Beginning of the End


Saul, the First King of Israel

This chapter is based on 1 Samuel 8 to 12.

The government of Israel was administered in the name of God. The work of Moses, of the seventy elders, of the rulers and judges, was simply to enforce the laws that God had given—they had no authority to make laws for the nation. This was the condition on which Israel was to exist as a nation. BOE 304.1

The Lord saw ahead that Israel would want a king, but He did not change the principles on which the state was founded. The king was to be the deputy of the Most High. God was the head of the nation. (See Appendix, Note 7.) BOE 304.2

When the Israelites first settled in Canaan, the nation prospered under the rule of Joshua. But interaction with other nations brought a change. The people adopted many of the customs of their heathen neighbors and no longer appreciated the honor of being God’s chosen people. Attracted by the pomp and display of heathen kings, they became tired of their own simplicity. Jealousy sprang up between the tribes and internal quarreling made them weak. They had to deal with invasion by heathen enemies, and the people were starting to believe that the tribes must be united under a strong central government. They wanted to be free from the rule of their divine Sovereign—the demand for a king became widespread throughout Israel. BOE 304.3

Under Samuel’s administration the nation had prospered, order had been restored, godliness promoted, and the spirit of discontent held back for the time. But when he got older, the prophet appointed his two sons to act as his assistants. The young men were stationed at Beersheba to administer justice among the people near the southern border of the land. BOE 304.4

They did not turn out to be worthy but “turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.” They had not copied the pure, unselfish life of their father. To some extent he had been too permissive with his sons, and the result was plain to see in their character. BOE 304.5

This gave the people a pretext for urging the change they had secretly desired for a long time. “All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said unto him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’” If Samuel had known about the evil course of his sons, he would have removed them immediately, but this was not what the people wanted. Samuel saw that their real motive was discontent and pride. No one had complained against Samuel. Everyone acknowledged that he had governed with integrity and wisdom. The old prophet did not give a rebuke, but he carried the matter to the Lord in prayer and sought counsel from Him alone. BOE 304.6