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In the Book of 1st Samuel, Israel looks to Samuel to ask God for a king:

1 Samuel 8:4-7: "Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; 5and 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.' 6But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, 'Give us a king to judge us.' And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7The LORD said to Samuel, 'Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.'"

This request does not appear to ever be condemned in Scripture. In the Book of Deuteronomy, we read:

Deuteronomy 17:14-15: "When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ 15you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves"

Asking for a king was something foreseen by God. However, Israel is denounced as having sinned for doing so:

1 Samuel 12:19-20: "Then all the people said to Samuel, 'Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.' 20Samuel said to the people, 'Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart" (emphasis added).

A king had to be chosen eventually since David would be a type of Christ. Therefore, why was it considered "evil" for the people to request one in 1 Samuel 12?

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Why was Israel accused of “evil” by seeking a king?

Short Answer: Perhaps it was not asking for a king that was the problem: it was requesting a king like all the nations around them. This could not work for the benefit of the people, and, indeed, it did not.

The "evil" by the Israelites appears to occur in their following demand:

1 Samuel 8:5-7: "Then all the elders of Israel [said to Samuel], 'Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations' " (emphasis added).

God's intent was to keep Israel separate and distinct from "the nations." He did not want them to live the same worldly, sinful lives as the enemies that surrounded them. God knew, and even stated much earlier, that Israel would desire a king:

Deuteronomy 17:15: "[You] shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves"

It seems that merely asking for a king was not the problem at all. God knew this would occur — even though He felt this was a rejection of Him as their King.

Rather, it was Israel's expectation to be ruled just as their ungodly neighbors that appears to have provoked such a response. And, by asking for such a ruler, that seems to have been precisely what God gave them: a harsh, egotistical, and eventually maniacal King Saul, one the people came to dread and even despise.

God established the rules for the king of Israel in the Book of Deuteronomy (17:15b-20):

  1. He must not be a foreigner who is not your countryman.
  2. He shall not multiply horses for himself.
  3. He shall not cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses.
  4. He shall not multiply wives for himself.
  5. He shall not greatly increase silver and gold for himself.
  6. When he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.
  7. The Law shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God.
  8. He must carefully observe all the words of this law and its statutes.
  9. His heart must not be lifted up above his countrymen.
  10. He may not turn aside from the commandments so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.

Of course, eventually, God would give them a godly king, David, one in which they could rejoice. But that would not come to fruition until Saul's 42-year reign (1 Sam. 13:1) of misery finally came to an end.

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  • Very good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Aug 13 at 2:36
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The answer is revealed from the text.

but they have rejected Me from being king over them.

You are correct that the Kingly line would eventuate, but the act of seeking another ruler was akin to Adam rejecting God as the source of all truth and goodness.

God acquiesces to their request done through official channels of the prophet, but knows what the consequences will be-

Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall warn them strongly and tell them of the practice of the king who will reign over them.”

Warning concerning a King (bible comment NASB)

10So Samuel spoke all the words of the LORD to the people who had asked him for a king. 11And he said, “This will be the practice of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and put them in his chariots for himself and among his horsemen, and they will run before his chariots. 12He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to gather in his harvest, and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13He will also take your daughters and use them as perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15And he will take a tenth of your seed and your vineyards and give it to his high officials and his servants. 16He will also take your male servants and your female servants, and your best young men, and your donkeys, and use them for his work. 17He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. 18Then you will cry out on that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you on that day.” 1 Sam 8:9-

The reality is that their possessions will be withered away in many ways - far greater than the 10% God required and the offerings to a good cause. The Kings cause is rarely for the people!

So while the children of God had requested a new way forward, they would bring harm on themselves against God's desire to bless them, thereby generating an evil result on top of the evil in seeking a another king.

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It was Gods intent for Israel to have a king. You already quoted the section from Deuteronomy that confirms this.

They had to have a king - because the Messiah was to be their king. Their physical king on a physical (real) throne, set on Gods mountain - Zion, in Jerusalem. From this throne, Jesus would (will) rule the (other) nations. Those nations he gave over/away at Babel.

DEUT32: When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind the set up boundaries for the peoples

The issue was over choice. The people wanted to choose their king. Where as God wanted to use ‘his choice’. At the time of Samuel 8 Gods ‘choice’ was not yet ‘ready’. The Israelites looked at the ‘outside’, and wanted a warrior, a ‘fine specimen’ (handsome, tall, physically able). God wanted a man with the right ‘heart’.

Nevertheless God allowed them to have their choice.

1 SAM 8:21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

This matter is one in dispute, where theologians differ and argue apologetically. Some argue it was never Gods intention for the Israelites to have any other king other than himself. They have difficulty with the Deuteronomy verses you quoted. Nevertheless God always wanted (and still wants) a ‘representative’ for/of himself on earth.

Deuteronomy 17:14-15: ”When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you* whom the LORD your God chooses, *one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves"

In Old Testament times, this was via a King. Whatever ‘’’god’’’ the king had, was deemed (seen by God) to be the people’s choice.

The ‘evil’ attributed to the decision was because the choice came from man’s ‘heart’, from ‘self’ - and the Israelites rejected both Gods choice and timing.

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