Add parallel Print Page Options

Israel’s Demand for a King

When Samuel grew old he appointed his sons as judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second son was Abijah. They were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after gain, they took bribes, and they perverted justice.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “Look, you are old and your sons do not follow in your ways. So then appoint a king for us to judge[a] us, like all the nations. But the matter was displeasing to Samuel[b] when they said, “Give us a king to judge[c] us,” so Samuel prayed to Yahweh.

Then Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people concerning all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Like all the deeds they have done from the day I brought them up from Egypt until this day, they have forsaken me and have served other gods—so they are doing to you also. And so then, listen to their voice. However, you must earnestly warn them; you must explain to them the custom of the king who will rule over them.”

10 So Samuel spoke all the words of Yahweh to the people who were requesting a king from him. 11 He said, “This will be the custom of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and his horsemen, and they will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and those to do his plowing[d] and to reap his harvest, and those to make weapons of war and the equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters as his perfume makers and as cooks and as bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive trees and will give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your seed and your vineyards and give it to his high officials and to his servants. 16 He will take your male slaves and your female slaves and the best of your young men[e] and your donkeys and will use them for his projects.[f] 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks,[g] and you yourselves will become his servants. 18 So you will cry out on that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but Yahweh will not answer you on that day!” 19 However, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel and they said, “No, but there must be a king over us, 20 so that we also[h] may be like all the nations, and our king may rule us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 Now when Samuel heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of Yahweh. 22 Then Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice, and appoint a king for them.” So Samuel spoke to the men of Israel, “Each of you go to his own town.”


  1. 1 Samuel 8:5 Or “to rule”
  2. 1 Samuel 8:6 Literally “was evil in the eyes of Samuel”
  3. 1 Samuel 8:6 Or “to rule”
  4. 1 Samuel 8:12 Literally “to plow his plowing”
  5. 1 Samuel 8:16 LXX reads “cattle”
  6. 1 Samuel 8:16 Literally “will put them to his work”
  7. 1 Samuel 8:17 The Hebrew term refers collectively to both sheep and goats (small livestock animals)
  8. 1 Samuel 8:20 Literally “even we”