1 Sam 8:1-22 – Israel Demands a King

Christian Mölk 1 Samuel Leave a Comment

1Sam 8:1-3

  1. Until this time, Israel had not had a king, but had been ruled by judges from time to time. Throughout Samuel’s adult life, he has served as Israel’s leader, but now he has grown old and tried to pass on the leadership to his sons.
    1. The difference between a judge and a king was that a judge was called by God to lead Israel through specific events, such as a crisis. A king, on the other hand, was a much firmer form of leadership with an administration, court and palace. Moreover, the royal office was hereditary in comparison to the judge who often returned to his former life when the crisis was over.
    1. When Gideon the judge is offered to be king on an earlier occasion, he replies: “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you, but the Lord will rule over you.” (Judges 8:23).
  2. Samuel was a very good judge who stuck to God throughout his life. Here, however, he seems to make one of the few documented mistakes; he appoints his ungodly sons as judges.
    1. There was really no reason for Samuel to appoint his sons as judges, the office had never been inherited before. Rather, judges were chosen by God to lead the people of Israel through a difficult period.
    1. Although Samuel was one of the most godly people in the Bible, there is unfortunately no automatic way for this godliness to be passed on to one’s children. You should raise your children as best you can, but in the end, everyone is free to choose the path they want to take.
    1. Since Samuel himself was so devout, one can almost assume that for some reason he did not really realize that his own sons were living ungodly lives. Perhaps Samuel suffered from the well-known phenomenon of not seeing the faults and shortcomings of his own children.

1Sam 8:4-5

  1. It was good of Israel’s elders to dare to question poor leadership. Too often I think we humans fall in line and would rather avoid trouble than question a bad leader.
  2. Deuteronomy 17:14-20 describes the procedure for Israel to choose a king, so it was not necessarily wrong for the elders of Israel to ask for a king, but their reason for wanting a king is clearly wrong.
    1. Wanting a king because “everyone else has one” is almost a childish argument. Israel is making the unfortunately all-too-common mistake of wanting to be like the rest of the world. Being God’s people has and always will mean being different. The more the believer wants to be “like everyone else”, the less one becomes what God wants one to be.
      1. Israel’s fault in this case was that they were jealous of the other nations around them and were not satisfied with what God gave them.
    1. Even we Christians today must be careful not to try to be “like everyone else”. Paul writes “do not conform to this world” (Rom 12:2) in his letter to the believers in Rome. As long as we live here on earth, we must somehow relate to the society around us, but we should be careful not to try to become like “everyone else” because we are called to be different and to be a “light in the darkness” (Matt 5:13-16).
  3. Israel desires a king, but actually they already had a king; God! In other words, their request shows that they are indirectly dissatisfied with God acting as their king (1 Sam 12:12).
    1. Israel wanted a human king to fight their wars, an argument that is very strange because God has proven time and again that he is the one who wins wars for Israel (Ex 23:27, Joshua 10:10, 1 Sam 7:10).
    1. So Israel already had a king to fight their wars and judge between them, but what they didn’t have was someone who looked like a king, a man with a crown and a mantle. They wanted to be like all the other peoples around them who had a stately and pompous king. In other words, they seem to be more interested in the surface than in the content.
      1. We Christians today must also be vigilant so that we do not fall into the trap of choosing a church or a pastor just because they superficially meet our expectations. A pastor may be good at speaking, have a nice jacket and talk a lot about leadership, but when you talk to him about Jesus, you notice that his spiritual relationship with God is almost non-existent. Even a church may look on the surface to be flashy or cool, but when you get to know the church members, you notice that Jesus is not at the center. Of course, it is not wrong for a pastor to be good at speaking, but the most important thing is that he has a good relationship with God. Of course it is not wrong that a church is cool, but the most important thing is that the church has Jesus at the center.

