|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:4-9 Samuel was displeased; he could patiently bear what reflected on himself, and his own family; but it displeased him when they said, Give us a king to judge us, because that reflected upon God. It drove him to his knees. When any thing disturbs us, it is our interest, as well as our duty, to show our trouble before God. Samuel is to tell them that they shall have a king. Not that God was pleased with their request, but as sometimes he opposes us from loving-kindness, so at other times he gratifies us in wrath; he did so here. God knows how to bring glory to himself, and serves his own wise purposes, even by men's foolish counsels.
Verses 4, 5. - The elders of Israel. Here, as elsewhere (1 Samuel 15:30:2 Samuel 5:3; 1 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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together,.... At some place of rendezvous appointed; these were the heads of the tribes, and fathers of the houses and families of Israel, the principal persons of age and authority:
and came to Samuel unto Ramah; the place of his nativity and abode, and where he now dwelt, and judged Israel; they went in a very respectable body with an address to him.
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