1 Samuel 12 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

1 Samuel 12
Pulpit Commentary
And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.
Verse 1. - I have hearkened unto your voice. See 1 Samuel 8:7, 9, 22.
And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.
Verse 2. - The king walketh before you. I.e. you have now one to protect and lead the nation, whereas my business was to raise its religious and moral life. The metaphor is taken from the position of the shepherd in the East, where he goes before his flock to guide and guard them. On this account the word shepherd or pastor is used in the Bible of the temporal ruler (Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 23:4, etc.), and not, as with us, of the spiritual guide. My sons are with you. This is no mere confirmation of the fact just stated that he was old, but a direct challenge of their dissatisfaction with his sons' conduct, as far at least as concerns any connivance on his part, or support of them in their covetousness. Samuel says, You know all about my sons; I do not profess to be ignorant that charges have been brought against them. Give full weight to them, and to everything said against them and me, and then give judgment.
Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.
Verses 3, 4, 5. - Witness against me. Literally, "answer," as in a court of justice to the formal question of the judge. His anointed. I.e. the king (see on 1 Samuel 2:10, 35; 2:1). Whose ox,... whose ass? See on 1 Samuel 8:16. Of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? Bribe should be rendered ransom. Literally it signifies a covering, and was used of money given by a guilty person to induce the judge to close or "blind his eyes," and not see his sin. It does not mean, therefore, any bribe, but only that given to buy off a guilty person. Such persons are generally powerful men who have oppressed and wronged others; and the knowledge that they can cover their offence by sharing their gains with the judge is to this day in the East the most fruitful source of bad government. The people all bear witness to Samuel's uprightness, nor is there any contradiction between this and their desire to have a king. His internal administration was just and righteous, but they were oppressed by the nations round them, and needed a leader in war. And in Samuel's sons they had men, not vicious or licentious, but too fond of money, and so neither fit to be their generals in war nor their judges in peace. We gather from 1 Samuel 22:2 that though Saul proved a competent leader in war, he was not successful in the government of the country in peace.
And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand.
And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.
And Samuel said unto the people, It is the LORD that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.
Verse 6. - It is Jehovah that, etc. In the Hebrew Jehovah is put absolutely, without any government, and the Septuagint rightly supplies is witness. Samuel had said, "Jehovah is witness against you;" the people in answer shouted the last word, "Witness" (see end of ver. 5, where He is is supplied). Then Samuel solemnly repeats Jehovah s name, saying, "Even Jehovah that advanced Moses and Aaron." This rapid interchange of words brings the whole scene vividly before us, whereas nothing could be tamer than the A.V. Out of the land of Egypt. Samuel begins with this as the first act of Jehovah as Israel's King; for the theocracy began with the deliverance from Egypt.
Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD of all the righteous acts of the LORD, which he did to you and to your fathers.
Verses 7, 8. - Stand still. Literally, station yourselves, take your places, stand forth (see 1 Samuel 10:23). That I may reason with you. Literally, "that I may deal as judge," i.e. that with all the authority of my office I may declare that Jehovah has acted justly by you, and that you have dealt unjustly with him. Righteous acts. The margin, benefits, is wrong. Samuel vindicates God's dealings with them against the charge of his having failed to protect them implied in their demand for a king.
When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.
And when they forgat the LORD their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them.
Verse 9. - When they forgat Jehovah their God. The theocracy, as we have seen (1 Samuel 10:18), was a moral government, under which idolatry and the immorality attendant upon it, as being rebellion, were punished by Jehovah's withdrawing his protection, and the consequent subjection of the nation to foreign rule. It was the repeated sin, therefore, of the people which made Israel's history so checquered. Sisera (Judges 4:2), the Philistines (Judges 3:31), and Eaton, king of Moab. (Judges 3:12), are mentioned as three of the earlier oppressors of Israel, but are given here in the reverse order to that found in the Book of Judges.
And they cried unto the LORD, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.
Verse 10. - We have served [the] Baalim and [the] Ashtaroth. I.e. the numerous Baals and Astartes, which were worshipped under various titles by the heathen. For though representing the same power, each people had their own epithets for their own particular personification of the god (see on 1 Samuel 7:4).
And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe.
Verse 11. - Bedan. Numerous ingenious explanations of this name have been given, but the only probable account is that Bedan is a misreading for Barak. The two names are very similar in the Hebrew, and the two most ancient versions, the Septuagint and the Syriac, actually have Barak. And Samuel. This is even more puzzling than Bedan. We cannot suppose that Samuel, who hitherto had confined himself to the old deliverances, would thus suddenly introduce his own name. In mentioning only them he had avoided everything that would grate upon the ears of the people, but this would look like giving way to personal vexation. Some, therefore, would read Samson; but this, though found in the Syriac, is supported by no other version. Possibly some scribe, mindful of Samuel's recent achievement at Mizpah, wrote his name in the margin, whence it was admitted into the text. And ye dwelled safe. Literally, "in confidence," in security. With sin came danger and unquiet; upon repentance, not only was their country free from danger, but their minds were at rest.
