Problem: The Scriptures testify to the fact that God had planned for Israel to have a king. Deuteronomy 17:14–20 specifically lays down the rules for selecting a king in Israel. However, when the people of Israel requested that Samuel appoint a king, the Lord told Samuel that the people “have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Sam. 8:7). How could God condemn Israel’s request for a king when He had already given them the guidelines for selecting a king?
Solution: The context of 1 Samuel 8 indicates that the people had the wrong motive and employed the wrong method in seeking a king for themselves. First of all, the people had the wrong motive for seeking a king. In the first verse of chapter 8 we read that Samuel was old when he appointed his sons to be judges in Israel. However, Samuel’s sons did not do right in the eyes of God. When the people came to Samuel they requested that he appoint a king, not because they wanted to have God’s man to rule over them. Rather, they wanted to have a man rule over them. The people had mistaken God’s administration through Samuel for Samuel’s acts. At Saul’s inauguration, Samuel reminded the people that it was “your God, who Himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations” (1 Sam. 10:19). They completely ignored the fact that it was God who protected them and led them, not Samuel or any human king whom Samuel would appoint. Consequently, it was not Samuel whom they were rejecting. Rather it was God whom they were rejecting.
Second, they failed to seek the Lord concerning a king to rule over them. They did not bother to ask for God’s guidance. They simply requested that Samuel appoint a king. When the elders of Israel came to Samuel, they said, “Now make for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (8:5). However, in Deuteronomy 17:15 God specifically stated that the people would set a king over them “whom the Lord your God chooses.” The request of the people in 1 Samuel betrays their lack of consideration for God’s part in the process. They had truly rejected God from ruling over them. The Lord was displeased with the people because they did not seek God’s man, and they did not employ God’s method.