Before we get to young Saul and the missing donkeys, let’s just note the decision to have a King at all in I Samuel 8:10-22. God just flat out tells the prophet Samuel that it is a bad idea. Sam tells the people that God says: A King will take: your sons to take to war (and kill), control of the land, daughters, the best fields and vineyards, one tenth of your harvest, your best slaves, your best cattle, your flocks. God in these verses is clear that Kings are those who take to either keep for themselves or to give to their soldiers or courtiers, those in his favor. It is grim reading actually. However, people need organization and really, despite God and Samuel’s disappointment, the book of Judges is rather proof that people cannot just do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord. Things get very grim. Perhaps the people think that things have grown past a family/tribe-style organization, things are past needing Judges to make decisions, things are at the point where the people want to “be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
Really we all still want a hero, don’t you think? And perhaps actual good government is more day-by-day properness and honor and steadfastness than heroism. Perhaps our love these days of superhero movies is this ancient longing for someone to fight our battles, to take care of us.
Well Saul has warned them that they won’t likely find a hero only a taker. God says fine, but don’t come crying to me when it goes south. Then everyone goes home. Apparently the decision for a king is one thing. Finding a king is something else.