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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 12

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-25



1 Samuel 9:1-12:25

I devote an extended discussion to 1 Samuel 9-11 because it is necessary to fix clearly in the mind the nature of the kingdom established in order to interpret correctly the history of the kings which follows. Without this understanding we will break down in the interpretation of even the first rejection of Saul, and with Jehovah’s dealing with every subsequent king. Before entering upon the history of the first king, let us state tersely the salient points which define the Hebrew monarchy:

1. A government by kings was not an afterthought with Jehovah, but was one of the predetermined stages of the national development and a forecast preparatory to the setting up of the messianic spiritual kingdom.

2. Though Jehovah granted Israel’s demand for a kingly government superseding the previous rule by judges, he did not establish such a monarchy as they desired, like that of other nations.

3. The kingdom established had a written charter clearly defining its nature, powers, and limitations, the basis of which was given to Moses (Deuteronomy 17:14-20) with subsequent enlargements by Samuel. This charter made the written law, the Pentateuch, the constitution of the kingdom. The king must make the law his Vade Mecum, and the rule of his reign. There was not only this unalterable written constitution, but to emphasize the retention of the theocratic idea, the king must at all times hear and obey the fresh messages from Jehovah, coming through his now established order of the prophets, his mouthpieces and penmen. This part of the charter turns a blaze of light on the subsequent history.

4. The monarchy was not elective by the nation, through corporate action of their great congregation or general assembly, but each king must be appointed by Jehovah, and that appointment designated through the prophet, Jehovah’s mouthpiece. Jehovah chooses the king, Jehovah’s prophet anoints him and presents him to the assembly for acceptance.

5. The monarchy was not hereditary in the modern sense. A dynasty might be changed at Jehovah’s sole option, as from the house of Saul to the house of David, and it did not follow that when a king’s son succeeded him he should be the first-born; for example, the case of Solomon. Whether in changing a dynasty, or designating which son of a king should succeed his father, the living prophet was Jehovah’s medium of making known his will.

6. Neither king nor general assembly, nor both cojoined, had the power to declare war, direct it when declared, make peace, or contract alliances, except as Jehovah directed through his living prophet.

7. By the law, and through the living prophet, the people were safeguarded from the tyranny of the king. See the case of Nathan’s rebuke of David for the wrong against Uriah, and Elijah’s denunciation of Ahab concerning Naboth’s vineyard.

8. Particularly, the prophet spoke with all authority from God in matters of religion, hedging not only against idolatry but reliance upon formalism and ritualism, all the time bringing out the spiritual meaning of the law and calling for repentance and reformation. Therefore, no man can interpret any part of the mere history of the Hebrew monarchy apart from the section of the Psalter bearing on it, and the contemporaneous prophets. On this account Wood’s Hebrew Monarchy, though not perfect in its arrangement, excels Crockett’s Harmonyas a textbook.

A quotation from a prophet pertinent to the establishment of the monarchy considered in the preceding chapter is Hosea 13:9-11: "It is thy destruction, O Israel, that thou art against me against thy help. Where now is thy king, that he may gave thee in all thy cities? and thy judges, of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? I have given thee a king in mine anger, and have taken him away in my wrath." There were several ways by which the people, as well as the king, could get at the will of Jehovah apart from the written Jaw, viz.:

1. By submitting a question to the Oracle abiding in the ark of the covenant, to be answered by the high priest, wearing his ephod, through the Urim and Thummim (1 Samuel 23:8-12)

2. By appealing to the prophets (1 Samuel 9:6-9)

3. By sacrifice and asking of signs; as in the case of Gideon (Judges 6:17-21)

There are two passages, one showing the despair of an individual, and the other showing the deplorable condition of the nation, from whom, on account of aggravated sins, God has cut off all means of communication with him. In one, Saul, the first king, in his later life thus bemoans his condition: "And when ’Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of Jehovah, Jehovah answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets," (1 Samuel 28:5) In the other, Hosea thus describes the pitiable condition of the rebellious Israel: "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without pillar, and without Ephod or teraphim," (Hosea 3:4)


Certain passages bear on part of the foregoing statement of the nature of the kingdom. For instance, Jehovah chose Saul to be the king, privately announcing him to his prophet, and providentially bringing him in touch with this prophet (1 Samuel 9:15) and later before the great assembly at Mizpah he makes known his choice to the people publicly (1 Samuel 10:17-21). Acting under Jehovah’s direction, the prophet prepares the mind of Saul for the high honor (1 Samuel 9:20-25). Then privately the prophet accounts him as king, and then confirms to him his position by signs (1 Samuel 10:2-7). Then by an enduement of the Holy Spirit he is qualified for his office. Not converted, but qualified for his office. Then the prophet brings about the public designation before the people, the general assembly at Mizpah (1 Samuel 10:17-21). Then the prophet arranges for his recognition by the people in a subsequent general assembly at Gilgal (1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 11:14-15). Then the prophet vacates his own office of judge (1 Samuel 12).

