Concerns Regarding the Monarchy

Introduction

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Contradictory Attitudes to Kingship

Does Tanakh view the monarchy as a positive or negative institution?  On one hand, already in the Patriarchal period, Hashem promises Avraham and Yaakov that "kings will emerge" from their descendants.1 In Devarim 17, too, Hashem tells the nation, "שׂוֹם תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ", commanding (or at least permitting) them to anoint a king.2 Sefer Shofetim similarly ends with a call for kingship as it criticizes the government of the era, "בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם אֵין מֶלֶךְ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אִישׁ הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו יַעֲשֶׂה".‎3

Yet, when the nation requests a monarch in Shemuel I 8, they are met with resistance:

EN/HEע/E
(ו) וַיֵּרַע הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינֵי שְׁמוּאֵל כַּאֲשֶׁר אָמְרוּ תְּנָה לָּנוּ מֶלֶךְ לְשׇׁפְטֵנוּ וַיִּתְפַּלֵּל שְׁמוּאֵל אֶל י"י. (ז) וַיֹּאמֶר י"י אֶל שְׁמוּאֵל שְׁמַע בְּקוֹל הָעָם לְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יֹאמְרוּ אֵלֶיךָ כִּי לֹא אֹתְךָ מָאָסוּ כִּי אֹתִי מָאֲסוּ מִמְּלֹךְ עֲלֵיהֶם.
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הִנֵּה אַתָּה זָקַנְתָּ וּבָנֶיךָ לֹא הָלְכוּ בִּדְרָכֶיךָ עַתָּה שִׂימָה לָּנוּ מֶלֶךְ לְשׇׁפְטֵנוּ כְּכׇל הַגּוֹיִם.
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הִנֵּה אַתָּה זָקַנְתָּ וּבָנֶיךָ לֹא הָלְכוּ בִּדְרָכֶיךָ עַתָּה שִׂימָה לָּנוּ מֶלֶךְ לְשׇׁפְטֵנוּ כְּכׇל הַגּוֹיִם.
And they said unto him: 'Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.'
And they said unto him: 'Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.'
(6) But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said: 'Give us a king to judge us.' And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. (7) And the Lord said unto Samuel: 'Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not be king over them.

How are we to understand these contradictory attitudes towards kingship?  Why in Sefer Shemuel do Hashem and the prophet find the people's request for a king so problematic?

King as Warrior or Judge?

What did the nation expect of their king?  Were they looking for him to fill an administrative, judicial, or military role? They tell Shemuel:

EN/HEע/E
(ה) וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הִנֵּה אַתָּה זָקַנְתָּ וּבָנֶיךָ לֹא הָלְכוּ בִּדְרָכֶיךָ עַתָּה שִׂימָה לָּנוּ מֶלֶךְ לְשׇׁפְטֵנוּ כְּכׇל הַגּוֹיִם.
(5) And they said unto him: 'Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.'

The explicit mention of judging ("לְשׇׁפְטֵנוּ") and the fact that the request is connected to criticism of the corrupt practices of Shemuel's sons suggests that the people saw the judicial role of the king as primary.  Later on, however, the people reword their request, adding in a military component:

EN/HEע/E
(כ) וְהָיִינוּ גַם אֲנַחְנוּ כְּכׇל הַגּוֹיִם וּשְׁפָטָנוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ וְיָצָא לְפָנֵינוּ וְנִלְחַם אֶת מִלְחֲמֹתֵנוּ.
(20) that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.'

Is this second formulation simply a clarification of their original petition or did the people modify their request due to Shemuel's initial negative reaction?  Did Shemuel and Hashem view any type of king as problematic, or might there be a difference between a warrior-king and a monarch whose main tasks were judicial in nature?  If the latter, which is preferred?

Additional Questions

Several other verses deserve closer inspection, as they might shed light on the questions above:

Shemuel's Later Rebukes

On two other occasions Shemuel speaks negatively about the people's desire for a king.  What do these two speeches teach about the problems of anointing a king?  Why does Shemuel feel the need to profess his honesty before rebuking the people?  Finally, is there any significance to the specific sign he chooses to bring?
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