What does 1 Samuel 8:1 mean?
ESV: When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel.
NIV: When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel's leaders.
NASB: Now it came about, when Samuel was old, that he appointed his sons as judges over Israel.
CSB: When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges over Israel.
NLT: As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel.
KJV: And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
NKJV: Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel.
Verse Commentary:
This chapter marks the beginning of Israel's transition from the period of the judges to the period of the kings. The narrative jumps forward, possibly as much as thirty years. Samuel is now considered old in the eyes of the people, probably between nearing seventy years of age.

Samuel has made his sons judges over Israel. Perhaps he was following the example that he grew up with. When Samuel served in the tabernacle of the Lord at Shiloh, the sons of Eli, the priest of Israel, served under him as priests (1 Samuel 1:3). This was the normal course of things for priests; according to the law of Moses, the descendants of Levi served at the tabernacle in various roles. Being a Levite came with this duty to the nation, and those not part of the tribe of Levi could not serve in the tabernacle.

The judges over Israel were different, though. They did not inherit their position from their father. Judges were raised up by God to be deliverers and spiritual leaders of the people. Samuel may not have appointed his sons to be judges in the sense that term is used in the book of Judges (Judges 2:16–19). Perhaps he installed them in the courtroom sense, as in Deuteronomy 16:18. In that case, their role would have been to settle disputes in a specific local area. Since the description is this verse is "over Israel," it may have been a combination of the two. It's also possible that the people of Israel expected Samuel's sons to take his place after he died.
Verse Context:
First Samuel 8:1–9 jumps forward in time, likely several decades, from the events of the previous chapter. Samuel is now old and his sons, also judges, are corrupt. The elders of Israel gather in Ramah to ask Samuel to appoint a king for the nation. Samuel is concerned but takes their proposal to the Lord. The Lord says that the people are rejecting Him as king. Still, the Lord tells Samuel to do as the people say after he gives them fair warning about how a king will treat them.
Chapter Summary:
Samuel is old, and his sons are corrupt. The elders of Israel gather in Ramah to ask Samuel to appoint a king over them. Samuel resists, but the Lord tells the prophet to do as the people have said after warning them about what a king will take from them. The list includes their children, property, fields, crops, and freedom. The Lord will not save them from their king, Samuel warns. The elders insist they still want a king like all the other nations. The Lord agrees and tells Samuel to provide them one.
Chapter Context:
First Samuel 8 jumps forward in time perhaps thirty years from the events of the previous chapter. Samuel is now old and his sons, also judges, are corrupt. The elders of Israel gather to ask Samuel to appoint a king for them. Samuel doesn't like it, but he takes the request to the Lord. The Lord tells Samuel to do it, even though the people are rejecting Him as their king. Samuel warns the elders of all the things a king will take from them to serve himself. The elders still insist, and the Lord grants their request.
Book Summary:
First Samuel introduces the key figures who led Israel after the era of the judges. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally part of a single text, split in certain translations shortly before the birth of Christ. Some of the Bible’s most famous characters are depicted in this book. These including the prophet Samuel, Israel’s first king, Saul, her greatest king, David, and other famous names such as Goliath and Jonathan. By the end of this book, Saul has fallen; the book of 2 Samuel begins with David’s ascension to the throne.
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