1 Samuel 8

1 Samuel 8

Israel Demands a King

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 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.

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