Summary: They wanted a king so that they might be like their neighbors, and this was what they tempted Gideon with.
He Modestly Declines the Government of Israel
22 Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.
23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.—Judges 8:22-23 (KJV)
22 Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.-Judges 8.22,(KJV)
22 The men of Israel said to Gideon, “You, then your son, and then your grandson, must rule us. You rescued us from Midian.”-Judges 8:22-23 (GW)
Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon…Some time after his return, the chief men of Israel met in a body to decide upon the future government of Israel. They decided upon Gideon, and sent a deputation to him with an offer that would make him king over Israel. The success of Gideon against the feared and hated Midianites marked him as the one blessed with divine favor. He was the strongest man in Israel, as far as his influence and popularity is concerned, and the most likely candidate for ruler.
"The men of Israel" did not include all the twelve tribes, but probably only the northern tribes of the western part of the land already mentioned in Judges 6:35 , who had suffered more severely from Midianite oppression, and had been the first to gather round Gideon to make an attack upon the foe.
rule thou over us, both thou and thy son, and thy son's son also; that is, become our king, and let the crown be hereditary in thy family. What a weak, foolish, and unpredictable people these were! Up to now, their government was a theocracy; and now, dazzled with the success of a man who was only an instrument in the hands of God to deliver them from their enemies, they wish to throw off the Divine yoke, and shackle themselves with an unlimited hereditary monarchy! An unlimited monarchy is a curse; a limited monarchy may be a blessing: the latter may be an appointment of God; the former never can be. Those who cast off their allegiance to their Maker are guilty of foolishness and extravagance of every kind.
As a judge in Israel, he already had a sort of rule and government over them under God, but his rule did not include royal power and authority; and this was what the people of Israel wanted; they wanted a king so that they might be like their neighbors; and this was what they tempted Gideon with, and the reason they gave for their choice was that he had done such very wonderful and extraordinary things for them. In view of that, it was right to offer it: and since he had faced the perils of their deliverance he should enjoy the honor and power of commanding them forever-after, and that it was very desirable that he who at this great and critical juncture had had such manifest tokens of God's presence with him should forever-after preside in their affairs. Making him king was one way they could reward Gideon for what he had done for them. But it was also somewhat of a guarantee that there would be a measure of unity among the tribes as well as the kind of leadership that would mobilize them against possible future invaders.
Let us apply it to the Lord Jesus: He has delivered us out of the hands of our enemies, our spiritual enemies (Satan and his allies), the worst and most dangerous of enemies, and therefore it is fitting He should rule over us; for how can we be ruled better than to be ruled by one that appears to have so great an interest in heaven and so great a kindness for this earth? We are delivered for a purpose; that we may serve him without fear (Lu. 1:74, 75).
for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian; he delivered them from being in bondage to them, and therefore, he was fit to be a king over them.
This is the first indication given to us in Scripture that the children of Israel wanted a king to rule over them. God told them at the beginning that He did not want them to have a king like the nations all around them. Moses warned that one day Israel would want a king like the other nations and forget that they were a unique nation, unlike the Gentiles: “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deut 4:5-8; ESV). What other nation had the Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth, as their king?