When children disappoint (1 Samuel 8:1-3)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

As Samuel ages, he repeats Eli’s error and appoints his own sons to succeed him. Like Eli’s sons, they turn out to be greedy and corrupt (1 Sam. 8:1-3). Disappointing sons of great leaders is a recurrent theme in Samuel and Kings. (The tragedy of David’s son Absalom occupies the bulk of 2 Samuel chapters 13-19, to which we will return. See "David's Dysfunctional handling of family conflict leads to civil war (2 Samuel 13-19)".) It reminds us that the work of parenting is as challenging as every other occupation but far more emotionally intense. No solution is given in the text, but we can observe that Eli, Samuel, and David seem to have given their troubled children many privileges but little paternal involvement. Yet we also know that even the most dedicated parents may face the heartbreak of wayward children. Rather than laying blame or stereotyping causes, let us simply note that parenting children is an occupation requiring as much prayer, skill, community support, good fortune, and love as any other, if not more. Ultimately to be a parent—whether our children bring delight, disappointment, or some of both—is to depend on God’s grace and mercy and to hope for a redemption beyond what we see during our lifetimes. Perhaps our deepest comfort is to remember that God also experienced a parent’s heartbreak for his condemned Son, yet overcame all through the power of love.