1 Samuel 8:7
And the LORD said to Samuel, Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
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(7) Hearken unto the voice of the people.—The words spoken to Samuel, probably in a vision, by the Most High are very touching and very sad. Very touching, in their extreme tenderness to the noble old man. Take courage, they seem to say, “my old true servant, and be not dismayed at this apparently bitter proof of the ingratitude of the people you loved so well. This deliberate complaint on the part of Israel is directed not against you, the judge, but against Me, the invisible King. They have ever been the same—incapable of becoming my true subjects, and of winning on earth the lofty position I would have given them; you must give them now their hearts’ desire. It has all been foreseen and provided for; only make them understand what they are asking. Then give them their earthly king.” Very sad, for it was the deliberate abandonment by the Eternal God of His first intention as regarded Israel—the deliberate lowering of the grand ideal once formed for His chosen people. Here, as is not unfrequent in the Divine records, we have a corner of the veil which hangs between the creature and the Creator lifted for a moment. We see how sadly possible it is for man in the exercise of his perfect freewill to mar the glorious work arranged for him by his God. We see too in the records of such a transaction as this (see Deuteronomy 17:14) how all was foreseen by the King of heaven, and we catch sight of the sorrowful regret—if we may use the term—of the Creator for the perverse folly of His creatures.

1 Samuel 8:7. The Lord said, Hearken unto the people, &c. — He grants their desire in anger, for their punishment. For these, it is plain, are the words of displeasure, being as much as to say, Let them have their will. Samuel took it very ill that they should be dissatisfied with his government: but God tells him that he himself had more reason to be angry. For, in truth, they had thrown off his authority who was their king, as Samuel tells them afterward, 1 Samuel 12:12; and who had governed them by judges, whom he raised up and extraordinarily inspired when he saw occasion; as he had before conducted them by Moses and Joshua, who never ordained any thing of moment without a special command from God. They have not rejected thee — Merely or chiefly. They have rejected me — This injury and contumely reflects chiefly upon me and my government. Should not reign — By my immediate government, which was the great honour, safety, and happiness of this people, if they had had hearts to prize it.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.See the margin which implies that the thing spoken of caused anger, indignation, or some revulsion of feeling (see Genesis 21:11-12). The answer of the Lord 1 Samuel 8:7 shows that Samuel's personal feelings had been hurt. They were soothed by being reminded of the continued ingratitude of the people to God Himself, upon whom, in fact, a greater slight was put by this very request for a king "like all the nations," than upon Samuel (compare Matthew 10:24; John 15:18, John 15:20). For a comment on this transaction, see Hosea 13:9-11; Acts 13:21-22. 6-10. the thing displeased Samuel when they said, Give us a king to judge us—Personal and family feelings might affect his views of this public movement. But his dissatisfaction arose principally from the proposed change being revolutionary in its character. Though it would not entirely subvert their theocratic government, the appointment of a visible monarch would necessarily tend to throw out of view their unseen King and Head. God intimated, through Samuel, that their request would, in anger, be granted, while at the same time he apprised them of some of the evils that would result from their choice. Hearken unto the voice of the people; God grants their desire in anger, and for their punishment, as is affirmed, Hosea 13:11. Compare Numbers 22:13,20 Deu 1:22 Psalm 77:20.

They have not rejected thee, i.e. not thee only, nor principally; compare Genesis 32:28 Exodus 16:7 Hosea 6:6 Matthew 10:20; but this injury and contumely reflects chiefly upon me and my government,

that I should not reign over them, to wit, by my immediate and peculiar government, which was the great honour, safety, and happiness of his people, if they had had wit to know it, or hearts to prize it. And all the infelicities of Israel, under this kind of government, did not proceed from the nature of the government, but from the ungovernableness and wickedness of the people, which, they might be sure, would produce the same or greater calamities under their kingly government.

Quest. First, Did not God reign over them when they had kings?

Answ. Yes, in a general way, but not in such a peculiar manner as he did by the judges, who were generally raised and called by God’s particular appointment, endowed and sanctified by his Spirit, directed and assisted by his special providence upon all emergencies; whereas all things were for the most part contrary in their kings.

Quest. Secondly, Was it simply unlawful for the people to desire a king?

Answ. No, as appears from Deu 17:14; but herein was their sin, that they desired it upon sinful grounds, of which see on 1 Samuel 8:7, and in an impetuous manner, and at an unseasonable time, and without asking leave or advice from God; which in so weighty and difficult a case they could not neglect without great sin. And the Lord said unto Samuel,.... He appeared to him in a vision or dream, and by an articulate voice delivered to him what follows:

hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; not as approving of what they said, but permitting and allowing what they asked, as a punishment of them for their disloyalty and ingratitude, and as resenting their ill behaviour to him; for it was in anger he assented to their request, Hosea 13:11.

for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me that I should not reign over them; most interpreters supply the word "only", as if the sense was, that they had not only rejected Samuel from judging them, but the Lord also from reigning over them; and which is spoken to comfort Samuel, and to alleviate the pressure on his mind for the ill treatment he had met with; for since they had served the Lord after this manner, it was no wonder he should be ill used, and might bear it with great patience: but I see no reason why the word may not be taken absolutely, that they had not rejected Samuel from all share in the government, at least from judging the people; for so he continued all the days of his life, even after they had a king over them; but they entirely rejected the sole and peculiar government of God over them.

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.
Verse 7. - 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. The reason assigned for the appointment of Samuel's sons as judges is his own advanced age. The inference which we might draw from this alone, namely, that they were simply to support their father in the administration of justice, and that Samuel had no intention of laying down his office, and still less of making the supreme office of judge hereditary in his family, is still more apparent from the fact that they were stationed as judges of the nation in Beersheba, which was on the southern border of Canaan (Judges 20:1, etc.; see at Genesis 21:31). The sons are also mentioned again in 1 Chronicles 6:13, though the name of the elder has either been dropped out of the Masoretic text or has become corrupt.
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