- Deuteronomy 17:14-20
- 1 Samuel 8:1-22
Early Thoughts: You can't blame them really. As the storyline of Scripture runs, nothing really has gone right since Joshua died. There was the period of Judges where, as the text says repeatedly "there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his eyes". The last Judge is Samuel, and his sons are not worthy (although it is unclear why that is an issue since it does not appear that being a Judge was at all determined by heredity--more often like a war chief who could gather folks to him (or her as Deborah was a judge) by force of personality). The system is not working, things have GOT to change they say. All around us are people who have kings. Things seem to be working for them. Give us a king so that we can be like our neighbours!
Samuel is dubious. Samuel knows what kings can be like. God is dubious. God knows what kings can be like. God and Samuel also seem to take this personally, as a rejection. But the people are insistent. So God says (essentially) "Fine! Have it your way! Give them a king!"
What is a king? What is the role of a king (or queen, given that we just watched Queen Elizabeth II celebrate 60 years on the throne)? In the ancient world the king was THE BOSS (no constitutional monarch here). In Israels tradition up to this point, God is the King. God is the one in charge, with earthly intermediaries like Moses or Joshua or Samuel (or more tribal leaders such as Abraham or Jacob).
As it turns out, the change is less than positive. In the history told by Scripture, precious few get a positive review. None of them seem to measure up to the ideal king a (probably later) writer describes in the Deuteronomy passage above [personally I have a suspicion that this description dates, at least in part, to the reign of Solomon because it is almost a direct counter-point to much of what Solomon did].
The world is in chaos! We need a strong leader! Give us a king! Does that sound familiar? It is a cry that has echoed down through the ages. And rarely has it gone well. So maybe we need a different response to the chaos of life?????