His mind returned to the past, and dwelt on the mercies that had been shown Israel, and the wonders that had been revealed since they had been set free from their woes and slavery in Egypt. Had not the Lord God been their king, their guide, and their counsellor? How often had the people—and even their elders—forsaken him, to humble themselves in shameless worship of the false gods of the heathen—Baal and Astarte. Yet when in affliction they had repented them and turned to him again, he had been merciful, and had raised up deliverers to set them free.

Now, envious of the powerful and hostile nations around them, his enemies and theirs, they had abandoned their faith in him and were pleading for an earthly king to reign over them, heedless of the evils that might come of it. At this thought shame came over him. He had in truth been thinking only of himself. It was the Lord God they had rejected. What was any grievance of his own compared with that?

In remorse he laid his cares and sorrows before the Lord, and remained in silent communion until it was revealed to him what answer he should make to the elders and how he should act.

When they came before him again, he told them all that had been put into his mind to say to them.

‘You have demanded that a king shall be set over you, to reign in Israel. Hearken then, while I make clear to you what will be his way and manner of ruling.

‘He will command, and you must obey. You will put all authority into his hands; and his least word shall be your law. Even when the tribes are at peace, he will choose of the choicest young men of Israel, and will surround himself with an army, with chariots and with horsemen, and fleet-footed runners to run before his chariot whithersoever he goes. He will take your own sons from you and compel them to serve him. He will appoint him officers from among them, and make him captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, to lead his troops into battle and die at his behest. The people will be forced to plough and to reap for him; to forge him weapons of war, to make him chariots with their metal-work and their leather-work, their harness and equipment. And he will reign in pomp and splendour.

‘And how shall he reward those that serve him unless you yourselves pay him revenue and fill his treasuries with gold? He will seize the richest and goodliest of your fields, of your vineyards and your groves of olives, and bestow them on his officers and servants. Heavy taxes will he lay on you, even to the tenth part of your seed and of your harvest, of your flocks and your herds, of your men-servants and your maid-servants. Of every hundred of your sheep and oxen, ten shall be his. Ay, and he will choose out all that please him from among your daughters, the loveliest and the comeliest and the most skilful, to be his embroiderers and perfumers, his cooks and his bakers. And who shall say him nay? This is the way and manner of a king.

‘Pay heed to me, therefore, I entreat you, while there is yet time. A king once made cannot easily be unmade; and the day will come when you shall bewail and lament because of this king whom—covetous of the pride and glory of Egypt, Ammon, Moab, Edom—you yourselves have set in mastery over you. Then shall you cry to the Lord to be freed from his tyrannies. And you will cry in vain. For how shall the Lord listen to you then, if you pay no heed to him now?’

But the eloquence with which Samuel had told of the power and splendour of a kingdom only inflamed the imagination of those who heard him; and his warnings fell on deaf ears. They refused to be guided by this wise old counsellor who had given his whole life to their service.

They cried again: ‘Nay! Nay! a king: a king! We will have a king to reign over us. Then shall we be like the great nations around us. And he will do justice without fear; and will favour no man. And he shall lead us forth to war, command us in battle, and bring glory to Israel.’

When Samuel knew that nothing he could say would move them from their purpose, he dismissed the elders; and they returned every man to his own house to await the day when he should summon them

  By PanEris using Melati.

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