1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
(1 Samuel 8:1-9)
We just finished studying a lengthy passage in which we saw Samuel’s spiritual knowledge and leadership skills on display. Israel was blessed to have a leader like Samuel. From this point forward in 1 Samuel, we read mostly about the establishment of the kingdom and its first king, Saul.
But before we do, we come to today’s passage, which takes place when Samuel became old. Samuel will live for a many more years as we’ll read so he is probably about sixty years old here. And as godly as he was from the time he was a young boy, he made some mistakes as he got older. Namely, he made his sons judges over Israel.
In the book of Judges we never see any of the judges appointed by men or being passed from one generation to another, like a monarchy. Judges were appointed by God and Samuel was in the wrong for making his sons judges.
We aren’t given any details as to why Samuel did this. It does not appear that he ever took the matter to God in prayer. We are only told that his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice – they sold “justice” to the highest bidder which, of course, is sin [Exodus 23:8; Proverbs 15:27].
Perhaps Samuel had noticed that his sons were not walking with God while at home and he hoped that by giving them responsibility for administering God’s word they would come around. Maybe that is why they were installed as judges in Beersheba, the extreme southern end of Israel, where they might not be on any one’s radar.
We do know that Samuel was given completely to doing the work of the Lord as Israel’s judge and in so doing spent a lot of time away from home [1 Samuel 7:15-17]. This could be at least part of the reason why his sons did not follow the Lord as he did.
God does call people to serve Him in the ministry full time. Those who are called as such need to realize, though, that their first and foremost ministry is at home with their own family: their spouse (wife/husband) and children. In fact, if one cannot keep their own family on a godly path then that person is not qualified to serve God and God’s people [1 Timothy 3:5].
Samuel worked hard during this life. He did a lot to lead the people of Israel to God. But he did not lead his own sons to the Lord. When he got old he seemingly tried to correct that situation, but it didn’t work. In fact, as we’ll learn in the coming days, Samuel’s decision to make his sons judges will lead the people to reject God entirely.
Knowledge of God is not inherited like hair color or height. Our children aren’t going to walk with the Lord just because we do, or if our attempts are superficial or tangential like Samuel’s were – giving his sons godly names (Joel means “Yahweh is God” and Abijah means “My divine Father is Yahweh”). Such superficiality accomplishes nothing.
Parents needs to intentionally steer their children towards God [Proverbs 22:6]. Children aren’t going to find God on their own. They are going to go the way of the world, chasing after money and sex and power as Joel and Abijah did.
Many parents state that they don’t want to influence their children and want their children to “decide for themselves” when they grow up. Parents who do this have fallen for Satan’s lies. This is exactly what Satan wants. as few people will decide to follow Jesus [Matthew 7:13-14].
Raising godly children is no less a service to God than serving at church. In fact it is more important and should, therefore, be given priority.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.