It is easy to see from the text the details of which I need not give, just what Jehovah does, just what the prophet does, just what the people do, just what Saul does, and particularly the text shows how Jehovah prepares the people to accept Saul – prepares the prophet first, then prepares Saul, and then the people,

The several stages showing the preparation of Saul are intensely interesting. The first hint which Samuel gives to Saul seemed to him an incredible thing, for he says, "I belong to the smallest tribe, and our family is a subordinate one in that tribe." But still, it puts him to thinking. Then Samuel gives him the post of honor in entertaining, and that puts him to thinking. Then Samuel privately anoints him as king, and that ceremony impresses him. Then Samuel predicts three signs, the object of which is to satisfy Saul thoroughly and to confirm the kingship in his own mind; and particularly the last of the three, which was that the Spirit of God would come upon him in the gift of prophesying, and he would be changed into another man.

Note Saul’s reticence: First, when his uncle asks him where he had been, and he tells him about the prophet’s informing him that the asses have been found, but does not say a word about the kingship; again, when after he is publicly designated and some of the evil-minded people, children of Belial, declared that they could not accept him as king, because they saw no salvation in him, instead of getting mad and answering in resentful language, Saul holds his peace. He never says a word; he knows how to wait. Again, we notice that notwithstanding all the things that have occurred so far) when at that great gathering at Mizpah where he was to be publicly shown as king, Saul hides, and when the question comes up and when the lot determined Saul as king, they ask where he is, and God said, "He is hiding among the stuff" – the baggage.

I once preached a sermon from that text on God’s discovering a number of appointed men hiding with the stuff, more concerned about their farming and the things of the world than about the preaching of his Word. In the army every soldier thought it disgraceful if he had to stay with the baggage when the battle came on. Since he could be pointed at as the soldier who had to stay with the stuff, he wanted to be on the firing line.

I am showing you all these things to mark the progress in Saul’s own mind, and God’s leading him step by step. After a while he is wide awake enough for the kingly honor. Now let us consider the meaning of apostasy, what is essential in a particular case to prove the doctrine, and what the application to Saul, and explain 1 Samuel 10:5-6; 1 Samuel 10:9-10. Apostasy means that a regenerated man may be finally and forever lost. In order to prove that doctrine by a particular case, the evidence must be indubitable on two points: First, that in the case selected there was first regeneration, and second, that this regenerated one was finally and forever lost. The proof must be ample and unequivocal at both ends – regeneration and damnation,

On these premises, we examine the particular case of Saul, King of Israel. A failure of demonstration that he was a regenerated man, or that he was finally lost, deprives the doctrine of apostasy, as defined above, from any support from the particular case of Saul. If the proof fall short at either point, there is no need to consider the other. Therefore, let us shorten matters by attention to one point only: Was Saul a regenerated man? In the case under consideration, the passages relied upon to establish the contention that Saul was a truly regenerated man, a spiritual child of God, are:

First, Samuel’s promise, "Thou shalt be turned into another man" (1 Samuel 10:5-6).

Second, the historian’s declaration of the fulfilment of the promise, "God gave him another heart" (1 Samuel 10:9-10). A careful examination of both passages (ASV) settles conclusively that in the promise, the Holy Spirit would in some sense come upon Saul, with the result that he would be changed into another man, and that in the fulfilment, the Holy Spirit did come upon him in the sense promised, with the result that God gave him another heart. If we accept the record, there is no doubt here that the Holy Spirit exerted a power on Saul and that consequently there was a change in him.

The questions to be determined are: What was the nature of the power exerted, and of the resultant change? My answer is that the Spirit power promised was the gift of prophesying, which throughout the Scripture is distinguished from the grace of regeneration, and the change was according to the power, and that the end, or purpose, exercised was not to regenerate Saul, but is expressly called a sign, to assure Saul’s doubting mind that Jehovah had chosen him as king. The incredible thing to Saul, which needed confirmation by signs, was not that he would become a child of God by regeneration, but that he whose tribe was so small, and the position of whose family in that tribe was so low, should be chosen of Jehovah to be king of all Israel. The nature of the power exerted and the resultant change effected are thus determined by their purpose.

