Consider, for example, a theme at emerges late in the book of Judges. After recounting the heroic deeds of various judges the book begins, starting in 17.6, to sound the note "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." What follows are stories of social and moral dissolution, culminating in the horrific story in Chapter 19 and subsequent civil war. After all these tales of social chaos the book ends on the same note, "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." The suggestion seems to be that Israel needs a king and that without a king all hell breaks loose.
In 1 Samuel the people finally do clamor for a king. And based on the book of Judges this seems like a good move. And yet, this desire for a king is described by God as a sort of failure, a rejection of God as king:
1 Samuel 8.6-7The Lord goes on to direct Samuel to warn the people about kings. Kings will, God says, reign over you and claim their rights. Basically, kings are oppressors. Samuel goes on to give this stern warning:
But when the people said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king."
“This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”Kings look pretty bad in this account. Not much like the social and moral saviors the book of Judges leads you to believe.
Consider also the mixed reputation of Solomon in the Old Testament. Is Solomon a good king or a bad king? I expect most Christians would say that Solomon was a good king, given how wise he was. But the report is mixed. Yes, in 1 Kings 3 we get the famous story of Solomon asking for wisdom and his request being granted. That makes Solomon look like a very good king. Solomon also builds the temple. That looks like a good thing as well.
And yet, 1 Kings 11 goes on to recount Solomon's descent into idolatry:
1 Kings 11.1-10Many OT scholars believe that Samuel's predictions about oppressive kings begins with the reign of Solomon. But you can also make a case that it began with David who took the wife of Uriah and had him killed. Basically, the kings of Israel recreate the bondage of Pharaoh in Egypt.
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.
On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command.
I don't have any big summative statement to make about all this, just the observation that the legacy of kings in the OT is very mixed. My gut reading is that while on one level there is a pro-monarchy slant to the OT there is, at key locations, subversive stories that undermine the royalist narrative and propaganda. Taken as a whole, as I read the OT, kings come off as pretty corrupt. Which is a pretty remarkable achievement for the OT given how powered elites would have wanted to shape the national narrative. Some of that effort is inscribed on the pages of the OT but it appears that the "view from below" successfully challenged the monarchist plotline.