Now, the Israelites have moved into the land of Canaan and have been battling the people there, following the plan that God had set out for them. As each of the tribes settle into their land, God remains the King over all of them with a series of “judges”, who are more like leaders to help rescue them militarily from their enemies.
However, there comes a point at which the people go to the prophet Samuel and say that they want a king over them. They want to be like the other nations, the other groups of people that live around them, and have a king to rule them.
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day. ”
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”1 Samuel 8
I see a couple of relevant points here. First, the Israelite people have already been in the process of walking away from God. They would leave him and sin as a nation, be punished by God, cry out to him for mercy, and then one of the Judges would lead the people against the enemies that are attacking them in their punishment.
Now, by asking for a king, the Israelites are formalizing their rejection of God as their King. This will continue the downward slide that they have already been on and formally marks the movement of the people away from being a people led by God and instead a people led by humans.
The second part is similar in that, by rejecting God as their king, the Israelites usher in, instead, the political state of Israel, leaving behind the spiritual state of a kingdom that is ruled by God. They want a political solution to their problems when, what they need, is to leave behind their sinful past and move forward under God.
Unfortunately, this is not what happens, and now, instead, the Israelites begin the long slide away from God.
Through a series of kings, starting with Saul, David, and Solomon, and continuing on through a breakup of the kingdom of Israel, we arrive at a point at which God brings more punishment upon the Israelites through the nation of Babylon as a result of the sin of the people. God uses Babylon to come and lay siege to Jerusalem, ultimately destroying the city, toppling the king, and ultimately sending the people into exile.
So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.
By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah, but the Babylonian army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured.
He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.
On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.2 Kings 25:1-10
So now the Israelites are taken out of the Promised Land and this begins a scattering of the people of Israel. This means, of course, that the people are no longer living as a nation in the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, but instead are sent into Babylon and then through successive kingdoms and rulers into other parts of the world as well.
For a little further study, the Bible Project has a great video on the concept of Exile in general, including touching on this exile at the hands of the Babylonians. Check it out here: