1 Samuel 8, 1-9
Something to read
And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba.
And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
King James Version
When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to govern us.’
Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you.
New Revised Standard Version
Something to think about
The Old Testament prophets were speaking in the context of a social system controlled by the elites of the rich and powerful, often exploiting the poor in serving their own interests. Although the conflict between the systems of power and the will of God runs through the Old Testament, the rise of the monarchy will intensify the rule of oppression.
The elders of Israel approach the prophet Samuel requesting a king. But kingship is a challenge to Israel as God's covenant people. Despite the allusion to the unjust practice of Samuel's sons, the message is clear – a king would threaten their standing as an alternative religious community in the world. They are not like 'the other nations'. God will give them a king, but warns them of the consequences.
Christian Aid is unafraid to appeal to the people of God today, and does so in challenging the systems of power when they oppress. The modern world is a complex one, and so, correspondingly, are the means of oppression today.
But Christian Aid estimates that $160bn is being lost to developing countries through tax dodging by some unscrupulous multinational companies. This is more than the entire global aid budget and could pay for vital services such as healthcare and education.
Can this be the world God wants? As the people of God, can we not challenge this?
Something to do
Note down everything you have bought over the last couple of days. Spend a moment thinking about the vast web of financial interactions that this involves you in. How does this make you feel? Offer your thoughts to God.
Something to pray
God of the ages,
May we be your people,
May we choose to serve you,
May we know your will.
Today's contributor is Kate Tuckett, Christian Aid's Church Resources Manager.