The high price of a King

1 Samuel 8:10-22 SCC 11/16/14



1. Samuel became a priest, a judge, and a prophet (3:19-21; 7:15-16; 9:19-25; 10:8). Naturally when he became old he installed his two sons as judge’s v 1. Like Eli’s two sons, their names are mentioned v 2. Like Eli’s two sons, they abused their leadership office, though they were unjust judges who took bribes rather than immoral priests who blasphemed God v 3. As judges, they and their father surely knew the requirements for judges (Deut. 16:18-19; Exod. 23:6-8).


2. Samuel was old and like Eli, it seems he reasoned that the only thing he could do was leave his sons in office. Possibly Samuel did not know of his sons’ sins until the elders confronted him v 4 but parallels with Eli’s failed attempt at dynasty are too many to miss. When reading the word “old” the number “two” the names, and the sins, one may assume that Samuel was imitating Eli.


3. This time there was no man of God to pronounce judgment like with Eli. He was not needed. Instead, the elders of Israel pronounced judgment calling for a king instead of Samuel’s sons on the grounds that “you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways” v 5. The people reasoned that the one who had appointed his sons as judges could also appoint a king. Further, since his sons had failed as judges, he was obligated to honor the elders’ request as a ‘measure for measure.’ Samuel’s sin of leaving his wicked sons in office contrary to the Mosaic law gave the people the excuse they needed to demand a king “like all the nations” v 5. God did not blame Samuel directly, but He was clearly displeased with the request. Since their request was partially Samuel’s fault, God’s displeasure lay on him implicitly. Samuel had repeated the sin of Eli, and his dynasty was doomed.


NB: With Eli and Samuel, the pattern has been set. The account of Samuel’s two wicked sons whom he left in office in order to continue his own dynasty closely repeats the Eli incident. Recognition of this developing theme then conditions us to listen to what is said of other fathers in relation to their sons and dynasties. In this way a progression is seen in the consequences of the sin of Eli, who honored his sons above God, which escalate dramatically for the nation as a whole taking surprising turn in ruling families in the nation throughout its history and dynasties.



1. God had made provision for kings to rule His people in the Mosaic Law Dt 17:14-20. The request in itself was not what displeased Samuel and God. It was the reason they wanted a king that was bad. On the one hand it expressed dissatisfaction with God’s present method of providing leadership through judges v 7 “they have rejected me from being king over them.” On the other it verbalized a desire to be “like all the nations” v 5.


2. God saw this demand as one more instance of apostasy that had marked the Israelites since the Exodus v 8 “like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken me and served other gods.” He acquiesced to their request as He had done many times before—by providing manna, quail, and water in the wilderness, for example. However, He mixed judgment with His grace, “listen to their voice…solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure…


3. God purposed to bless all other nations through His theocratic reign over Israel. Divinely chosen individuals spoke and acted for God in governing functions and were personally responsible to Him for what they did. These vice-regents were people like Moses, Joshua, the judges including Samuel and the kings, but God remained the real sovereign down to the end of this kingdom in history. God will restore this mediatorial kingdom to Israel when Jesus Christ returns to earth in power and great glory. Christ will then, at His second coming, serve as God’s vice-regent and reign over all the nations as the perfect mediatorial king (Mic 4:1-8).


4. The rejection of Samuel was the rejection of godly leadership; the choice of Saul was the choice of ungodly leadership. In many ways Saul was the foil for the godly David, just as the sons of Eli were a foil for Samuel. Samuel experienced rejection by the people he led just as Moses, Jesus Christ, and so many of God’s faithful servants have throughout history.



1. Samuel began to explain what having a king similar to all the nations would mean v 10. The elders were interested in the functions of monarchy, but Samuel pointed out the nature of monarchy. It meant the loss of freedoms and possessions that the people presently enjoyed. In verses 11-17 Samuel did not define the rights of a king but described the ways of most kings. Note the recurrence of the words “take” and “best” in these verses. By nature royalty is parasitic rather than giving. It is what is in it for them.

o   Kings want protection for their dynasties v 11

o   Kings want prescription for their dynasties v 12

o   Kings want provision for their dynasties v 13-14

o   Kings want possessions for their dynasties v 15-17


2. The people will regret their request because their king would disappoint them v 18 but God would not remove the consequences of their choice. Their king could have been a great joy to them instead of a great disappointment if the people had waited for God to inaugurate the monarchy. As becomes clear later in Samuel as well as in Kings and Chronicles, David was God’s choice to lead the Israelites from the beginning. If the people had not been impatient, David would have been their first king. Saul proved to be a “false start” to the monarchy. This chapter serves to introduce the reason Saul became such a disappointment to the Israelites and such a disaster as a king. Nevertheless his reign was not totally unsuccessful because at its beginning he sought to please God.


3. The nation Israel wants a king, and with it Samuel warns that they will get big government with a very large price tag v 19-20. This does not matter. The people are determined to have their king. The people not just the elders refused to listen to Samuel or heed his warnings. They insisted on having their king, but now they were more honest as to what they expected the king to do for them. They want a king to judge them and go before them in battle. Actually they want a king to do their judging and their fighting for them.


4. Samuel listens to all the people have to say, and then he goes to the Lord to repeat all these words to Him v 21. Samuel feels it necessary to tell God all that the people say to him. In answer to Samuel’s prayer, God once again instructs him to give the people what they demand. And so, not knowing who this king will be, Samuel sends the Israelites to their homes until the time when God will indicate the identity of their new king v 22.



1. Sin, rebellion, and compromises never bring you closer to God. They take you further away from His will. The major emphasis falls upon the high cost of kingship, especially when compared to the minimal price of rule by judges. In the simplest of terms, being ruled by a king is not worth the price. Israel pays the high price for a king and they really get very little in return. Sin is like this. Satan always seeks to maximize our estimation of the benefits of sin, and just as busily engages in attempting to convince us that the price of sin is minimal. We think we can “use” sin, while retaining full control over it. The reality is that sin quickly gains control over us, and we become its slaves.

2. God sometimes gives us the thing we want and even demand, even though it will prove to be painful to us. The passage in the Psalms, which speaks of the Israelites’ complaining because they have no meat, prompts God to give them their bellies full. 15 So He gave them their request, But sent a wasting disease among them (Psa 106:15). It is possible that if we persist in asking for that which is not best, God may give it to us. It will be painful if this happens, but in giving us what we so desperately want, God disciplines us so that we learn to leave these things in His hands.

3. Conforming to our desires rather than submitting to God will jeopardize experiencing God’s favor had we remained faithful. You cannot have your cake and eat it too… the impossibility of having something both ways, if those two ways conflict. Samuel seems to have exercised more power than Eli. Eli had suffered damage to his dynasty, but he had not lost it completely. Samuel’s dynasty, on the other hand, ended with his sons. The entirety of Saul’s reign was also a consequence of Samuel's sin. Saul’s reign had positive aspects in God’s providence, but much bloodshed might have been avoided if the people had not had an excuse to ask for a king before David was of age. At least the bloodshed between the houses of Saul and David could have been avoided.