1 Samuel 8

1 Samuel was old, but he still had many years remaining. Samuel must have recognized the trouble Israel had without spiritual leadership, so he desired to raise up his sons as the next spiritual leaders for Israel.
2 Samuel probably sent his sons to minister to the southern Israelites while he ministered to the northern Israelites.
3 After God's judgement against Eli it seems unlikely that Samuel would have been careless in raising his sons (1 Sam 2:27-36, 1 Sam 3:12-14). Nevertheless, his sons decided to take advantage of their positions and acted wickedly while away from the influence of their father.
5 The Israelites could see from history that their nation became disorganized quickly without centralized leadership. The people were disappointed that their spiritual leadership had twice become riddled with corruption in recent memory. They felt it was time to have an appointed, secular leader.
6 Israel was supposed to be a nation led by God. It was bad enough that the people could not make right decisions on their own without strong spiritual leaders, but now they wanted a leader that would not be "distracted" by ministering in the house of God. Samuel was greatly distressed that Israel wanted to become a secular nation because he could only see that they would drift even farther from God.
7 Of course, Samuel took some of the criticism personally. Even his own sons had rejected his example. But God points out that it was not Samuel that the people wanted to replace.

The Israelites had always had a problem with following God, from the time of the Exodus until now. Following God is difficult because He is invisible and often silent for long periods of time. He wants us to live obediently based on faith, memory, and intelligence. Unfortunately, most of us find obedience difficult if someone else does not "force" us to be obedient.

A human king would provide a leader they could see and hear. His specific duties would be to organize the nation and presumably make it more resistant to attack or defeat. What they failed to realize was that God had organized them and protected them, and only when they were disobedient did they became disorganized and defeated. They also failed to recognize that they would still become disorganized and defeated if they were disobedient, even with a king.

9 As will often happen, if people insist on sinning God will allow them to do so. However, we must never forget that God will judge or actions, and that the punishment for sin is far worse than any gain we could obtain from it.
11 Up to this time Israel had no standing army. Fighting men volunteered their lives only when circumstances called for it. A king would enlist anyone he chose to and would make them serve his purposes whether they wanted to or not for however long he desired.
12 And a king would do much more than enlist soldiers. He would force others to do hard labor for him. These laborers would be building up the king's assets, and not their own.
13 The Israelite women would also be enlisted for other tasks. Having a dedicated perfumer was undoubtedly a luxury that very few Israelites had. The list of king Solomon's daily provisions leads us to believe that many cooks would be needed to feed the king and his guests (1 Ki 4:22-23).
14 In addition to the king's own daily needs, he would need to gather more foodstuffs for his servants and officers. As a common rule, the king received the best of what was available. Thus, it is possible in some instances that the king's lowest servant might eat better than most Israelites.
15 The king would have to instate taxes to fund his government. The Israelites were already commanded to give 10-15% of their earnings each year as tithes to God (although it seems evident that most Israelites ignored this). God prescribed that the king would get the next 10% of an Israelite's earnings. Perhaps we do not see this as so bad since in the United States we might typically pay 25-40% in taxes while other countries have even higher tax rates.
16 The king can and would take the best of everything for himself.
17 And taxes would not be the end of it. The people would be compelled to do whatever the king wanted.
18 Some kings would become oppressive and the people would cry out, just as they did when their ancestors were enslaved to Pharaoh.
20 Even with these stern warnings the people were deluded in their imagination that some gallant warrior would make their nation strong, safe, and prosperous. They could have had all this and more if they had followed God, but they wanted to run the nation their own way. They could not see that they would give up many of their freedoms to have a political leader.
21 This does not mean that God didn't hear the people the first time. It means that Samuel went to God in prayer about this very serious matter.
22 God would allow them to have a king, but He would not let them choose their own king. The people were to return to their cities until God told Samuel which man would be king.