The Unwise Demand Granted
1 Samuel 8:22
And the LORD said to Samuel, Listen to their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said to the men of Israel…

The government by judges fell into discredit. Samuel, indeed, was without reproach; but when advancing age made the burden of public affairs too heavy for him, his sons, to whom he naturally delegated his authority, proved unrighteous rulers. They do not seem to have been licentious, like the sons of Eli, but they were covetous, and corrupted the fountains of justice by taking bribes. What a persistent thing sin is! How it repeats itself! How hard it is to eradicate it! Samuel's lifelong example of integrity was lost upon his sons. The terrible fate of Eli's family was lost on them too. To the dignity of justice, to the honour of truth, they were indifferent for filthy luere's sake. Then the elders of Israel asked Samuel to set a king over them.


1. It followed a bad precedent. The experiment had been tried about 150 years before. The people asked Gideon to be their hereditary prince, and that hero declined the proposal, as inconsistent with a pure theocracy. After his death Abimelech was king for three years; but his career began in cruelty, ended soon in disaster and death, and no one from that time had sought the royal dignity.

2. It proceeded on a wrong principle. The desire to be as the other nations round about was in fiat contradiction to the revealed purpose of God that Israel should be separate as a people unto him. The wish to have a king to lead them out to battle betrayed a thirst for war unworthy of a holy nation, and a mistrust of the Lord's power to defend them. Here, indeed, is the point in which they departed from the permissive law regarding a king recorded in the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy. A regal government was not to be reckoned inconsistent with the theocracy, provided the king was not a foreigner, and was chosen by Jehovah, whose vicegerent he should be. The elders asked for a king not after the mind of the Lord, but after the pattern of the heathen round about.


1. A headstrong people must learn by experience. The elders and people of Israel were warned of the risk they ran. A king such as they desired would restrain their ancient liberties, and subordinate all their rights and interests to the maintenance of his court and army. They heard Samuel's warning, and persisted in their demand. So the Lord bade his servant make them a king. If men will not take advice, let them have their way. Wisdom seldom comes to wilful men but through sharp lessons of the results of folly.

2. The way must be prepared for the king and the kingdom that God would choose. It is important to remember that Divine purposes are accomplished on earth not by direct fiats of authority or exertions of power, but through long and complex processes of human action and counteraction, by the corrections of experience, the smart of suffering, and the recoil from danger. It was God's design to constitute Israel into a kingdom under a sure covenant - a kingdom which should furnish the basis for glowing prophetic visions of the kingdom of Christ; but this design was not to be fulfilled abruptly, or by a sudden assertion of the Divine will. The way was prepared by the failure of all other devices for holding together the Hebrew people. First the government by judges lost credit; then the kingdom as set up by popular desire failed; so that the tribes, seeing the ruin of their own devices, might be ready to receive the kingdom as God would have it, and the man whom he would choose to "feed Jacob his people and Israel his inheritance."


1. Men have set up their own devices in the administration of the Church; and with what result? They have not been content with an unseen Lord and King. The early patriarchates may be described as a government by judges; but men were not content therewith, and Latin Christianity set up an ecclesiastical and spiritual supremacy on earth, a Saul-like kingship at Rome. Those parts of the Western Church which broke away from this doomed kingdom at the Reformation, for the most part gave power to secular princes in exchange for their protection. All such arrangements are temporary devices; but they are witnesses and preludes to something higher and more Divine. They prepare the way for the reign of Jesus Christ, as the broken, confused reign of Saul prepared for the strong kingdom of David.

2. Inward Christian experience can tell a similar tale. What plans have to be tried and found wanting, what thrones of confusion in the heart to be subverted, before the Lord alone is exalted! We are permitted to have our own way that we may learn how small our wisdom is, how vain are our devices. We exalt our own righteousness, our own will, our own religious confidence. It is our Saul; and the issue is confusion and disorder, till we renounce our pride and vainglory, and receive the Son of David Jehovah's true Anointed, to reign over and rule in us. Self religion starts thus - "Nay; but we will have a king." The religion which is taught of God says, "Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord!" - F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And 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.

WEB: Yahweh said to Samuel, "Listen to their voice, and make them a king." Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Every man go to his city."

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