Poole on 1 Samuel 8:19-22: The People's Obstinate Insistence on a King

Verse 19:[1] Nevertheless the people (Jer. 44:15) refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us…



[The people were unwilling to hear, etc.] The common people are taken with inanities, and love changes. It was seeming a lovely thing to them to catch sight of a man gilded and bejeweled, living and dining splendidly; going forth with a great retinue καὶ μετὰ πολλῆς φαντασίας, and with great pomp (Grotius).


[By no means, לֹּא] Not. Understanding either will we change our opinon (Vatablus, Malvenda), or shall these things be so (Drusius), or shall thy testimony deter us from our intention (Junius, Piscator, Drusius, Malvenda). The response is full of rusticity and rashness. Those that refuse anything with prudence and understanding, begin with softer words; so that the refusal might appear gentler and more obliging. This was incredible, either, 1. treachery; that they would not believe Samuel divinely prophesying this; especially since his prophetic spirit was sufficiently well-known, 1 Samuel 3:20: or, 2. obstinacy; that is to say, we will by no means desist from asking for a King, even though all the things of which thou warnest are true. To this some refer that in Hosea 9:9 (Mendoza).


They said, Nay, that is, these things shall never be, these are but vain suppositions to affright us from our purpose. Thus they are not ashamed to give Samuel the lie, of whose modesty, integrity, and prophetical spirit they had so great assurance, as if he had feigned those pretences merely to keep the power in his own and his sons’ hands.


[There will be a king over us] That is to say, not indeed, as thou, o unfavorable soothsayer, foretellest, shall some tyrant fall to us; but a King easy, benign, mild. Extraordinary treacher. Or, that is to say, although he be such as thou hast hitherto described, iniquitous, tyrannical, etc., let him have dominion over us. Extraordinary obstinacy (Mendoza).


We will have a king over us; we will have a king, whatsoever it cost us, although all thy predictions should be verified.


Verse 20:[2] That we also may be (1 Sam. 8:5) like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.



[We will be like all the nations] But it was the foremost glory of the Israelites, that they were distinct from the other nations, Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 33:28. Nevertheless, these, blinded by their temerity, were thinking that they were going to be glorious, if they might be brought into an equality with the other nations. We will be like the nations: either, that is to say, if all the nations have tyrants by whom they are vexed; why should we not also bear what many bear? Or, that is to say, if not all the Nations are subject to tyrants, but some are governed by most equitable Kings; why should there not be hope of the same for us? (Mendoza).


That we also may be like all the nations: woeful stupidity! whereas it was their glory and happiness that they were unlike all other nations, Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 33:28, as in other glorious privileges, so especially in this, that the Lord was their only and immediate King and Lawgiver.


[And he shall judge us] He shall settle the cases and lawsuits; or he shall defend [see what things are on verse 5], or shall free, us (Mendoza). He shall rule us by his laws (Vatablus).


[And he shall go out before us] These words are able to be referred, either, 1. to what precedes, that is, to civil administration. He shall go out to attend to civil duties, to quiet any commotion, to visit the provinces. Perhaps they allude to the sons of Samuel, what idle things they were devoting their attention to in Beer-sheba. Or, 2. to what follows, that is, to martial administration. He shall go out…and fight, etc. He shall bid, not to go, but to come; and he shall go before his warriors (Mendoza). He shall go out, etc. It is a Hebraism; he shall be our General, when there are wars to be waged (Vatablus). This also was a pretext for the Israelites to ask for a King; namely, that they might have him as a leader in battle, especially since war with Ammon threatened, as it is evident out of 1 Samuel 12:12 (Menochius). In whichever sense you take it, the Israelites were disgracefully deceived. They were generally having idle and ignoble Kings of the worst sort, caring for their own rather than the kingdom, in peace lions, in war hinds (Mendoza).


Verse 21:[3] And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.



[He spoke them in the ears of the Lord[4]] It is a Hebraism. He related them to Jehovah: or he reported them to Jehovah in his prayer (Vatablus). That is, consulting the Lord about what was then necessary to be done (Menochius). This expression, in the ears of the Lord, signifies, either the familiarity of Samuel with God (Mendoza out of Gregory); or that this was done in a private chamber, whether to flee ostentation, or to avoid the disgrace of the people, since this prayer contains the sisns of the people (Mendoza). So great is the mercy of God, that, when we, being afflicted, set our complaints before Him, He admits us familiarly to His ear, as it were. No consolation is able to be sweeter (Martyr).


He rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD: He repeated them privately between God and himself; partly for his own vindication and comfort; and partly as a foundation for his prayers to God, for direction and assistance in this difficult case.


Verse 22:[5] And the LORD said to Samuel, (1 Sam. 8:7; Hos. 13:11) Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.



[Let every man go unto his city] They are the words of one complying, and taking unto himself the entire management of the affair (Junius, Piscator). It is brachylogia[6] (Piscator). Either he responded at greater length, or it signifies that expressed himself with a nod or gesture. Otherwise they would not have retired. But why does he send them away? Response: Because a King was not able to be made, except whom God had designated, Deuteronomy 17:15. But when that designation would come was uncertain; hence, lest they wait in expectation long, he ordered them to depart. Perhaps these were ceremonial words, whereby assemblies were dissolved; just like ilicet, that is, one may go, among the Romans (Mendoza).


Go ye every man unto his city: Betake yourselves to your several occasions, till you hear more from me in this matter; for God hath heard your words, and will give way to your irregular and obstinate desire; and accordingly I shall wait upon God for the determination of the person, which he hath wholly reserved to himself, as for judges, so for the king also, Deuteronomy 17:15, and for the regulation of all the circumstances.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְמָאֲנ֣וּ הָעָ֔ם לִשְׁמֹ֖עַ בְּק֣וֹל שְׁמוּאֵ֑ל וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לֹּ֔א כִּ֥י אִם־מֶ֖לֶךְ יִֽהְיֶ֥ה עָלֵֽינוּ׃ [2] Hebrew: וְהָיִ֥ינוּ גַם־אֲנַ֖חְנוּ כְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִ֑ם וּשְׁפָטָ֤נוּ מַלְכֵּ֙נוּ֙ וְיָצָ֣א לְפָנֵ֔ינוּ וְנִלְחַ֖ם אֶת־מִלְחֲמֹתֵֽנוּ׃ [3] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל אֵ֖ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וַֽיְדַבְּרֵ֖ם בְּאָזְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ [4] Hebrew: וַֽיְדַבְּרֵ֖ם בְּאָזְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃. [5] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר יְהוָ֤ה אֶל־שְׁמוּאֵל֙ שְׁמַ֣ע בְּקוֹלָ֔ם וְהִמְלַכְתָּ֥ לָהֶ֖ם מֶ֑לֶךְ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל֙ אֶל־אַנְשֵׁ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לְכ֖וּ אִ֥ישׁ לְעִירֽוֹ׃ [6] That is, a concise form of speech.