1 Samuel 8:1
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges over Israel.
Ignoble Sons of an Honoured FatherB Dale 1 Samuel 8:1-3
BriberyT. De Witt Talmage.1 Samuel 8:1-8
Parental TrialsR. Steel.1 Samuel 8:1-8
Political CorruptionHomiletic Review1 Samuel 8:1-8
The Minister's FamilyR. Steel.1 Samuel 8:1-8

1 Samuel 8:1-3. (BEERSHEBA.)
Nearly all that is known of Samuel's household is here stated. He had at least two sons, Joel (Jehovah is God) and Abiah (my father is Jah), whose names were indicative of the devout spirit in which they were given (1 Chronicles 6:28: "And the sons of Samuel, the firstborn, and the second Abiah;" ver. 33: "Heman a singer, the son of Joel;" 1 Samuel 15:17; 1 Samuel 25:5: "Heman, the king's seer"). During the period of his judgeship they grew to maturity, and toward its close he made them judges over Israel, and sent them to administer justice in Beersheba, in the southern limit of the land. His influence as judge as well as prophet extended "from Dan even to Beersheba" (1 Samuel 3:20), and with advancing age he needed assistance in his labours. "It may be doubted whether Samuel acted wisely in making this appointment, especially if, as seems to have been understood, the nomination in his lifetime of his sons to fulfil the functions he had hitherto discharged alone was an intimation that he meant them to be regarded as his successors in such government as he exercised. Nothing of this kind had been done before. And thus, almost unconsciously, perhaps, he was led to give a kind of sanction to the hereditary principle of government which was soon to be turned against himself" (Kitto). He acted according to his judgment of what was best, and doubtless with disinterestedness. There is no reason to suppose that he failed to train his sons in the right way, or that he was aware of their conduct at Beersheba "and restrained them not." He is not, therefore, to be blamed. No man is infallible. The plans of the wisest men are often marred by the misconduct of others. And this appointment was, in its result, disastrous.

I. THEIR ADVANTAGES WERE GREAT. They were sons of one of the most faithful and eminent servants of God, had the benefit of his instruction and example in private and public, studied perhaps in a school of the prophets, were well acquainted with the law, held in honour for their father's sake, placed in responsible positions. All these things, we might have expected, would have made them circumspect, just, and devout; and they should have done so. How, then, can we account for their defection?

1. Goodness is not hereditary. "The sinner begets a sinner, but a saint doth not beget a saint" (M. Henry). Hereditary relationship exerts a powerful influence on the mind and disposition, but nothing but Divine grace can change the heart.

"Rarely into the branches of the tree
Doth human worth mount up: and so ordains
He who bestows it, that as his free gift
It may be called"

(Dante, 'Purg.' 7.)

2. Education is not omnipotent. When children of a good man turn out badly, it may generally be traced to some defect of training, through attention to other duties, absence from home, inconsistency at home, unwise methods, excessive strictness, unjust partiality, undue indulgence, maternal carelessness, intimate association with evil companions (in some cases unknown and unpreventable). We do not know enough of Samuel's household to say that it was wholly free from such influences. But the most perfect education is limited in its power over character.

3. Power is a perilous trust. It presents temptations which are sometimes too strong for men who under other circumstances might not have fallen. It is a severe test, and a sure revealer, of character (Luke 12:45). Power shows the man.

4. Each man is responsible for his own conduct. He is endowed with the power of choosing or refusing good and evil, and no external circumstances can fully account for the choice he makes. "Every man shall bear his own burden" (Galatians 6:5). "As the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son," etc. (Ezekiel 18:4).

