in which they were given (I Chronicles 6:28:

“And the sons of Samuel, the firstborn, and the second Abiah;” v. 33:

Heman a singer, the son of Joel;”  (ibid. ch. 15:17; 25:5: Heman, the king’s seer”).

During the period of his judgeship they grew to maturity, and toward its close he

made them judges over Israel, and sent them to administer justice in Beersheba,

in the southern limit of the land. His influence as judge as well as prophet extended

“from Dan even to Beersheba (ch. 3:20), and with advancing age he needed

assistance in his labors. “It may be doubted whether Samuel acted wisely

in making this appointment, especially if, as seems to have been

understood, the nomination in his lifetime of his sons to fulfill the functions

he had hitherto discharged alone was an intimation that he meant them to

be regarded as his successors in such government as he exercised. Nothing

of this kind had been done before. And thus, almost unconsciously,

perhaps, he was led to give a kind of sanction to the hereditary principle of

government which was soon to be turned against himself” (Kitto). He

acted according to his judgment of what was best, and doubtless with

disinterestedness. There is no reason to suppose that he failed to train his

sons in the right way, or that he was aware of their conduct at Beersheba

“and restrained them not,” as Eli. He is not, therefore, to be blamed. No man is

infallible. The plans of the wisest men are often marred by the misconduct

of others. And this appointment was, in its result, disastrous.


  • THEIR ADVANTAGES WERE GREAT. They were sons of one of the

most faithful and eminent servants of God, had the benefit of his instruction

and example in private and public, studied perhaps in a school of the

prophets, were well acquainted with the law, held in honor for their

father’s sake, placed in responsible positions. All these things, we might

have expected, would have made them circumspect, just, and devout; and

they should have done so. How, then, can we account for their defection?


Ø      Goodness is not hereditary. “The sinner begets a sinner, but a saint doth

not beget a saint” (Matthew Henry). Hereditary relationship exerts a powerful

influence on the mind and disposition, but nothing but DIVINE GRACE can

change the heart.


“Rarely into the branches of the tree

Doth human worth mount up: and so ordains

He who bestows it, that as His free gift

It may be called”

(Dante, ‘Purg.’ 7.).


Ø      Education is not omnipotent. When children of a good man turn out

badly, it may generally be traced to some defect of training, through

attention to other duties, absence from home, inconsistency at home,

unwise methods, excessive strictness, unjust partiality, undue indulgence,

maternal carelessness, intimate association with evil companions (in some

cases unknown and unpreventable). We do not know enough of Samuel’s

household to say that it was wholly free from such influences. But the most

perfect education is limited in its power over character.


Ø      Power is a perilous trust. It presents temptations which are sometimes

too strong for men who under other circumstances might not have fallen. It

is a severe test, and a sure revealer, of character (Luke 12:45). Power

shows the man.


Ø      Each man is responsible for his own conduct. He is endowed with the

power of choosing or refusing good and evil, and no external

circumstances can fully account for the choice he makes. “Every man shall

bear his own burden” (Galatians 6:5). “As the soul of the father, so also

the soul of the son is mine, the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” etc.

(Ezekiel 18:4).


  • THEIR CONDUCT WAS BASE. “His sons walked not in his ways” of

truth, integrity, self-denial, and true godliness; but “turned aside” from

them to:


Ø      Covetousness, or the undue love of earthly possessions. “The love of

money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:17-19). “Covetousness is

idolatry” (Luke 12:15; Colossians 3:5). “It is the idolatry of the heart,

where, as in a temple, a miserable wretch excludes God, sets up gold

instead of Him, and places that confidence in it which belongs to the great

Supreme alone.” It was one of the necessary qualifications of judges that

they should be “men of truth, hating covetousness” (Exodus 18:21).

Nothing is more corrupting than “the narrowing lust of gold.”

Ø      Bribery (Exodus 23:6, 8; Deuteronomy 16:18-20).

Ø      Perversion of justice (Proverbs 17:15).

Ø      Their conduct in all these things was so persistent and flagrant that it

was known to “all the elders of Israel.” They openly abused their power

for selfish ends, trampled on the law which they were appointed to

“magnify and make honourable,” and wrought against the purpose

which Samuel spent his life in effecting.


  • THEIR INFLUENCE WAS PERNICIOUS. Not only did they bring

misery upon themselves, and occasion bitter sorrow to their aged father;

but they also:


Ø      Inflicted grievous injury on those with reference to whom they “took

bribes and perverted judgment.”

Ø      Set a bad example to all men (Psalm 12:8).

Ø      Brought their high office into contempt.

Ø      Contributed directly to a national revolution. How true it is that “one

sinner destroyeth much good!”   (Ecclesiastes 9:18)


4 “Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to

Samuel unto Ramah,  5  And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy

sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

The elders of Israel. Here, as elsewhere (ch. 15:30; II Samuel 5:3; I Kings 8:3, etc.),

we have traces of a popular assembly, representing the Israelite nation, and composed

probably of the chiefs and heads of fathers houses. Already in Egypt (Exodus 3:16,

etc.) we find stone such body in existence, and it seems to have lasted

throughout the whole history of the nation; for it outlived the monarchy,

gained increased power after the exile, and continued down to New

Testament times. The demand, therefore, for a king, though a sort of revolt

against Samuel’s authority, was at least made in a constitutional manner,

and came before him with all the weight of a formal decision on the part of

the representatives of the nation. They put it also in the form of a request,

for which they give two reasons.


  • First, the decay of his physical powers — Behold, thou art old. Wise and

vigorous as his rule had been, yet with increasing years there was less of

energy; and the events recorded as having occurred at the beginning of

Saul’s reign show, that in order to check the increasing power of the

Philistines, a leader was needed who was at once daring, resolute, and

skilful in war.


  • But there was a further reason: Thy sons walk not in thy ways. These

words show that the elders had the most perfect confidence in Samuel.

They felt that he would not connive at the wickedness of his sons, but

would do what was right by the nation.


Thus they had everything to hope from the father’s justice, while if they

waited till his death the sons might resist what was virtually their

deposition. That the sons of a judge possessed considerable power see

Judges 9:2. Make us a king to judge us like all the nations. I.e. just

as all the heathen nations have a king. The words are those of

Deuteronomy 17:14, and were probably intended to remind Samuel

that the nation was only asking what had virtually been promised.


6 “But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us.

And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.”  But the thing displeased Samuel, and

justly so. For, in the first place, they had determined to have a king WITHOUT

CONSULTING THE WILL OF GOD!  Granting that it would give them the

security necessary for the nation’s welfare and progress, yet so weighty a matter

ought not to have been decided without an appeal to Jehovah. Samuel did make

it a matter of prayer; the elders were actuated solely by political motives. And,

secondly, they undervalued their own religious privileges. They wanted a king

such as the heathen had, whereas something far better and higher was possible

for them, namely, a king who would be the representative of Jehovah, as

the shophet had hitherto been. The nation’s real need was not a new

power, but the permanent organization of what up to this time had been a

casual authority. And it was Samuel’s high office to give the nation this,

while he also changed the outward form of prophecy, and made it too into

an orderly institution. A king to judge us. I.e. to govern us, as the shophet

or, judge had done, only in a more regularly constituted manner. And

Samuel prayed unto Jehovah. There had been no such submission to the

will of God on the part of the elders; but deeply as Samuel must have been

hurt by this determination of the nation to take the government out of the

hands of himself and his sons, yet he leaves the decision to JEHOVAH!

