Israel Demands a King
8 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 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.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 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. 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. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
Samuel’s Warning Against Kings
So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
The Lord Grants Israel’s Request
But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
1 Samuel 8 Commentary
by Hank Workman
There’s a saying, “Be careful what you ask for. You may just get it.” There is much truth to this as often we’re looking at something from a Polly Anna, Rose-Colored Glasses view and don’t see or refuse to accept what it all entails.
Samuel has grown old. His sons have been placed in some Judges’ roles alongside and are not good men. (Sound familiar with Eli and his brood?) And, the people of Israel are restless. Not only are they unhappy with the current state of his boys leading, but with Samuel’s age, seeing the alternative of them taking his official role when he passes, something has to give. They want a king.
Samuel takes this request personally. God sets the record straight. Samuel needs to get over himself; it’s not him they’ve rejected but God. Instructed by the Lord, he goes to the people and warns of all the things having a king will do to them from the taxes to the military conscription to, in time, poor leadership. It doesn’t matter. They want a king so they look like the neighboring countries. The wheel is set in motion for the monarchy to be established.
Just a couple things to consider: God was the One rejected but would still give the people what they wanted. Even though He knew what awaited them from this decision was personal, He gave it to them. That says a lot, doesn’t it? The second thing is even though it was a direct affront to God (according to His words to Samuel) and He warned them of all that would come from the decision, He would instruct them how to find what they wanted.
Now that last point is a bit much to take in. There’s probably a lot that could be written on this thought alone. But the overarching aspect here is there are times God will give us exactly what we want to teach us a lesson. There is so much God allows to take place from our decisions and mindsets, which brings in our free will to choose. Sometimes when we have our minds set on something, even though that still small voice warns of consequences, God doesn’t interfere or stop it from happening. Even though it will bring much pain and desperation to us, He allows it.
1 Samuel 8 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Samuel’s reputation as a judge was top-notch. He followed in a long line of judges who would call God’s people back to repentance, but only for a specific period of time. Because Samuel’s sons failed to follow in his footsteps, the elders now request a king. How was this different from a judge?
- A judge would be called for a time, to serve God’s purposes and then move on. A king would reign exclusively and pass his reign on to an heir.
- A judge was the extension of God’s will, purposed to meet a need in a time of crisis. A king would set up a kingdom, a government, and a bureaucracy.
- A judge was always chosen by God. A king (as in this case) was chosen by the people. Samuel is very troubled by this and takes it personally. God assures him it isn’t him the people are tired of following, but rather, God Himself. It has been this way since the beginning.
- In the end, Samuel warns the people, but they still decide to choose a king.
When that time comes, you will complain bitterly because of your king, whom you yourselves chose, but the LORD will not listen to your complaints.”1 Samuel 8:18 GNB
In many ways, a king was a step backward for Israel. The people wanted a kingdom ruled by man (like other nations) rather than a kingdom ruled directly by God.
“The people forgot their covenant relation to Jehovah—that they were a peculiar nation, with a peculiar history and a peculiar mission. Such a demand showed ingratitude, distrust and disloyalty toward God. They wanted to better their government instead of reforming their character, and looked to legislation for help which could come only from righteousness.”Biblical Illustrator
He gave them what they asked for. This is what God does. When we plant our stake in the ground and refuse to listen to any reason or logic, God will often allow that part of us to die so that restoration can begin. For Israel, acquiring a king was the hill they were fully willing to die on… and death would certainly follow. It would not be their king, but the King of Kings who would finally die on a hill to satisfy the cravings of humanity.
We wanted a King. We needed a Savior. Jesus was both.