Poole on 1 Samuel 8:10, 11: Beastly Government, Part 1

Verse 10:[1] And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.


Verse 11:[2] And he said, (see Deut. 17:16, etc.; 1 Sam. 10:25) This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: (1 Sam. 14:52) 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.



[This will be the law of the king, מִשְׁפַּט] They render it variously. The king’s law (Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Castalio), statute, or decree (Jonathan, Hebrews in Munster), δικαίωμα/regulation/righteousness, which they render justification, although it is rather a statute, decree, institution (Drusius). The judgment (Vatablus, Mariana), manner (English), way (Dutch), method (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator), that is, method of acting (Piscator). Question: Is this law/right of the King just or unjust? Response 1: Some say that these things were lawful for Kings (certain Hebrews in Vatablus), that is, with public need requiring (Lyra). Response 2: Others maintain that this law was unjust and tyrannical (thus Mendoza, certain Hebrews in Martyr, Rabbi Jose[3] in Drusius). It is not here signified what the Kings can rightfully do, but what they would dare to do (Menochius out of Sanchez). The law is set forth here, not as true, but as usurped (Martyr, Tirinus, Lapide). This judgment, that is, Kings will make use of these manners and this practice toward you: they will exercise such a tyranny; to which it shall be necessary to submit, neither shall it be lawful for you to resist, but it will be needful to be obedient to what has been appointed. Some maintain that God said these things to deter the people from asking for a King (Vatablus, similarly Rabbi Judah[4] in Drusius). Here, God describes the law/right of Kings, not that which is altogether just and moderate (which by the consent of all is acknowledged to be the best form of government), but Barbarian and Asiatic; which sort at that time and afterwards thrived in the East: concerning which see Aristotle’s Politics 3:14 (Malvenda). Concerning the signification of the word מִשְׁפָּט/judgment, see Concerning the Law of War and Peace 1:4:7. Josephus sets forth a summary of the things that follow; saying, that it was going to be, that the King was going treat them as purchased servants. For the neighboring Kings were ruling over their subjects as they willed, as ἀνυπεύθυνοι, liable or subject to no one. The Syrians were born to servitude, says Livy; they think nothing of freedom, says Apollonius; their hands are submissive, Julianus, as we have shown in Concerning the Law of War and Peace 3:20:1: therefore, subjects in these books are everywhere called the servants of the Kings. Now, this Royal Domination was bearing with it, that at the will of the King they might draft, might impose assessments and services upon men, tributes of the field, taxes on commodities, with no one contradicting. For that, I am King: I, as a plebian, as nothing further,[5] was having place there. And to act with impunity, that is to be King. If they should grievously sin against the law of God, vengeance was pertaining to God; not to individuals, not even to the people. See what things follow; and in Concerning the Law of War and Peace 26:10, 23 (Grotius). That right was not owed to the King by divine institution; but rather the usurpation of kings was foretold, who, degenerating into tyranny, decree for themselves an unjust right (Thomas in Malvenda). Now, that this law was unjust and tyrannical is proven, 1. Because many of the following things are contrary either to natural law, or divine law. Of which sort are: to seize fields, etc., contrary to Ezekiel 46:18 (Mendoza). Otherwise, Ahab was able to make use of this right, and to seize the vineyard from Naboth, 1 Kings 21 (Piscator). To make slaves of citizens, contrary to Deuteronomy 17:16, 20. 2. It is proven out of verse 18, ye shall cry, etc. But, if these things be justly imposed by the King, they were not having any reason to cry out (Mendoza). 3. It is called the Law of the King, not of the Kingdom; as if it would have regard to the advantage of the King, rather than of the Kingdom (Mendoza out of Cajetan). מִשְׁפָּט/judgment elsewhere signifies manner or custom. Thus in Genesis 40:13;[6] Exodus 21:9;[7] Psalm 119:132[8] (Mendoza); 1 Samuel 27:11[9] (Piscator); Numbers 9:14;[10] 29:6[11] (Lapide). Moreover, that manner/law of the Kingdom, 1 Samuel 10:25,[12] differs from this manner/law of the King (Mendoza, Lapide, Hugo and Dionysius and Tostatus and Lyra in Mendoza). For, the former Samuel published to teach the people: but the latter to deter the people, as it will be evident on that place (Mendoza). Moses describes the law/manner of the King as right and just in Deuteronomy 17 (Lapide, Martyr), where he enacts what the king is obliged to render to God, what to the people, and what to himself (Mendoza). The Israelites were desiring Kings that would steer public affairs, not by common counsel, but by their will alone, which sort foreign nations were having (Sanchez). Question: The law or custom of which King is here described? Response: Of the following Kings; not indeed in such a way that each King would exercise all these injustices; but in such a way that some might make use of some, and others others. See 2 Samuel 12:4, 14. It is not necessary for the truth of this prediction, that these very things be exercised by the Kings thereafter: provided that similar things be done. For these things are set forth for the sake of example: and in examples truth is not requisite (Mendoza).