Moreover, we must note that it was as prophet that he thus acted as

mediator between the people and God; and he gave them his services in

this his highest capacity as faithfully when the question was one injurious

to himself as he had ever done on more pleasing occasions.



The Benefit of Prayer (v. 6)


“And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.” The blessings obtained in answer to

prayer are real and manifold. Some of them are outward and material —

daily bread, health, safety, life. God is “in all, above all, and through all,”

the personal and free Ruler of the universe, and able to grant our petitions

for temporal good in harmony with the established order of nature. The

mind and will of man can produce changes in the material world without

disturbing that order; much more can the eternal mind and will do the

same. Other blessings are inward and spiritual — wisdom, righteousness,

peace, and joy. The “Father of spirits” has access to the human spirit,

penetrates it as light the atmosphere, holds communion with it, and

disposes it to holiness. Spiritual blessings are incomparably more valuable

than material. What we are determines our relation to surrounding objects.

And beneficial changes wrought within are followed by similar changes in

the world without. “In prayer we make the nearest approaches unto God,

and lie open to the influences of Heaven. Then it is that the Sun of

righteousness doth visit us with His directest rays, and dissipates our

darkness, and imprinteth his image on our souls” (Scougal).


“Speak to Him, thou, for He hears, and spirit with spirit can meet.

Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet”



In illustration of the spiritual benefit of prayer let us consider how Samuel,

who “prayed unto the Lord” in his trouble, and “rehearsed all the words of

the people in the ears of the Lord” (v. 21), was comforted and helped in

time of need. What a different man he was when he came forth from

communion with his Almighty Friend to speak to the elders of Israel from

what he was when he went from them, “displeased” (v. 6) and distressed,

to pour out his heart before the Lord! “What profit shall we have if we

pray unto him?”


1. Relief for a burdened heart. It is often a great relief to tell our trouble to

an earthly friend; much more is it to pour it forth into the bosom of God.

“No other God but the God of the Bible is heart to heart” (Niebuhr).

“They went and told Jesus” (Matthew 14:12).  “Pour out your heart

before Him.”  (Psalm 62:8)


2. Sympathy under bitter disappointment. Samuel seemed to have

laboured in vain and spent his strength for nought.” But God sanctioned

his work, identified Himself with him, shared his disappointment, and took

his burden on Himself. In rejecting his faithful servants men reject the Lord.

“Why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:5). He sympathizes with them

(Hebrews 4:5); and one smile of His more than compensates for

apparent failure and the frowns of the whole world. “By degrees two

thoughts calmed him. The first was the feeling of identification with God’s

cause. The other element of consolation was the Divine sympathy. Atheism

and revolution here, as elsewhere, went hand in hand. We do not know

how this sentence was impressed by the infinite mind on Samuel’s mind; all

we know is, he had a conviction that God was a fellow sufferer”  (Robertson).


3. Guidance in great perplexity. The will of the Lord, it may be, is at first

hidden or obscure, but in fellowship with Him the mists and clouds that

prevent our seeing it are cleared away, the sun shines forth, and our way is

made plain. We see “the light of this world” (John 11:9). “The vocation

of man is the sun in the heavens of his life.” “The secret of the Lord” (the

counsel or advice, such as a man gives to his friend) “is with them that fear

Him” (Psalm 25:14). God tells His secrets only to His friends. “The meek

will He guide in judgment: the meek will He teach his way” (ibid. v. 9).

“He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).


4. Submission to the supreme will. That will is always wisest and best; it

cannot be altered or made to bend to ours; and one of the chief benefits of

prayer is that thereby we receive grace which disposes us to accept humbly

and cheerfully what at first appears evil in our sight. We are made of one

mind with God.


5. Strength for painful duty. It may be to “protest solemnly” (v. 9)

against the course resolved upon by others, to alter our own course and

expose ourselves to the charge of inconsistency, to face opposition,

danger, and death. But, God never appoints us a duty without giving us

strength to perform it. Habitual prayer constantly confers:


a.      decision on the wavering,

b.      energy on the listless,

c.       calmness on the excitable, and

d.      disinterestedness on the selfish.”



6. Composure amidst general excitement. Whilst the elders clamor, “Nay;

but we will have a king over us,” Samuel is unmoved. He calmly listens to

their decision, takes it back to God in secret prayer, and then comes forth

and says, “Go ye every man to his own city.” “Thou wilt keep him in

perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee”

(Isaiah 26:3). Hurricanes revolve around a center of perfect calm.

Outside the charmed circle the tempest may rage furiously; within it all is

peace. Such is the heart and mind kept (garrisoned) by the peace of God

(Philippians 4:7).


7. Confidence in a glorious future. “The Lord will not forsake His people

for His great name’s sake” (ch. 12:22). He works out His purposes by

unexpected methods, overrules human perversity, and makes the wrath of

man to praise him (Psalm 76:10). “What will the end be?” it was said at a

time of great and general anxiety to an eminent servant of God (Dr. A. Clarke),

who replied, with a beaming countenance, “Glory to God in the highest, and

on earth peace, good will toward men.”


7 “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the

people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected

thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”

In prayer then the answer came to him that the request of the

people must be granted, however wrongly it had been urged. In itself it was

wrong; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that

I should not reign over them. As we saw above, they wanted no

theocratic king, whose first duty would be to maintain the Mosaic law

(Deuteronomy 17:18-19), and protect the priest and prophet in the

discharge of their legitimate functions; all they wanted was a soldier who

would put an end to their state of anarchy, and enable them to cultivate

their fields without the danger of seeing the produce swept off by marauders.


8 “According to all the works which they have done since the day that

I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they

have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

9  Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest

solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that

shall reign over them.”  According to all the works, etc. They showed in this

the same lack of respect and affection for their own institutions and religious

privileges which had marked all their history since the day when Jehovah

brought them up out of Egypt. And therefore Samuel was to protest

solemnly unto them, and show them. The two verbs do not mean

different things, but the same. “To protest” is to testify, to bear witness,

and warn them of the danger they were incurring. And as they were asking

not for the development and perfecting of their own institutions, but for a

government modeled upon the institutions of the heathen round them,

Samuel shows what are the dangers inherent in the establishment of a

despot such as the kings of the heathen were. As a rule the kings of Judaea

did not resemble the picture drawn by Samuel, but in spite of many

blemishes remained true to their allegiance to Jehovah as the supreme

Ruler of the nation, and confined themselves within the limits marked out

for them by the Mosaic law. Now therefore, at the beginning of the verse,

is in the Hebrew simply “And now.” There is no inference implied in it.



Discontent with God’s Methods (vs. 1-9)


The facts are:


1. In Samuel’s old age his sons, being judges over Israel, abuse their office

by accepting bribes.


2. This fact is adduced by the people as a reason for asking Samuel to

make them a king.


3. Samuel in his grief seeks counsel of God.


4. Samuel is instructed to yield to their request, while protesting against it.


5. The conduct of the people is declared to be an expression of the

perverse tendency characteristic of their history. The order of government

under which Israel was living had received the special sanction of God, and

had, also, grown naturally out of their circumstances. Though often sinful

and foolish, it had never before entered into their minds to seek, apart from

God, a change in the political settlement inherited from the times of Moses.

