1 Samuel Chapter 8: Israel Wants a King

Dec 31st, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Samuel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Samuel Chapter 8: Israel Wants a King

1 Sam. 8:1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

1 Sam. 8:2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba.

1 Sam. 8:3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

Like Eli’s sons, Samuel’s two sons were errant. However, Samuel was not charged with negligence, the difference being that his sons were not immediately under his jurisdiction, and no doubt, although the account does not so state, he did all he could under the circumstances. Samuel may even have been incapacitated in his old age when he made his sons judges. And they were in another locale, Beersheba, which was some distance away. Later we find that Samuel was not just merely recognized and acceptable to the Lord but was singled out with Moses as being one of the top ten in the Old Testament (Jer. 15:1). The point is that we cannot blame Samuel for the sins of his two sons if God did not find fault. There had to be extenuating circumstances. Perhaps he was too old and did not know what was happening (see verse 5).

The two sons took bribes and perverted judgment. Evidently, they gave biased judgment according to the amount of the bribe. When King Saul was anointed shortly thereafter, Samuel’s two sons were displaced.

Jesus is the High Priest of the Church, and he is pictured by Aaron, who had four sons. Two of those sons were disobedient, representing Second Death classes. The other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, represent the Little Flock and the Great Company, respectively. In antitype, Jesus is not held responsible for the two who went into Second Death. They were put to death; they died. In this case, Jesus is pictured by Samuel. With regard to Samuel’s two sons going astray, we cannot charge him with the responsibility, for the account is silent, whereas Eli was clearly considered to be negligent. The very silence in Scripture infers that Samuel was exonerated, for certainly if he had done wrong, the account would have so stated.

The names of the two sons were Joel and Abiah. Joel means “Jah is God,” and Abiah signifies “Jah is Father.” Ostensibly, their names were not bad, but they were both evil in the Lord’s sight. If we pair them as types with Nadab and Abihu, we would follow the same sequence. Joel is equated with Nadab, and Abiah with Abihu.

Beersheba, located in the southernmost boundary of Judah, has an interesting history based on Abraham, Elijah, and others who went there. In ancient times, Beersheba was a caravan center of commerce, a place where bedouins and nomads went with their camels, the ships of the desert. Spices and other goods were purchased there and then distributed to Jerusalem and elsewhere.

In contradistinction, Beth-el, Gilgal, Mizpeh, and Ramah were in northern Judah, and just that one tribe covered about half the nation of Israel. Speaking in general terms, for its boundaries fluctuated, Judah occupied a tremendous territory. The tribes were distributed in the days of Joshua, the first judge, and Samuel was the last judge. By now, a period of 450 years had elapsed from the time the land was apportioned to the 12 tribes.

1 Sam. 8:4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,

1 Sam. 8:5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

Evidently, Samuel did not know what his sons were doing until all the elders of Israel brought the matter to his attention. They used the evil of the two sons and Samuel’s old age as a wedge to have a king over them and thus be like the other nations. In other words, they were inferring that Samuel’s sons were not fit judges and that Samuel was too old. Wanting a king to judge them instead of being under judges, the elders respected Samuel as having authority of the Lord and being able to exert his influence in that direction.

Q: Did kings do much judging back there?

A: Yes, but of course kings did not have to travel like Samuel. They delegated authority, and the most serious cases were brought to the attention of the king. Honors, emoluments, dress, decorum, etc., went with that position of leadership. In contrast, Samuel would have dressed very humbly and had no special throne or house.

1 Sam. 8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

1 Sam. 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

1 Sam. 8:8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

1 Sam. 8:9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

Samuel felt hurt, which was a natural reaction. He had been used of the Lord in a mighty sense, and then all of a sudden, his service was not appreciated despite his loyalty. He was a Nazarite, so a number of qualities were favorable, but now he felt rejected—until God said it was He the people were rejecting.