[He will take away your sons, יִקָּח] He will take (Malvenda, Junius and Tremellius); he will seize, even by force and injury (Mendoza, Drusius). Thus לָקַח, to take, is taken in Genesis 34:2;[13] Job 5:5;[14] 15:12[15] (Drusius); Genesis 20:3;[16] 27:36;[17] 30:15.[18] He will carry off, against the will of the parents (Mendoza). Nothing harsher was able to be commanded (Martyr).


He will take your sons, to wit, injuriously and by violence, as this Hebrew word is oft used, as Genesis 20:3; 27:36; Job 5:5; and so it must be here; because otherwise the king would have no more privilege than any of his subjects; for any man might take a son with his own or parents’ consent.



[And he will put them in his chariots, and make them horsemen,וְשָׂ֥ם לוֹ֙ בְּמֶרְכַּבְתּ֣וֹ וּבְפָרָשָׁ֔יו] And he will put (or appoint [Junius and Tremellius, Piscator], understanding, them [Munster, Tigurinus, Vatablus]) for himself in his chariot (into the chariot [Tigurinus], unto the chariot [Munster], in chariots [Junius and Tremellius], or in his chariotry, for it is a collective noun [Malvenda]), and in his horsemen (Malvenda, Septuagint, Malvenda, similarly Pagnine, Jonathan). Among his horsemen (Syriac), for horsemen (Munster), so that they might be horsemen (Tigurinus); that is, some of them he will put in charge of his chariots, so that they might direct them; and others he will make horsemen. It is a Hebraism (Vatablus). The speech concerns chariots military and civil: for of rural chariots it will be spoken below. The sense is able to be twofold: 1. He will make use of your sons, like horses to draw his chariots; as Sesostris[19] did in Pliny’s Natural History 33:2. 2. (Which is closer to the truth:) He will put them in chariots, as horsemen to be carried; and charioteers, who govern them, and who fight from chariots armed with schythes; and forerunners of chariot teams, or drivers, who govern chariots. And he will do this without any need of the Republic, but only to show his royal majesty. This is a grievous injury (Mendoza). Although nearly all interpreters everywhere render פָּרָשׁ as horseman, it is highly probably, what Louis de Dieu ὁ μακαρίτης, of blessed memory, observed, that פָּרָשׁ/parash is also sometimes taken for horse; like the Arabic pharas, of which the Æthiopians also make use. Thus it is to be translated in this place, and he will place for himself on his chariots and horses; thus it better coheres than and horsemen. Thus in 2 Samuel 1:6, and, lo, the chariots וּבַעֲלֵ֥י הַפָּרָשִׁ֖ים, and the Lords of the horses, followed hard after him; that is, the horsemen; just as the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic rightly have it. But the Lords of the horsemen would be ἵππαρχοι, the prefects of the horsemen, as the Septuagint expounds it; which appears strange. Again, in Isaiah 21:7, רֶ֗כֶב צֶ֚מֶד פָּֽרָשִׁ֔ים, it is a chariot of two horses; that is, a two-horsed chariot, not of two horsemen. The matter is clearer out of verse 9, where רֶ֣כֶב אִ֔ישׁ צֶ֖מֶד פָּֽרָשִׁ֑ים verbatim signifies a chariot of man of two horses; that is, a manly two-horsed chariot; for you would not say, a chariot of man of two horses: and in Isaiah 28:28, וּפָרָשָׁ֖יו לֹֽא־יְדֻקֶּֽנּוּ׃, and with his horses the farmer will not bruise it; horses, I say, not horsemen: for there is an allusion to the manner threshing, concerning which Varro, Concerning Agriculture[20] 1:52, it is necessary that the grain be shaken loose from the ears upon the threshing floor; which is done among some by yoked mules and a threshing-sledge, etc.; among others by a herd of mules not driven, etc. (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:6:98, etc.). Moreover, either פָּרָשׁ/parash is derived from Pharasa, rapere, to hasten (thus Arab Critics call them because of their rapidity of advance; hence the Poets call one rapientem/hastening: Martial, Make use sparingly, I advise, of a swift horse rapiente/hastening [Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:6:60]); or פָּרָשׁ/parash signifies first a horseman, then a horse (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:6:99).