The deputation which waited on Samuel, asking for a king was:


Ø      not the expression of a sagacious patriotism, nor

Ø      of profound concern for the spiritual interests of the commonwealth,

and ultimately of the world; but of

Ø      a restless desire for what God would give in His own time,

mingled with a dissatisfaction with the system which God then

was sanctioning (vs. 20-21).


Practically, to Samuel; it meant, We can suggest and we demand now a course

more agreeable to our views of life and our aspirations than that you represent.

Samuel’s pain was acute and natural, and the concession made to the discontented,

though apparently a breach in the Divine order, was in keeping with God’s usual

treatment of men.



VARIOUSLY SHOWN. Men can detect and condemn faults in others

which they either do not see or condone in themselves. It is possible for us,

in the light of history, to dilate on the sin and folly of Israel while the same

temper may be manifested by us in other forms. Discontent with God’s

methods and times may appear in various relations.


Ø      The general government of the world. It is not often said that God has

made a mistake in constituting the moral and material universe in such a

way that so much sin and suffering should be possible; but the feeling is

often entertained that it would have been well if some other course had

been instituted. There is more of this feeling lurking in some hearts than is

supposed. Men dare not face certain of their mental operations. How far

the feeling affects theology, philosophical theories, personal rest in God,

and fitness for doing the best Christian work, demands serious



Ø      The manner and form in which revelation has been conveyed to man.

Many attacks on the Bible proceed from a discontent with what is

conceived to be inadequate to the wants of the world; and in some this

feeling has generated the supposed discovery of reasons for discarding the

book as a revelation from God at all. The very primitive biographical

notices; outlines of tribal history interblended with singular personal

experiences; genealogies of uninteresting names; crude ideas and antique

customs of strange people — all this in connection with a favored people,

and relieved by streaks of light suited to men of later times, does not seem

to be a mode of revelation most likely to survive the advancing intelligence

of the world. It is also not the most satisfactory thing for so precious a

boon as a revelation to be given in detached portions, to be conveyed

originally to men of one country, and to be characterized by a series of

supernatural events. Men feel that God has imposed a hard task on them to

have to defend and justify what seems open to assault from so many sides.

They wish it had been His will to have given His light so unmixed with an

ancient human history that the most keen antagonist would be compelled to

recognize its presence. To some it really seems as though the form and

origin of the contents of the Bible were a misfortune. Of course this

discontent, silent or expressed, springs from an imperfect consideration of

the real nature and purport of the revelation given, as well as of the

inevitable conditions of any revelation that has to be coextensive with the

wants of both the first and last ages of the world; and that, moreover, has

to be concentrated and verified in a Divine person duly attested by a

contemporary evidence harmonious with a chain of antecedent proof. It

would be useful to the Church if some one, dissatisfied with the way in

which God is affirmed to have made known His will to succeeding ages,

would prescribe the right way.  (And of course, liberal theology does this?

CY – 2016)


Ø      The method of saving men by atonement. That God does save souls by

means of an atonement bearing, in some way, an objective relation to His

government, as well as a moral relation to men’s lives, is so clearly the

natural teaching of the Bible that it can only be eliminated by the adoption

of a forced, non-natural interpretation of fact and statement. (Of course,

agnostics, atheists and liberal theologians are happy to do this for you!

CY – 2016)  The discontent which some feel with the atonement is the

reason for what is manifestly a forced interpretation of language. Entertaining

the crude notion that the atonement is a transaction affecting three distinct

beings, forgetful of the pregnant fact that it was GOD IN CHRIST, who, by

sacrifice, effects redemption, and not considering well that all the pain and

suffering, supposed to be imposed for the benefit of another, abide on any

theory for the benefit of some one, they prefer a system in which pardon is

based on the merits of a moral change brought on by a display of love in the

shame and agonies of the cross!  (“For by grace are ye saved through

faith; and that no of yourselves:  it is the gift of God; not of works, lest

any man should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ

Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should

walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:8-10)


Ø      The means of perfecting holiness in character. The long and tedious

process by which often the soul advances from one degree of purity to

another awakens dissatisfaction and fretfulness. Why should so blessed an

issue as sanctification be insured by sometimes loss of property, friends,

and health? Is it not possible to secure elevation of character apart from



Ø      The means used for the conversion of the world. There is not a more

common form of discontent than this. The Apostle Peter had to contend

with it when he reminded his readers of the thousand years being with God

as one day. That a religion demonstrably Divine, destined to be supreme,

so entirely conducive to the temporal as also spiritual interests OF ALL

MEN should be slow in progress and skill is a puzzle to many. Indolence,

wild interpretations of prophecy, and latent skepticism are often but

indications of a wish that God had not so ordained the constitution of things.



Israelites was that Samuel’s sons were untrustworthy — the sources of

justice were corrupt. The argument urged seemed to indicate a love of

purity, concern for the moral welfare of the state, a fine sense of national

honor, a real advance from the degradation which had acquiesced in the

vices of Eli’s sons, and an appreciation of Samuel’s own character. But

men often pay homage to conscience by creating delusive arguments

wherewith to set aside the behests of conscience. This reference to the

sons of Samuel was only a pretext; for the evil could have been remedied

by demanding their removal. It is clear that the plea was only a cover for a

deep aversion, a predetermined plan to get rid of the present system,

whether the prophet of God approved or not. Nor is the discontent of men

with other of the methods of God without apparent reason. As in Samuel’s

time, so NOW men who cherish or express uneasiness with respect to

God’s ways in the government of the world and revelation seize hold of

some incident, some human aspect, some partial truth that really DOES

NOT TOUCH THE MAIN ISSUE, and make it the cover for an aversion

of deeper moral origin. (This has often been the case in THE GAY

AGENDA, abortion rationale – see Abortion Rationale – 2012 – this

website – CY – 2016)  An everlasting universal government has only had time

to exhibit its first principles, and yet some transitory phenomenal inequalities

are seized on as grounds of dissatisfaction with what must be of immeasurable

range and ceaseless development. From scattered incidents of which the

circumstances are not fully known, and from forms of representation suited

to men not blessed with full gospel light, the discontented draw a plea for a

revelation to the individual man apart from Scripture.  (Is this not the

techniques used by Mass Media today????????????????? – CY – 2016)

To a plain, unbiased mind an objective revelation and an objective atonement

are as truly facts as was God’s government by judges, and as is His present

government of the world in spite of apparent inequalities; but earnest desire

to see the world blessed with “true ideas” and “beneficent influences” are

pleas for explaining away what is VERY CLEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The plea sounds well; but if men will look deeper it may be found to cover

a settled aversion to submit to a ruling not chosen by self. No revealed truth

is in moral antagonism with our true nature.




wounded, not by the allusion to his sons, but by the people’s evident

aversion to God’s ways and time. That any one should dare to suggest a

variation from what God had approved was to him incomprehensible. He

felt that God’s method and time must be wisest, best, safest, because they

were His. As a true man of God, he naturally seeks counsel from on high.

In Samuel’s displeasure there was an element of surprise, but his dominant

feeling was sympathy with all that was of God. Sympathy with God is one

of the natural fruits of piety. It was seen in Caleb and Joshua when the

people were averse to the Divine procedure. Jeremiah knew it when

wishing that his head were waters and his eyes a fountain of tears. In “Not

my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42) received its highest expression.