Comment: We should remember that principle, for we may feel  hurt if our witnessing is rebuffed. We should not take the rejection personally but should remember it is God’s truth that is being refused.

Reply: Samuel was not criticized for his feelings. His focus of attention just needed redirection.

Even Jesus, the greatest of all prophets, was not recognized by some in his own household, by those in his own city, and by his own people as a nation. Shortly before his death, he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). Thus Jesus had emotional reactions, but he knew how to direct the attention, for it was really the Heavenly Father who was being rejected. Nevertheless, feeling the rejection was part of Jesus’ suffering. Therefore, it was proper that Samuel was not a stoic in this experience.

Comment: To Samuel’s credit, he did not try to defend his two sons when the evil was brought to his attention.

Reply: Once a king was installed in office, the whole picture changed, for the king became the supreme authority and did the judging and had his own appointees. Thus when Saul came into power, Samuel’s sons were automatically out of power.

Probably the very day the elders came to him, or maybe the next day, Samuel prayed about the matter, and God told him what to do. Thus the matter of the king took place quite quickly.

God said to Samuel, “Now therefore hearken unto their [the elders’] voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.” The elders were to be given a scolding, and Samuel was to prophesy what would happen when Israel had a king.

In the beginning, Samuel and the people admired Saul. Even though the desire for the office of king was wrong, Saul was tall and most attractive as a person and seemed to have just the right temperament. But the prophecy was really saying that Israel’s first king would change in time. The name Saul means “little one,” and this one who initially was little in his own estimation would become quite proud later on. Stated another way, Saul would seem like the perfect king, but God hinted that the humble one would become proud.

1 Sam. 8:10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.

1 Sam. 8:11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: 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.

1 Sam. 8:12 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.

1 Sam. 8:13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

1 Sam. 8:14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

1 Sam. 8:15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

1 Sam. 8:16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

1 Sam. 8:17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

Samuel predicted the price of a king. What would be so onerous with regard to this situation?

Having a king would concentrate a lot of power in the hand of one individual, resulting in oppression. Family life would be broken up. If the people were already giving a tenth (their tithe) to the priesthood, they would also have to give a tenth to the king. Based on the condition of the human race, even if the first king was faithful, the greater number of his successors would be unfaithful. The fact that the king would have liberty to choose whoever he wanted would lead to autocratic power.

Comment: Naboth and his vineyard were an example. King Ahab was covetous of that vineyard, and Naboth lost his life for refusing to give it to the king (1 Kings 21:1-16).

Reply: Yes. Jezebel prodded Ahab to exercise his liberty. At her suggestion, a lot of falsehoods were uttered against Naboth so that he was slain and the king could seize the property.

“Confectionaries” are “perfumers.” For the benefit of the queen—for her whims and fancies— the king made sure she was well taken care of.

1 Sam. 8:18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

Samuel warned the people that when they would cry out in the future in regard to their king, God would not hearken to them.

1 Sam. 8:19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

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

In spite of all that Samuel said, the people still wanted a king. Samuel would have emphasized the repeated word “his” in verses 11-17, meaning the king’s: his horsemen, his chariots, his ground, his harvest, his instruments of war, his officers, his servants, and his work. Not only would the king exercise autocratic power, but that power would be selfishly employed for the king’s personal satisfaction.

1 Sam. 8:21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.

1 Sam. 8:22 And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

Samuel heard all the words of the people and repeated them to God, who told Samuel to “make them a king.” Samuel then instructed the men of Israel to go back to their homes, and of course they would hear later as to what was to be done.

Amendment for Antitype of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas

Earlier we felt that Eli, the high priest, represents the Great Company class and that Hophni and Phinehas, his two unfaithful sons, represent the Second Death element. However, after discussing a question that arose and giving considerable deliberation, we now believe that perhaps Eli represents a class who have a severer fate. Not only does the account say that he fell backward when he heard the news of the Ark being taken by the Philistines, but both he and his seed were entirely removed from the priesthood. In regard to all other Scriptures that contain an expression about falling backward or a similar expression—and where the application is to a

spiritual class—we feel the reference is to Second Death. If the falling backward refers to a worldly class, the matter is less serious, for it just shows regression. If a lesson or comparison can be drawn with regard to Eli and his two sons and the nominal Church, then Eli would represent the Great Company class. However, this latter interpretation is not likely to be the case. Therefore, all three—Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas—would represent Second Death classes.