The difference between the grace of regeneration and the miraculous gift of the Spirit is expressed thus: The grace of regeneration is not a sign, but the miraculous gift of the Spirit is a sign, and is so regarded in both Testaments. In the same way, the gift of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was not to regenerate the apostles, all of whom were already Christians, but to assure their hearts, and, as signs, to accredit them to others.

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 the whole matter is laid bare so that a child can understand it. Very sharply, and at many points, does Paul contrast these miraculous and temporary enduements of the Spirit, given for signs, with the grace of regeneration expressed in the abiding fruits of faith, hope, and love. Regeneration is one thing in all cases. The miraculous gifts of the Spirit were diverse. One of the recipients, like Saul, might prophesy, another work miracles, another speak with tongues, another interpret tongues.

The Spirit power received on Pentecost did change the apostles; did, in an important sense, give them other hearts, as we may learn from the coward, Peter, trembling before a maidservant, and the Peter, bold as a lion, on Pentecost. In the Corinthian discussion (1 Cor. 12-14) Paul makes clear, first, that faith, hope, and love, the evidences and fruits of regeneration, are superior in nature and more edifying in exercise than the gifts of the Spirit, one of which only Saul had; second, that all these signs would cease, but that regeneration, evidenced by faith, hope, and love, would abide.

If we look for evidences of regeneration in Saul’s life, we do not find them. If we look for evidences of a miraculous Spirit gift bestowed on him for assurance to him that Jehovah wanted him to be king, and for a sign to others, we do find them, and we also find that this gift of the Spirit was withdrawn from him when becoming unworthy of office, Jehovah no longer wants him as king. But, perhaps, the strongest evidence in the Bible that Saul was not a regenerated man is to be found in God’s contrast between Saul and Solomon on this very point. (2 Samuel 7:13-16 and 1 Chronicles 17:11-13 ASV.) Here it is unequivocally taught that Saul was not a regenerated man, but Solomon was. The regeneration of Solomon, as contrasted with Saul, appears in this:

1. God was ’Solomon’s spiritual Father, and Solomon was God’s spiritual son.

2. Therefore, when he sinned, Solomon was chastised as a child and not as an alien.

3. Being a child, God’s loving-kindness would not be with drawn, as in the case of Saul.

Old John Bunyan was accustomed to say, "Gifts make a preacher, but grace makes a Christian." Saul had the gift, but not the grace. To this already unanswerable argument we may add that a miraculous, because supernatural, gift may be bestowed by the devil, who in no case can regenerate. This power of Satan can of course be exercised only through God’s permission, and this permission is never granted except to test men, or as a punitive judgment on men who refuse to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

In Saul’s own case, this permission was granted, as we see from the result being as before, that Saul prophesied. Read the passage and see. Later we will find a similar case. The New Testament explains the ground of this permission thus (see 2 Thessalonians 2:8-13) : "And then shall be revealed the lawless one) whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to naught by the manifestation of his coming, even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause, God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."

And it is precisely on this account that John says, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they be of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (John 4:1). No miracle can accredit a doctrine contrary to the written Word.

To make evident the application of this line of argument to Saul’s case, we are assured that these miracles) signs, and wonders, wrought by Satan and his demons, no matter how plausible nor how convincing to their dupes, can never possibly deceive the elect (see Mark 13:22 and Matthew 24:24). But the evil spirit’s miracle causing Saul to prophesy (1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Samuel 18:10) did deceive him and straightway led him to seek the murder of David, led him to the slaughter of the priests of Nob (1 Samuel 22:9-19), and led him to irretrievable ruin, despair, and suicide.


1. Why devote any extended discussion to 1 Samuel 9-11?

2. Even now, before entering upon the history of the first king, restate tersely the salient points which define the Hebrew monarchy,

3. Cite a quotation from a prophet pertinent to the establishment of the monarchy considered in the preceding chapter.

4. In what ways could the people, as well as the king, get at the will of Jehovah apart from the written law?

5. Cite two passages, one showing the despair of the individual, and the other showing the deplorable condition of the nation, from whom on account of aggravated sins, God has cut off all means of communication with him.

6. Cite, in order, certain passages bearing on part of the foregoing statement of the nature of the kingdom.

7. What did Jehovah do, what did the prophet do, what did the people do, and what did Saul do to prepare the people to accept Saul?

8. Describe Saul’s reticence in accepting this high position of honor.

9. What is the meaning of apostasy, what is the essential feature in a particular case to prove the doctrine, and what the application to Saul, explaining 1 Samuel 10:5-6; 1 Samuel 10:9-10?

10. What is the difference between the grace of regeneration and the miraculous gift of the Spirit? Illustrate by New Testament instances.