In proportion as it is strong does the resistance of men to the ways of God

cause wonder, shame, and anguish. To such a soul all the works of God are

excellent; they shine with supernal glory. Providences dark and painful are

even welcomed as parts of the Father’s blessed discipline. What men call

imperfections are felt to be only dim intimations of some glorious, loving

purpose. “Whatever is is right,” comes from the heart when the intellect is

baffled. This blessed sympathy with God! This belief which no argument

can shake! This glorious optimism resting on the fact that the all-wise and

loving One cannot but do right!  (Genesis 18:25)  It is not any so called

Christian that attains to it. Yet it is the truest philosophy; for it is rest in God,

content with His will. “Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”

          (Revelation 15:3)




vengeance came on the rejecters of God. Consolation is poured into the

heart of the sorrowing prophet; a reference of their conduct to their

ineradicable perversity is made, and they are to have their way under

protest (vs. 7-9). This patience is in keeping with the record of God’s

treatment of Israel in Psalm 78:39 - “He remembered that they

were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.”

The same is seen still. As Christ once “endured the contradiction

of sinners” (Hebrews 12:3), so does God constantly suffer men to raise

their voice against His appointments. He is “slow to anger.” Calmly He

allows men even to deny His existence, to criticize His government, to reject

the light of His revelation, to invent ways of their own for securing future

blessedness, and to murmur at His means of subduing the curse of sin. In

their folly men interpret this patience of God as evidence of the correctness

of their position (“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed

speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do

evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11), forgetting that “the day of the Lord” is coming

(II Peter 3:10), when men shall reap the fruit of their ways. To the successors

of the prophet there is still consolation in the assurance that their prayer is

heard, and their honor covered by the honor of their God. Hence the calmness,

“the patience of the saints.” They often can do little more than “protest”

against the unbelief and waywardness of the world. A whole nation on one

side and a Samuel on the other does not convert error into truth and folly

into wisdom. But none of these things shake the confidence of the few who,

in critical seasons, are in deep sympathy with God; for they know, by a varied

experience, His vast patience, and are assured that some day feeble men will

learn the lesson, perhaps bitterly, THAT HIS WAYS ARE BEST!




Ø      The inconsistencies of men in office furnish occasion for developing the

latent evils of their fellows (vs. 3-4; Jeremiah 5:31).


Ø      The deceitfulness of the heart is seen in the eagerness with which men

endeavour to justify what dare not be plainly avowed (v. 5).


Ø      Human history shows how utterly incompetent man is to form a correct

estimate of the ways of God (vs. 5, 8; “These things thou hast done, and I

kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself;

but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.”  - Psalm



Ø      Every heresy and departure from God’s ways is plausible to many, and

may seem to be unchecked, but GOD NEVER VACATES HIS SEAT



10 “And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that

asked of him a king.  11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king

that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for

himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before

his chariots.”  This will be the manner of the king. On the meaning of this

word see ch.2:13. Here also it signifies not so much the legal right itself, as the

way in which that right was exercised. His chariots. The word is singular, both

here and at the end of the verse, and though it may be taken, as in the Authorized

Version, for a collective noun, “his chariotry,” yet the singular is better, because

this verse does not refer to war, but to the personal magnificence and grandeur of

the king. Instead of the old simplicity in which the judges had lived, he would

have a state chariot (see II Kings 9:21), and go forth escorted by horsemen and

runners on foot. To be his horsemen. Rather, “upon his horses.” The whole

clause should be translated, “And he will set them for him (i.e. for his service)

upon his chariot and on his horses; and they will run before his chariot.”


12 “And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains

over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his

harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his

chariots.  Captains over thousands, and captains over fifties. The

largest and smallest divisions respectively of an Israelite, army. However

objectionable the king’s personal state might be, this would fall in with the

people’s wishes, for it would give them the promise of a well organized

army. Not so the next clause, to ear i.e. to plough — his ground. Forced

labor was one of the most unjust, oppressive, and wasteful exactions of

absolute governments, and was the chief cause of the revolt of the ten

tribes from Rehoboam (compare I Kings 5:13-16; 12:4). And yet it was

the universal rule in ancient times, and in some countries it has continued

even to the present day to be the law that the peasants must at certain

seasons give their labor unpaid either to the proprietors or to the state.

Naturally, for a nation of agriculturists to have to leave their own fields just

when their presence at home was most needed to plough the king’s ground

and reap his harvest would be a bitter annoyance, because to the loss

would be added a sense of wrong. How determinately a high-spirited

nation like the Jews did resist this injustice we gather not merely from the

indignation felt against Solomon’s levies, but also from the reproach cast in

Jehoiakim’s teeth by Jeremiah, that “he used his neighbour’s service

without wages, and gave him not for his work” (Jeremiah 22:13). To

make his instruments of war. Such work must be done; but in well

organized states it is paid for by means of taxes, i.e. by a money

compensation in place of personal service. In semi-barbarous states forced

labor is used, and the national arsenals furnished at the greatest possible

expense and vexation to those compelled to labor, and loss to the national



13 “And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be

cooks, and to be bakers.” Confectionaries. Rather, “perfumers,” makers of

ointments and scents, of which Orientals are excessively fond. It is remarkable

that Samuel does not mention the far worse use to which Solomon put their

daughters (I Kings 11:3), and to a less extent David and some other kings.


14 “And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your

oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.”

Your fields. The history of the seizure of Naboth’s vineyard

shows that the kings were not able to exercise this arbitrary power. Jezebel

had to use great art and falsehood before she could get possession of the

coveted plot of ground. But throughout Samuel describes a despot ruling

after the fashion of heathen kings such as the people had desired.


15 “And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and

give to his officers, and to his servants.”  The tenth. i.e. the king will cost you

as much as all the ordinances of religion. Still national security would be cheaply

purchased at this, or even a greater cost, if the money were well spent; but Samuel

says that the king would lavish it not on his officers, but on his eunuchs, those

miserable creatures, so cruelly wronged, and generally so hateful, who

ministered to the pleasures of Oriental kings.


16 “And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and

your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his

work.”  He will… put them to his work. Again the hateful forced

service, but here not, as in v. 12, of themselves, but of their households.

Instead of your goodliest young men the Septuagint reads, “your best

oxen,” which requires only the change of one letter, and is in agreement

with the rest of the verse. Samuel would scarcely place their choicest

young men between the female slaves and the asses. But while the ass was

used chiefly for riding, the ox was, as he still continues to be upon the

Continent, man’s most faithful and valued friend and fellow laborer.


17 “He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.”

His servants. Literally, “his slaves.” Under an absolute monarchy no one is free.


18 “And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye

shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.”

Ye shall cry. In despair at this cruel oppression ye shall appeal

to Jehovah, but in vain. The king was given them at their own request,

persisted in even after warning, and they must abide by their choice. It is

worth noting that in the northern kingdom a majority of the kings more or

less fulfilled Samuel’s evil forebodings, and there they were much more

completely the product of the temper condemned by the prophet than they

were in Judah. The ten tribes roughly snapped the tie which bound them to

Jehovah; they discarded the ark and all the services of the sanctuary, and

were content with so poor an imitation of them (this is exactly what the

United States is doing in the name of that non-constitution phrase

separation of church and state – it will have the same results! CY – 2016)

that all piously disposed men were compelled to abandon their lands and

migrate into Judaea (II Chronicles 11:16); and so the majority of their kings,

not being held in check by religious influences, were tyrants. At Jerusalem,

on the contrary, most of them were content to remain within the limits of the

Mosaic law, and were upon the whole a series of men far superior, not merely

to the judges and the monarchs in old time, but to any European dynasty.


