1 Samuel 8:3

ESV Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
NIV But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
NASB His sons, however, did not walk in his ways but turned aside after dishonest gain, and they took bribes and perverted justice.
CSB However, his sons did not walk in his ways--they turned toward dishonest profit, took bribes, and perverted justice.
NLT But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.
KJV And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

What does 1 Samuel 8:3 mean?

After his first few years with his mother Hannah, Samuel was raised by Eli, the priest of Israel. This was at the tabernacle in Shiloh (1 Samuel 1:22–28; 2:11). Although Eli is mostly depicted as a decent man and priest, he failed by allowing his two corrupt sons to continue as priests at the tabernacle alongside him. God rejected Eli's household from the priesthood (1 Samuel 2:12–36).

Here, Samuel is described as making similar mistakes. Samuel was a great man of God. He was a prophet and judge over Israel. His sons, though, were corrupt. In their role as judges over Israel at Beersheba, they crookedly failed to uphold what was right (1 Samuel 8:3).

The deliverers of Israel whose stories are told in the book of Judges were more like social, military, and religious leaders (Judges 2:16–19). The office of "judge" in the more common sense is described in Deuteronomy 16:18: to resolve disputes between citizens of a local town or region for the sake of keeping justice in the land. Deuteronomy 16:19 specifically instructed these local judges, "You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous."

Samuel's sons were guilty of the classic crimes that would plague Israel's leadership off and on for generations. They decided their cases based on who could pay them the most, meaning that the poor and the disadvantaged could not afford justice.

Eli's sons disrespected temple sacrifices by demanding the best parts for themselves, even before the sacrifice was completed. They dishonored God and impeded the worship of the people. Samuel's sons insulted God by mistreating the people and being careless about justice. In Leviticus 19:15–16, God commands doing justice in the courts, favoring neither rich or poor, and speaking truth about others; He concludes with "I am the Lᴏʀᴅ." The call to justice is based on God's character and His sovereign rule. God's ways are just (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 37:28; 89:14). Proverbs 21:3 says, "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lᴏʀᴅ than sacrifice" (cf. Proverbs 8:12–21; 17:23; 18:5; 28:5; 29:4).

Clearly the faithfulness and talent of a man or woman of God is no guarantee that his children will follow closely to the Lord. Parenting children to walk in the way of the Lord requires diligence, love, and wisdom (Deuteronomy 6:4–15; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). Even then, children must decide for themselves whether they will follow God's ways (Ezekiel 18).
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