And to be his horsemen, or, and for his horses; for so the Hebrew word פָּרָשׁ/parash sometimes signifies, as Isaiah 21:7, 9; 28:28; to ride his horses.


[And forerunners, וְרָצ֖וּ] With the accent on the ultima: the form is רָץ, he ran (Drusius). And they shall run (Pagnine); that they might run (Piscator, Vatablus).

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל אֵ֖ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה אֶל־הָעָ֕ם הַשֹּׁאֲלִ֥ים מֵאִתּ֖וֹ מֶֽלֶךְ׃ [2] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֕אמֶר זֶ֗ה יִֽהְיֶה֙ מִשְׁפַּ֣ט הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִמְלֹ֖ךְ עֲלֵיכֶ֑ם אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶ֣ם יִקָּ֗ח וְשָׂ֥ם לוֹ֙ בְּמֶרְכַּבְתּ֣וֹ וּבְפָרָשָׁ֔יו וְרָצ֖וּ לִפְנֵ֥י מֶרְכַּבְתּֽוֹ׃ [3] Rabbi Jose ben Halafta (second century AD) was a Tanna of the fourth generation, a student and follower of Rabbi Akiva, and a frequently mentioned authority in the Mishnah. He is considered by some to be the author of Seder Olam Rabba. [4] This is likely Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi, or Judah the Prince, second century AD chief editor of the Mishnah, and student of Rabbi Jose ben Halafta. [5] Horace’s Satires 2:3:187. [6] Genesis 40:13: “Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner (כַּמִּשְׁפָּט֙ הָֽרִאשׁ֔וֹן) when thou wast his butler.” [7] Exodus 21:9: “And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters (כְּמִשְׁפַּ֥ט הַבָּנ֖וֹת).” [8] Psalm 119:132: “Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name (כְּ֜מִשְׁפָּ֗ט לְאֹהֲבֵ֥י שְׁמֶֽךָ׃).” [9] 1 Samuel 27:11: “And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David, and so will be his manner (וְכֹ֣ה מִשְׁפָּט֔וֹ) all the while he dwelleth in the country of the Philistines.” [10] Numbers 9:14: “And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the Lord; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof (וּכְמִשְׁפָּטוֹ), so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.” [11] Numbers 29:6: “Beside the burnt offering of the month, and his meat offering, and the daily burnt offering, and his meat offering, and their drink offerings, according unto their manner (כְּמִשְׁפָּטָם), for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord.” [12] 1 Samuel 10:25a: “Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdomמִשְׁפַּ֣ט) הַמְּלֻכָ֔ה), and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord.…” [13] Genesis 34:2: “And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her (וַיִּקַּ֥ח אֹתָ֛הּ), and lay with her, and defiled her.” [14] Job 5:5: “Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it (יִקָּחֵהוּ) even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.” [15] Job 15:12: “Why doth thine heart carry thee away (יִּקָּחֲךָ)? and what do thy eyes wink at…” [16] Genesis 20:3: “But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken (לָקַחְתָּ); for she is a man’s wife.” [17] Genesis 27:36: “And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away (לָקָח) my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away (לָקַח) my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” [18] Genesis 30:15: “And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken (קַחְתֵּךְ) my husband? and wouldest thou take away (וְלָקַחַת) my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes.” [19] According to several ancient historians, there was an Egyptian Pharaoh by the name of Sesostris (early second millennium BC) that successfully invaded Asia Minor and Europe. [20]De Re Rustica.