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Poole on 1 Samuel 8:6: Samuel's Grief over the King-Request

Verse 6:[1] But the thing displeased Samuel (Heb. was evil in the eyes of Samuel[2]), when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

[And the word was displeasing in the eyes of Samuel] Question: For what reason? Responses: 1. Because the wickedness of his sons, which he then heard for the first time, was also displeasing (Lapide, Lyra). 2. Samuel was hurt because of his degradation; and that, either, 1. in a human manner and passion (Cajetan in Mendoza). This was a manifest injustice and ingratitude toward the Prophet, deserving of better things from them (Lapide). They were so desirous of new things, and wearied with present arrangements, that they were not even able to wait for his death (Martyr). Or, 2. Insofar as this was redounding unto the detriment of the public (Mendoza). 3. He was displeased because of their reason for asking for a king, namely, so that they might be similar to the other nations (Mendoza out of Lapide); although God willed for them to be dissimilar to the nations, Numbers 23:9 (Mendoza). Because they were asking for absolue Royal power, almost tyranny, which sort the Gentiles were having, the Persians, Egyptians, etc. (Lapide). 4. Because the asked for a King out of a certain tumultuous and inconsiderate spirit, and not for the honor of God and preservation of righteousness (Munster). 5. The principal reason is that they were detracting from the divine honor, preferring a man to God (Theodoret and Procopius and Sulpicius and Rupertus in Mendoza, Lyra, Tostatus, Junius). They were repudiating God, who willed to be their King (Menochius). In Israel, God had instituted, not so much μοναρχίαν, a monarchy, as θεοκρατίαν, that is, a Theocracy, says Josephus (Lapide, Mendoza). In Exodus 19:5, 6, ye shall be unto me a kingdom; that is to say, in a peculiar manner I will exhibit myself to you as King. See also Numbers 23:21; Deuteronomy 32:9. And in Judges 8:22, 23, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son, etc., but the Lord shall rule over you. Now, God alone, not the Judges, since they were of little power, was called the Lord by that people (Mendoza). They were putting their trust in a man, more than in God, who so many times rescued them from the greatest perils (Munster). But it will appear strange that the Israelites sinned here, since, with them having entered into the land of Canaan, the ability to choose a King is conceded, Deuteronomy 17:14 (Mendoza). The Hebrews note that three precepts were laid upon the fathers in entering Canaan, to establish a King, to destroy Amalek, and to build the Temple (Munster, Drusius). Why then was this displeasing to God? Responses: 1. Because with ill intention they asked for a King, not because of the precept: God, because He is καρδιογνώστης, the Searcher of hearts,[3] has regard to the heart, rather than external action (Drusius). They were asking out of pride, for they were regarding it to be less glorious to be in submission to a Judge than to a King (Mendoza). They were appearing to distrust God, and to trust in their own arm (Martyr). 2. Because they were asking for a King without consulting or invoking God (Lapide). That Republic was God’s; and so it was improper that anything be innovated in it without His command (Martyr). 3. No grant of choosing a King was made, but only a permission (Mendoza). He did not there command that a king be created, but He foretold that they would ask for a King. And so He willed to impose on them a law as a bridle: so that, since they were certainly going to have a King, they might have him at least upon those conditions. In like manner, concerning divorce He commands nothings: Nevertheless, if one should will absolutely to divorce, He commands that he give to her a bill of divorcement, etc.[4] Additionally, even if the law granted to the people a King, yet it did not grant it in such a way that the authority/decree of God might not be awaited; for the Republic belonged to Him, not to the people (Martyr).

The thing displeased Samuel; not their complaint of his sons, but their desire of a king, as is apparent from the following words, and from the whole course of the story; which was so grievous to him, partly because of their injustice and ingratitude to himself, whose government, though it had been so sweet and beneficial to them, they plainly show themselves weary of; and principally because God was hereby dishonoured and provoked, by that distrust of God, and that vainglory and ambition, and that itch after changes, which were the manifest causes of this desire; and because of that great servitude and misery which he wisely foresaw the people would hereby bring upon themselves, as he particularly informs them, verse 11, etc.

[And Samuel prayed] He appears to have answered the elders, that he was going to consult the Lord, and that he would relate faithfully to them whatever response he received (Menochius). He prayed, etc., asking God what he ought to do (Piscator). Samuel’s patience is especially to be commended here. Although so grievously provoked, he does not lie down as one fainthearted, nor flare up as one enraged, nor bellow as one proud; but he give himself completely to prayer. And, as Josephus says, he spent the whole night in prayer[5] (Mendoza). He prefers to follow God as his guide, rather than the tumultuous people, or his own prudentce (Sanchez). He prayed; he consulted the Lord with prayer sent before (Vatablus).

Samuel prayed unto the Lord, for the pardon of their sin, and desire of direction and help from God in this great affair.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֵּ֤רַע הַדָּבָר֙ בְּעֵינֵ֣י שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמְר֔וּ תְּנָה־לָּ֥נוּ מֶ֖לֶךְ לְשָׁפְטֵ֑נוּ וַיִּתְפַּלֵּ֥ל שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃ [2] Hebrew: וַיֵּ֤רַע הַדָּבָר֙ בְּעֵינֵ֣י שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל. [3] Acts 1:24: “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men (Σὺ Κύριε καρδιογνῶστα πάντων), shew whether of these two thou hast chosen…” Acts 15:8: “And God, which knoweth the hearts (ὁ καρδιογνώστης Θεὸς), bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us…” [4] Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Matthew 19:1-12. [5]Antiquities 6:3.

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