II. THEIR CONDUCT WAS BASE. "His sons walked not in his ways" of truth, integrity, self-denial, and true godliness; but "turned aside" from them to -

1. Covetousness, or the undue love of earthly possessions. "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:17-19). "Covetousness is idolatry" (Luke 12:15; Colossians 3:5). "It is the idolatry of the heart, where, as in a temple, a miserable wretch excludes God, sets up gold instead of him, and places that confidence in it which belongs to the great Supreme alone." It was one of the necessary qualifications of judges that they should be "men of truth, hating covetousness" (Exodus 18:21). Nothing is more corrupting than "the narrowing lust of gold."

2. Bribery (Exodus 23:6, 8; Deuteronomy 16:18, 19).

3. Perversion of justice (Proverbs 17:15).

4. Their conduct in all these things was so persistent and flagrant that it was known to "all the elders of Israel." They openly abused their power for selfish ends, trampled on the law which they were appointed to "magnify and make honourable," and wrought against the purpose which Samuel spent his life in effecting.

III. THEM INFLUENCE WAS PERNICIOUS. Not only did they bring misery upon themselves, and occasion bitter sorrow to their aged father; but they also -

1. Inflicted grievous injury on those with reference to whom they "took bribes and perverted judgment."

2. Set a bad example to all men (Psalm 12:8).

3. Brought their high office into contempt.

4. Contributed directly to a national revolution. How true it is that "one sinner destroyeth much good!" - D.

And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
The best sometimes meet with the bitterest disappointment, and their grey hairs are brought down with sorrow to the grave by the unprincipled conduct of their sons. The most exemplary home has become a place of weeping by the unexpected misconduct of those who were its brightest ornaments. Samuel was now growing old. Those in high positions are naturally wishful that their sons should sustain a father's name and exercise a similar influence. Samuel had that laudable desire, and he made his sons judges over Israel. Nepotism has been one of the grossest scandals of most Roman pontiffs, and not a few high functionaries in every land. But there are honourable exceptions. It is not said that Samuel did wrong in appointing his sons to the judicial bench. The people never accused him of nepotism. Sons of such a sire would promise hopefully for the administration of justice. But the fairest sky may have a darkening cloud, the brightest buds may be early blighted, and a hopeful spring result in a scanty harvest; so the conduct of Samuel's sons disappointed a father's heart, and troubled the land of Israel.

1. They did not walk in their father's ways. They misimproved the bright example they had before them at home, where they saw little that would tend to blind their minds or pervert their hearts. When we consider Eli's softness and incapacity for command, we do not wonder at his sons going astray. But Samuel was so firm, yet generous withal, that it indicated great depravity in his sons to abuse the example of their father's spotless life. Their conduct showed that they had sought no personal religion, but had trusted to what they joined in at the family altar. Hence, when they left the sacred enclosures of the domestic circle at Ramah, they had no principle of restraint. What must the eternal experience be but remorse, anguish, and despair, to those who, in time, daily beheld a Christian parent, yet never personally sought the Saviour?

2. They "turned aside after lucre, and took bribes." The qualifications of a judge are thus specified by Jethro to Moses (Exodus 18:21). Moses thus commanded the people in the name of the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:18, 19). But the sons of Samuel did not fulfil these requirements. They were led astray by the love of money. It is amazing how speedily this sin of covetousness perverts the moral faculties. Gold, unlawfully got, sears the conscience. Perhaps there was not a greater man in his own age, or in any age, than Lord Bacon. He is the father of modern philosophy, and revolutionized the inquiries of the schools. To him more than to any man is the student of nature and of science indebted. He conferred a lasting benefit on mankind by opening up the true method of inquiry. Yet, strange to relate, Lord Bacon was one of the most unscrupulous lawyers, and one of the most disreputable judges that ever sat on the English bench. His place hunting was most dishonourable; and, after having become, by the most ignoble means, Lord High Chancellor, he degraded the highest legal office in the country by taking bribes. So glaring was the evil, and so notorious, that this philosopher, who had written so much in praise of learning, virtue, and religion, was impeached by the House of Commons, and found guilty of receiving bribes to the amount of £100,000! It must have been a most humiliating spectacle to see such a man as Bacon confessing to his peers that he had been guilty of corruption. "This glimpse of the rise and fall of this great man proclaims aloud the insufficiency of all but the grace and truth of God to keep man morally erect. Not gigantic intellectual powers — had these sufficed, Bacon would have been steadfast as a rock; not worldly success — Bacon sat at the right hand of royalty, and kept the conscience of a king; not great trust — the Lord Hugh Chancellor of England was the foremost subject in that respect; not celebrity — with that Bacon might have been satiated; not greatness without goodness — that is a tinkling cymbal. What, then? The answer which experience, history, and the word of God combine to give is this — 'I am what I am, by the grace of God that is in me.' The man who dims the light of that lamp which was kindled in heaven has already tottered to his fall." Thus acted the sons of Samuel.