19 “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and

they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;  20  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. The people refused to obey — literally, to hearken to —

the voice of Samuel. The words of Samuel were no doubt formally

considered by the elders, and we may be sure that there would not be

wanting men to urge attention and obedience to his warning; but when the

decision had to be made, whether by vote or acclamation, the majority

persisted in their choice, and for a reason which completely justified

Samuel’s displeasure; for they say — That we also may be like all the

nations. Their wish was not to develop and perfect their own institutions,

but to revolt from them, and escape from the rigor of the Mosaic law. It is

remarkable that their nearest neighbors and most inveterate enemies, the

Philistines, had no king, but an oligarchy of five princes. Probably it had

been argued, in the assembly of the elders, that if the whole power of Israel

were gathered into one hand it would be more than a match for the

Philistines, whose energy must often have been diminished by discords

among its rulers. That our king may judge i.e. govern (ch. 7:17) —

us, and fight our battles. Here the people had reason on their

side. Both the internal administration of justice and the defense of the

country would be better managed under a permanent and regular authority

than under the judges, whose rule was extemporized to meet difficulties,

and had no inherent stability.


21 “And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed

them in the ears of the LORD.” All the words. The elders had of course reported

to Samuel all the arguments used in the assembly, and just as previously he had

carried his own distress at the national discontent with his government to

Jehovah’s footstool in prayer (v. 6), so now, in his mediatorial office as

prophet, he carries thither the nation’s petition.


22 “And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and

make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye

every man unto his city.” Hearken unto their voice. The Divine consent is now

given for the third time to their request (see vs. 7, 9). For the will of God ever

leaves the will of man free, even when overruling it to the carrying out of

some higher and fore ordained purpose. Everything was ripe in Israel for

the change, but it was due to the moderation and disinterestedness of

Samuel that the revolution was made without bloodshed or armed struggle.

Ordinary rulers too often resist a popular demand, and stem back the

flowing current of thought till it breaks through the opposing barrier, and

sweeps with resistless violence all opposition away. Samuel yielded, and

the nation trusted him so thoroughly that they left the choice of the king

entirely to him, permitted him to settle the terms and limits of the

monarchy, or, as we should say, to give the nation a constitution (ch. 10:25),

and treated him throughout the rest of his life with the deepest respect.

He was deprived neither of his prophetic rank nor of his judicial functions,

for “Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life” (ch. 7:15), i.e. he remained

to the last a coordinate power by the side of a king so self-willed and energetic

even as Saul. Go ye every man unto his city. Prudence forbade a hasty choice.

It would be well to let the agitation subside, or otherwise some busy intriguer

among the elders might have managed to get himself selected by the popular

voice. We gather from ch. 10:27 that there were leading men who felt aggrieved

when the choice fell on none of them. But how wonderful is the confidence

reposed in Samuel by the nation, when thus it left to the ruler whom virtually

it was setting aside the choice of the person to whom he should cede his powers.



Israel’s Desire for a King (vs. 4-22)



“The old order changeth, giving place to new

And God fulfils himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world”



The desire of Israel for a king, as expressed by their elders to Samuel,was a turning

point in their history.


1. This desire was not new. It existed long before (Judges 8:22; 9:9).

But new circumstances had arisen, — the greater order and unity resulting

from the labors of Samuel, the misconduct of his sons, the threatening

attitude of surrounding nations, — causing it to become stronger and more

general, and to issue in a definite and fixed determination. The elders

simply gave expression to what the heart of the people was set upon.


2. The object of their desire was not essentially wrong. It had been foretold

that kings should arise in Israel (Genesis 17:6, 16; 35:11; Numbers 24:17).

Provision had been made in the law of Moses for the choice of a

king, and directions given concerning the manner in which he should

govern (Deuteronomy 17:15-20); and, more recently, intimations had

been afforded that the time for his election was at hand (ch. 2:10, 35).

His appointment was only in apparent contradiction to the

fundamental principle of the theocracy, that “God was their King,” for it

was not intended to supersede the Divine authority; he was to be the

viceroy or deputy of Jehovah, as the judges had been; and he might be

better adapted than they to the present condition of the people.

Nevertheless, the transition was in one aspect from a higher to a lower

order of things, from a direct to a mediate theocracy; it tended to set the

invisible Ruler in the background, and it was fraught with imminent peril.


3. The sinfulness of their desire consisted in the sort of king they sought

and the spirit they manifested; whereby they, in effect, rejected the Lord as

their King. “If they had simply desired a king to be given them according to

the law of God (Deuteronomy 17:15), that should govern them in

equity, and such an one as feared God, they then had not offended; but

now they do ask a king of a preposterous desire only that they might be

like unto other nations; yet God, having purposed to erect among His

people a kingly throne, and to raise unto them a king of whose seed

Messiah should come, took this occasion to accomplish His purpose, so

turning their evil and inordinate desire unto a good end, as God can

convert the evil thoughts and actions of men to serve for His own glory”



4. Their desire was fulfilled, and the transition peaceably effected through

the agency of Samuel, who yielded to their request because he perceived

the good which was hidden therein, and that in the providence of God the

time was come for a king to be appointed (ch. 9:16). “Israel was

in the position of a boat which has been borne down in a swift stream into

the very suction of the rapids. The best would be that she should put back;

but if it be too late for this, then the best is that there should be in her a

strong arm and a steady eye to keep her head straight. And thus it was with

Israel. She plunged down the fall madly, rashly, wickedly, but under

Samuel’s control steadily” (Robertson). “He had to guide the difficult

transition of Israel’s political organization from a Divinely ruled republic

into a regularly constituted monarchy.” “To mediate between the old and

the new was, indeed, the peculiar position of Samuel. He was at once the

last of the judges, and the inaugurator of the first of the kings. Take the

whole of the narrative together — take the story first of his opposition, and

then of his acquiescence, in the establishment of the monarchy. Both

together bring us to a just impression of the double aspect in which he

appears; of the two-sided sympathy which enabled him to unite together

the passing and the coming epoch” (Stanley). His calmness, moderation,

breadth of view, practical adaptation, and lofty devotion to God and His

people were herein exhibited in an eminent degree. “Samuel is one of the

few great men in history who, in critical times, by sheer force of character

and invincible energy terminate the previous form of a great existing

system — at first against their own will, but afterwards, when convinced of

the necessity, with all the force and eagerness of their nature; and who then

initiate a better form with the happiest results, though amidst much

personal suffering and persecution” (Ewald, ‘History ‘).



