1 Samuel Chapter 8  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: 1 Samuel 8
1Sm 8:1(top)
1Sm 8:2(top)
1Sm 8:3(top)
1Sm 8:4(top)
1Sm 8:5

“your sons have not walked in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us.” The Israelites wanted a king. There was a multifaceted reason for that. One, as stated in 1 Samuel 8:5, was that Samuel’s two sons were evil (1 Sam. 8:3). To put that in historical perspective, that fact only added to the evil done by the previous judge and High Priest, Eli, who also had two sons who were very evil and were referred to as “sons of Belial” (1 Sam. 2:12; see the REV commentary on 1 Sam. 2:12). With the leadership seemingly passing from father to son (although Eli’s wicked sons were killed in battle) we can see why the people likely did not want any more evil leadership.

As much or more than that, however, was the increasing presence of the Philistines in Israel. They were a very real danger. They were an advanced society in that time and were well-armed and aggressive. Without any central government, Israel did not seem to have an effective way to deal with them. The Philistines could attack the Negev, and the people of Ashur and Naphthali up north might say, “Well, that’s your problem, Judah.” But we see that when Saul was king, when the Ammonites attacked Jabesh-gilead in the Transjordan, Saul mustered all the tribes to fight the Ammonites and saved the city (1 Sam. 11:1-11). God had foretold that Israel would eventually have a king (Deut. 17:14-20). God had in mind the everlasting kingship of the Messiah and had spoken of a king from the tribe of Judah some 600 years before Samuel’s time (Gen. 49:8-10). It is likely only because the people pressed Samuel at this time, and from God’s perspective there was no one from the tribe of Judah positioned to become king, that God chose Saul the Benjamite to be king. Eventually David, from the tribe of Judah, did become king and the legitimate kings of Israel were his descendants, including Jesus Christ, who will one day sit on the throne of David (Luke 1:32).

1Sm 8:6(top)
1Sm 8:7

“Listen to the voice.” This is the “pregnant sense” of the word “listen,” meaning to listen to what they say and do it (cp. 1 Sam. 8:9, 22).

1Sm 8:8(top)
1Sm 8:9

“Listen to the voice.” This is the “pregnant sense” of the word “listen,” meaning to listen to what they say and do it (cp. 1 Sam. 8:7, 22).

“warn, yes, warn.” God repeats the verb warn twice, using the figure of speech polyptoton for emphasis. It means to emphatically warn.

[For more on polyptoton and the way it is translated, see commentary on Genesis 2:16.]

“the way of the king.” The “way” of the king includes his way of being, the extent of his power and the rights he claims as king, the judgments he makes, etc.

1Sm 8:10(top)
1Sm 8:11

“he will take.” This so well reflects what happens with the government. They take. The word “take” is used much in the next few verses.

1Sm 8:12

“plow his ground.” The Hebrew uses the root of “plow” twice; “plow (verb) his plowed field (noun)” but it translates well as “plow his ground.” The same is true of “harvest” but “harvest” works well in English because it can be a noun or verb depending on its use in the sentence, so “harvest (verb) his harvest (noun)” makes sense in English.

1Sm 8:13(top)
1Sm 8:14

“even the best of them.” That is, even the best of them all, not just the olive groves.

“his servants.” This refers to the officers and officials of the king, not his household servants/slaves.

[For more on “servants” being used for people of high position in the kingdom, see commentary on 2 Samuel 11:1.]

1Sm 8:15

“officers.” Traditionally “eunuchs,” that is likely not its meaning here.

“his servants.” That is, the government officials. There is archaeological evidence of government officials referring to themselves as “servants” of the king.

1Sm 8:16(top)
1Sm 8:17

“you yourselves.” The Hebrew can read “you” or “you yourselves,” but given the fact that this is Samuel’s warning to the people, “you yourselves” seems to be appropriate.

1Sm 8:18(top)
1Sm 8:19(top)
1Sm 8:20

“our king may govern us.” The Hebrew word translated “govern” is shaphat (#08199 שָׁפַט), and its most basic meaning is “to judge.” Its meanings include “to judge, to decide between, to settle disputes, to administer justice, to rule, to be in authority, to govern.” In this context, it has the meaning of “to govern” with likely an emphasis on settling disputes. The Israelites were prone to ungodly behavior, and no doubt the decisions rendered by the elders of any given town were political and ungodly. Sadly, having a king instead of local elders and tribal leaders would not remedy that. Throughout history, people have been willing to give up their freedom and personal responsibility for being governed by others.

“and go out before us and fight our battles.” The people wanted a warrior king, and they got Saul, who was apparently a valiant warrior. However, as we learn more and more about Saul we see that he was not a particularly godly man.

1Sm 8:21

“he spoke them into the ears of Yahweh.” This is the figure of speech anthropopatheia, giving God human characteristics, and it brings God closer to humankind and in this case places emphasis on the closeness of the relationship between Samuel and Yahweh. The figure “ears of Yahweh” occurs only here, but James 5:4 is very similar.

1Sm 8:22

“Listen to the voice.” This is the “pregnant sense” of the word “listen,” meaning to listen to what they say and do it (cp. 1 Sam. 8:7, 9).


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