|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:1-3 It does not appear that Samuel's sons were so profane and vicious as Eli's sons; but they were corrupt judges, they turned aside after lucre. Samuel took no bribes, but his sons did, and then they perverted judgment. What added to the grievance of the people was, that they were threatened by an invasion from Nahash, king of the Ammonites.
Verse 2. - The name of his firstborn was Joel. The names of Samuel's sons are pledges of his faith - Joel meaning Jehovah is God, and Abiah Jab is Father. 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. 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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now the name of his firstborn was Joel,.... In 1 Chronicles 6:28 he is called Vashni; See Gill on 1 Chronicles 6:28. This was not Joel the prophet, as some have thought, neither his parentage, nor his office, nor his times, will agree with this:
and the name of his second Abiah: which two sons seem to be all he had:
they were judges in Beersheba; in the utmost border of the land, to the south, as Ramah, where Samuel dwelt and judged, was more to the north; where they were placed by their father, for the greater convenience of the people of Israel that lived southward, to bring their causes to them, as those lived more northward might bring them to him: according to Josephus (w), they were placed by their father, the one in Bethel, one of the places Samuel used to go to in his circuit and judge, and the other at Beersheba. But some, as Junius and others, think it should be rendered, "unto Beersheba"; and so takes in its opposite, Dan, which lay at the utmost border of the land northward; hence the phrase, "from Dan to Beersheba"; and that the one was settled at Dan for the sake of the northern part of the land, and the other at Beersheba, for the sake of the southern: or rather these sons of Samuel placed themselves at Beersheba; which was an ill judged thing, to be both in one place, and which must give the people of Israel a great deal of trouble, and put them to a large expense to come from all quarters thither, to have their causes tried; but that is not the worst.
(w) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 6. c. 3.) sect. 2.
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