What does 1 Samuel 8:2 mean?
ESV: The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba.
NIV: The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba.
NASB: The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba.
CSB: His firstborn son's name was Joel and his second was Abijah. They were judges in Beer-sheba.
NLT: Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba.
KJV: Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba.
NKJV: The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba.
Verse Commentary:
Samuel is old, and he has appointed his two sons as judges over Israel (1 Samuel 8:1). Their names are Joel and Abijah, and they serve as judges in Beersheba.

It's unclear what exact role Samuel's sons played in "judging" over Israel. Beersheba was far to the south of the territory Samuel served in north of Jerusalem. It may be that the role of his sons was simply to oversee disputes and issues in that local area, as described in Deuteronomy 16:18. It may also have been that they were being groomed to replace Samuel as judge or deliverer over the entire nation (Judges 2:16–19) after his death.

This would have been highly unusual. Throughout the book of Judges, God always appointed a new judge. It was not an inherited position. Gideon specifically refused to allow for his role as judge to be expanded into any type of kingship or for his sons to take over for him after he died (Judges 8:22–23).
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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