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What are the apparent advantages of the monarchy system that Israel wanted to have that they saw in the other nations? There must be something they saw, for in 1 Samuel 8:4-5 and 19-20 we read (NASB):

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; 5 and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”

19 Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

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    user41451, I can tell you are new to the Stack Exchange network, so let me tell you I edited the question to fit our guidelines here. However, feel free to reedit it if you desire a different Bible translation to be quoted. @ThaddeusB: In my training, any question on this site could have been a potential homework question at some point or another :-).
    – ScottS
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 15:45
  • Although the C.SE version of the question was closed, it did attract a good answer worth reading.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 14:32
  • I would say that the Israelites desire to appoint a king over them was a manifestation of a lack of faith in the system which G-d created through Moses and the prophets. Appointing a king gave them a sense of security. However, this security was false because ultimately G-d was the source of their security. Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 9:46

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The apparent advantage would be having a leader that they could see and touch. The Israelites, when one reads closely, did not exactly have a resounding faith in God,and it shows in at a few different points in the new testament, like in Exodus 14:10-12 where the Israelites were angry at Moses for leading them to the Red Sea when Pharaoh's army approached, or in Exodus 16:3 where they grumbled at Moses because they had no food. It is also demonstrated in their lack of fear for God when they rebelled so many times in Judges. When you break down the reasoning that hey had in 1 Samuel 8:20, you can see that hey want someone to fight their battles for them, which means that hey didn't see God as capable of doing so, despite the fact that he had done so already many times over.

There is also the first reason, which comes up twice, that hey want to be like other nations. The Israelites were God's chosen people, but hey had the heart of Esau, which the author of Hebrews describes in 12:16

    "See to it that nobody is sexually immoral, or Godless like Esau, who
     for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son"

They didn't much care that hey were set apart from other nations by having a literal god leading their nation, they wanted more desperately to be led by a man and fit in than to be led by a God and stand out, so they sacrificed one aspect of their holiness for it.

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In the immediate context of 1 Samuel 8, the people were concerned about Samuel being prepared to die and without an heir to act in his place.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations." - 1 Samuel 8:4-5

It seems they felt that their nation's prosperity was tied up in having a leader who could be accessed at any time to rescue them or tell them what to do. This is seen by God as a rejection, I suppose, because it did not trust in God for the sake of his promise but only if there were a good representative immediately available.

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In light of the mess in the Book of Judges, it seems that the Hebrews were missing social cohesion which a monarch could provide. Samuel is preserving a level of skepticism to this unification, which seems to be vindicaded in the generations prior to Josiah.

This is one of the takeaways in the Oxford Handbook to Biblical Studies, so more info can be found there.

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    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 13:22
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Well it says it right there in your quotes: the elders didn’t want to lead the army to the wars themselves and they wanted a central command established. The reason being that this type of power structure is more efficient (as other nations success showed).

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