11. What, then, do we find in Saul’s life, and what the strongest evidence in the Bible that he was not regenerated?

12. What was Bunyan’s saying, and what added argument?

13. What is the purpose of God’s permission of the devil to bestow miraculous gifts, and what New Testament testimony?

14. What is the difference in effect of these miracles of the devil on the saved and the unsaved, and how does Saul’s case illustrate?



It is contended by some that the reference to Saul’s "another heart" is equivalent to the "new heart" of Ezekiel 36:26, to which we may safely reply that the "another heart" given to Saul was not equivalent to the passage cited in Ezekiel. But when we come to Saul’s death, in the history, to sum up his character, we will not be able to classify him with Judas, though there are some points similar, particularly in that both were led by a dominant evil spirit to despair and self destruction. Saul, in many ways, was a finer man than Judas, leaving behind precious memories of some deeds and traits which evoked the gratitude of the men of Jabeshgilead, the unswerving attachment of several tribes, and the beautiful eulogy of David. Nothing like these do we find in the low, avaricious, treacherous life of Judas.

Believers in apostasy use the life of Saul to prove apostasy, and I do not wonder that they take this case as the basis of their argument to sustain the doctrine of apostasy, since it is the most plausible in the Bible, but if this case fails in demonstration they may not hope for support in any other. But they may ask, "What then does Paul mean in Galatians 5:4: ’Ye are fallen away from grace’ ?" To which we again reply that the scriptural phrase, "Ye are fallen away from grace," as used by Paul in Galatians 5:4, does not imply that real Christians, the truly regenerate, may be finally lost, but that those once accepting the doctrine of salvation by grace, and then returning to a doctrine of salvation by works, have fallen away from grace. They have turned from one doctrine to the opposite one, as often happens in practical life, without meaning that either the original acceptance was regeneration, or the falling away from it was final. In Paul’s meaning of the phrase, men may fall from grace.

We have now seen how Jehovah prepared his prophet for designation of Saul as king, how he prepared Saul for the great honor, and how he prepared the people to accept Saul. Before advancing in the history, we need to understand more particularly certain matters in the record already so tersely covered, particularly the steps of the people’s preparation to accept Saul, and how gradually the acceptance was, in a glorious climax, made complete:

1. The gift of prophesying came upon Saul, enduing him for service, and this being in the company of the school of the prophets, prepared the mighty prophetic order to recognize him as God’s man. As this enduement of power came on him also in the presence of many of the people) it was designed to accredit him to them. But they were more startled by the prodigy than they were made ready to accept him. There is something scornful in their saying, which became a proverb: "Is Saul also among the prophets?" Their scorn is somewhat mitigated by a bystander’s question: "Who is their father?" meaning, "What in their descent puts the prophets above Saul that you should wonder at the bestowal on him of the prophetic gift?" God bestowed it, and not on account of family position.

2. Jehovah’s choice of him by an extraordinary method in the great congregation at Mizpah as the man for the place out of all Israel. As this method of showing divine selection had availed in Joshua’s time in infallibly pointing out Achan, the one criminal out of millions (Joshua 7:14-18), and would again avail in David’s time (1 Samuel 16:12), it ought to have been equally convincing in showing Jehovah’s choice of a king. It did convince most of the people, who shouted their acceptance in a phrase that has gone round the world: "God save the King!" But not all were satisfied for certain sons of Belial said, "How shall this man save us?" And they despised him and brought no present. You must note that the phrase, "sons of Belial," retains the meaning already established (1 Samuel 1:16; 1 Samuel 2:12). Belial is a proper name, meaning the devil, and quite in keeping with their nature, the devil’s children will not accept Jehovah’s choice of a king.

3. The spirit of Jehovah comes upon Saul and demonstrates his fitness for the high honor by leading to the deliverance of Jabeshgilead. It is not enough to shout, "God save the king," but will you fall in line and follow the king? In his call to war, Saul rightly associates his name with Samuel’s (1 Samuel 11:7) and "the dread of the Lord fell on all the people, and they came out as one man."

This practical demonstration of Saul’s fitness wrought unanimity in his acceptance, and led the people to demand of Samuel the death of those who had refused Jehovah’s choice, Saul’s wisdom again appearing in refusing to stain the glorious beginning of his reign with the blood of political executions.

4. The people now being prepared in mind to accept Jehovah’s choice, under divine direction, they were formally and officially committed by the ratification at Gilgal in solemn assembly, with appropriate sacrifices, and great rejoicing of both king and people, followed by Samuel’s surrender of the office of judge. This meeting at Gilgal is the dividing official line of separation between the period of the judges and the period of the monarchy.

