Poole on 1 Samuel 8:12-18: Beastly Government, Part 2

Verse 12:[1] 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.



[He will appoint for himself Tribunes and Centurions] Hebrew: captains of thousands and captains of fifties[2] (Montanus, similarly Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius). Under these two he comprehends other Officers of soldiers (Vatablus). Prætorian soldiers marked out as his bodyguard (Menochius). Question: In what is placed the basis of this injury? For these appear as offices of honor, not of disgrace; see 1 Kings 9:22. Responses: 1. Under these others altogether servile are contained, courtiers, runners, etc. (Mendoza out of Josephus). 2. They were also compelling the unwilling to serve in the army (Mendoza out of Tostatus). 3. However much honor the Kings were granting on the one hand, just so much tribute they were exacting on the other. 4. These offices were burdensome to the whole people, both on account of the multitude of the chosen officers, and on account of the indignity of them. For they were chosing them, humoring themselves, rather than consulting the people, as it is evident from the pronoun, for himself, he will appoint for himself tribunes, etc. (Mendoza).


He will appoint him; Hebrew, לוֹ, to or for himself emphatically, that is, for his own fancy, or glory, or conveniency, or evil design, and not only when the necessities of the kingdom or commonwealth require it, as the judges did. And though this might seem to be no encumbrance, as it is here represented, but an honour and advantage 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 and oppressive to the people, whose lands and fruits were taken from them, and bestowed upon these, for the support of their state, as it follows below, verses 14 and 15. And to reap his harvest, at his own pleasure, and without their consent, when possibly their own fields required all their time and pains. To make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots; he will press them for all sorts of his work, and that upon his own terms.


Verse 13:[3] And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

[Also you daughters, etc.] This injury was the more grievous, that the love of parents for daughters is greater; and the taking of daughters from their parents was more dangerous than the taking of sons (Mendoza); as testify Dinah,[4] and the sister of Amnon[5] (Martyr).



And he will take your daughters, etc.: Which would be more grievous to their parents, and more dangerous to themselves, because of the tenderness of that sex, and liableness to many injuries.


[Unguentarias, makers of ointment (thus Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Drusius, Pagnine), לְרַקָּחוֹת[6]] Or in pigmentarias, for makers in cosmetics (Munster, Montanus). Pigmentariæ were makes of dry things, unguentariæ of liquids (Tostatus). But רָקַח is to compound whatever odoriferous substances, both liquid and dry; see Exodus 30:25;[7] 37:29[8] (Mendoza). Pigmentariæ are those that prepare various compounds from aromatic substances (Munster). Others: for weavers (Syriac, Arabic); for attendants (Jonathan in Drusius).


[And focarias/hearth-maids (thus Vatablus): it appears to indicate cooks, who were cooking food at the focum/hearth (Drusius), וּלְטַבָּחוֹת[9]] And for coquinarias/kitchen-cooks (Montanus, Vatablus, Pagnine). They render it incorrectly. For coquinaria, which is also culinaria, is the art itself. Rather, coquas/cooks (Drusius, Junius and Tremellius, Jonathan, Munster), who cook food. In confirmation of which, in Arabic a cook is called טבאך (Drusius). טַבָּחוֹת is taken for women that prepare food, whethey they slaughter animals, or cook the flesh of the animals (Munster). Millers (Syriac, Arabic); confectionaries (Tigurinus).


[And panificas/bakers (thus Pagnine, Septuagint), וּלְאֹפוֹת[10]] And for pistrices/millers/bakers (Montanus, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Druius, Vatablus). The Hebrew word also denotes cooks, yet properly those cooking bread (Drusius).


Verse 14:[11] And (1 Kings 21:7; see Ezek. 46:18) he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.



[Your fields also, etc.] Hitherto concerning personal injuries. Now concerning property injuries (Mendoza). Not so much the fields, as the fruits of them, since his soldiers had need of them (Drusius). Those that were not tolerating Samuel’s sons receiving bribes, were compelled to tolerate Kings seizing the private goods of citizens by force (Mendoza).


