In Shoftim (Deut 17:14), it is said that Israel will ask for a King to rule over it once it is settled in the land. The Artscroll Stone Edition Tanakh does not list the specific source for this, but it says that Israel was commanded to do three things once it settled in the land, the first being the choosing of a King. So it views this verse as a commandment.

In I Samuel 10:19, G-d criticizes Israel's decision to ask for a King. He says that through this act they are rejecting Him.

Why would Israel be criticized for doing what they were commanded to do?

I've heard the opinion that the section in Shoftim about the King is not a commandment, but a statement of a future event. The purpose of which is to tell Israel not to choose a Gentile King, but a brother to rule over them.

So how should these seemingly contradictory events be interpreted?

2 Answers 2


I think the answer to this question lies in how Shmuel chose to rebuke the nation. In chapter 12, Shmuel recaps the mistake that the Jewish people have made in requesting a king. In verse 17, he tells them the following:

הֲלוֹא קְצִיר-חִטִּים, הַיּוֹם--אֶקְרָא אֶל-יְהוָה, וְיִתֵּן קֹלוֹת וּמָטָר; וּדְעוּ וּרְאוּ, כִּי-רָעַתְכֶם רַבָּה אֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה, לִשְׁאוֹל לָכֶם, מֶלֶךְ

Is it not wheat harvest to-day? I will call unto the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain; and ye shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king.' (Translation from Mechon Mamre)

The message (which Bnei Yisroel took - v. 19) was conveyed by the rain in the wheat harvest season. Rain in the harvest season is terrible, as it makes the ground soggy and causes the crop in the ground to rot. In its proper time, rain is a great blessing.

The Malbim (s.v. אקרא) explains that the message to the Jewish people was that just as rain in the right time is a blessing, but in the wrong time is a curse, so too their request of a king is out of place. In a time when Israel was led by Shmuel, who performed miracles for them and guided them, asking for a king was a terrible mistake. After Shmuel died, and they were subject to the rule of nature and did not have a leader of the caliber of Shmuel, asking for a king would have been appropriate.

Certainly it was a mitzvah, but it has its proper time and place.


In Shmuel 1 chapter 8 vs 6 Rashi explains that the problem with the request wasthe fact that they said 'to rule over us like all the nations'.

The Radak there explains that it was apparent they made their request as a complaint, not that they were looking to be mikayem the mitzvah of appointing a king.

See here Why did the people want a king? the first half of Fred's answer.

See here also http://www.torahmusings.com/2015/02/making-sure-isnt-good-king/ from Drashos HaRan 11 2 who wonders, why does Shmuel react negatively, in I Shmuel 8, when the people ask just what the Torah told them to? He answers that they wanted a king to replace the halachic courts, not supplement them.

  • "Like all the nations" is included in the verse in Shoftim. That's how their future request for a King was worded by G-d. Are they not essentially repeating what was said there? Sep 8, 2014 at 1:17
  • That part is, but not the word לשפתינו , to rule over us. That should have been reserved for הקב׳ה with the king serving a different type of role.
    – user6591
    Sep 8, 2014 at 1:24

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