1 Samuel 8


Establishment of Saul’s Kingship (8:1-12:25)

The People’s Demand for a King (8:1-22)

      • When Samuel grew old he appointed his sons as judges over Israel. His firstborn son, Joel, and his second, Abijah, served at Beersheba. However, his sons didn’t follow his ways. Instead, they made money dishonestly, accepted bribes, and perverted justice.

        • Guzik points out, ““Samuel was one of the godliest men in the entire Bible. Yet his action here may be a sin on his part. We never have the pattern of judges being appointed by men or of the office of judge being passed from father to son. Samuel was not right to appoint his sons judges over Israel.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes that Beersheba was, “fifty miles south of their father’s home.”

      • The HCSB notes a discrepancy here between this passage and 1 Chronicles 6, “Was Samuel’s firstborn son Joel or Vashni? According to the Hebrew text of 1 Ch 6:28 (KJV), Samuel’s oldest son was named Vashni…1 Ch 6:33 states that Joel was Samuel’s son. That second reference in 1 Ch 6 agrees with the current verse in 1 Sm…”

        • Both Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges and Pulpit Commentary agree that Vashni is a corruption of the text. HCSB also acknowledges this as a possibility:

          • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: “The text of 1 Chronicles 6:28, where the names are given as ‘the firstborn Vashni and Abiah,’ is corrupt. ‘Joel’ has dropped out after ‘the firstborn,’ and ‘Vashni’ is an obvious corruption of the Heb. word meaning ‘and the second.’”

          • Pulpit Commentary: “The name given in 1 Chronicles 6:28, Vashni, is a mistake. It means, ‘and the second,’ the name of Joel the firstborn having somehow been omitted.”

          • HCSB: “It is also possible that the Hebrew text in 1 Ch 6:28 has been damaged, and the original reading lost.”

      • Then all Israel’s elders met together, went to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you’re old and you’re sons do not follow in your ways. So appoint a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

      • But Samuel was displeased when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to Yahweh. And Yahweh told Samuel, “Obey the people in all they are saying to you. It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king. Just the same as they have done from the time I brought them out of Egypt until today, forsaking Me and serving other gods, they are now doing to you. Now, do as they say, but you must solemnly warn them and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

        • HCSB writes, “In the law of Moses, God had spoken of a time when the Israelites would have an earthly king (Dt 17:14-20), even though the Lord was already their King (Nm 23:21; Dt 33:5; Jdg 8:23) and would remain so in Israel’s worship (e.g. Ps 47:2; 89:18; 95:3; 99:4; Is 33:22)…The Lord made provision for the earthly office of king in Israel, but this was a concession to human weakness and not His ideal for the nation. The instructions of Dt 17 set limits on Israel’s kingship and did not give it a blanket endorsement.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible includes this excellent explanation, “Not just in Israel, but in the ancient Near East generally, kingship was intertwined with religion. While in Egypt the king himself was worshiped as divine, in Mesopotamia kingship was regarded as one of the basic institutions of human life devised by the gods for mankind. The concept of divine sponsorship of kingship was foundational in the cognitive environment of the ancient Near East. In Israel, the emphasis fell on God himself as the Great King, with the human king to serve not as a demigod, but as vice-regent (vassal) to the Great King. The ‘law of the king’ in Dt 17:14-20 makes it clear that the king in Israel was to be subservient to the divine law and was ‘not [to] consider himself better than his fellow Israelites’ (Dt 17:20). The people have not concluded that they don’t want God leading them anymore: No one in the ancient Near East would want that, and that is not a king like the nations have. Rather they want a king who would successfully bring the deity into play so that they could carry out their national agendas instead of waiting on the action of the deity alone (as when he appointed judges over them). They wanted God’s power, but not his control.”

      • Samuel told the people that were asking him for a king everything that Yahweh had said to him:

        • This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots, to be his horsemen, or running in front of his chariots. He will appoint some to be his commanders over thousands, and commanders over fifties. Some to plow his ground and reap his harvest. Some to make his weapons for war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and vineyards and give it to his officers and servants. He will take your male and female servants, and the best of your cattle and donkeys for use in his own work. He will take a tenth of your flocks and you’ll be his slaves. When that day comes you will cry out because of the king that you have chosen for yourselves, but Yahweh will not answer you in that day.”

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “Whatever advantages the elders imagined a king like those of the nations would bring, Samuel- speaking for Yahweh- was intent on making plain the disadvantages that kingship, particularly if self-serving in character, would bring. Perhaps Samuel’s warning progresses from the less obviously abusive royal practices (v. 11) to the more obviously abusive ones (v. 17). In any case, it is understandable that a centralized monarchical government would require courtiers and servants of the court, agricultural workers for the kind’s fields, artisans to craft the king’s weapons (v. 12), domestic workers to prepare meals for the court and to keep the palace (v. 13), and a standing army to protect it all (vv. 11-12). To make all this happen, there would be royal taxation and expropriation of ‘the best’ of the fields, flocks and servants of the people (vv. 14-17). The end result, Samuel warned, would be that ‘you yourselves will become his slaves’ (v. 17). These were the realities of kingship at the end of the second millennium BC.”

        • The same source adds, “Sons were particularly important in the ancient Near East- for reasons relating to the security and continuity of the family line- but as Samuel warned, the king will ‘take your sons’ to serve the king…the fact remains that the absence of sons would prove a hardship…”

      • But the people refused to listen to Samuel, saying, “No! We want a king over us like all the other nations. Our king will judge us, lead us, and fight our battles.”

      • Samuel listened to everything the people said, then repeated it to Yahweh. Yahweh told Samuel, “Obey them and appoint them a king.” Then Samuel told the Israelite men, “Each of you go back to your city.”

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