He will take your fields, to wit, by fraud or force, as Ahab did from Naboth.


[And your best olive-yards] Perhaps leaving the worse farms to their possessors; so that they might feign some appearance of piety and liberality (Mendoza). As כֶּרֶם is both a vine, and a vineyard; so זַיִת is both an olive tree, and an olive-yard, that is, a place sown with olives (Drusius).


[And he will give them to his servants] Thus the injury increases, because he transfers the goods of citizens, not to his own uses, but unto others (Mendoza).


And give them to 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:[12] And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers (Heb. eunuchs;[13] Gen. 37:36[14]), and to his servants.


[And of your crops, וְזַרְעֵיכֶם] And your seed (Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Malvenda, Drusius), that is, crops (Jerome in Drusius, Vatablus), or your fields (Kimchi in Drusius). For to fields is seed consigned (Drusius).


[And of the produce of your vineyards] Hebrew: your vines,[15] that is, the fruit of your vineyards (Vatablus).


[He will take the tenth] The injury consists in this, either, 1. that they were transferring the tithes owed to the priests to themselves: or, 2. of the possessions already tithed once by the priests they taking yet another tenth; and thus they were greatly oppressing the people (Mendoza). From some subjects they were wresting entire fields; they were taking the tenth part of others. The best possessions they were taking whole; they were taking the tenth of the mediocre (Mendoza).


He will take the tenth: besides the several tenths which God hath reserved for his service and servants, he will, when he pleaseth, impose another tenth upon you.


[So that he might give to his eunuchs (thus Montanus, Septuagint, Malvenda, Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Martyr)] That is, to men averse to piety. It was not lawful for the Jews to castrate anyone. Indeed, if a man were castrated, he was cast out of the Church.[16] Nevertheless, the Jews were making use of eunuchs brought from elsewhere (Martyr). Others translate לְסָרִיסָיו, to his ministers (Arabic), to his nobles (Junius and Tremellius), to his princes (Jonathan). Such are called eunuchs, not because they were castrated (for that age was not familiar with such), but with a similitude taken from them; for, just as eunuchs were attending upon the private bed-chambers of kings, so also these are in charge of the principal business of the Kings (Mendoza).


To his officers; Hebrew, to his eunuchs; which may be properly understood, and may imply a further 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:[17] And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.


And he will take, etc.: By constraint, and without sufficient recompense.



[And your goodliest young men[18] (thus nearly all)] But the Septuagint has βουκόλια ὑμῶν, your herds. Therefore, in the place of בַּחוּרֵיכֶם, your young men, they read בִּקְרֵיכֶם, your herds/cattle (Cappel’s Sacred Criticism). But whence is it evident that they thus read it? Did they nowhere depart from the letter of the Hebrew text, either by study and deliberation, or by error and carelessness? They thus read it in their mind, because the sense thus appeared to them to flow better, that mention might be made of herds, just as mention was made of servants, maidservants, asses, and sheep. Therefore, making use of wonted liberty, they thus translated. But the Hebrews, thinking oxen to be comprehended under צֹאנְכֶם, your sheep, by בַּחוּרֵיכֶם, your young men, understood young men select, excellent and strong, useful and fit for agriculture and the other works (Buxtorf’s Vindication[19] 2:8:639).


[Goodliest/best (thus Pagnine, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus), הַטּוֹבִים] Handsome (Chaldean); fair and finely formed (Vatablus). He was choosing such for his retinue. Kings, not content with the crowds of their own attendants, will claim for themselves others’ servants, either for pomp, or for their affairs (Mendoza).


