1 Samuel chapter 8 brings us to the second major portion of this book: the beginning of Israel’s monarchy.
The transfer of influence is moved from the hands of the Judges and Levites to being in the hands of the kings.
The Torah did see a day when the people would desire a king like all the other nations in Deuteronomy 17:14. This was the day. A king would not be elected by the people. He was sovereignly appointed and next to God, he was to have absolute authority.
The text in chapter 8 conveniently divides into three sections.
I) The Elder’s Request (8:1-9)
For about 20 plus years or more Samuel has been judging Israel. He is their national leader. He was the third Levitical judge in the Bible behind Moses and Eli. By appointing his two sons, there was an attempt being made to bring the nation back to the intended pattern of rule as outlined in Deuteronomy 16:18-20. The problem, however, is that Samuel’s sons did not walk in the ways of Samuel. They took bribes and dishonest gain, and Samuel’s age was a concern for the various leaders of Israel.
The elders, being alarmed that they may return to the former days of judgment, asked for a king “like all the other nations.”
The issue for the elders was threefold in their minds:
– Samuel had failed with establishing qualified judges (his sons took bribes)
– The perceived military threat from other nations (8:20)
– The desire to have a national form of government. At this point, Israel was a loose confederation.
Though God was not against the idea of monarchs, however, the way the elders went about demanding a king from Samuel rather than asking him to inquire from the Lord what they should do, was not a good thing. It could be that the people attributed previous failures to a dysfunctional political organization, rather than their own spiritual disobedience. Looking for outward causes, not inward ones.
Samuel was distressed by the request and took it to the Lord. But the Lord tells Samuel that their request manifested a spiritual problem. Ultimately they had rejected God as their king. The people were thinking autonomously, outside their required obedience to God. They had an interest in being successful and secure, but they wanted it on their terms without the moral and spiritual responsibility.
God, however, grants their request.
II) Samuel’s Rebuke (8:10-18)
Samuel tells the people they can have a king, but the consequences would be severe.
He notes five things God will require of the people:
1) A military draft would be established.
2) Civilians will be put into servitude.
3) National, wide spread land confiscation for use by the government officials.
4) Taxes with be enacted and increased to fund the new government.
5) An over all loss of personal liberty.
And, when the people cry out, God will not heed them.
III) The People’s Refusal (8:19-22)
In spite of Samuel’s warning and the impending severe burden the people will face, they reject Samuel’s words and rush headlong into turmoil that will begin to unfold in the following chapters. God’s words to Samuel have a hint of prophetic doom ringing through them: “Heed their voice and make them a king.”