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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
1 Samuel 12

 

 

Verses 1-5

Samuel"s self-vindication12:1-5

Why did Samuel feel the need to justify his behavior publicly? Perhaps he knew that because the people had rebelled against God by demanding a king, they would experience discipline from the Lord. When it came, he did not want anyone to think he was responsible for it. Also, it is likely that Samuel took the people"s request for a king as a personal rejection of himself. [Note: Wood, Israel"s United . . ., p70.] He probably wanted to show the people that they had no reason to reject him because of his behavior. Samuel"s words may seem to expose personal pride. I think more probably they express his concern that no one should conclude that living a life of commitment to God, as he had lived, would bring God"s discipline. The discipline to come would be a result of the sin of the people, not Samuel"s. Furthermore, by his life and ministry among them, Samuel had given the people no reason for demanding a king. He was also seeking to vindicate the type of rule he represented that was God"s will for Israel then.

"Here, as in 1 Samuel 8:11-18, a keyword is the verb take: if kingship was to be characterized by the tendency to take rather than to give, it was otherwise with the prophet. As he stepped down from high office, Samuel"s hands were empty ( 1 Samuel 12:5)." [Note: David Payne, pp57-58.]


Verses 1-25

Samuel"s second warning to the people ch12

The writer wrote chapters12-15 very skillfully to parallel chapters8-11. Each section begins with Samuel warning the people about the dangers of their requesting a king (chs8,12). Each one also follows with a description of Saul"s exploits (chs9-10,13-14) and ends with Saul leading Israel in battle (chs11,15). This parallel structure vividly sets off the contrast between Saul"s early success as Israel"s king and his subsequent failure. The reason he failed is the primary theological lesson of these chapters, and it advances the fertility motif.

Chapter12is another most important theological passage in Samuel along with1Samuel7,2Samuel7. Here Samuel explained Israel"s future relationship with Yahweh and the Mosaic Law, since the people insisted on having a king and had rejected Yahweh and Samuel.

"With this address Samuel laid down his office as Judges , but without therefore ceasing as prophet to represent the people before God, and to maintain the rights of God in relation to the king." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p115.]

"This chapter . . . formally marks the end of the period of the judges ..." [Note: Gordon, p125.]


Verses 6-12

Samuel"s review of God"s faithfulness12:6-12

Neither had God given the people occasion to demand a king. He had delivered them in the past from all their enemies when they confessed their sins, repented, and sought His help. They had been unfaithful to God and had disobeyed His Law, but He remained faithful to His commitment and promises to them.


Verses 13-18

Samuel"s challenge to obey God12:13-18

The Hebrew grammatical construction translated "the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for" ( 1 Samuel 12:13), shows that the people had not just requested a king, but demanded him out of strong self-will. The key to Israel"s future blessing would be fearing Yahweh, serving Him, listening to His voice through the Mosaic Law and the prophets, and not rebelling against His commands ( 1 Samuel 12:14). The major message of the Books of Samuel thus comes through again clearly in Samuel"s final words to the nation, as we would expect. For the Israelites, obedience to the Mosaic Covenant would result in fertility of all kinds (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

God confirmed the truth of Samuel"s words supernaturally when He sent rain during the wheat harvest, normally the driest period of the year. The rain symbolized the blessing of God for obedience (cf. Deuteronomy 28:12). This storm was a sign that Yahweh was supporting Samuel. However, coming at this time of the year, it proved to be judgmental, since farmers do not appreciate rain during harvests, and a warning of future potential judgment.


Verses 19-25

Samuel"s reassurance of the people12:19-25

The people"s rebellion against God was not something they could undo. Consequences would follow. Nevertheless Samuel counseled them to follow and serve the Lord faithfully from then on. They should not fear that God would abandon them because of their sin of demanding a king. He would not cast them off because He had promised to stay with them and had committed Himself to them ( Exodus 19:5-6). His name (reputation) would suffer if He abandoned them.

Not only did the Israelites need to walk in obedience to God, they also needed the supportive intercession of Samuel that would bring down God"s enablement so they could follow Him faithfully. This Samuel promised them too. Intercession is a vitally important ministry of leaders of God"s people, and Samuel realized this ( Jeremiah 15:1; Psalm 99:6).

"Prophetic intercession is regarded as essential to Israel"s continued prosperity; only when her doom is sealed is a prophet told to desist ( Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11). Samuel"s ministry of intercession and teaching, exercised independently of the offices of state, becomes the norm for those who followed him in the prophetic succession. These are "the irreducible aspects of the prophetic office" (McCarter, p219)." [Note: Gordon, p130. His quotation is from P. Kyle McCarter Jeremiah , I Samuel.]

To fear and serve God faithfully, the Israelites would need to remember God"s faithfulness to them in the past, and to bear in mind the certain consequences of disobedience (cf. Deuteronomy 28:41; Deuteronomy 28:45-64; Deuteronomy 30:15-20). The dark alternative was being swept away in exile.

This chapter sets forth clearly the basic principles by which God deals with His people. As such it is very important. It explains why things happened as they did in Israel and in the personal lives of the major characters that the writer emphasized. God articulated these principles earlier in the Torah, but He repeated them here.

In chapters8-12 , the record emphasizes that even though the people insisted on having a human king instead of God, God gave them one who was personally admirable and victorious in battle. Everything about Saul in these chapters is positive. God gave blessing to His people as long as their representative submitted to His authority.

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-samuel-12.html. 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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