1 Samuel 8:7-9: A King Given in Anger

Verse 7:[1] And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for (see Ex. 16:8) they have not rejected thee, but (1 Sam. 10:19; 12:17, 19; Hos. 13:10, 11) they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.



[Hear the voice of the people] That is, Acquiesce to the petition of the people (Vatablus, similarly Mendoza). Question: In what manner did God agree unto this petition? For God was not able to consent unto sin. Responses: 1. A petition is able to be unlawful, but the concession lawful: as when one requires a deposit from another for a sinful purpose; he unlawfully requires it, but the other lawfully renders it. Which happens when the thing asked is not of itself and intrinsically evil, but only as a result of the circumstances. God did not consent unto this petition insofar as it was evil; but He only permitted it: He notwithstanding consented unto the thing asked, or unto the establishment of a King; because this, insofar as it was done by God, was not evil. 2. God conceded this to them as a punishment, and for their ruin, as in Psalm 78:29, 30; Deuteronomy 1:22; Numbers 22:13, 20 (Mendoza). These are the words of one angry, as it is testified to in Hosea 13:11 (Piscator and Malvenda out of Junius). Hear, etc. It is one thing to will something, that it might be done; it is another thing to allow it to be done, Hosea 13:11 (Grotius).


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; Deuteronomy 1:22; Psalm 78:29, 30.


[For they have not rejected thee, but me] That is, not thee, understanding, only (Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus, Drusius). A common Ellipsis, as In Genesis 32:28 (Malvenda out of Junius, Glassius’ “Grammar” 489, Menodoza). This supplement does not satisfy; because it enervates the Emphasis of the trope, namely, hyperbolic synecdoche. For, it is understood that they did not spurn Samuel principally, or chiefly; but God: in such a way that, if the contempt of Samuel were compared with the contempt of God, it would appear to be nothing. For similar examples ἀντιθέσεως, of antithesis (noting a comparison of unequal things), see Genesis 32:28; Matthew 10:20; John 7:16 (Piscator). It is a common Hebraism, that, when something is said concerning one thing more than another, it is simply denied concerning the latter, and simply affirmed concerning the former. Thus Exodus 16:7; Hosea 6:6; Matthew 10:20; John 11:4. Now, God was despised by these, 1. Immediately and in Himself, because God Himself was reigning over Israel. 2. Mediately, and in Samuel, His legate and Minister (Mendoza).


[That I should not reign over them] That is, by that immediate dominion, and special providence (Mendoza). What? Is there a place where God does not reign as King? David calls God his king.[2] Thus David was king (namely, over the people), and God was king (over David). But here the manner is different. For God was reigning in one way while there were Judges, and another way while there were Kings. For, Kings were having greater authority over the people than the Judges, and were often drawning the people to false Gods (Drusius). This is explained in 1 Samuel 10:19. God reigns through those into whom He breathes His spirit, of which sort were those Judges. Therefore, when they forsake Samuel, they set aside God, as it were, as Josephus says.[3] There is a similar expression in Luke 10:16. And hence interpret what is in 1 Samuel 12:17, 19. At another time they could have made for themselves a King without fault; Deuteronomy 17:14. See what things were said there (Grotius). The Judges were not administrating public affairs according to their own choice or desire, as Kings and Princes do; but according to the manner prescribed by God. Wherefore all the Judges of Israel were holy men, Hebrews 11:32-40; Ecclesiasticus 46:11-20.[4] Nevertheless, since exceedingly few of the Kings were not idolaters, under them the name of God began to be held abject and mean, and their ancestral religion was either altogether given up, or despised by the greater part (Sanchez). That I should not reign over them; that is, that they should live by my laws (Vatablus). Moreover, with these words God comforts Samuel (Martyr, similarly Mendoza). There can be no greater consolation to one afflicted, than if he should have God as his companion in affliction. He comforts him, not simply by bearing his grief; but by tempering the sense of the lesser evil by an irruption of the greater. For, to a just man the grief over divine injuries is such that the sorrow over one’s own injuries is somewhat absorbed (Mendoza). This insult, says He, does not fall upon thee, but upon me. Now, I patiently bear their injuries: wherefore it is suitable for thee to bear these (Martyr).


They have not rejected thee, that is, 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. Question: First, Did not God reign over them when they had kings? Answer: 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. Question: Secondly, Was it simply unlawful for the people to desire a king? Answer: No, as appears from Deuteronomy 17:14; but herein was their sin, that they desired it upon sinful grounds, of which see on verse 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.


Verse 8:[5] 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.


