Israel asks for a king. Samuel is disappointed, but God makes clear to Samuel that they are not rejecting him, but they are rejecting God, that He should reign as king over them. Israel had been self-governing to this point, under God’s law. But now they wanted a human authority in place of God. God agrees to give them what they ask, but makes it clear that granting their request is a form of judgement, as the human rulers will become tyrants. God warns that when they cry out and ask to be released from tyranny God will not answer; they got what they asked for. This chapter is a cautionary tale that leads us to seek responsibility rather than shirk it.
In his old age, Samuel appoints his sons Joel and Abijah as judges, but they judge corruptly and take money to determine outcomes.
The local leaders of Israel tell Samuel that his sons are dishonest judges, and that they want a king over the entire nation like all other countries.
Samuel is unhappy that Israel wants a king, so he prays to God for guidance. God assures Samuel that Israel is rejecting Him, not Samuel. He explains that this is how the Israelites have always behaved. God will grant Israel a human king, but first they must be warned of the consequences that will bring.
Samuel tells Israel the word of God. With a king, the people of Israel will lose their sons to fight his wars, to farm his fields, to make his weapons. Their daughters will become perfumers, cooks, and bakers for the king. The king will tax the people for the best of their produce and will take their servants and livestock for his own gain. Ultimately all Israelites will be as slaves to the king, and God will not hear their pleas to undo this.
Despite God’s warnings to the Israelites that a king will oppress them, they refuse to listen, and finalize their request for a human monarch. They wish to be like the other nations who all have kings. They want to give up their system of self-governance in hopes that a king will take all such responsibility from them. The Lord answers that a king will be appointed.