1 Samuel 8: "Give Us a King"

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 93–94

The Israelites’ success against the Philistines is told in 1 Samuel 7. After their victory, it seems that the Israelites would be more willing to do what Samuel asked of them. But they were still weak in faith. The Israelites did not want to follow Samuel. They demanded a king! They had rejected the Lord as their king. Chapter 8 of 1 Samuel records that the Lord comforted Samuel, telling him the people had not rejected Samuel but had rejected the Lord. Later, they changed from believing the ark of the covenant was the source of their protection to believing that having a strong leader was their key to success.Other surrounding nations had kings. Through the prophet Moses, however, the Lord told Israel they were a “peculiar” people to Him, meaning they were specially chosen and set apart from the world to be His people and to do the work of saving the rest of His children. Much of the law of Moses helped remind Israelites that they were different from other nations and promised them great blessings if they remained different and did not seek the acceptance and riches of the world. Of course the Israelites’ desire to be like those around them was not just a problem in ancient times. Today there are some Church members who want to live like the people around them who do not share the same beliefs and standards. Often the ways of the world are quite attractive.Without a strong testimony that God lives and that He gives us commandments for our good, we may choose to act a certain way because “everyone else is doing it” and lose the blessings of being God’s covenant people. In 1 Samuel 8 we are taught that the attractiveness of worldly practices tempted the Israelites and threatened their standing as a “peculiar people.”
king and people

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Samuel 8

Lucre (v. 3)Money 
Bribes (v. 3)To accept money or favors as payment to do something illegal or dishonest for someone else 
Howbeit yet (v. 9)But 
Manner (vv. 9, 11)Judgment or justice 
Goodliest (v. 16)Strongest, best 

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–D) as you study 1 Samuel 8.

Activity A iconWhat Will Happen?

The Lord had Samuel explain to the people what would happen if they had a king. Using 1 Samuel 8:10–18, write what would happen in each of the following cases if Israel had a king. For each, give a scripture reference that supports your answer.

  1. 1.

    The king decides that he needs more servants on his staff.

  2. 2.

    The king is offended by another king and decides to go to war to defend his honor.

  3. 3.

    The king sets the budget for his expenses and decides he needs more money.

  4. 4.

    The people are unhappy with the king and he learns of their complaints.

Activity B iconMotivations

  1. 1.

    Read 1 Samuel 8:1–9, 19–22 and explain why the people wanted a king.

  2. 2.

    What was wrong with their reason for desiring a king?

Activity C iconPrepare an Outline for a Talk

Suppose you are asked to give a talk on what Latter-day Saints can learn from 1 Samuel 8. List three main ideas you would include in your talk.

Activity D icon “Know This, That Every Soul Is Free”

What does 1 Samuel 8 teach you about the Lord, knowing that He still allowed the Israelites to have a king? (Alma 29:4–5 may help with your answer.)