What does 1 Samuel 8 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
First Samuel 8:1–9 jumps forward in time, likely several decades, from the events of the previous chapter. Samuel is now old and his sons, also judges, are corrupt. The elders of Israel gather in Ramah to ask Samuel to appoint a king for the nation. Samuel is concerned but takes their proposal to the Lord. The Lord says that the people are rejecting Him as king. Still, the Lord tells Samuel to do as the people say after he gives them fair warning about how a king will treat them.
First Samuel 8:10–18 describes a solemn, legal warning Samuel gives the elders of Israel. He cautions about all the things a human king will take from them. He will take their sons and daughters as his servants, their land for his officials, and a percentage of their crops and flocks. In many ways, Samuel officially warns the Israelites that they will become slaves to their own king. When that happens and they cry out to the Lord, He will not answer them because they will have chosen this for themselves.
First Samuel 8:19–22 describes the response of Israel's elders to Samuel's solemn warning from the Lord about human kings. The Israelites still insist on having a king. They want to be like the cultures around them, with a single leader to judge them and lead them in battle. When Samuel reports this to the Lord, God tells the prophet to do as the people have said and appoint a king for them. Samuel sends the elders back to their homes from Ramah.
Chapter Summary:
Samuel is old, and his sons are corrupt. The elders of Israel gather in Ramah to ask Samuel to appoint a king over them. Samuel resists, but the Lord tells the prophet to do as the people have said after warning them about what a king will take from them. The list includes their children, property, fields, crops, and freedom. The Lord will not save them from their king, Samuel warns. The elders insist they still want a king like all the other nations. The Lord agrees and tells Samuel to provide them one.
Chapter Context:
First Samuel 8 jumps forward in time perhaps thirty years from the events of the previous chapter. Samuel is now old and his sons, also judges, are corrupt. The elders of Israel gather to ask Samuel to appoint a king for them. Samuel doesn't like it, but he takes the request to the Lord. The Lord tells Samuel to do it, even though the people are rejecting Him as their king. Samuel warns the elders of all the things a king will take from them to serve himself. The elders still insist, and the Lord grants their request.
Book Summary:
First Samuel introduces the key figures who led Israel after the era of the judges. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally part of a single text, split in certain translations shortly before the birth of Christ. Some of the Bible’s most famous characters are depicted in this book. These including the prophet Samuel, Israel’s first king, Saul, her greatest king, David, and other famous names such as Goliath and Jonathan. By the end of this book, Saul has fallen; the book of 2 Samuel begins with David’s ascension to the throne.
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