Why Did Israel Still Want a King after Samuel’s Warning?

In 1 Samuel 8, the prophet Samuel warns the elders of Israel that they will be miserable under the rule of a human king who is like the kings of “all the other nations.” Instead of listening to Samuel, they demand a king anyway. Why would they do this when Samuel, a man they trusted and a man who spoke to God, educated them about the facts of life under a monarchy?

My seminary professor used to tell me that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Facts alone often do not change a person’s choices or behavior. Dale Ralph Davis, in 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (Focus on the Bible Commentaries), puts it this way:

Israel’s muleheadedness should instruct us. It teaches us, for example, that knowledge or information or truth does not in itself change or empower. (Our society has not learned this. Watch television news clips that discuss some contemporary social or moral problem. Interviewers ask an expert what needs to be done. Usually the answer is that we must get or use funds to educate people about the harmful effects of the current villain. It is the education fallacy, and the fallacy assumes that if people only know that something will destroy them they will leave it alone. It never reckons with intrinsic stupidity.) Education may clarify; it cannot transform.

Human persons are composed of intellect, emotions, and will. You have to win over all three to get a person to change his behavior.  I can tell you what the consequences of committing a certain sin are, and I can have all my facts documented, but if you are emotionally bought into that sin, and if you desire that sin with all your heart, then my facts will simply bounce off you.

Davis concludes,

Israel then hears God’s wisdom but does not submit to it; God gives her instruction but she is not teachable. Which should lead God’s current people to cry out for a soft heart, for a teachable spirit, for preservation from the arrogance of our own stupidity. ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice’ (Prov. 12:15, RSV).