[And he will put them in his work, וְעָשָׂ֖ה לִמְלַאכְתּֽוֹ׃] And he will make in his work (Montanus, Vatablus), or for his work (Drusius); he will use in his work (Drusius); and by them he will complete his work (Syriac, similarly Tigurinus, Pagnine); he will employ for his work (Junius and Tremellius, Munster). By them he will set his affairs in order, as long as it shall be convenient; not caring that they could and ought to have been of use to you in the meantime (Osiander). But the Septuagint has, he will take a tenth; either in the place of עָשָׂה, he will do, they were reading עָשַׂר, he will take a tenth; or thus they interpreted this passage according to what precedes and what follows (Mendoza).


Verse 17:[20] He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.


[And ye shall be servants to him] That is to say, and, to sum it up briefly, ye shall be servants to him (Vatablus). The Kings will use their citizens like servants, or rather slaves. In this one injury, the cruelties of all the rest are contained. For nothing is this life is harder than servitude (Mendoza). I, says God, set you free, when I led you out of Egypt. And so now ye act insane, willingly casting yourselves into servitude (Martyr).


And ye shall be his servants: that is, He shall use you like slaves, and deprive you of that liberty which you now enjoy.


Verse 18:[21] And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD (Prov. 1:25-28; Is. 1:15; Mic. 3:4) will not hear you in that day.



[Ye shall cry out] That is, Oppressed by the tyranny of your King (Vatablus).


[In that day] The day was not one, but manifold. Whence the Chaldean, in that time (Mendoza). We do not have on record when they cried; but it is not to be doubted that the men did this, being querulous, and impatient of labors and injuries: For those that cried out against Moses and Samuel, rulers altogether meek; what would they not do when they received grievous commands from their Kings, etc. (Sanchez).


Ye shall cry out in that day; ye shall bitterly mourn for the sad effects of this inordinate desire of a king.


[From the face of your king, מִלִּפְנֵ֣י מַלְכְּכֶ֔ם] Because of your king. It is a Hebraism (Vatablus). On account of excessive power, arrogance, etc., he shall be grievous and intolerable to you (Malvenda). From before your king (the Chaldean in Menochius), that is, unknown to him; for your groaning will not be free (Menochius). From at the faces of your king. The combination of the two prepositions augments the thing signified (Malvenda).


[And the Lord will not hearken to you, etc.] Many things initially are of the will, then of necessity. What thou hast rub is going to be worn away[22] (Grotius). Those that were crying out, not voluntarily, but by necessity, He with good reason refuses; especially since they by their own will had cast themselves into those straits; neither had they complied with the better counsels of Samuel. The deaf ears of sinners are deservedly punished with God’s deaf ears. See Proverbs 1:24, etc.; Zechariah 7:13. It was decreed by God absolutely, that the Hebrews be held under kings until the birth of Christ. In vain, therefore, did they ask to be freed from this yoke (Mendoza).


The Lord will not hear you in that day, because you will not hear him, nor obey his counsel, in this day. Compare Proverbs 1:24, etc. Zechariah 7:13.

[1] Hebrew: וְלָשׂ֣וּם ל֔וֹ שָׂרֵ֥י אֲלָפִ֖ים וְשָׂרֵ֣י חֲמִשִּׁ֑ים וְלַחֲרֹ֤שׁ חֲרִישׁוֹ֙ וְלִקְצֹ֣ר קְצִיר֔וֹ וְלַעֲשׂ֥וֹת כְּלֵֽי־מִלְחַמְתּ֖וֹ וּכְלֵ֥י רִכְבּֽוֹ׃ [2] Hebrew: שָׂרֵ֥י אֲלָפִ֖ים וְשָׂרֵ֣י חֲמִשִּׁ֑ים. [3] Hebrew: וְאֶת־בְּנוֹתֵיכֶ֖ם יִקָּ֑ח לְרַקָּח֥וֹת וּלְטַבָּח֖וֹת וּלְאֹפֽוֹת׃ [4] See Genesis 34. [5] See 2 Samuel 13. [6]רָקַח signifies to mix or compound ointment. [7] Exodus 30:25: “And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary (רֹ֥קַח מִרְקַ֖חַת מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה רֹקֵ֑חַ): it shall be an holy anointing oil.”