The demand for a King
‘When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. … But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
This passage is dripping with irony. First Eli’s sons were no good and then Samuel’s sons were also bad and for this reason, the people want a king! The very definition of a King is that the sons (or daughters now for UK Royal family) regardless of how good they are will become the absolute ruler. So it’s very ironic that the reason they give for wanting a king is that Samuel’s sons are no good. We see the real reason come in verses 19-20:
‘But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a King to lead us and to go our before us and fight our battles.” (8:19-20).
‘V 20 shows that although the elders wanted Israel to be able to defeat other nations, they also wanted to adopt the patterns set by other nations. Consciously or unconsciously, God’s people are always under social pressure to conform to the ways of the world.’ (Payne). Paul warns us of the same danger:
‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ (Rom 12:2).