How Samuel When He Was So Infirm With Old Age That He Could Not Take Care Of The Public Affairs Intrusted Them To His Sons; And How Upon The Evil Administration Of The Government By Them The Multitude Were So Angry, That They Required To Have A King To Govern Them, Although Samuel Was Much Displeased Thereat.
1. But Samuel the prophet, when he had ordered the affairs of the people after a convenient manner, and had appointed a city for every district of them, he commanded them to come to such cities, to have the controversies that they had one with another determined in them, he himself going over those cities twice in a year, and doing them justice; and by that means he kept them in very good order for a long time.
2. But afterwards he found himself oppressed with old age, and not able to do what he used to do, so he committed the government and the care of the multitude to his sons, - the elder of whom was called Joel, and the name of the younger was Abiah. He also enjoined them to reside and judge the people, the one at the city of Bethel, and the other at Beersheba, and divided the people into districts that should be under the jurisdiction of each of them. Now these men afford us an evident example and demonstration how some children are not of the like dispositions with their parents; but sometimes perhaps good and moderate, though born of wicked parents; and sometimes showing themselves to be wicked, though born of good parents: for these men turning aside from their father's good courses, and taking a course that was contrary to them, perverted justice for the 'filthy lucre of gifts and bribes, and made their determinations not according to truth, but according to bribery, and turned aside to luxury, and a costly way of living; so that as, in the first place, they practiced what was contrary to the will of God, so did they, in the second place, what was contrary to the will of the prophet their father, who had taken a great deal of care, and made a very careful provision that the multitude should be righteous.
3. But the people, upon these injuries offered to their former constitution and government by the prophet's sons, were very uneasy at their actions, and came running to the prophet, who then lived at the city Ramah, and informed him of the transgressions of his sons; and said, That as he was himself old already, and too infirm by that age of his to oversee their affairs in the manner he used to do, so they begged of him, and entreated him, to appoint some person to be king over them, who might rule over the nation, and avenge them of the Philistines, who ought to be punished for their former oppressions. These words greatly afflicted Samuel, on account of his innate love of justice, and his hatred to kingly government, for he was very fond of an aristocracy, as what made the men that used it of a divine and happy disposition; nor could he either think of eating or sleeping, out of his concern and torment of mind at what they had said, but all the night long did he continue awake and revolved these notions in his mind.
4. While he was thus disposed, God appeared to him, and comforted him, saying, That he ought not to be uneasy at what the multitude desired, because it was not he, but Himself whom they so insolently despised, and would not have to be alone their king; that they had been contriving these things from the very day that they came out of Egypt; that however in no long time they would sorely repent of what they did, which repentance yet could not undo what was thus done for futurity; that they would be sufficiently rebuked for their contempt, and the ungrateful conduct they have used towards me, and towards thy prophetic office. "So I command thee to ordain them such a one as I shall name beforehand to be their king, when thou hast first described what mischiefs kingly government will bring upon them, and openly testified before them into what a great change of affairs they are hasting."
5. When Samuel had heard this, he called the Jews early in the morning, and confessed to them that he was to ordain them a king; but he said that he was first to describe to them what would follow, what treatment they would receive from their kings, and with how many mischiefs they must struggle. "For know ye," said he, "that, in the first place, they will take your sons away from you, and they will command some of them to be drivers of their chariots, and some to be their horsemen, and the guards of their body, and others of them to be runners before them, and captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds; they will also make them their artificers, makers of armor, and of chariots, and of instruments; they will make them their husbandmen also, and the curators of their own fields, and the diggers of their own vineyards; nor will there be any thing which they will not do at their commands, as if they were slaves bought with money. They will also appoint your daughters to be confectioners, and cooks, and bakers; and these will be obliged to do all sorts of work which women slaves, that are in fear of stripes and torments, submit to. They will, besides this, take away your possessions, and bestow them upon their eunuchs, and the guards of their bodies, and will give the herds of your cattle to their own servants: and to say briefly all at once, you, and all that is yours, will be servants to your king, and will become no way superior to his slaves; and when you suffer thus, you will thereby be put in mind of what I now say. And when you repent of what you have done, you will beseech God to have mercy upon you, and to grant you a quick deliverance from your kings; but he will not accept your prayers, but will neglect you, and permit you to suffer the punishment your evil conduct has deserved."
6. But the multitude was still so foolish as to be deaf to these predictions of what would befall them; and too peevish to suffer a determination which they had injudiciously once made, to be taken out of their mind; for they could not be turned from their purpose, nor did they regard the words of Samuel, but peremptorily insisted on their resolution, and desired him to ordain them a king immediately, and not trouble himself with fears of what would happen hereafter, for that it was necessary they should have with them one to fight their battles, and to avenge them of their enemies, and that it was no way absurd, when their neighbors were under kingly government, that they should have the same form of government also. So when Samuel saw that what he had said had not diverted them from their purpose, but that they continued resolute, he said, "Go you every one home for the present; when it is fit I will send for you, as soon as I shall have learned from God who it is that he will give you for your king."