[According to all the works, etc.] To their reproach He brings up their ingratitude, both toward Himself, and toward Samuel (Drusius). Now, those sins are reviewed here, 1. So that the gravity of this contempt of God and of Samuel might be shown, which contempt is conveyed in those most grievous sins. 2. For the comfort of Samuel, who was thinking that this was done on account of his fault: that is to say, Think not that thou art despised by the people because of some fault committed by thee: for I also am despised by them. Now, the reason for this humbling is the ill will of the people, and that inveterate (Mendoza). The request of the people is not arising from this, that thou hast not fulfilled the office entrusted to thee diligently or faithfully; but from the innate levity of the people (Menochius, our of Sanchez for the most part).


So do they also unto thee: Thou farest no worse than myself. This he speaks for Samuel’s comfort and vindication.


Verse 9:[6] Now therefore hearken unto (or, obey[7]) their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and (1 Sam. 8:11) shew (or, notwithstanding when thou hast solemnly protested against them, then thou shalt shew,[8] etc.) them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.


[Call them to witness, הָעֵ֤ד תָּעִיד֙] By calling call to witness (Pagnine, Vatablus); that is, diligently call to witness both God and men (Vatablus, similarly Mendoza). So that after this no ignorance might be feigned, and matter set forth to greater effect (Mendoza).



[Foretell to them the law of the King] That is, explain to this blind people, what sort of law/right was going to be exercised by the King that they were asking to be placed over themselves like to the kings of other nations. Namely, he will direct public affairs, not by common counsel, but by his own will alone: he will strive after, not so much the interests of the people, as his own glory, gain, and pleasure. And it is indeed exceedingly manifest that such Kings almost always fell to the lot of the Hebrews (Tirinus). Foretell, etc., so that thou mightest dissuade and deter them from asking a King (Lapide).


Protest solemnly unto them; that, if it be possible, thou mayst yet prevent their sin and misery. The manner of the king, that is, of the kings which they desire, like the kings of other nations. He speaks not of the just authority, or the right of their kings, but of their practice, as is evident from divers of the following particulars, which are expressly forbidden and condemned in Scripture, as we shall see.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל שְׁמַע֙ בְּק֣וֹל הָעָ֔ם לְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־יֹאמְר֖וּ אֵלֶ֑יךָ כִּ֣י לֹ֤א אֹֽתְךָ֙ מָאָ֔סוּ כִּֽי־אֹתִ֥י מָאֲס֖וּ מִמְּלֹ֥ךְ עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ [2] See, for example, Psalm 5:2; 68:24. [3]Antiquities 6:3. [4] Ecclesiasticus 46:11-20: “And concerning the judges, every one by name, whose heart went not a whoring, nor departed from the Lord, let their memory be blessed. Let their bones flourish out of their place, and let the name of them that were honoured be continued upon their children. Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, beloved of his Lord, established a kingdom, and anointed princes over his people. By the law of the Lord he judged the congregation, and the Lord had respect unto Jacob. By his faithfulness he was found a true prophet, and by his word he was known to be faithful in vision. He called upon the mighty Lord, when his enemies pressed upon him on every side, when he offered the sucking lamb. And the Lord thundered from heaven, and with a great noise made his voice to be heard. And he destroyed the rulers of the Tyrians, and all the princes cf the Philistines. And before his long sleep he made protestations in the sight of the Lord and his anointed, I have not taken any man’s goods, so much as a shoe: and no man did accuse him. And after his death he prophesied, and shewed the king his end, and lifted up his voice from the earth in prophecy, to blot out the wickedness of the people.” [5] Hebrew: כְּכָֽל־הַמַּעֲשִׂ֣ים אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֗וּ מִיּוֹם֩ הַעֲלֹתִ֙י אֹתָ֤ם מִמִּצְרַ֙יִם֙ וְעַד־הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה וַיַּ֣עַזְבֻ֔נִי וַיַּעַבְד֖וּ אֱלֹהִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֑ים כֵּ֛ן הֵ֥מָּה עֹשִׂ֖ים גַּם־לָֽךְ׃ [6] Hebrew: וְעַתָּ֖ה שְׁמַ֣ע בְּקוֹלָ֑ם אַ֗ךְ כִּֽי־הָעֵ֤ד תָּעִיד֙ בָּהֶ֔ם וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לָהֶ֔ם מִשְׁפַּ֣ט הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִמְלֹ֖ךְ עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ [7] Hebrew: שְׁמַע. [8] Hebrew: אַ֗ךְ כִּֽי־הָעֵ֤ד תָּעִיד֙ בָּהֶ֔ם וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣.

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