1 Samuel chapter 8

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4Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 6But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 7And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. 8According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. 9Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. 10And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. 11And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. 12And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 13And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. 18And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. 19Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 20That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. 21And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. 22And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

What does 1 Samuel chapter 8 mean?

The story of Samuel jumps forward in time, perhaps about thirty years or so. He is now old, and he has installed his two sons as judges in the southern town of Beersheba. However, his sons Joel and Abijah are corrupt, taking bribes and perverting justice for those under their authority (1 Samuel 8:1–3).

The elders of Israel recognize this scenario as both a problem and an opportunity. The problem is obvious. Samuel will not live forever. His sons may take over judgment of the nation from him, and they are corrupt. The elders gather in Ramah, Samuel's hometown, to make a request. They want Samuel to appoint a king, making Israel like all the surrounding nations instead of having God as their king (1 Samuel 8:4–5).

Samuel hates this idea, believing it to be an evil thing. Still, Samuel takes their proposal to the Lord. The Lord tells Samuel to do as the people have asked. It's not that God is pleased about it. He assures Samuel that the people have not rejected the prophet; they have rejected the Lord as their king. They are treating Samuel in the same way they have unfaithfully treated the Lord since the day He freed them from the Egyptians (1 Samuel 8:6–8).

The Lord tells Samuel to agree to their request, but only after he gives them a solemn warning about what it will cost them to have a king reign over them. In short, the king will take from his people whatever he wants: their children as his servants, their property as gifts for his officials, their fields, crops, and cattle. In the end, the people will become slaves, in a sense, to their own king. Samuel warns that when that day comes, the Lord will not answer their cries to save them. They are choosing that future for themselves now by choosing to have a king (1 Samuel 8:9–18).

After hearing all of this, would the elders of Israel change their minds about a king? No, they still insist on having a king for three reasons: to be like all the other nations, to have one king to judge over all of them, and to have someone to lead them into battle (1 Samuel 8:19–20).

When Samuel reports this to the Lord, God tells him to do as they have said and make them a king. Samuel sends the elders of Israel back to their homes (1 Samuel 8:21–22).
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