Before, we have only shown the steps toward transition. The scene of the consummation was most fitting, for at Gilgal the period of the pilgrimage ended and the period of the conquest commenced, and at Gilgal the distribution of a part of the land took place officially, ending, in part, the conquest period of the judges.

5. Jehovah, king, prophet, and general assembly are in full accord, the functions of all clearly distinguished and defined. Happy beginning of the monarchy I The later history will show wherein, when, and how the glorious charter of the kingdom is violated by prophet, king, or people. We will find a sad history, enlivened here and there by deeds of heroes and song of bards. But the picture will gather deepening shadows until the eclipse is completed by the downfall of the monarchy. The chief heroes will be the prophets, a few kings will be illustrious, and very rarely, a priest.

The distinction in the meaning of the words "seer" and "prophet," used as synonymous in 1 Samuel 9:7, is this: "Prophet" has the larger meaning, including all the import of "seer." Strictly speaking, the word "seer" refers only to one method of receiving revelation, i.e., in vision. A prophet not only had the gift of vision) but was in all respects the mouthpiece, or penman, of Jehovah in teaching, reforming, or recording. He was by inspiration God’s direct legatee, ambassador, or representative, with authority above king or people.

There is a humorous play on the common version of 1 Samuel 10:14 which a deacon once made to an indiscreet preacher, saying, "My dear sir, if you keep on shooting off your mouth half-cocked, you will presently find yourself where Saul perceived his father’s asses to be." The words of the text in that version are: "We saw they were nowhere."

1 Samuel 13:1 says, "Saul was forty years old when he began to reign, and when he had reigned two years over Israel, Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel," etc. His personal appearance is described in 1 Samuel 10:23-24: "From his shoulders upward he was higher than the people. None of them were like him." Hence the proverb: "Head and shoulders above his fellows." We will find later that his armor was too large for David. The conditions of his reign were hard. At this time Israel was dominated by the Philistines on the Southwest, assailed by Amalek on the South, by Ammon. Moab, and Edom on the Southeast, and by Zobah, or Syria, on the Northeast, but against all these at times Saul waged a victorious war. Besides this his resources were limited. He had no standing army, no arms, no equipment, no public treasury except spoils gathered in battle, and the whole country was impoverished by raids and invasions of his many enemies, 1 Samuel 13:19-23 shows the pitiable condition of the people as to artificers, implements of industry and arms: "Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: but all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his ax, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found." This statement has its great lessons.

No people can become or remain safe and prosperous who are dependent on other nations for mechanicians, manufactured goods, and their means of transportation. This was illustrated in the great controversy and War Between the States. During the controversy there appeared a book by a renegade North Carolinian, entitled: Helper’s Impending Crisis, in which he thus pictured the South’s unpreparedness for war, and the certain disasters which would, in the case of war, necessarily overtake it. I never read it but one time, and that was when I was a child, but it was burned into my mind so that I can repeat it now:

"A Southern man gets up in the morning from between Northern sheets, having slept on a Northern mattress, resting on a Northern bedstead, washes his face in a Northern bowl, dries his face on a Northern towel, brushes his hair and teeth with Northern brushes, puts on Northern clothes; goes into his dining room and site down at a Northern dining table covered by a Northern table-cloth, on which are Northern cups, saucers, plates, knives, forks, and in a Southern hog-country eats Northern bacon. Then he goes out and hitches his horse to a Northern plow; or to a Northern buggy; or having tied around his neck a Northern cravat, he goes to pay his address to his girl, who is dressed in Northern dimity and calicoes, and when he comes to die, he is wrapped in a Northern shroud, his grave is dug with a Northern spade and mattock, and the only thing he has which is Southern is the hole in the ground where be is buried."

Now, as a consequence, just as soon as the war broke out, having no factories, having no railroads running east and west, having no control of the land and water transportation, in six months they were on the verge of starvation. I saw several companies of Sibley’s brigade start to New Mexico armed with lances – old-fashioned lances, a long, dressed pole with a rude point to it. They took the old-fashioned flint and steel muskets, and fixed them so they could use percussion caps; they did not have a breech-loading gun. Having no paper factories, the newspapers were being printed within six months on wallpaper – the printing on one side and coloring on the other. I paid $22 in Mexican silver for a hatful of coffee that was smuggled over from Mexico (I could not bear to see my mother do without coffee), but all over the South they were drinking parched sweet potatoes for coffee, and using sassafras tea, and catnip tea, and when they were sick they used boneset tea, and woe to the man who had to take it I

If all this is true among nations, you can understand what I mean when I said woe to the South, where the people have the views of sound doctrine, when it sends its preaching implements to a Northern radical-critic grindstone in order to put on point or edge. I tell you, we ought never to cease praying that God will bless our Southwestern Seminary, and establish it in the hearts of the people.

