1 Samuel 8:5
And said to him, Behold, you are old, and your sons walk not in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
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(5) And said unto him.—They ground their request—which, however, they framed almost in the very terms used in the prophecy of the Law (Deuteronomy 17:14)—upon two circumstances: first, the age of Samuel, and his consequent inability to act as their leader in those perpetual wars and forays with the surrounding hostile nations; secondly, the degeneracy of his sons, who, placed by their father in positions of great trust, naturally looked to succeed him in his high dignity. They felt that the cares and duties of government were too weighty for Samuel, now growing old; and the men who through their kinship to him would naturally succeed him were utterly unfit for his office. The prospect before them was, they felt, a gloomy one. The Philistine power, too, was becoming daily greater in the south.

But what confidence must this assembly of elders have reposed in their aged judge to have used such a plea—his own growing infirmity and the unworthiness of his own sons, whom he had himself appointed to high offices! The elders of the people knew Samuel, the man of God, would do what was right and just—would give them the wisest counsel, utterly regardless of any private interest or feeling. The result justified their perfect confidence.

1 Samuel 8:5. Make us a king — Their desires exceed their reasons, which extended no farther than the removal of Samuel’s sons from their places, and the procuring some other just and prudent assistance to Samuel’s age. Nor was the grant of their desire a remedy for their disease, but rather an aggravation of it. For the sons of their king were likely to be as corrupt as Samuel’s sons; and, if they were, would not be so easily removed. Like other nations — That is, as most of the nations about us have. But there was not the like reason; because God had separated them from all other nations, and cautioned them against the imitation of their examples, and had taken them under his own immediate care and government; which privilege other nations had not.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.The mention of Beer-sheba, on the extreme southern frontier of Judah, as the place where Samuel's sons judged Israel is remarkable. It was probably due to the recovery of territory from the usurpation of the Philistines 1 Samuel 7:14. CHAPTER 8

1Sa 8:1-18. Occasioned by the Ill- Government of Samuel's Sons, the Israelites Ask a King.

1-5. when Samuel was old—He was now about fifty-four years of age, having discharged the office of sole judge for twelve years. Unable, from growing infirmities, to prosecute his circuit journeys through the country, he at length confined his magisterial duties to Ramah and its neighborhood (1Sa 7:15), delegating to his sons as his deputies the administration of justice in the southern districts of Palestine, their provincial court being held at Beer-sheba. The young men, however, did not inherit the high qualities of their father. Having corrupted the fountains of justice for their own private aggrandizement, a deputation of the leading men in the country lodged a complaint against them in headquarters, accompanied with a formal demand for a change in the government. The limited and occasional authority of the judges, the disunion and jealousy of the tribes under the administration of those rulers, had been creating a desire for a united and permanent form of government; while the advanced age of Samuel, together with the risk of his death happening in the then unsettled state of the people, was the occasion of calling forth an expression of this desire now.

They feared that Samuel would not live long; and that either he through infirmity and indulgence might leave the government in his sons’ hands, or that they would invade and keep it after their father’s death; and therefore they jointly make their complaints against them, and procure their removal from their places. Thus they are brought low, and crushed by those very wicked ways by which they desired to advance and establish themselves. So true is it, that honesty is the best policy, and unrighteousness the greatest folly.

Make us a king to judge us: their conclusion outruns their premises, and their desires exceed their reasons or arguments, which extended no further than to the removal of Samuel’s sons from their places, and the procuring some other just and prudent assistance to Samuel’s age. Nor was the grant of their desire a remedy for their disease, but rather an aggravation of it; for the sons of their king might and were likely to be as corrupt as Samuel’s sons; and if they were, would not be so easily removed as these were.

Like all the nations, i.e. as most of the nations about us have. But there was not the like reason, because God had separated them from all other nations, and cautioned them against the imitation of their examples, and had taken them into his own immediate care and government; which privilege other nations had not. And said unto him, behold, thou art old,.... See 1 Samuel 8:1, his age was no reproach to him, nor was it becoming them to upbraid him with it; nor was it a reason why he should be removed from his office, for it did not disqualify him for it; but rather, having gained by age experience, was more fit for it, though he might not be able to ride his circuits as formerly:

and thy sons walk not in thy ways; whom he had made judges; this is a better reason than the former for what is after requested; and had they only besought them to remove him from their places, and rested content with that, it would have been well enough; but what they were solicitous for, and always had an inclination to, and now thought a proper opportunity offered of obtaining it, was what follows:

now make us a king to judge us like all the nations; to rule over them as sole monarch; to go before them in battle as their general, as well as to administer justice to them, by hearing and trying causes as their judge; which only they mention to cover their views, and make their motion more acceptable to Samuel; what they were desirous of was to have a king appearing in pomp and splendour, wearing a crown of gold, clothed in royal apparel, with a sceptre in his hand, dwelling in a stately palace, keeping a splendid court, and attended with a grand retinue, as the rest of the nations about them had had for a long time. The first kings we read of were in the times of Abraham, but after it became common for nations to have kings over them, and particularly the neighbours of Israel, as Edom, Moab, Ammon, &c. and Cicero says (x), all the ancient nations had their kings, to whom they were obedient: Israel had God for their King in a peculiar manner other nations had not, and stood in no need of any other; and happy it would have been for them if they had been content therewith, and not sought after another: however, they were so modest, and paid such deference to Samuel, as to desire him to make or appoint one for them.

(x) De Legibus, l. 3.

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.
5. make us a king] Lit. set, i.e. appoint, the same word as in the corresponding passage, Deuteronomy 17:14.

like all the nations] i.e. as all the surrounding nations have kings.Samuel's judicial labours. - With the calling of the people to Mizpeh, and the victory at Ebenezer that had been obtained through his prayer, Samuel had assumed the government of the whole nation; so that his office as judge dates from his period, although he had laboured as prophet among the people from the death of Eli, and had thereby prepared the way for the conversion of Israel to the Lord. As his prophetic labours were described in general terms in 1 Samuel 3:19-21, so are his labours as judge in the verses before us: viz., in 1 Samuel 3:15 their duration, - "all the days of his life," as his activity during Saul's reign and the anointing of David (1 Samuel 15-16) sufficiently prove; and then in 1 Samuel 3:16, 1 Samuel 3:17 their general character, - "he went round from year to year" (וסבב serves as a more precise definition of והלך, he went and travelled round) to Bethel, i.e., Beitin (see at Joshua 7:2), Gilgal, and Mizpeh (see at. 1 Samuel 3:5), and judged Israel at all these places. Which Gilgal is meant, whether the one situated in the valley of the Jordan (Joshua 4:19), or the Jiljilia on the higher ground to the south-west of Shiloh (see at Joshua 8:35), cannot be determined with perfect certainty. The latter is favoured partly by the order in which the three places visited by Samuel on his circuits occur, since according to this he probably went first of all from Ramah to Bethel, which was to the north-east, then farther north or north-west to Jiljilia, and then turning back went towards the south-east to Mizpeh, and returning thence to Ramah performed a complete circuit; whereas, if the Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan had been the place referred to, we should expect him to go there first of all from Ramah, and then towards the north-east to Bethel, and from that to the south-west to Mizpeh; and partly also by the circumstance that, according to 2 Kings 2:1 and 2 Kings 4:38, there was a school of the prophets at Jiljilia in the time of Elijah and Elisha, the founding of which probably dated as far back as the days of Samuel. If this conjecture were really a well-founded one, it would furnish a strong proof that it was in this place, and not in the Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan, that Samuel judged the people. But as this conjecture cannot be raised into a certainty, the evidence in favour of Jiljilia is not so conclusive as I myself formerly supposed (see also the remarks on 1 Samuel 9:14). כּל־המּקומות את is grammatically considered an accusative, and is in apposition to את־ישׂראל, lit., Israel, viz., all the places named, i.e., Israel which inhabited all these places, and was to be found there. "And this return was to Ramah;" i.e., after finishing the annual circuit he returned to Ramah, where he had his house. There he judged Israel, and also built an altar to conduct the religious affairs of the nation. Up to the death of Eli, Samuel lived and laboured at Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:21). But when the ark was carried away by the Philistines, and consequently the tabernacle at Shiloh lost what was most essential to it as a sanctuary, and ceased at once to be the scene of the gracious presence of God, Samuel went to his native town Ramah, and there built an altar as the place of sacrifice for Jehovah, who had manifested himself to him. The building of the altar at Ramah would naturally be suggested to the prophet by these extraordinary circumstances, even if it had not been expressly commanded by Jehovah.
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