And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king.
Verse 12. - Nahash the king of the children of Ammon. This makes it probable that there had been threats of war, and even incursions into the Israelite territory, by Nahash before his attack on Jabesh-Gilead. We thus, too, should be able to account for the rancour displayed in his wish so to treat the men of that town as to make them a reproach to all Israel; for his hatred of Israel may have grown in intensity in the course of a harassing war, or he may have learnt to despise a people incapable of offering a regular resistance. At all events, Samuel describes Nahash as giving the final impetus to the desire of the nation for a king. When Jehovah your God was your king. See Judges 8:23.
Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you.
Verse 13. - Behold the king whom ye have chosen!... behold, Jehovah hath set a king over you. We have here the two sides of the transaction. The people had desired a king, chosen and appointed by themselves, to represent the nation in temporal matters; Jehovah gave them a king to represent himself, with authority coming from God, and limited by God. Most, too, of the kings of Judah were as truly representatives of Jehovah as any of the judges had been, and David even more so. Desired is rather "demanded," "required." They had done much more than desire a king.
If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God:
Verse 14. - If ye will fear, etc. This verse, like Luke 19:42, is left unfinished, and we must supply well, as in Exodus 32:32. For the verse cannot be translated as in the A.V., but is as follows: "If ye will fear Jehovah, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment (Hebrew, the mouth) of Jehovah, and if both ye and the king that reigneth over you will follow Jehovah your God, it shall be well." Samuel piles up one upon another the conditions of their happiness, and then from the depth of his emotion breaks off, leaving the blessed consequences of their obedience unsaid. "To follow Jehovah" implies willing and active service as his attendants, going with him where he will, and being ever ready to obey his voice.
But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers.
Verse 15. - Against you, as it was against your fathers. The Hebrew has "against you and your fathers," and so the Vulgate, for which the Septuagint reads, "against you and your king," as in ver. 25. The text is probably corrupt, and to make sense requires the insertion of some such words as those given in the A.V., with which the Syriac also agrees.
Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes.
Verse 16. - Stand. Better stand forth, as in ver. 7; take your places in solemn order.
Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king.
Verse 17. - Wheat harvest. Barley was fit for reaping at the Passover, and wheat at Pentecost, i.e. between the middle of May and the middle of June. Jerome, on Amos 4:7, testifies that during his long residence in Palestine he had never seen rain there during June and July; but Conder ('Handbook of Bible,' p. 221), says, "Storms still occur occasionally in harvest time." He shall send thunder. Hebrew, voices, and so in ver. 18 (see 1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 7:9). DIVINE TESTIMONY TO SAMUEL'S INTEGRITY (vers. 18-25).
So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
Verse 18. - Jehovah sent thunder and rain. Rain in Palestine falls usually only at the autumnal and vernal equinox, and though thunder storms are not unknown at other times, yet, by the general testimony of travellers, they are very rare. Naturally, therefore, this storm deeply impressed the minds of the people. Though not in itself miraculous, the circumstances made it so.
And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.
Verse 19. - Pray for thy servants. On Samuel's mediatorial office see 1 Samuel 7:5, 8.
And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart;
Verse 20. - Ye have done all this wickedness. The ye is emphatic, and to give its force we should translate, "Ye have indeed done all this evil." From following Jehovah. See on ver. 15.
And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
Verse 21. - For then should ye go after vain things. The word for is omitted in all the ancient versions, and the sense is complete without it: "And turn ye not aside after tohu," the word used in Genesis 1:1, and there translated "without form." It means anything empty, void, and so is often used, as here, for "an idol," because, as St. Paul says, "an idol is nothing in the world" (1 Corinthians 8:4). So Isaiah (Isaiah 44:9) calls the makers of idols vanity, Hebrew, tohu, i.e. empty people, with no sense in them. The word is used again at the end of the verse - which idols cannot profit nor deliver; for they are tohu, emptiness.
For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.
Verse 22. - For his great name's sake. Though Samuel in ver. 14 had described their well being as dependent upon their own conduct, yet in a higher light it depended upon God's will. He had chosen Israel not for its own sake (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8), but for a special purpose, to minister to the Divine plan for the redemption of all mankind, and so, though individuals might sin to their own ruin, and the nation bring upon itself severe chastisements, yet it must continue according to the tenor of God's promises (see on 1 Samuel 2:30), and through weal and woe discharge the duty imposed upon it.
Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:
Verse 23. - God forbid, Hebrew, "Far be it from me." That I should sin... in ceasing to pray for you. In no character of the Old Testament does this duty of intercessory prayer stand forward so prominently as in Samuel (see ver. 19); nor does he rest content with this, but adds, I will teach you the good and the right way. This was a far higher office than that of ruler; and not only was Samuel earnest in discharging this prophetic office of teaching, but he made provision for a supply of teachers and preachers for all future time by founding the schools of the prophets.
Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.
Verse 24. - For consider, etc. Samuel concludes his address by appealing to the mighty deeds wrought in old time by Jehovah for his people; literally, it is, "For consider how grandly he hath wrought with you."

But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.
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