As the time of the Judges came to a close, a barren woman named Hannah begged God for a son. God hears her prayers and grants her a son that she names Samuel. After she nurses him to be a young boy, she brings him to the sanctuary at Shiloh and dedicates him back to God. Samuel stays there and is raised under the tutelage of the priest Eli. It is here that he receives his calling from God, and he becomes a prophet and the last judge over Israel after Eli and his wicked sons’ deaths.
Samuel was a faithful servant to the Lord and Israel. However, his sons were dishonest and took bribes. So the people of Israel came to Samuel and asked for him to appoint a king to rule over them after Samuel’s death. Samuel was immediately offended and turned to the Lord. But God tells Samuel that the ask of the people is not an offense against Samuel but against God. He tells Samuel to warn the Israelites what will happen if they are given a king. A king will take their sons and their daughters for his military campaign and pleasures. He will take part of their land, crops, and goods to sustain himself. This will all happen if he is a just king. An unjust king will take even more and oppress the people.
Yet, the people of Israel did not care about the warning. They desired to be like other nations. They wanted to be assured of their military protection and build a kingdom. They wanted to replace God and His representatives (the prophets and the judges) with a military man. God granted their demand, and it was not long before Saul of the tribe of Benjamin would be anointed as the first King of Israel.
We must examine what Israel gave up whenever they asked for a king. Under Joshua, God had set up His nation in twelve tribes in twelve regions with the priestly tribe (Levi) dispersed throughout the land to facilitate worship. Each tribe would govern themselves, everyone would own 100% of what they had, and they would pass their land down throughout the generations. Their only obligations were to give to God and the poor. In addition, they were to observe the Sabbath (7th) year of rest in tilling the land and the jubilee year every 50 years. In all of this, if they stayed faithful to the Lord, everyone would be protected and provided for. However, the people would not stay faithful and were often allowed to be conquered. It was then that God raised judges up to save them. God was the king of Israel, but they did not always let Him lovingly provide for them because they lacked trust, and desired the ways of the pagans.
When Israel asks for a king, they are asking to replace God with a man. They see what the other nations are able to do with amassing wealth and establishing empires and that is what they desire for themselves. They fail to see the turmoil and unrest in the other nations, only the pleasures. They trade in the peace that they have available to them with God as their King, for the trust in the power of a man. They essentially are asking for something they already have, but they want someone who will do what God in His wisdom will not do, which is chase after wealth and amass an empire.
Despite being rejected by His people, God gives His people what they want. He will allow them to feel the negatives of having a king rule over them over the history of Israel, but He is also using the folly of Israel to set up a throne that He will ultimately fill. God sees the people’s trust in men rather than Him and prepares the way for His Son to become the true King of Israel. In this God shows His divine condescension in which He works in our failings to show His true love for us.