The Popular Desire for a King (vs. 4-22)


“Make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (v. 5). This narrative

teaches us:





Ø      Its alleged grounds were insufficient.


o        The old age of Samuel. But due respect to him and gratitude for his

past services should have prevented their desire to set him aside; and

the prosperity that attended his rule during many years should have

led them to wish for its continuance as long as possible. They were

inconsiderate, forgetful, unthankful, hasty, and unjust.


o        The misgovermnent of his sons. But they might have been removed

from their office without the office itself being abolished. It is better

to try to mend an institution than to destroy it.


o        To be like other nations. But Israel was designed to be unlike them,

and superior to them (Leviticus 20:26); and most of the miseries they

had suffered arose from conformity to their ways. The wish to be

like others is a fruitful source of sin and woe. The cause of truth

and righteousness in the world is greatly damaged when those who

should be the guides of the ignorant and the wicked become their

servile followers.Palestine in ancient times was pre-eminently a

land of kings. Every district, nay, every considerable city, had its

king and its court. In most cases the king was an autocrat, absolute

and irresponsible, lawgiver, judge, and executor, the

source of all honours, offices, and emoluments, the commander of

the army, the dispenser of favors, the awarder of punishment. The

rights, claims: and prerogatives of royalty extended to every person,

and to every relation of life. The king was the master, the people were

his subjects, nay, slaves — his property. In a better sense he was the

common father of the community, they his children, with all the

kindlier duties and obligations implied and included in this most

sacred of human relations. Royalty thus constituted and administered

was selected by Jehovah as the synonym and exemplar of His special

relation to the Hebrew people” (Thomson, Bibliotbeca Sacra,’

vol. 30.).


o        The threatening attitude of the Philistines (ch. 9:16) and the

Ammonites (ch. 12:12), which was doubtless referred to in the

interview of the elders with Samuel. But the Lord of hosts, who had

hitherto delivered them, was able to do so still; and to rely upon a

new institution for safety instead of upon Him was to lean upon a

broken reed.  “Instead of seeking for the cause of the misfortunes

which had hitherto befallen them in their own sin and want of fidelity

toward Jehovah, they searched for it in the faulty constitution of the

nation itself” (Keil).


Ø      Its real grounds were blameworthy.


o        Dissatisfaction with the government which had been Divinely

appointed and sanctioned. When the hearts of men are right with

God they are not disposed to complain of His ordinances.


o        Distrust of the presence and might of their invisible King. “God

was not sufficient for them without a creature prop.” “Their demand

of a visible earthly sovereign was in disparagement of that extra-

ordinary Providence which had distinguished them from the nations

of the earth, and taken them by a privilege under an immediate

theocracy. Their sin was founded in a revolt from God, in the

abdication of a perfect trust and reliance upon His providential

government in that method in which with respect to them He

had ordered it. But their fault, though uncommon in its form,

is not at all in its principle. Something to see and nothing to

believe is the wish and propensity of more than the, Israelites”

(Davison ‘on Prophecy ‘).


o        Impatience, presumption, and self-will. “God gave them judges…

and afterwards they desired a king” (Acts 13:20-21). Instead of first

seeking to know the will of God, and then waiting His time for a

change, if it should seem good in His sight, they thought that they

knew what was best, took counsel of their own hearts, and, having

chosen their course independently of Him, proceeded forthwith to

follow it up, and resolved to have their own way. They were thus

disloyal to their Divine King, to whose direction and control they

were bound to submit.


o        The love of worldly pleasure, power, and glory. They desired a

king not merely:


§         that he might judge them without interruption, by the law of

hereditary descent; but also


§         that “he might go out before them and fight their battles”

(v. 20); and, still further


§         that he might hold a splendid court, and gratify their ambition

and lust of shining or making a boastful display. They wished

to be thought in no respect inferior to the surrounding nations.

It was a result to which prosperity too often leads. The

worldliness from which the misconduct of Samuel’s sons

proceeded was but a symptom of a widespread evil. “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, as the

prophet Hosea makes them speak (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 judge’s poor residence in the schools of the

prophets, but the gift of the Holy Ghost (ch.10:10; ch. 19),

which a courtier, I suppose, would not prize even at the rate

of Simon Magus, or think it worth the bribing for a piece of

money. This it was, and only this, that made their demand

criminal” (Warburton, ‘Div. Leg.,’ Book V.). How

often has their sin been repeated in the history of nations!

“All the tragical wars of the Greeks or barbarians, whether

civil or foreign, have flowed from one fountain — from the

desire either of riches, or of glory, or of pleasure; for in

pursuit of these things the human race brings on its own

destruction” (Philo Jud., ‘In Decal’ g.).




“The thing was evil in the eyes of Samuel.” He saw that it was wrong,

felt disappointed and grieved, and was at first altogether opposed to it,

and disinclined to listen to those by whom it was expressed, “because,”

says Josephus, “of his inborn sense of justice, because of his hatred of

kings, as so far inferior to the aristocratic form of government which

conferred a godlike character on those who lived under it.” “For kings

are many, and the good are few” (Dante).


Ø      As a good man has no greater joy than to see the people seeking what is

right and good, so he has no greater sorrow than to see them “going after

vain things which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain” (ch. 12:21).

Abraham (Genesis 18:23), Moses (Exodus 32:18, 31), Elijah (I Kings 19:10).

The Psalmist (Psalm 119:158), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:1), Paul at Athens

(Acts 17:16).


Ø      The grief he feels is of the noblest kind.


o        Unselfish. Samuel did not resent or complain of what was said

concerning his old age or his sons’ misgovernment; and if he

was not absolutely indifferent to the injustice done to himself,

yet his trouble arose chiefly from other and higher considerations.

o        Patriotic.

o        Divine. He was concerned, above all things, for the honor and glory

of God. His own loyalty to Him made him quick to resent the

disloyalty of others, and his sympathy with His purposes filled him

with holy jealousy lest they should be defeated or in any way

hindered. He felt in some degree as God Himself feels.


Ø      His resource in trouble is prayer to God. “And Samuel prayed to the

Lord” (v. 6); probably all night, as on a subsequent occasion (ch. 15:11).

Such had been the resource of his devout mother in her distress. Nor is

there any other so effectual (Psalm 55:22; Philippians 4:6).


Ø      In communion with God he finds abundant consolation and help. God

takes upon Himself the burden of His servant who has labored and suffered

for His sake (Psalm 69:7). “They have not rejected thee, but they have

rejected me.” He assures him that it is “no strange thing that has happened

unto him.” “According to all the works which they have done,” etc. (v. 8).

He removes his perplexity, tells him what to do, and gives him strength

to do it. “Hearken unto their voice,” etc. (v. 9). All questionings cease

when the Divine voice speaks, and, with the morning light, Samuel goes

forth humbly, fearlessly, and cheerfully to deliver his message to the elders.




may not be allowed to pursue its course without warning on the part of

those who feel that it is wrong, and to whom a Divine message comes.


Ø      This message consists of:


o        A testimony against its sinfulness. “Hearken unto their voice:

howbeit yet protest solemnly (testify) unto them” their sin, and

the displeasure of Heaven.


o        A declaration of the evils involved in its fulfillment. “Show them the

manner (mishpat) of the king that shall reign over them,” i.e. his

regal rights, claims, privileges, and prerogatives; not what might be

de jure, according to “the manner of the kingdom” (ch. 10:25;

Deuteronomy 17:14), but would be de facto, according to the custom

of the kings of the heathen nations whom they wished to resemble.

We have here a picture of “the dark side of the institution” in contrast

with the theocracy:


§         Its ruling motive — personal aggrandizement and indulgence.

He will take for himself, his chariots, his horses, etc., whilst

for your welfare he will care nothing.

