As the population of the earth again multiplied exponentially, families grew into cities, and cities into kingdoms. Kings immediately warred with one another, stealing each other's goods, capturing people as slaves, taking property and enlarging their territories and influence. Genesis names many kings and their locations, long before Israel became a nation. (Genesis 14:1, 2, etc.)
It was never God's idea to have kings over His people. In the beginning, He wanted direct communication, but after Adam and Eve relinquished their spiritual connection, God spoke directly to certain men, knowing they would believe and obey His voice. Enoch and Noah, in Genesis 5:22 and 6:8, and Abram, beginning in Genesis 12, were people to whom the Lord God spoke. Abraham and his descendants, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, represented God to their families as patriarchs. After the patriarchal period, God spoke to Moses, revealing His Laws for His people. Moses knew by revelation how the people of Israel would want to be like the other nations surrounding them. He set before the people God's prerequisites, if there was to be a king in Israel. “When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me, you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses.'”
The criteria were as follows:
1. One from among your brethren, no foreigners
2. He shall not multiply horses for himself
3. He shall not multiply wives for himself
4. He shall not multiply silver and gold for himself
5. He shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, approved by the priests and Levites
6. And he shall read it all the days of his life, to fear the Lord and observe all the words of this law, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, and not turn aside from the commandment, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)
Moses' personal aide, Joshua, continued as a single man of God over Israel, God's spokesperson. After the death of Joshua, without a successor, most of God's people forsook the Lord and followed after the gods of surrounding nations. Enemies came and raided them, and ruled over them “Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them.” (Judges 2:16) After Gideon's victory over the Midianites, the men of Israel asked Gideon to rule as king over them. Gideon replied, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.” (Judges 8:23) After Gideon's death, the people made his son, Abimelech, king (Judges 9:6). Abimelech was wicked, and although he reigned over Israel three years, he was hated and killed in battle. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1 and 21:25)
Samuel is considered by some to be the last of the judges and a prophet whose ministry served as a transition between the judges and the kings of Israel. Just as Moses foretold, elders of Israel came to Samuel and desired a king. “Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (1 Samuel 8:5) Samuel prayed and the Lord said. “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” (8:7) God also told Samuel to tell the people that their king would oppress them. “He will take your sons. He will take your daughters. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” But the people insisted. They overruled Samuel and demanded to have a king, to be like the other nations, and have a king to go before them and fight their battles.
So the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.” (1 Samuel 8:11-22) The first anointed king over Israel was Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin.