When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.[a] 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and pervertedjustice.4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day. ”19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
- The people are unhappy with these judges. Their answer is to sack the whole system and try something new.
- Not new, really--they want what everyone else has. They are tired of being different. But God had called them to be a special people, set apart. Had they forgotten? I don't think so. I think they were just telling God, "Thanks, but your experiment is over now. We really want to look like everyone else."
- Historically, it isn't really clear how the judge system worked (according to my pastor today). But it was probably some sort of tribal arrangement, where inter-tribal or significant intra-tribal disputes went before the judges. It was a pretty loose arrangement, so you can imagine that a decision to go to war would have been a messy affair. It is interesting that Samuel goes right to the war talk when trying to talk them out of it. One king has a much easier time marshaling his forces than a bunch of tribal leaders.
- Think how painful this was for God, and even then he was reassuring Samuel: "It's not you they reject, but Me." What kind of God is this, that will let us make the bad choices but stand by and love us through it. He did not reject them and find a new people to choose. This is a radical God--not the kind I think I would make up if I were making one up!
- Samuel describes accurately what any king would do: "Take...and take...and take...and take...and take..." and finally, (v. 17) "you yourselves will become his slaves." As I write this, I see that up until v. 17 he was threatening the sons and daughters of those demanding a king. It is as if Samuel is thinking, "If you won't even save your own children, maybe I will threaten you personally and that will work!"
- The king will only take one-tenth? If you are like me then you thought--WOW!! Bring on a king!! (Instead of our government and its great gaping maw which is never satisfied.)
- The last paragraph is so painful. Can't you hear a child stamping his foot? "I don't want the best you have to offer. I want what everyone else has!" They seek someone to follow, like sheep, someone who will "fight our battles." Someone who will tell me what to do, so I don't have to think or provide for or defend myself. Someone who will be responsible, so I don't have to be. But look what you give up: The best of what you have, ultimately even your children and yourselves, taken by the king and given as gifts to his lackeys.
And that is just what happened.
It's funny. Not being like everyone else really isn't something that bothers me most of the time. But just having someone to tell me what to do--well, there are times when I really want that. And I can see in my children the desire to fit in, to reject the gifts that God has given them because they want the gifts that God has given their friends...human nature doesn't change. And THAT is why I will be re-reading 1 and 2 Samuel this month.