1Sam 8:6

  1. Samuel was a prophet who should certainly be listened to, but the people of Israel chose to insist on getting their own way. How do you know when to listen to someone who claims to be a prophet or prophetic?
    1. First, Samuel was a well-known and proven prophet who throughout his lifetime proved himself to be a man of God to be trusted. He had many times before conveyed God’s word to the people and also led Israel to repentance that led to God’s defeat of the people’s enemies. In other words, Samuel could be trusted.
    2. Secondly, one needs to compare what a prophet says with the word of God. Even a prophet can mishear or at worst go astray. Paul urges in the New Testament that we should not “despise prophecy”, but rather “test all things” and “keep what is good” (1 Thess 5:20). Even if a prophet has prophesied correctly many times in the past, we still need to compare it with the Bible and make sure it agrees with God’s written word. A prophecy that does not agree with the Bible is not a message from God.
    3. If, despite having tried the message of a well-known prophet, you are still unsure whether the message is really from God or not, my advice is to simply wait and see. Rushing into something that you think is from God but is not can lead to a lot of trouble in the future and if you are unsure, it is better to ask God for some kind of confirmation of the message.
  2. However, Samuel is not strictly speaking “prophetic” when he tells Israel that this is a “bad proposal”. Samuel has come to know God’s will so well that he understands that this is not good for Israel, and so Samuel speaks as a “shepherd who knows his sheep” rather than as a “prophet”.
    1. The fact that Israel could one day, at least theoretically, have a king was written down in the Book of Genesis, so Israel’s request was in accordance with God’s word. The mistake Israel makes is to ask for a king itself instead of waiting for the king God wants to give.
    2. There was a suitable person, a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22), whom God probably intended to eventually make king of Israel, but he was not yet born and the time was not yet ready. Had Israel restrained themselves and waited for God’s time, they would most likely have had a king, but not Saul, but David.
    3. But since Israel insists on having their own king, just like all the other nations around them, God will give them a king, but to really show Israel that Saul is not the king God wanted to give Israel, he says “your king” in verse 18.
  3. When Samuel prays to the Lord, he is actually doing the right thing, taking his concerns to God. Samuel, of course, was unhappy both that the people rejected his own sons, but also that they rejected God. But instead of throwing a tantrum, he turns to God for advice.
    1. The Lord was Samuel’s king, and here Samuel sets an example of how the rest of Israel should relate to God.
    1. In the same way, today we can turn to God with all our worries and ask for help, guidance and advice.

1Sam 8:7

  1. In a similar way, Israel rejects Jesus when Pontius Pilate says to the Jews, “Here you see your king!” to which the people replied, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:14-15).
  2. To this verse it is appropriate to make a reflection on leadership in today’s church. My personal view is that (1) God and no one else should be our king and that (2) the leaders, pastors, and priests who exist should serve to help the believer. In other words, these two points mean that every believer can approach God himself without going through the pastor or anyone else. Every believer, thanks to the Holy Spirit, has the possibility of direct contact with God, just as Samuel so admirably shows in verse 6. What, then, should leaders be for? Well, it is the job of the Christian leader to train the believer to become a disciple of Jesus. Not everyone is equally advanced in their Christian faith and therefore needs the help and guidance of, for example, a pastor. Not everyone has the time and opportunity to study the Bible in depth and preach God’s Word into our time, and so it is good that there are people with that opportunity, and then you would do well to listen to the knowledge they impart. But each person is ultimately responsible for his or her own faith and certainly should not see the pastor as a “king”. This approach, however, requires each believer to take responsibility and have their own living personal relationship with God and not to laxly leave this to the pastor.

1Sam 8:10

  1. God warns Israel of all the rights a king will have and all the negative things it will mean for the people, but still Israel wants a king.
  2. Israel asks God for something that is bad for them and God gives them an answer to teach them a lesson.
    1. If a small child asks you to play with a chainsaw, you would obviously not allow it, but if a teenager asks you to drink a whole bottle of Tabasco, you would probably allow it so that the teenager would learn the negative consequences and hopefully not do it again.
    2. I think most of us have probably asked God for things that aren’t really good for us, and then we’ve gotten mad at God for not giving us what we ask for. We should probably be grateful that God doesn’t always give us answers to prayer!
    3. But sometimes it can actually be that God also answers our bad prayers to teach us the consequences of our own stupidity so that hopefully we don’t do it again and instead learn something useful from it.

1Sam 8:22

  1. Even when Israel tries to evade God’s leadership by asking for a human king, it is still God who appoints the king.
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