From a comparison of 1 Samuel 13:1-2, and 1 Samuel 14:47-52 we must suppose:

1. That the text of 1 Samuel 13:1 is defective. Note the difference in the rendering between the common version and the revised version – a very considerable difference.

2. That according to the summary given in 1 Samuel 14:47-52, there is no record of the details of many of Saul’s campaigns.

3. As Saul was a young man when made king, and now comes before us with a grown son, Jonathan, already a hero, we must suppose that for years after he became king his reign was prosperous and according to the charter of the kingdom. In this prosperous part of his reign must always be placed to Saul’s credit the fact that under the most trying conditions he proved himself a great hero in war against mighty odds, while possessing amiable characteristics which endeared him to his family, to the people, and to Samuel. According to David’s eulogy, he found the women of his people in rags and clothed them in scarlet, and put on their apparel ornaments of gold. He taught an unwarlike, undisciplined militia to become mighty warriors. His whole life was one series of battles, beating back the enemies who were pouring in on every side. Then considering these odds against him, his only hope lay in strict obedience to the charter of his kingdom, thus keeping Jehovah as his friend. He never began to fall until he made God his enemy.


1. Is the reference to Saul’s "another heart" equivalent to the "new heart" of Ezekiel 36:26? In what was Saul like Judas, and in what was he unlike him?

2. Why do believers in apostasy use the life of Saul to prove apostasy?

3. What does Paul mean in Galatians 5:4: "Ye are fallen away from grace"?

4. What, particularly, were the steps of the people’s preparation to accept Saul, and how gradually was the acceptance, in glorious climax, made complete?

5. Distinguish in meaning the words "seer" and "prophet," used as synonymous in 2 Samuel 9:7.

6. What humorous play on the common version of 1 Samuel 10:14 did a deacon once make to an indiscreet preacher?

7. How old was Saul when he began to reign?

8. What was his personal appearance?

9. What were the hard conditions of his reign?

10. What are his limited resources?

11. Recite the passage that shows the pitiable condition of the people as to artificers, implements of industry, and arms.

12. What great lessons are derivable from this statement?

13. What must we suppose from a comparison of chapters 1 Samuel 13:1-2 and 1 Samuel 14:47-52?

14. In this prosperous part of his reign, what must always be placed to Saul’s credit?

15. Considering these odds against him, wherein lay his only hope?

Verses 1-25



1 Samuel 8:1-22; 1 Samuel 12:1-25 and Harmony pages 70, 74-75.

I logically connect these two chapters so as to round up Samuel’s judgeship, and the intervening chapters will be discussed later. The general subject for this discussion is, "God through Samuel establishes the monarchy, and Samuel’s vindication when he gives up the position as judge." The general purpose of this chapter is to show the steps of transition from a government by judges to a government by kings. The immediate occasion of the change was the persistent demand of the people.

The grounds alleged by the people for the change were, (1) that Samuel was old; (2) that his sons whom he made judges walked not in his way, and these allegations were strictly true. Samuel was old. He had made his sons judges, as Eli had done in the case of his sons. These sons were unworthy to hold office: "They did not walk in Samuel’s way, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment." Samuel had no right to make judges, nor to appoint his successor; that was Jehovah’s prerogative. He had retained these sons in office, though unworthy, and had so far followed Eli’s example.

Nepotism has always been repugnant to the people.

It was a compliment to the late Senator Coke when his kinsfolk complained that he had never gotten them an office on the score of kinship.

Public office is a public trust, and not for distribution of family patronage.

But their demand displeased Samuel. He did not dispute the facts alleged, nor deny their grievance against his sons, but he objected to the remedy proposed, namely: "Give us a king to judge us." It would interest us to know what Samuel would have done if they had merely demanded the removal of his sons from office and Samuel’s consent to leave to God the appointment of his successor. But it is a destructive remedy to burn a ship in order to get rid of the rats. A change in the form of the government is not always the best way to get rid of unworthy officials, although the people will always demand it if from any cause the legal methods of removal are barred. The people usually are long-suffering, and often know not how practically to get rid of an evil by legal methods. Press them too far, and a revolution comes, maybe a destructive one. Samuel evinced his wisdom by carrying the case to Jehovah in prayer; that is, before he answered the people, with the following results:

1. Jehovah shows that the plausible grounds alleged by the people for the change of government disguised their real motive. It is characteristic of fallen human nature to veil a motive in a plausible plea; for example, to defend saloons on the plea of "personal liberty," or that prohibition "injures business."

2. These people meant, by rejecting Samuel, to reject Jehovah. It was the theocracy to which in heart they objected. They wanted kings like other nations.

