The God of Israel Rejected — 1 Samuel 8

Israel forsakes God and demands an earthly king to replace Yahweh's theocratic monarchy. Israel rejects Samuel's stern warning, and God relents.

The God of Israel Rejected — 1 Samuel 8
Sermon given during the Sunday Equipping Hour for adults and children at Grace Bible Church of Pleasant Hill on October 1, 2023.
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Before we look more closely at our text this morning, let's take a brief look at the events that take place between chapter three and chapter eight.

In 1 Samuel 3, we learned that the "word from Yahweh was rare," but God broke His extended period of silence and called Samuel to be His prophet.

  • And we read in 1 Samuel 4:1, "the word of Samuel [which was God's word] came to all Israel."

Samuel's prediction about Eli's family came true [in chapter 4] when Israel lost a battle with the Philistines.

  • "And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died." (4:11)
  • When he heard his sons were dead and the ark had been captured, "Eli fell off the seat backward...and his neck was broken, and he died." (4:18)
  • "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken." (4:22)

In chapter 5, we read that the Philistines stored the ark in the temple of Dagon.

  • The next morning, "Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of Yahweh." (5:3)
  • On the second day, "Dagon had fallen on his face to the found before the ark of Yahweh. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him." (5:4)
  • God sends a plague on every town where the Philistines store the ark. (5:6–12)
  • Eventually, they send the ark back with a guilt offering: "five golden tumors and five golden mice." (6:1–18)

Twenty years after these events (7:2), Samuel rallied Israel.

  • He challenged Israel to destroy their idols and serve God (7:2–4) as Joshua did in Joshua 24.
  • Samuel, serving as Israel's priest, offered sacrifices at Mizpah. (7:5–9)
  • God helped Israel overcome the Philistines (7:11).
  • "So the Philistines were subdued,...Thus Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. " (7:13, 15)

Samuel was a great leader. He was prophet (3:19–20), priest (7:9), and judge (7:15).

  • He led a national reformation and spiritual awakening.
  • He interceded for his people.
  • No other judge surpasses him in moral excellence.
  • And yet, despite his effort, we come to the events recorded in 1 Samuel 8.

We will divide Chapter 8 into four main sections.

  • (1) Israel Demands a King, (2) Israel Forsakes God, (3) Israel Is Warned, and (4) Israel Rejects God.

1. Israel Demands a King (v.1–5)

Even though Samuel was a great leader, there is now a crisis in leadership.

A. Aged Leadership

"Samuel was old" (v.1a) - about 60 years old [MSB]

B. Nepotistic Leadership

"[Samuel] appointed his sons judges over Israel" (v.1b)

  • Samuel contributed to this problem by appointing his sons. There had not been hereditary judges before; Gideon rejected this idea [ESVSB]
  • But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; Yahweh shall rule over you.” (Jdg 8:23)
  • "Beersheba" (v.2) is about 90 miles south of Ramah [MSB]
    • Samuel did not intend to abdicate his role in Ramah just because he had appointed his son. [CSBSB]

C. Unqualified Leadership

"his sons did not walk in his ways" (v.3a)

  • Instead of imitating the ways of their father, Samuel's sons turned out to be much like Eli's sons [CSBSB]
    "turned aside after greedy gain and took bribes and caused justice to turn aside." (v.3b)
  • They directly violated God's law
  • "You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous." (Deut 16:19)

D. Rejected Leadership

[The elders of Israel] said to [Samuel],"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. (v.5)

  • "The elders of Israel" probably referred to the leaders of the family clans and tribes as described in Deut 31:28. [FSB]
  • They reject the leadership to remain held by Samuel and his sons.
  • Instead they asked Samuel to appoint a king so they can be "like all the nations."
  • The elders still appreciate Samuel's leadership by requesting him specifically to appoint a king. [CSBSB]

Clarification: The reasons for wanting a king were acceptable as confirmed by verses 1–3.

  • God had given Israel permission to appoint a king. (Deut 17:14–20)
  • But their true intention was to become "like all the nations."
  • This becomes more clear in verse 20.


