1 Samuel 8


Samuel, grown old, makes his sons judges in Beer-sheba, 1, 2.

They pervert judgment; and the people complain, and desire a

king, 3-5.

Samuel is displeased, and inquires of the Lord, 6.

The Lord is also displeased; but directs Samuel to appoint them

a king, and to show them solemnly the consequences of their

choice, 7-9.

Samuel does so; and shows them what they may expect from an

absolute monarch, and how afflicted they should be under his

administration, 10-18.

The people refuse to recede from their demand; and Samuel lays

the matter before the Lord, and dismisses them, 19-22.


Verse 1. When Samuel was old] Supposed to be about sixty.

He made his sons judges] He appointed them as his lieutenants to

superintend certain affairs in Beer-sheba, which he could not

conveniently attend to himself. But they were never judges in the

proper sense of the word; Samuel was the last judge in Israel, and

he judged it to the day of his death. See 1Sa 7:16.

Verse 3. His sons walked not in his ways] Their iniquity is

pointed out in three words: 1. They turned aside after lucre; the

original ( batsa) signifies to cut, clip, break off; and

therefore Mr. Parkhurst thinks that it means nearly the same with

our clipping of coin. It however expresses here the idea of

avarice, of getting money by hook or by crook. The Targum says,

"They looked after mamon dishkar, the mammon of

unrighteousness;" of which they did not make unto themselves

friends but enemies; See Clarke on Mt 6:24. 2.

They took bribes; shochad, gifts or presents, to blind

their eyes. 3. They perverted judgment-they turned judgment aside;

they put it out of its regular path; they sold it to the highest

bidder: thus the wicked rich man had his cause, and the poor man

was oppressed and deprived of his right. This was the custom in

our own country before MAGNA CHARTA was obtained; he that would

speed in the king's court must bribe all the officers, and fee

both the king and queen! I have found in our ancient records the

most barefaced and shameful examples of this kind; but it was

totally abolished, invito rege, by that provision in the above

charter which states, Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimvs ant

differemus rectum aut judicium; "To no man will we sell, to no man

will we deny or defer, justice and right." It was customary in

those inauspicious times, for judgment to be delayed in banco

regis, in the king's court, as long as there was any hope that

more money would be paid in order to bring it to issue. And

there were cases, where the king did not like the party, in which

he denied justice and judgment entirely! Magna Charta brought

them to book, and brought the subject to his right.

Of those times it might well be said, as Homer did, Iliad xvi.,

ver. 387.



"When guilty mortals break the eternal laws,

Or judges, bribed, betray the righteous cause."

"When the laws are perverted by force; when justice is expelled

from her seat; when judges are swayed from the right, regardless

of the vengeance of Heaven." Or, in other words, these were times

in which the streams of justice were poisoned in their source, and

judges neither feared God nor regarded man.

Verse 5. Make us a king] Hitherto, from the time in which they

were a people, the Israelites were under a theocracy, they had no

other king but GOD. NOW they desire to have a king like the other

nations around them, who may be their general in battle; for this

is the point at which they principally aim.

Verse 6. The thing displeased Samuel] Because he saw that this

amounted to a formal renunciation of the Divine government.

Samuel prayed unto the Lord] He begged to know his mind in this

important business.

Verse 7. They have rejected me] They wish to put that government

in the hands of a mortal, which was always in the hands of their

GOD. But hearken unto their voice-grant them what they request. So

we find God grants that in his displeasure which he withholds in

his mercy.

Verse 9. Show them the manner of the king] The word

mishpat, which we here render manner, signifies simply what

the king would and might require, according to the manner in which

kings in general ruled; all of whom, in those times, were absolute

and despotic.