§         Its arbitrary and oppressive character. “He will take your sons”

to be his personal attendants (v. 11) for military and agricultural

service (v. 12), your daughters for domestic service (v. 13),

your land to give to his attendants (v. 14), a tenth of your corn

and wine to reward his officers (imposing heavy taxation —

v. 15), your servants and cattle “to put them to his work”

(v. 16), and a tenth of your sheep; “a great retinue, a great

table, a standing army, great favorites, great revenues”

(Matthew Henry); and you yourselves will lose your political

and social liberty, and become his slaves (v. 17).

§         Its helpless and hopeless misery (v. 18) — brought upon

yourselves, causing you to cry out to God for help, “and

the Lord will not hear you in that day.” “The yoke once

assumed you must bear forever” (I Kings 12:4).


o        The message must be declared faithfully and fully, whether men will

bear or forbear.  (Ezekiel 2:5)  “And Samuel told all the words of

the Lord to the  people” (v. 10).


o        The purpose of such declaration being to lead them to consideration

and repentance, and, if they still persist, to throw the responsibility

for the result upon themselves alone. The watchman who warns

the wicked, even if they turn not from their way, “hath delivered

his soul” (Ezekiel 33:9); and the faithful minister is “unto God a

sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that

perish” (II Corinthians 2:15).






Ø      In spite of every admonition, men can and do persist in their sinful desire.

“Nay; but we will have a king over us.” Their self-will appears more

plainly than before. Expostulation only makes it stronger. They will have

their way. And God, who coerces not whom He has endowed with moral

freedom, permits them to do so.


Ø      By their persistency they even obtain of Him the fulfillment of their

request. “Make them a king,” is His final response to Samuel, who

“rehearsed the words in His ears,” and now dismisses them “every man

unto his city,” to await the speedy accomplishment of their desire. The evil

which would have resulted from its refusal is thus averted. The principle of

the theocracy is preserved. Jehovah continues to rule over Israel; and they

recognize His authority in so far, at least, as to leave the selection and

appointment of a king in His hands. His sovereign will encircles and

controls their purposes. But He does not, by granting their request, sanction

their sin. On the contrary:


Ø      In its fulfillment He inflicts upon them a just chastisement, and teaches

them, by the experience of its legitimate results, the folly of their devices.

Their first king is a man after their own heart, reflects their sin, and brings

overwhelming calamity on himself and them. “I gave thee a king in mine

anger” (Hosea 13:11; Psalm 106:15). “God, when He is asked for

aught amiss, showeth displeasure when He giveth, hath mercy when He

giveth not. The devil was heard in asking to enter the swine, the apostle

was not heard when he prayed that the messenger of Satan might depart

from him.”


Ø      He prepares them thereby to receive as their ruler “a man after his own

heart” (ch. 13:14), who shall conduct them to power and honor,

and foreshadow Him who is higher than the kings of the earth. How

wonderfully are the Divine purposes fulfilled in and through the errors and

sins of men! “In a very remarkable sense the vox populi (voice of the people)

was the vox Dei (the voice of God), even when the two voices seemed most

utterly out of harmony ....The Jews were asking for heavy punishment, without

which the evil which was in them could not have been brought to light or cured.

But they were asking also for something besides punishment, for that in which

lay the seeds of a higher blessing. Beneath this dark counterfeit image was

hidden the image of a true King reigning in righteousness; the assertor of

truth, order, unity in the land; the Helper of the poor, who would not judge

after the sight of His eyes, nor reprove after the hearing of His ears; but

would smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of

His lips would slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:3-4 - Maurice).



Permitted, not Approved (vs. 10-22)


The facts are:


1. Samuel points out to the people that their desired king will aggrandize

himself at their expense, and that, once entering on their course, there will

be no deliverance.


2.  The people, nevertheless, decide to have a king, and assign the motive of

their preference.


3. Samuel, on laying the matter before God, receives a command to make

them a king. The question at issue was not whether this or that form of

government was intrinsically best, nor whether at some time in the near

future God might or might not cause judgeship gradually to develop into

kingship; but whether, at this juncture, it was God’s will to introduce a

monarchy. The references in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 were probably a

forecast of the events now brought to pass. At all events, God’s time for

monarchy in Israel was not yet come; but the people’s had come. The historian

sets forth the bearings and result of the controversy. The instance is unique, but

the principle involved is of frequent exemplification in human affairs.




PURPOSES ARE TO BE WROUGHT OUT. Israel was a nation working

out a spiritual issue. The day must come when in the seed of Abraham all

nations shall be blessed Thus far, politically, this issue was being reached

by a peculiar arrangement with as much success as the perverse spirit of

the people would allow to any system. When “Samuel told all the words of

the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king” (v. 10), it was

understood that, though they were not at liberty to set aside recognition of

Jehovah, the institutions of worship, and the moral law, they were free, if

they so willed, to adopt political methods of their own. They would not

cease to be Messianic in purpose, but they would work toward the goal by

a new method unusually characterized by human frailty. There is a marked

distinction in the accomplishment of Divine purposes through irrational

and rational agents. The one is a channel of necessity; the other the free

organ of controllable actions. Every stone falls because it must; every will

acts because it wills. The marvel and mystery is that the eternal Will should

in the end get its own through, or in spite of, the free action of other wills.

Yet so it is. Likewise there are differences in the ruling of rational

creatures. In one sense every free being can, and is left to, take what

course he pleases. He may sin or not sin; he may love God or not; and this,

too, while the obligation is most binding. But, nevertheless, God enforces

some things and in others allows option. It is essential that God be loved;

that Christ be the Medium through which saving mercy comes to all, infant

and adult; that repentance and faith be exercised by all who bear the gospel

call; and that certain duties to man be discharged. These are conditions of

safety, purity, and bliss. But it is not essential to the same degree and in

the same sense that men should pursue their calling in one way only. There

is an option left as to how men shall obtain and use their knowledge; what

methods shall be followed in pursuit of life’s calling; what means taken to

promote spiritual culture and material advantage; what social and national

arrangements may best subserve the common good. Having laid down the

broad lines of faith in Christ and righteousness of principle in all things,

God seems to have left a margin for the exercise of our discretion. It is as

though the Eternal would thus mark His estimate of the great prerogative of

freedom. He educates the individual and the race by the accumulation of

varied experiences, the outgrowth of freedom.





Samuel declares to the people that the choice of a monarchy would impose

on them inconvenient burdens, and rob them of much of the happiness they

enjoyed under the form of government already approved of God (vs. 11-18).

Personal pomp and splendor would mean taxation and regal

aggrandizement. The sense, therefore, of this warning is that Israel might

yet be God’s chosen people, subject to Mosaic law, guided in great affairs

by prophets, and working to a Messianic goal; but the form of government

chosen by man would be more costly and hindering than that at present

approved by God. The teaching is true generally. There are clear lines of

conduct laid down by Providence indicative of the way in which God

would have us fulfill our purpose in the world. The man of business will not

realize the end in view in so far as his methods are precisely contrary to the

teachings of Providence. Statesmen may take a course of their own,

heedless of what God prefers; their troubles will be proportionate. It is

God’s method of developing the full manhood of Christian life that, while

walking humbly with Him in private, we do not “forsake the assembling of

ourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:25)  Men who chose a different course may

do so, but must bear the consequences of a dwarfed Christianity.





TAKE THEIR OWN COURSE. In vain did Samuel warn the people of the

disapproval of God, and the costs of their desired monarchy; they refused

to obey his voice, and said, “Nay; but we will have a king to reign over us”

(v. 19). It was not whether God approved or not; it was not a question of

promoting righteousness; it was not a desire to see the Messianic purposes

more speedily realized; but a longing to be like other nations, and

consequently a desire to be less in direct connection with God as Ruler.