  • Are you tempted to follow those around you instead of following God?
  • "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Rom 12:2a)
  • Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." (1Cor 15:33)

2. Israel Forsakes God (v.6–9)

"But the thing was evil in the sight of Samuel" (v.6a)

  • Samuel was troubled, saddened, and hurt. He likely felt unappreciated and personally rejected.
  • It's painful to feel undesired and to be told you are no longer needed or wanted.


  • Have you ever felt rejected by people?
  • A friend stops being your friend. Your friend has a birthday party and everyone receives an invitation except you.
  • Some of you may have had a parent or spouse abandon you.
  • Pastors can feel hurt if their church members look for another church.
  • Likewise, church members can feel neglected when they receive little care or attention from their pastors or fellow church members.
  • Notice how Samuel responds when he felt dejected. "Samuel prayed to Yahweh." (v.6b)

Then Yahweh said to Samuel, "Listen...they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them."

  • So God reassures Samuel that they are not rejecting Samuel. They are rejecting God.
  • Samuel had served Israel faithfully for the last 50+ years.
  • God had been with Israel from Abraham through the Exodus to the present day over 1,000 years.
  • They are laying aside a theocratic monarchy for an earthly kingship. [NIVBT]
  • "They have forsaken Me and served other gods." (v.8b)


  • It is one thing for you, a mere human being, to feel unwanted and unappreciated.
  • But the grossest travesty of justice is the Sovereign Creator God personally rejected by His own creation.
  • Paul writes, “For even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Rom 1:21)
  • There are only two groups of people in this room this morning. You either acknowledge God and Christ Jesus as your Lord and Sovereign Master, or you reject God and serve another god, an idol, another king.
  • There is no in between. Which group are you in today? The answer to this question determines your final destiny.

So Israel demands a king because Israel is forsaking God. Now we see that Israel is warned.

3. Israel Is Warned (v.10–18)

God instructed Samuel in verse 9, “You shall testify to them.”

  • “solemnly warn them” (ESV, NIV, NASB) is a legal expression that implies giving someone full knowledge of an action. [ESVSB]
  • “Solemnly testify” (LSB) sounds a somber note in the midst of a message of acquiescence. [CSBSB]
  • Samuel gives four specific warnings in the following verses.

A. Draft young men and women for service (v.11–13)

“He will take your sons and appoint them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen, and they will run before his chariots.” (v.11)

  • This Hebrew verb, translated “take”, appears at least four times in this passage. [NIVBT]

    • Yahweh is a giver. Your earthly king will be a taker.
  • Throughout this entire section, the people and property that the king appropriates occur in the first position of the Hebrew sentence for the purpose of emphasis. [NIVBT]

    • "Your sons, the king will take. Your daughters, he will also take." (paraphrase)
    • Israel’s desire for a king will be costly.
  • "Chariots" are instruments of war, (Judg 4:13) but having men run before his chariots was a status symbol.

    • The prototypical example was when David’s son Absolom demanded 50 runners to run before his chariots in 2 Samuel 15:1. [ESVSB]
  • According to verse 12, some men will serve as commanders over conscripted units. Others will make weapons of war and military equipment.

“He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers.” (v.13)

  • To support his army, the king will command young women to provide food and comforts. Their roles, often demeaning, would support the royal lifestyle. [CSBSB]
  • The king will take the best young men and women.

B. Levy burdensome taxes (v.14–15, 17a)

“He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants.” (v.14)

  • This goes beyond what is needed for the government. This predicts the corrupting influence of a king’s power. [ESVSB]
  • “His servants” refers to his high-ranking officials.
  • The Mosaic law commanded tithes to support the priests and Levites, but a king would demand much more to meet his selfish desires.
  • King Saul will fulfill this exact description to maintain his kingship in 1 Samuel 22:7–8.

C. Take the best of their animals and servants. (v.16)

“He will also take your male slaves and your female slaves and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work.” (v.16)

  • The king will seize the best human resources: best musicians, best craftsmen, and the best workers.
  • All the best men and property will be sequestered not for the benefit of the people but for the benefit of the king.
  • King Solomon will use 30,000 forced laborers for his building projects in 1 Kings 5:13.