The whole of this manner of the king is well illustrated by

Puffendorf. "Hitherto," says he, "the people of Israel had lived

under governors raised up of God, who had exacted no tribute of

them, nor put them to any charge; but, little content with this

form of government. they desire to have a king like other nations,

who should live in magnificence and pomp, keep armies, and be able

to resist any invasion. Samuel informs them what it was they

desired; that when they understood it, they might consider whether

they would persist in their choice If they would have a king

splendidly attended, he tells them that he would take their sons

for his chariots, &c.; if they would have him keep up constant

forces, then he would appoint them for colonels and captains,

and employ those in his wars who were accustomed to follow their

family business; and since, after the manner of other kings, he

must keep a stately court, they must be content that their

daughters should serve in several offices, which the king would

think below the dignity of his wives and daughters, 1Sa 8:13.

Many ministers also, in several departments, both of war and

peace, must have salaries to support them, which must be paid out

of their fields and vineyards, 1Sa 8:14. In one word, that to

sustain his dignity their king would exact the tenth of all they

possessed, and be maintained in a royal manner out of their


It is perfectly vain in Grotius, or any one else, to state that

this shows what a king, as king, may any where in virtue of his

office, claim and exact; and that he can take the property and

persons of his subjects, and dispose of them as he may judge

necessary for the exigence of the state. This was the manner of

Saul, but Saul was not a king of God's choosing: "He gave him in

his wrath, and took him away in his displeasure;" and the manner

of such a king should not be arrogated by any potentate who

affects to rule jure divino, by Divine right. The manner of the

king of God's choice is distinctly detailed, De 17:15-20, to

which the reader will do well to refer, that he may have an

impartial statement of the subject.

Verse 19. The people refused to obey] They would have the king,

his manner and all, notwithstanding the solemn warning which they

here receive.

Verse 20. May judge us] This appears to be a rejection of


Go out before us] Be in every respect our head and governor.

And fight our battles.] Be the general of our armies.

Verse 21. Rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord.] He went to

the altar, and in his secret devotion laid the whole business

before God.

Verse 22. Hearken unto their voice] Let them have what they

desire, and let them abide the consequences.

Go ye every man unto his city.] It seems the elders of the

people had tarried all this time with Samuel, and when he had

received his ultimate answer from God, he told them of it and

dismissed them.

ON this account we may observe: 1. That GOD did not change the

government of Israel; it was the people themselves who changed it.

2. That though God permitted them to have a king, yet he did not

approve of him. 3. That, notwithstanding he did not suffer them

to choose the man, he ordered his servant Samuel to choose him by

lot, he disposing of that lot. 4. That God never gave up the

supreme government; he was still KING in Israel, and the king, so

called, was only the vicegerent or deputy of the Lord. 6. That no

king of Judah attempted to be supreme, therefore they never made

new laws, nor altered the old; which was a positive confession

that God was the supreme Legislator. 6. That an absolute monarchy

is always an evil, and is contrary to all the rights, civil and

religious, of mankind; a mode of government that all people should

avoid, as pregnant with evils to mankind. 7. That although it was

a sin in the Israelites to desire a king, that is, to change a

constitution of which God was the author, yet kingly government,

properly understood, is a good of the first magnitude to the civil

happiness of mankind. 8. That by kingly government, properly

understood, I mean such a monarchical government as that of Great

Britain, where the king, the nobles, and the people, are duly

mixed, each having his proper part in the government, and each

preventing the other from running to excess, and all limited by

law. 9. That the three grand forms of government which have

obtained among mankind, viz., monarchy, aristocracy, and

democracy, have each certain advantages without which no state

can be well preserved; but they have evils by which any state may

be injured. 10. That, from a proper mixture of these, the

advantages of the whole may be reaped without any of their

attendant evils, and that this is the British constitution; which,

not merely the wisdom of our ancestors, but the providence of God

has given unto us, and of which no other state has had common

sense enough to avail themselves, though they see that because of

this the British empire is the most powerful and the most happy

in the universe, and likely at last to give laws to the whole

world. The manner of our king is constitutional, widely

different from that of Saul, and from that of any other potentate

in the four quarters of the globe. He is the father of his people,

and the people feel and love him as such. He has all the power

necessary to do good; they have all the liberty necessary to their

political happiness, had they only a diminution of taxes, which at

present are too heavy for any nation to bear.

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