3. Jehovah directed Samuel to set before them plainly, in protest, the manner of a king such as other nations had; to thus force them, if they persisted in their demand, to do so with open eyes and with all of their motives unmasked. This would prove that though they had a real grievance, they were not seeking redress of that grievance, but making it a plausible plea for the dethronement of Jehovah, even though their remedy brought grievances a thousand fold worse than those from which they pretended to seek relief.

The character of an Oriental despot is given by Samuel in his protest. Let us look at that in 1 Samuel 8:11-17: "This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them unto him, for his chariots and to be his horsemen; and they shall run before his chariots; and he will appoint them unto him for captains of thousands and captains of fifties; and he will set some to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks; and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king whom ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not answer you in that day." I do not know anywhere in literature a better picture of an Oriental despot than is given in the language of Samuel.

The results, after Samuel showed them what it was to have a king like other nations, were as follows: (1) With their eyes open and their motives exposed, they demanded a king like other nations. (2) Jehovah directed Samuel to make them a king. "Sometimes God answers in wrath." (3) But not to establish such a monarchy as they desired, that is, like other nations, but a kingdom under a written charter which retained the theocratic idea, the earthly king to be only Jehovah’s appointee and vicegerent, subject to Jehovah’s law, and guided in all things by Jehovah’s prophets, and at all times liable to removal by Jehovah. So God does not answer their request altogether. He makes a king, but not such a king as they wanted. Concerning such a ruler Geikie uses the following language:

"Such a ruler would necessarily stand in a unique position. As only viceroy and representative of the true invisible King, Jehovah, he must be pointed out beforehand by special indications, and consecrated as to a sacred office. That be should, moreover, have commended himself to the nation by his qualities and deeds, was essential. Nor could it be permitted him to reign like other Eastern kings, by his mere pleasure; for the rights of Jehovah and those of his people, as a nation of freemen, demanded equal respect. He must, therefore, at all times, remember that he ruled under a higher King, whose will, expressed in his revealed law, was his absolute guide both in religion and ordinary life; its transgression, in any particular, being self-destruction. But such a man would necessarily be in loving sympathy with him under whom he held his authority, to be king after his heart; a man truly religious; obeying, not by mere outward constraint, but from loving choice.

"Though nominally king, it was a condition of his rule that he acted only as the prophet instructed him. Under the strange theocratic constitution enforced by Samuel, he was in fact only a puppet, moved by the prophet as he chose, and forbidden to act in anything as a free agent. The only counterpart to such a state of things in modern times, was the titular rule of the Mikado in Japan, side by side with the real Emperor, the Tycoon; the one a shadow king, the other the actual sovereign power. In antiquity, strange to say, we find parallel to Saul and Samuel among the Getae of the century before Christ. In their wild home north and south of the Danube, that people were ruled by a chief who acted only as the servant of a holy man, without whom he was not allowed to act in anything whatever. Still stranger, the result of this extraordinary custom was the same as followed the rule of Samuel in Israel. From the lowest weakness and moral degeneracy the Getae roused themselves under the leading of the holy man and the phantom king, to a thorough and lasting reformation. Indeed, they so turned themselves to a nobler life that their national vigor showed itself in a puritanical strictness and steadfast bravery, which carried their banners far and wide over new territories, till their kingdom was infinitely extended. Once recognized, such a complete subordination to the representative of the theocracy as was demanded from Saul might become more easy to be borne, but in its early years the strong, valiant warrior must have been sorely tried by finding himself king in name, but in fact absolutely subordinate in the most minute detail to the command of Samuel."

Using the word, "puppet," Geikie is mistaken, since the prophet never spoke except as God commanded, and for a man to rule under the direction of God does not make him a puppet. This kind of a kingdom was not repugnant to Jehovah’s plan, as set forth in their previous history and law, and in their subsequent history.

1. In Genesis 17:16, in the covenant which God made with Abraham, he promised that kings should be his descendants.

2. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20: "When thou art come unto the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around about me; thou shalt surely set him king over thee, whom Jehovah thy God shall choose: one from among the brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, which is not thy brother. Only he shall not multiply horses to himself nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he may multiply horses; forasmuch as Jehovah hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests and the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear Jehovah his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the midst of Israel."

We can tell whether kings of later date did this, for we remember that Solomon took only 700 wives, besides 300 concubines. Every king, in his subsequent history, who violated this kingdom charter, or who refused to hear and obey Jehovah’s prophet, was punished by Jehovah. And to the extent that when one of them respected this charter, be was blessed of Jehovah, he and the people with him.

