Samuel was clearly the leader that Israel needed. After the revival gracefully gifted by God, brought on by humble repentance, there was a peaceful period of safety and goodwill. One would think that the people would have learned their lesson.
1 Samuel 8 tells us when Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges over Israel. Although Joel and Abijah were judges like their father, but they did not walk in their father’s ways. They took dishonest profit, pocketed bribes, and perverted justice.
In reaction to the deceptive ways of Samuel’s sons, Israel does something very ill-fated. They desired to be ruled, “like other nations,” by a king.
The heartbreaking reason for Israel desiring a king, however, was spiritual. The conversation between the Lord and Samuel is painful.
1 Samuel 8:6-8 Samuel considered their demand [for a king] wrong, so he prayed to the Lord. 7 But the Lord told him, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected me as their king. 8 They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to me, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning me and worshiping other gods.
The Israelites had rejected God as their king (1 Samuel 8:7). The Bible indicates that the concept of the Lord’s kingship over Israel was as old as the foundations of Israelite society, being traced to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:5) and celebrated by non-Israelites (Numbers 23:21). Any attempt to have an earthly king to take the Lord’s rightful place (1 Samuel 8:20) would end disastrously.
Remarkably enough, the Lord honored the people’s request, giving them precisely what they requested.