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Q&A: 1 Samuel 8

Questions and Answers on 1 Samuel 8

Bruce Stanley

June 6, 2022

Here are some brief answers to our questions from our Sunday evening service. If you would like to discuss more, please call me or email at

Why didn't Samuel explicitly say that God should be the king of the people?

It's possible and even probable that he did explicitly say this. 1 Samuel 12:12 indicates that Samuel had already made that clear to them. Not every word of Samuel is captured in the text we have, but it would be likely that they knew this. When they asked for a King, they asked for a King "like all the other nations" - which signified that they did know that they were different to the other nations to begin with!

Was Samuel a judge, a priest, and a prophet all in one? What was his main responsibility before God?

1 Samuel 7:15 tells us Samuel "led" or "judged" Israel. (See question below about this word change/translation). Leading, or judging Israel, was his main responsibility. Many of the Judges were also prophets, like Deborah. Samuel's priestly role was "pseudo-priestly" as he wasn't from the priestly line. But he did take on many functions of the priest, especially after Eli died and no priests were there to take over. Samuel filled a void in the priesthood.

Overall, he led, or judged, Israel. Everything he did as a prophet and priest came under the title of judge or governor. (I prefer "governor" to "leader")

After watching Eli's kids become corrupt and die because of it, why did Samuel let his kids become the same?

I'm sure Samuel didn't want, or let, his kids become like they did. They were corrupt and he was not. But as we learned from Eli, sometimes a good example is not enough. Discipline and action are also required, especially when your children hold a position of eldership that you are responsible for!

Perhaps the most we could say is that Samuel let their corruption go on for too long without taking action. But there is a lot of silence on the details of this relationship.

Where do you see Christians and/or the church falling into the trap of wanting to be 'like the nations' today?

I (Bruce) would personally say that we do this in the same way - with our leadership. Rather than looking to God for leadership, and looking for godliness and character in our human leaders, we look for skills and charisma, and we seek dynamic and capable leaders over the qualifications that are truly important. 1 Timothy 3 is an excellent example of what church leadership should be reflecting. God's church should be focussing on faithfulness, godliness, and obedience to God and his plans. We should not be setting KPIs based on worldly values as our central focus. Faithfulness should be the key performance indicator for Christians and Christian leaders.

Why did the law account for kings when God didn't want Israel to have a king? And why hadn't they given themselves a king as soon as they got those laws?

My insurance company once gave me a brochure titled something like "What to do when you have an accident". There is no way they WANT me to have an accident. But they realise that it is pretty much inevitable that I, or someone I know, will be in an accident and I'll need to know what to do when that happens. The Kingship of Israel was, in some ways, an inevitable tragedy. As Israel was constantly turning away from God, the prophecy of Kingship was not a good prophecy. It was a warning and a prophetic preparation for them.

The Israelites abandoned God. Why did God still choose Saul as their king?

As an act of grace, God stepped in to choose their King. To extend on the above analogy - if they were going to be in a car accident, he wanted to make sure they had airbags! In God's grace, he lets us make our own choices, but he continues to be our guard, even when we wander from his path.

Could you elaborate more on how Jesus' crucifixion is his coronation?

This was not my turn of phrase but it is a good one that I will hopefully explain helpfully. On the cross, Jesus displayed that he is the sacrificial servant king. The cross defined his kingship - not a Kingship of domination, but one of sacrifice and service. It is not a small thing that the soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head and dressed him in a robe to mock him as a king. Yet the cross was quite literally his crowning achievement. It was on the cross that Jesus showed the fulfilment of his intended kingship as servant and saviour. His true kingship was realised at that moment, and of course, in the moment when the tomb was found empty!

How do you go about making a big decision, given what was discussed about freedom, discipline etc? Any tips?

I have always found it helpful to pray - for big and small decisions. When we pray for smaller decisions, it sets up the standard operating procedure for the big decisions. How can we trust God with the big things if we don't trust him with all the small things too?

Pray for his guidance and listen for his answers!

Read his word regularly to keep in tune with his heart.

Talk to Christian friends and ask for their wisdom. They too are guided by the Holy Spirit.

And then act, in good conscience, with the work of the Holy Spirit.

What season is it next? Asking for myself this week…

Apparently, it is Spring next, but in Sydney, at the moment, it's probably just another "rainy" or "flu" season :)

Is there a difference between the words "lead" and "judge"? Judge is the alternate word in the footnotes.

There's not really a difference in terms of the English meaning. However, the Hebrew word, "shaphat", literally means to "judge" or "govern". It never means "lead". The word "lead", in my limited studies, is not really a very useful Biblical word. God is King. He appoints people to govern, priests to oversee worship and sacrifice, prophets to bring God's word, pastors to care for God's flock, teachers to teach, etc. But really, God is the King and hence the only true "leader" - that is, the one we follow. The implication is that the judge is there to distribute God's wisdom and justice. But they still come under God's rule and God's "leadership". And in the flesh, Jesus was a King, a leader, of service and sacrifice.

If Saul was a good king chosen by God for Israel, why did they keep moving away from God?

As good as Saul could be as a choice for King, he was human and therefore designed to fail. 1 Samuel 8 warns Israel that ANY king would not be good for them - certainly not as good as God himself. Saul was lesson number 1 for Israel. Sadly, there were more difficult lessons to come.

Click here to watch the questions answered during our live Q&A after the sermon at night church last Sunday.

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