D. Place limitations on their personal freedom. (v.17b)

“You yourselves will become his slaves.” (v.17b)

  • Citizens of the United States enjoy a country whose forefathers wrote a Constitution that values freedom and liberty.
  • The king of Israel will make his people his slaves. He will take away their personal freedom and individual liberty.


  • (1) Drafting elite men and women, (2) levying onerous taxes, (3) seizing prime real estate and laborers, and (4) restricting personal freedom. Is this something you would ask for?
  • But this is “the custom of the king” during the time of the Ancient Near East.
  • Israel’s Canaanite neighbors were guilty of these harsh practices.
  • This is what Israel was asking. They wanted to be “like all the nations.”

Samuel concludes this stern warning, “Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but Yahweh will not answer you in that day.” (v.18)

  • “cry out” is a verb used frequently in the book of Judges. This Hebrew verb always has a negative connotation. To cry out is to plead for help and deliverance. [CSBSB]
    • “Then the sons of Israel cried [out] to Yahweh, and Yahweh raised up [Othniel]for the sons of Israel to save them.” (Judg 3:9)
    • ”Then the sons of Israel cried [out] to Yahweh, and Yahweh raised up a savior for them, Ehud…” (Judg 3:15)
    • “The sons of Israel cried out to Yahweh on account of Midian” (Judg 6:7)
    • And the sons of Israel cried out to Yahweh, saying, “We have sinned against You, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals.” (Judg 10:10)
  • In the book of Judges, every time Israel cried out, God would be moved with pity and deliver His people.
  • But God’s message to Israel is this: “you will cry out…because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but Yahweh will not answer you in that day.”
  • Samuel warned the people that they would live to regret their decision.
  • So what was Israel’s response.

4. Israel Rejects God (v.19–22)

“Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us.” (v.19)

  • By not listening to Samuel's voice which in essence, is God's voice, they discarded God’s warning and ignored God’s consternation.
  • The verb “to listen” can also be translated “to obey.” [CSBSB]
  • Like a child throwing a tantrum in defiance against his mother and father, Israel defied God.
  • In the Hebrew of verses 19–20, the pronouns “we,” “our,” and “us” appear seven times, reflecting Israel’s self-centeredness. [NIVBT]
  • The people demanded a king, and they gave three reasons.

“That we also may be like all the nations” (v.20a)

  • Instead of wanting to be holy, set apart, and consecrated to God, Israel wanted to be like the world.

“That our king may judge us.” (v.20b)

  • Instead of wanting God to rule over them and an intercessor like Samuel, Israel pleaded for an earthly king.

“That our king may…go out before us and fight our battles.” (v.20c)

  • The sin was not wanting a king. The transgression was assuming an earthly king could secure greater power, victory, and salvation than the One True God.
  • God had always fought Israel's battles.
  • When God caused the sun to stand still at Gibeon, “there was no day like that before it or after it, when Yahweh listened to the voice of a man; for Yahweh fought for Israel.” (Josh 10:14)
  • Israel no longer wanted God to fight their battles. They desired to replace God with a human king.
  • And God relents.

Then Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.”

Each time I read 1 Samuel 8, I’m baffled.

  • It’s one thing to reject God when you are in a miserable state, and you lose faith and confidence that God is loving and merciful.
    • It would still be sin, but at least it’s humanly understandable.
  • Israel was at a high point in their history compared to the previous 300 years, and yet they forsook God. They rejected God. They wanted to replace God. They committed cosmic treason.


  • This betrayal of God continues today.
  • Some of you in this room have not heeded God's warning. You have refused.
  • God created you in His image in His likeness for His glory.
  • While we were yet sinners, God demonstrates His love and offers to redeem us through the blood of Jesus poured out as a substitutionary atonement.
  • If you have not surrendered yourself to God, you have rejected God. You have committed cosmic treason.
  • Don’t presume that you have ample time to cry out to God.
  • God promised Israel if they rejected Him for an earthly king, they would be sorry. When they cry out to God, God will not listen.
  • Today is the day for salvation.
  • Today is the day to confess to God that you have sinned and fallen short.
  • Today is the day to cry out to Him that you need forgiveness that only God can grant through Jesus’s death and resurrection.
  • If you do not receive God as your King, Samuel warns you that one day “you will cry out…, but Yahweh will not answer you in that day.”