3. They "perverted judgment." This was the natural consequence of the course they pursued. It was not justice, but profit which they sought. Their decision was not what the law of God demanded, but what they were best rewarded to decree. Their conduct was most offensive to God: "He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 17:15). Samuel was a disappointed father. He had evidently hoped that his sons might fill his place when his days were ended. There is nothing that distresses a parent more than the misconduct of a son. It was the grief of Isaac when Esau associated with idolaters, and despised the patriarchal birthright. It made many of Jacob's years a perennial sorrow. It was Aaron's trial soon after the priesthood had been settled on his house, when Nadab and Abihu went drunk to the altar, and offered strange fire to God. It was Eli's calamity and punishment, as his reckless sons, whom he had never restrained, rushed on the ruin of his house, It was David's sorest wounding, when one of his sons after another wrought folly and wickedness in Israel. Sons should consider the necessity of a personal religion, by means of which the best wishes of a parent may be realised, and the individual happiness of a soul secured. Without this you may be drifted by every wind, like a boat without a rudder; you may be borne along a current of evil.

(R. Steel.)

The minister's family should be an example to all his congregation. It cannot fail to give high value to his exhortations. It did so in the case of the devoted Alleine, of whom this testimony is given, that, "as he walked about the house, he would make some spiritual use of everything that did occur; and his lips did drop as an honeycomb to all that were about him." Cotton Mather is renowned for his admirably managed family, and his children rose up to call him blessed, while his ministry was largely owned of God Philip Henry's domestic life is well known; and his son Matthew, the commentator, ascribes with gratitude his own Christian character to godly parental training. Nor are these solitary examples. Many more might easily be adduced in illustration of pious training. Eli neglected this, disobeyed the Lord, and injured his sons.

(R. Steel.)

But turned aside after lucre and took bribes
Homiletic Review.
From the earliest periods of the world's history corruption among public men has brought on political troubles and national ruin It is wide-spread — it is every. where. This deplorable state of things may be remedied: —




(Homiletic Review.)

My charge is to you, in all departments of life, steer clear of bribery, all of you. Every man and woman at some time will be tempted to do wrong for compensation. The bribe may not be offered in money. It may be offered in social position. Let us remember that there is a day coming when the most secret transaction of private life and of public life will come up for public reprehension. We cannot bribe death, cannot bribe sickness, we cannot bribe the grave, we cannot bribe the judgments of that God who thunders in my text, "Fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery." "Fire?" said Cardinal Beaufort, "fire? Can't Death be hired? Is money nothing? Must I die, and so rich?" You can tell from what they say in their last hours that one of their chief sorrows is that they have to leave their money. I break that delusion. I tell that bribe-taker that he will take his money with him. God will wrap it up in your shroud, or put it into the palm of your hand in resurrection, and there it will lie, not the cool, bright, shining gold at it was on the day when you sold your vote and your moral principle; but there it will lie, a hot metal burning and consuming your hand forever. Or, if there be enough of it for a chain, then it will fall from the wrist, clanking the fetters of an eternal captivity. The bribe is an everlasting possession; you take it for time, you take it for eternity.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

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