I Samuel 8:1-22 The Bondage Of Monarchial Statism.

I Samuel 8:1-22 The Bondage Of Monarchial Statism.

Samuel was dedicated to the service of the LORD before he was born, and would eventually replace Eli’s unfaithful sons. It must have been disheartening to then find that his own sons were equally as corrupt as leaders in the community – taking bribes and perverting justice (vv. 1-3). A dark chapter in Samuel’s life, one of the guards against such perversion was that leadership was not based on birth, as is the case with monarchies. It was an obvious problem with the priesthood as well, as the case of Eli’s sons show. In rejecting the word of the LORD, which held the LORD alone as King, the elders simply wanted a king to judge them “like all the nations” (v. 5).

The LORD was clear, in seeking a king like all the nations the people were rejecting his reign (v. 8). It was part and parcel of their idolatry which they were guilty of from the moment of being delivered from bondage. Samuel was instructed to grant their wish as a punishment on them, and a further bondage which they sought (vv. 10ff.). So great would be the bondage that the monarchy would extract a tax equal to the tithe of 10%. How much greater bondage is suffered today with governments extracting more than half of what people earn! They imagined that the king would fight their battles for them, and so people continue to trust in humanity more than the LORD God.

It is true that the LORD God allowed for them wanting a king, the same way he allowed for polygamy. However, just as the prohibition against adultery still applied with marriage to many, even so the LORD laid down rules that they were to follow when the time came when they would want a king (Dt. 17:14-20). The fact is “You shall appoint judges…” (Dt. 16:18), is contracted with “When you…say, ‘I will set a king over me…'” (17:14). It is true, nonetheless, that they did not follow the prescriptions for what the LORD would “allow”. He would need to be one chosen by the LORD, and could not be a foreigner (v. 15), was not to multiply horses including going to a foreigner like Egypt for them (v. 16)

He was also not to multiply wives lest their hearts turn away, which may mean foreign wives, “nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself” (v. 17). The most important thing any future king was to do was to “write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it 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 and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.” (vv. 18b-20)

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