1 Samuel 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.
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(11) And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you.—In obedience to the word of the Lord, Samuel, the judge of Israel, without blaming the people for their desire, quietly asks them if they were in real earnest—if they had fully considered the grave changes which such an appointment as that of a sovereign over the nation would bring about in the constitution. Were they willing to exchange their Republican freedom for the condition of subjection to a sovereign who, after the manner of those other kings of foreign nations—the Pharaohs, for instance—would of course govern Israel after his own will? in other words, were they really willing to give up their Republic for a Despotism?

In this whole transaction of the appointment of an earthly king in Israel, we must not forget that although under the present circumstances of Israel it was the best course to pursue, and, as such, received the Divine sanction, yet it was giving up the old grand ideal of a nation dwelling on earth ruled over directly by a King whose throne and home were in the eternal heavens. The glorious hope had to be given up, because Israel had been tried and found unworthy to share in the undreamed-of blessings of such a Government.

He will take your sons.—Here follows a graphic picture of the changed life of the people under a despotic monarch. They must be prepared, must those elders, for a court—a gorgeous court such as they had heard of, and perhaps some of them had seen on the banks of the Nile, the Euphrates, or the Tigris; all that was best and choicest in Israel would be summoned there. The old pastoral life would disappear; the dwelling under their own vines and fig-trees would give place to a very different way of living; the pleasures and vices of a gay and brilliant city life would allure the sons and daughters. and tempt them from the old simple way of living, dear to so many in Israel. War, too, on a scale they hitherto had never dreamed of, would be their portion—all these heavy burdens would become the heritage of Israel if they chose to imitate in their government the nations of the world. Had they thought of all this when they asked for a king?

1 Samuel 8:11. He will take your sons — Injuriously, and by violence. And appoint them for himself — To attend him as the guards of his body, and in other offices. This shows that he speaks of the arbitrary power which the kings in those days used. And therefore Samuel doth not say absolutely, I will show you the manner (Hebrews משׂפת, mispeth, judgment, or right) of a king, as if it were a right belonging to all kings, but, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: or, such will be the consequence of your having kings. They will indeed be like those of the neighbouring nations, puffed up with their authority, haughty, arbitrary, and tyrannical: and you will find yourselves in a state of oppression and servitude. For his chariots, and to be his horsemen — To look after his chariots and his horses. Some shall run before his chariots — As his footmen.8:10-22 If they would have a king to rule them, as the eastern kings ruled their subjects, they would find the yoke exceedingly heavy. Those that submit to the government of the world and the flesh, are told plainly, what hard masters they are, and what tyranny the dominion of sin is. The law of God and the manner of men widely differ from each other; the former should be our rule in the several relations of life; the latter should be the measure of our expectations from others. These would be their grievances, and, when they complained to God, he would not hear them. When we bring ourselves into distress by our own wrong desires and projects, we justly forfeit the comfort of prayer, and the benefit of Divine aid. The people were obstinate and urgent in their demand. Sudden resolves and hasty desires make work for long and leisurely repentance. Our wisdom is, to be thankful for the advantages, and patient under the disadvantages of the government we may live under; and to pray continually for our rulers, that they may govern us in the fear of God, and that we may live under them in all godliness and honesty. And it is a hopeful symptom when our desires of worldly objects can brook delay; and when we can refer the time and manner of their being granted to God's providence.See the margin which implies that the thing spoken of caused anger, indignation, or some revulsion of feeling (see Genesis 21:11-12). The answer of the Lord 1 Samuel 8:7 shows that Samuel's personal feelings had been hurt. They were soothed by being reminded of the continued ingratitude of the people to God Himself, upon whom, in fact, a greater slight was put by this very request for a king "like all the nations," than upon Samuel (compare Matthew 10:24; John 15:18, John 15:20). For a comment on this transaction, see Hosea 13:9-11; Acts 13:21-22. 11. This will be the manner of the king—The following is a very just and graphic picture of the despotic governments which anciently and still are found in the East, and into conformity with which the Hebrew monarchy, notwithstanding the restrictions prescribed by the law, gradually slid.

He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself—Oriental sovereigns claim a right to the services of any of their subjects at pleasure.

some shall run before his chariots—The royal equipages were, generally throughout the East (as in Persia they still are), preceded and accompanied by a number of attendants who ran on foot.

He will take your sons, to wit, injuriously and by violence, as this Hebrew word is oft used, as Genesis 20:3 27:36 Job 5:5; and so it must be here; because otherwise the king would have no more privilege than any of his subjects; for any man might take a son with his own or parents’ consent.

And to be his horsemen, or, and for his horses; for so the Hebrew word parash sometimes signifies, as Isaiah 21:7,9 28:28; to ride his horses. And he said, this will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you,.... Not in which he ought to proceed, but what he will do: and this not the manner of one king, or of the first only, but of all of them, more or less; of kings in general, who are commonly inclined to arbitrary power. So Aristotle (a) in opposition to theocracy, describes a full and absolute kingdom, as he calls it, when a king does all things according to his will: and observes, that he that would have the mind or reason preside, would have God and the laws rule; but he that would have a man to reign, adds also a lust, or one led by his own lust: so it follows:

he will take your sons, and appoint them for himself; for his own use and service, to wait upon him, to be his pages, or grooms, or guards:

for his chariots; to take care of them, and drive them, though not without paying them for it; yet this being but a mean and servile employment, and what they should be obliged to, whether they would or no, is observed to show the tyranny and bondage to which they would be subject, when their sons otherwise might be free men, and possessed of estates and carriages of their own:

and to be his horsemen; or rather "for his horses", to take care of them, and go out along with him, and attend his person, whether when going to war, or on pleasure:

and some shall run before his chariots; be his running footmen, being swift of foot, and trained up for that service; some are naturally swift, as Asahel was 2 Samuel 2:18. Pliny (b) speaks of some swifter than horses; and of the swiftness of some he elsewhere gives (c) many surprising instances. It seems as if it was usual to have fifty such men to run before them, see 2 Samuel 15:1.

(a) In Politicis, l. 3. c. 16. (b) Nat. Hist. l. 7. c. 2.((c) Ibid. c. 20.

And he said, This will be the {f} 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.

(f) Not that kings have this authority by their office, but that such as reign in God's wrath would usurp this over their brethren, contrary to the law, De 17:20.

11. This will be the manner of the king] Or, “the right of the king;” such prerogatives as an absolute monarch claims.

We have here a vivid picture of the tyranny of an Oriental despot whose subjects are at his disposal for (1) court retainers, (2) military officers, (3) cultivators of the royal estates, (4) artificers in the arsenal, (5) domestics in the royal household. (6) Their property is liable to arbitrary seizure, beside (7) regular exactions of tithe, in order to enrich court favourites, and (8) their slaves and their cattle may at any time be pressed into the royal service. Under such a despotism political and social freedom is at an end. Prosperous as was Solomon’s reign, it tended in this direction. See 1 Kings 5:13-18; 1 Kings 12:4.

and appoint them] This may be rendered either as the E. V. or, and set them for himself upon his charlots and upon his chargers. Service in the retinue of the king rather than in the army appears to be meant.

some shall run before his chariots] A body of runners was a regular sign of regal state (2 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 1:5).Verse 11. - This will be the manner of the king. On the meaning of this word see 1 Samuel 2:13. Here also it signifies not so much the legal right itself, as the way in which that right was exercised. His chariots. The word is singular, both here and at the end of the verse, and though it may be taken, as in the A.V., for a collective noun, "his chariotry," yet the singular is better, because this verse does not refer to war, but to the personal magnificence and grandeur of the king. Instead of the old simplicity in which the judges had lived, he would have a state chariot (see 2 Kings 9:21), and go forth escorted by horsemen and runners on foot. To be his horsemen. Rather, "upon his homes." The whole clause should be translated, "And he will set them for him (i.e. for his service) upon his chariot and on his horses; and they will run before his chariot." These circumstances (viz., Samuel's age and the degeneracy of his sons) furnished the elders of Israel with the opportunity to apply to Samuel with this request: "Appoint us a king to judge us, as all the nations" (the heathen), sc., have kings. This request resembles so completely the law of the king in Deuteronomy 17:14 (observe, for example, the expression כּכל־הגּוים), that the distinct allusion to it is unmistakeable. The custom of expressly quoting the book of the law is met with for the first time in the writings of the period of the captivity. The elders simply desired what Jehovah had foretold through His servant Moses, as a thing that would take place in the future and for which He had even made provision.
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