Israel Asks for a King

Chapter 8 When Samuel was old, he appointed his sons to be judges for Israel. Samuel’s first son was named Joel. His second son was named Abijah. Joel and Abijah were judges in Beersheba. But Samuel’s sons did not live the same way he did. Joel and Abijah accepted bribes. They took money secretly and changed their decisions in court. They cheated people in court. So all the elders of Israel met together and went to Ramah to meet with Samuel. The elders said to Samuel, “You’re old, and your sons don’t live right. They are not like you. Now, give us a king to rule us like all the other nations.”

So the elders asked for a king to lead them. Samuel thought this was a bad idea, so he prayed to the Lord. The Lord told Samuel, “Do what the people tell you. They have not rejected you. They have rejected me. They don’t want me to be their king. They are doing the same thing they have always done. I took them out of Egypt, but they left me and served other gods. They are doing the same to you. So listen to the people and do what they say. But give them a warning. Tell the people what a king will do to them. Tell them how a king rules people.”

10 Those people asked for a king. So Samuel told them everything the Lord said. 11 Samuel said, “If you have a king ruling over you, this is what he will do: He will take away your sons and force them to serve him. He will force them to be soldiers—they must fight from his chariots and become horse soldiers in his army. Your sons will become guards running in front of the king’s chariot.

12 “A king will force your sons to become soldiers. He will choose which of your sons will be officers over 1000 men and which will be officers over 50 men.

“A king will force some of your sons to plow his fields and gather his harvest. He will force some of your sons to make weapons for war and to make things for his chariots.

13 “A king will take your daughters and force some of them to make perfume for him and some to cook and bake for him.

14 “A king will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves. He will take them from you and give them to his officers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and grapes, and he will give them to his officers and servants.

16 “A king will take your men and women servants. He will take your best cattle and your donkeys. He will use them all for his own work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks.

“And you yourselves will become slaves of this king. 18 When that time comes, you will cry because of the king you chose. But the Lord won’t answer you at that time.”

19 But the people would not listen to Samuel. They said, “No, we want a king to rule over us. 20 Then we will be the same as all the other nations. Our king will lead us. He will go before us and fight our battles.”

21 Samuel listened to the people and then repeated their words to the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

Then Samuel told the Israelites, “You will have a king. Now go home.”

Samuel Goes to Bethlehem

Chapter 16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you feel sorry for Saul? I have rejected him as king of Israel. Fill your horn[a] with oil and go to Bethlehem. I am sending you to Jesse who lives in Bethlehem, because I have chosen one of his sons to be the new king.”

But Samuel said, “If I go, Saul will hear the news and try to kill me.”

The Lord said, “Go to Bethlehem. Take a young calf with you and tell them, ‘I have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice. Then I will show you what to do. You must anoint the person I show you.”

Samuel did what the Lord told him to do and went to Bethlehem. The elders of Bethlehem shook with fear. They met Samuel and asked, “Do you come in peace?”

Samuel answered, “Yes, I come in peace. I come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Prepare yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Samuel prepared Jesse and his sons. Then he invited them to come and share the sacrifice.

When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the man who the Lord has chosen.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Eliab is tall and handsome, but don’t judge by things like that. God doesn’t look at what people see. People judge by what is on the outside, but the Lord looks at the heart. Eliab is not the right man.”

Then Jesse called his second son, Abinadab. Abinadab walked by Samuel. But Samuel said, “No, this is not the man who the Lord chose.”

Then Jesse told Shammah to walk by Samuel. But Samuel said, “No, the Lord did not choose this man, either.”

10 Jesse showed seven of his sons to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these men.”

11 Then he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

Jesse answered, “No, I have another son—my youngest, but he is out taking care of the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him. Bring him here. We won’t sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 Jesse sent someone to get his youngest son. This son was a good-looking, healthy[b] young man. He was very handsome.

The Lord said to Samuel, “Get up and anoint him. He is the one.”

13 Samuel took the horn with the oil in it, and poured the special oil on Jesse’s youngest son in front of his brothers. The Spirit of the Lord came on David with great power from that day on. Then Samuel went back home to Ramah.

An Evil Spirit Bothers Saul

14 The Lord’s Spirit left Saul. Then the Lord sent an evil spirit to Saul that caused him much trouble. 15 Saul’s servants said to him, “An evil spirit from God is bothering you. 16 Give us the command and we will look for someone who can play the harp. If the evil spirit from God comes on you, this person will play music for you. Then you will feel better.”

17 So Saul said to his servants, “Find someone who plays music well and bring him to me.”

18 One of the servants said, “There is a man named Jesse living in Bethlehem. I saw Jesse’s son. He knows how to play the harp. He is also a brave man and fights well. He is smart and handsome, and the Lord is with him.”

19 So Saul sent messengers to Jesse. They told Jesse, “You have a son named David. He takes care of your sheep. Send him to me.”

20 So Jesse got some things as a gift for Saul. Jesse got a donkey, some bread and a leather bag full of wine, and a young goat. He gave them to David and sent him to Saul. 21 So David went to Saul and stood in front of him. Saul loved David very much. David became the helper who carried Saul’s weapons. 22 Saul sent a message to Jesse. “Let David stay and serve me. I like him very much.”

23 Any time the evil spirit from God came on Saul, David would take his harp and play it. The evil spirit would leave Saul and he would begin to feel better.


  1. 1 Samuel 16:1 horn An animal’s horn is hollow and often used like a bottle.
  2. 1 Samuel 16:12 healthy The Hebrew word means “red,” “ruddy,” or “red-haired.”

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