The Birth of Taxes


1 Samuel 8:10-22
10So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

Because the sons of Samuel were unfit as spiritual leaders, the people begin to look elsewhere for guidance. They compare themselves to the Canaanite communities around them and begin to covet having a king to rule them. They are no longer interested in being a part of God’s theocracy. Instead they want a monarchy, like everyone around them. Their rejection of God continues to demand that the culture be transformed.

Samuel is 100% against this idea. One might think it was because he would be replaced as leader by this new king. I think that Samuel is truly grieved by the people’s rejection of God. But instead of appealing to their sense of dedication to the Lord, he lets them know what’s coming, not in their relationship with God, but in their relationship with a human king. This new king will impose upon their resources. He will demand that the young men become part of the army, their daughters will be pressed into service as cooks, maids, and bakers. And now they will pay taxes, for a king’s household requires cash. All of these warnings fall on deaf ears.

“No! But there shall be a king over us, 20that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

The remarkable thing to me about this response is that the Lord has brought peace to the land. The Hebrews haven’t been attacked for a long time because Samuel has led well, and God has responded with His divine protection. The desire to be like all the nations is a strange demand considering they are in a good place at the time. But we never seem to be content when we look at what other people have, even when what we hold in our hands is better. I have no idea why that is, but it still seems true today. That covetous nature will always be our undoing.

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