1 Samuel 8 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 1 Samuel 8)

Verse 1

[1] And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

Old — And so unfit for his former travels and labours. He is not supposed to have been now above sixty years of age. But he had spent his strength and spirits in the fatigue of public business: and now if he thinks to shake himself as at other times, he finds he is mistaken: age has cut his hair. They that are in the prime of their years, ought to be busy in doing the work of life: for as they go into years, they will find themselves less disposed to it, and less capable of it.

Judges — Not supreme judges, for such there was to be but one, and that of God's chusing; and Samuel still kept that office in his own hands, chap. 7:15, but his deputies, to go about and determine matters, but with reservation of a right of appeals to himself. He had doubtless instructed them in a singular manner, and fitted them for the highest employments; and he hoped that the example he had sent them, and the authority he still had over them, would oblige them to diligence and faithfulness in their trust.

Verse 2

[2] Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba.

Beer-sheba — In the southern border of the land of Canaan, which were very remote from his house at Ramah; where, and in the neighbouring places Samuel himself still executing the office of judge.

Verse 3

[3] And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

Took bribes — Opportunity and temptation discovered that corruption in them which 'till now was hid from their father. It has often been the grief of holy men, that their children did not tread in their steps. So far from it, that the sons of eminently good men, have been often eminently wicked.

Verse 5

[5] 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.

A king — Their desires exceed their reasons, which extended no farther 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 were likely to he 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 into his own immediate care and government; which privilege other nations had not.

Verse 6

[6] But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

Displeased — Because God was hereby dishonoured by that distrust of him, and that ambition, and itch after changes, which were the manifest causes of this desire; and because of that great misery, which he foresaw the people would hereby bring upon themselves.

Prayed — For the pardon of their sin, and direction and help from God in this great affair.

Verse 7

[7] 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.

Hearken — God grants their desire in anger, and for their punishment.

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.

Verse 8

[8] According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

So do they — Thou farest no worse than myself. This he speaks for Samuel's comfort and vindication.

Verse 9

[9] Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

Ye protest — That, if it be possible, thou mayst yet prevent their sin and misery.

The manner — That is, of the kings which they desire like the kings of other nations.

Verse 11

[11] And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

Will take — Injuriously and by violence.

Verse 12

[12] And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

Will appoint — Heb. To, or for himself; for his own fancy, or glory, and not only when the necessities of the kingdom require it. And though this might seem to he no incumbrance, but an honour to the persons so advanced, yet even in them that honour was accompanied with great dangers, and pernicious snares of many kinds, which those faint shadows of glory could not recompense; and as to the public, their pomp and power proved very burdensome to the people, whose lands and fruits were taken from them, and bestowed upon these, for the support of their state.

Will set them — At his own pleasure, when possibly their own fields required all their time and pains. He will press them for all sorts of his work, and that upon his own terms.

Verse 13

[13] And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

Daughters — Which would be more grievous to their parents, and more dangerous to themselves, because of the tenderness of that sex, and their liableness to many injuries.

Verse 14

[14] And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

Your fields — By fraud or force, as Ahab did from Naboth.

His servants — He will not only take the fruits of your lands for his own use, but will take away your possessions to give to his servants.

Verse 15

[15] And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

The tenth — Besides the several tenths which God hath reserved for his service, he will, when he pleaseth, impose another tenth upon you.

Officers — Heb. To his eunuchs, which may imply a farther injury, that he should against the command of God, make some of his people eunuchs; and take those into his court and favour, which God would have cast out of the congregation.

Verse 16

[16] And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

Will take — By constraint, and without sufficient recompense.

Verse 17

[17] He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

His servants — That is, he will use you like slaves, and deprive you of that liberty which now you enjoy.

Verse 18

[18] And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

Cry out — Ye shall bitterly mourn for the sad effects of this inordinate desire of a king.

Will not hear — Because you will not hear, nor obey his counsel in this day.

Verse 20

[20] That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

Be like — What stupidity! It was their happiness that they were unlike all other nations, Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 33:28, as in other glorious privileges, so especially in this, that the Lord was their immediate king and lawgiver. But they will have a king to go out before them, and to fight their battles. Could they desire a battle better fought for them than the last was, by Samuel's prayers and God's thunders? Were they fond to try the chance of war, at the same uncertainty that others did? And what was the issue? Their first king was slain in battle: and so was Joshua, one of the last and best.

Verse 21

[21] And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.

Rehearsed — He repeated them privately between God and himself; for his own vindication and comfort: and as a foundation for his prayers to God, for direction and assistance.

Verse 22

[22] And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

Go — Betake yourselves to your several occasions, till you hear more from me in this matter.