The strength of this passion is obvious; for it:


o       disregards personal loss,

o       the prophet’s aversion, and

o       the declared disapproval of God.


Ø      The overpowering influence of a passion may be felt by the individual

Christian. It is possible for Christian men, when piety is at low ebb, to

hanker after the mode of life pursued by the Christless. The prayer of

Christ that His people may “not be of the world” (John 17:15) is sometimes

either forgotten or freely interpreted. “Come out from among them, and be

ye separate” (II Corinthians 6:17-18; Revelation 18:4) may be admitted as

a general duty, while its execution is sadly deficient. It is only when the

soul has, in unguarded hours, come under the spell of the world passion

that the clear lessons of Scripture and of experience are set aside for the

paltry gratification of being like other men.


Ø      The same passion may lay hold of the Church. History shows that the

Church has not been free from the spell which once laid hold of Israel. The

simplicity of Christ has sometimes perished in the attempt to reproduce in

the Church the formalities and pomp of the Philistines. “How far the

Church can safely conform to the world” is a dangerous question

(which seems to be the concern of contemporary Christianity – CY – 2016),

and should be substituted by “How may the Church best fashion the world

to its own pure and lofty standard?”




FOR WHICH THEY ARE TO  LIVE. The ordinary reader feels that Israel

was self-degraded in preferring to live like heathen nations when another

course was open. The ends of Israel’s existence were highly moral; the

mere love of pomp and splendor had no congruity with this end. What

had grand military and regal parade to do with the righteousness which

alone exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34), and which was the peculiar

qualification for advancing Messianic issues? It would not save them

from the disasters consequent on loss of righteousness — rather it would

aggravate them (v. 18); nor would it make the practice of righteousness

more easy. There is an intellectual and moral debasement in choice of means

for an end not congruous with it, and in face of warning. The individual

Christian and the Church profess to live for spiritual purposes. They degenerate

when, from sheer self-will and hankering after the outwardly sensational,

they seek to promote private or public ends pertaining to their Christian

calling by anything not spiritual in character and tendency.




when men from discontent with God’s provision sought flesh, He sent them

quails in abundance (Exodus 16), so now He allows their freedom and gives

a king. The quails and manna were only means of subsistence. “The life was

more than meat.”  (Luke 12:23)  So the government by judges or kings was

only method of training the people for their ultimate purpose in life. Men

might sicken and die with excess of flesh, but the nation would live on.

Trouble and sorrow might arise from a change of form of government, and

the people might morally sink in the choice, yet God would overrule all and

effect His purpose. The Church may suffer much from her perverseness, and

comparatively tedious advance will be made in the world; yet Christ will at

last subdue all to Himself (I Corinthians 15:24-28), albeit His foolish people

have to learn many a bitter lesson.  Likewise personally the image of Christ

will some day be more perfect in the soul, though late in life, and after many

a sorrow induced by our own self-will in deviating from His methods of

perfecting character.



The Unwise Demand Granted (v. 22)


The government by judges fell into discredit. Samuel, indeed, was without

reproach; but when advancing age made the burden of public affairs too

heavy for him, his sons, to whom he naturally delegated his authority,

proved unrighteous rulers. They do not seem to have been licentious, like

the sons of Eli, but they were covetous, and corrupted the fountains of

justice by taking bribes. WHAT A PERSISTENT THING SIN IS!   How it

repeats itself!  How hard it is to eradicate it! Samuel’s lifelong example of

integrity was lost upon his sons. The terrible fate of Eli’s family was lost on

them too.  To the dignity of justice, to the honor of truth, they were indifferent

for filthy lucre’s sake. Then the elders of Israel asked Samuel to set a king

over them.




Ø      It followed a bad precedent. The experiment had been tried about 150

years before. The people asked Gideon to be their hereditary prince, and

that hero declined the proposal, as inconsistent with a pure theocracy.

After his death Abimelech was king for three years; but his career began in

cruelty, ended soon in disaster and death, and no one from that time had

sought the royal dignity.  (Judges 7-9)


Ø      It proceeded on a wrong principle. The desire to be as the other nations

round about was in fiat contradiction to the revealed purpose of God that

Israel should be separate as a people unto Him. The wish to have a king to

lead them out to battle betrayed a thirst for war unworthy of a holy nation,

and a mistrust of the Lord’s power to defend them. Here, indeed, is the

point in which they departed from the permissive law regarding a king

recorded in the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy. A regal government

was not to be reckoned inconsistent with the theocracy, provided the king

was not a foreigner, and was chosen by Jehovah, whose vicegerent he

should be. The elders asked for a king not after the mind of the Lord, but

after the pattern of the heathen round about.




Ø      A headstrong people must learn by experience. The elders and people of

Israel were warned of the risk they ran. A king such as they desired would

restrain their ancient liberties, and subordinate all their rights and interests

to the maintenance of his court and army. They heard Samuel’s warning,

and persisted in their demand. So the Lord bade His servant make them a

king. If men will not take advice, let them have their way. Wisdom seldom

comes to willful men but through sharp lessons of THE RESULTS OF



Ø      The way must be prepared for the king and the kingdom that God would

choose. It is important to remember that Divine purposes are accomplished

on earth not by direct fiats of authority or exertions of power, but:


o        through long and complex processes of human action and


o        by the corrections of experience,

o        the smart of suffering, and

o        the recoil from danger.


It was God’s design to constitute Israel into a kingdom under a

sure covenant — a kingdom which should furnish the basis for glowing

prophetic visions of the kingdom of Christ; but this design was not to be

fulfilled abruptly, or by a sudden assertion of the Divine will. The way was

prepared by the failure of all other devices for holding together the Hebrew

people. First the government by judges lost credit; then the kingdom as set

up by popular desire failed; so that the tribes, seeing the ruin of their own

devices, might be ready to receive the kingdom as God would have it, and

the man whom He would choose to “feed Jacob His people and Israel his

inheritance.”  (Psalm 78:71)




Ø      Men have set up their own devices in the administration of the Church;

and with what result? They have not been content with an unseen Lord and

King. The early patriarchates may be described as a government by judges;

but men were not content therewith, and Latin Christianity set up an

ecclesiastical and spiritual supremacy on earth, a Saul-like kingship at

Rome. Those parts of the Western Church which broke away from this

doomed kingdom at the Reformation, for the most part gave power to

secular princes in exchange for their protection. All such arrangements are

temporary devices; but they are witnesses and preludes to something higher

and more Divine. They prepare the way for the reign of Jesus Christ, as the

broken, confused reign of Saul prepared for the strong kingdom of David.


Ø      Inward Christian experience can tell a similar tale. What plans have to be

tried and found wanting, what thrones of confusion in the heart to be

subverted, before the Lord alone is exalted! We are permitted to have our

own way that we may learn how small our wisdom is, how vain are our

devices. We exalt our own righteousness, our own will, our own religious

confidence. It is our Saul; and the issue is CONFUSION and DISORDER,

till we renounce our pride and vainglory, and receive the Son of David,

Jehovah’s true Anointed, to reign over and rule in us. Self religion starts

thus“Nay; but we will have a king.” The religion which is taught of God

says, “Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord!”  

(Luke 19:38).





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