Poole on 1 Samuel 8:4, 5: The People's Petition for a King

[1095 BC] Verse 4:[1] Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah…



[Therefore, having gathered together, etc.] Injured patience frequently becomes fury: and subjection, overly oppressed, becomes rebellion (Mendoza).


[Elders with respect to birth] As much with respect to age and dignity: For they were aged men and princes; so that the novelty of such a matter might not be attributed to juvenile imprudence, or popular inconstancy (Mendoza).


The elders; either for age, or dignity and power.


Verse 5:[2] And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now (1 Sam. 8:19, 20; Deut. 17:14; Hos. 13:10; Acts 13:21) make us a king to judge us like all the nations.


[And they said to him, Behold, thou art old, etc.] These reasons are ridiculous; thou hast grown old. As if a King were not able to grow old. Give a king, who might fight for us.[3] As if God would not, or could not, fight for them. Thy sons are not like unto thee. What? could not a King beget evil sons? Like the nations. They did not desire a King according to the institution of the Lord, but according to the rule of the other nations (Martyr). Thou art old, say they, and therefore art not able to govern the republic thyself, or to keep thy sons in office. This reasoning tends to the despising of Samuel. But Samuel was able to provide for both his sons and the Republic, as it is evident from those things that he accomplished while Saul was around. But these men despise customary things, and are eager for novelties; and under the pretense of old age they strive to drive that most holy Judge from his office (Mendoza). They were able to demand from Samuel, that he remove his sons from their function as deputies; and that he himself adjudicate controverted matters from home, since he was no longer traveling. That had been more just, than to thrust aside that old and most deserving Prophet (Grotius).


Behold, thou art old: They feared that Samuel would not live long; and that either he through infirmity and indulgence might leave the government in his sons’ hands, or that they would invade and keep it after their father’s death; and therefore they jointly make their complaints against them, and procure their removal from their places. Thus they are brought low, and crushed by those very wicked ways by which they desired to advance and establish themselves. So true is it, that honesty is the best policy, and unrighteousness the greatest folly.



[Thy sons walk not, etc.] Observe the craft of the Hebrews, plainly flattering him: They, not daring to complain of the father, complain of his sons; as the Pharisees do with the disciples of Christ, since they dare not to complain of Him, Matthew 15:2 (Mendoza).


[That he might judge us] That is, that he might govern over us; or, that he might rule over us in a royal manner. For they were not asking for a King so that he might judge only; for the Judges were suffici