Several Scriptures show that falling backward is unfavorable. One text pertains to those who apprehended Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When he said, “I am he,” they all fell backward (John 18:6). A persuasive picture is where Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah. Her longing for the sinful conditions left behind represents a Second Death characteristic. In addition, the Apostle Paul said, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but [are] of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). Thus falling backward seems to indicate a very serious condition.

We would like to draw a comparison between two of Aaron’s sons in the Levitical priesthood, Eli’s two sons, and Samuel’s two sons, all of whom picture Second Death classes.

1. Aaron’s two sons were Nadab and Abihu. The Nadab element have a more aggressive nature that is displeasing to the Lord; they are willful to an extreme. Because the Abihu element lacks development along the lines of principles, they also merit Second Death. They appear pleasant and fatherlike and have a tender disposition, but they fail to act on principles.

2. Eli’s two sons were Hophni and Phinehas. The Hophni element, corresponding with Nadab, is aggressive and pugilistic. In Egyptian, the root meaning of Phinehas is “serpent’s mouth,” pertaining to doctrine in antitype and a slyer mannerism.

3. The two sons of Samuel were Joel and Abiah. Joel means “a mighty one” in an unfavorable sense, hence again showing an aggressive nature. Abiah signifies an element who appear pleasant and fatherlike, much like Abihu.

In the Reprints, the Pastor said that Eli represents the characteristics of the Great Company class because he had a good spirit. For instance, when Samuel was a boy, Eli manifested a humble, meek disposition in his statement “It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good” (1 Sam. 3:18). It is true that he had a pleasant manner, but the Second Death class is not all thorns and thistles. Of course a great number of the Second Death class have an aggressive disposition that, when developed to a large extent, becomes so manifest that it is not hard to conceive of their reaping a destiny of Second Death. However, if we heard of other individuals who did not have that outward aggressive nature but went into Second Death, we would perhaps be surprised unless we learned the details that caused such a decision.

Eli was faulted for not dealing with the sins of his two sons in the priesthood, and all three died on the same day in connection with the taking of the Ark. Although Eli was not outwardly aggressive like the Nadab class, he failed to deal sternly with his two sons and thus pictures a Second Death class in antitype. Eli was mild-mannered but weak and deficient in moral strength and firmness of character.

Many pictures in the Old Testament show that a lenient attitude toward sin is obnoxious in the sight of the Lord. For example, when a child cursed God, the parents could not just coddle that child or try to reason with him and instruct him in the right way. Under the Law, they were forced not only to remand such a child over to justice but to cast the first stone. Thus in the overall picture, when we reason on Eli’s course and conduct, we believe he represents a class that merits a severer judgment than the Great Company.

Eli’s death occurred when he heard the news that the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant. When the details are considered, it is more harmonious to say that Eli is a type of Second Death, for he was entirely rejected. Many Christians have the false concept that a pleasant manner represents goodness per se and that a disposition which rubs fur the wrong way is unfavorable, yet most of the prophets in the Old Testament, who represented the Lord, spoke in strong terms. We do not think that the people who listened to the prophets were impressed with them as being sweet-natured, for the content of their messages was unpleasant. In fact today, even when one is scolded in the most polite or indirect manner, he is usually offended. But sometimes a rebuke given in a roundabout way does not get the point across, and a proper rebuke should be forceful enough to achieve the desired correction.

Brethren who speak strongly against sin are not thought of as serene, peaceful, and sweettempered in the normal sense. The point is that as Christians, we can speak strongly against sin.

(1985-1987 Study)

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