Thus it is evident that the issue was not whether the ruler should be called judge or king, but that Jehovah ruled, whatever the title of his earthly subordinate. The lesson is a mighty one. Jehovah is King of kings and Lord of lords. His law and authority are paramount over nations as well as over individuals. His government extends over the unwilling as well as the willing. To deny his rule is not to vacate responsibility to his judgment. That it was immaterial whether the ruler was called judge or king, is illustrated by a relative passage from Pope’s Essay on Man. The third epistle of that essay line 303, says:

For forms of government let, fools contest;

Whate’er is best administered is best,

It is further evidenced that the people had to see and admit their wrong in seeking to displace Samuel as judge in 1 Samuel 12:1-25 which gives Samuel’s address and contains the following points:

1. They had to bear witness and have the testimony recorded, to the wisdom, purity, and fidelity of Samuel’s administration when he retired from the judgeship.

2. They had to admit that all great leaders in the past were appointed by Jehovah, and that they had rebelled against every one of them.

3. They had to accept this alternative, with a king put over them; that is, if they and their king submitted to Jehovah’s rule according to the kingdom charter, then well; but if they turned away from him, then condign punishment came on them as on their rebellious fathers.

4. They had still to submit to Samuel as a prophet. The words of Samuel were confirmed by this miracle: He called their attention to the fact that it was harvest time when in ordinary cases it never rained. Then lifting his face, he spoke to Jehovah for a sign, and instantly the heavens were blackened, loud thunder rolled, lightning gored the black bosom of the cloud, and a windstorm came up to testify that God was speaking to them.

The result was that they felt and confessed the sin of their demand, and implored Samuel’s intercession that they might be forgiven, to which he gave the following reply:

1. He encouraged them not to despair on account of their sins – that God was merciful – but to repent and do better in the future.

2. That God, for his own name’s sake, would never forsake that people.

3. That he himself would not sin by ceasing to pray for them that their sins should be forgiven.

4. That he would, as prophet, continue to instruct them in the good and right way.

5. That in view of the great things that God had done for them, they should fear him and serve him in truth with all their hearts; otherwise they would be consumed. With other great events in their history, 1 Samuel 12 may be compared thus:

1. With the farewell address of Moses, (Deut. 29:1-31:5)

2. Joshua’s farewell address (Joshua 24:1-28)

3. Paul’s farewell address to the elders of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:18-38)

4. On the score of patriotism, we may include Washington’s farewell address, when he announced he would no more be president. I once went to the city of Annapolis to see a great picture, or painting, representing the scene of Washington tendering his sword back to Congress at the close of the war, retiring from the office of commander-in-chief. It is a marvelous painting. Supposed but far-distant relatives of mine are in the picture – Charles Carroll and his daughters. In a glass case to the right is the very suit of clothes Washington wore on that day, including his spurs. My old teacher made me memorize Washington’s farewell address. Two doctrines in Samuel’s address need to be emphasized:

1. The ground of God’s not forsaking his elect nation: "Not on your account, but for his own name’s sake," and in this connection you must read Ezekiel 36:22-36, and the whole of Romans II. They both talk about God’s saving in one day the whole Jewish nation.

2. It is a sin not to pray for the forgiveness of sinners, of which the following is a Texas illustration: There was a certain man, preaching in many counties, taking the position that no Christian was justifiable in praying for the forgiveness of the sinner. I joined issue publicly, in the pulpit and in the press, citing Samuel’s doctrine: "God forbid that I should sin in ceasing to pray for the forgiveness of your sins." In that great discussion I referred to what is called the "mourner’s bench," stating that I had no particular fancy for what is called the "mourner’s bench;" that a man could find Christ on the bench, on the floor, behind the barn, or in the field, unless he made this point: "I will do anything that God wants Die to do to be saved, except a certain thing;" that if he reserved any one point on which he would not surrender to God, then he did not surrender at all; and I insisted that in leaving out the "mourner’s bench" they would not leave out the mourning. I did not object to leaving out the bench if they wanted to, but if they did leave it out, I hoped they would not cease praying for sinners.



1. What is the general purpose of this chapter?

2. What is the immediate occasion of the change?

3. What are the grounds alleged by the people for the change?

4. What can you say of these allegations?

5. Why, then, did their demand displease Samuel?

6. In what did Samuel evince his wisdom?

7. What are the results?

8. Describe the character of an Oriental despot as given in Samuel’s protest.

9. What were the results after Samuel showed them what it was to have a king like other nations?

10. Prove that this kind of a kingdom was not repugnant to Jehovah’s plan, as set forth in their previous history and law, and in their subsequent history.

11. If then it was immaterial whether the ruler was called judge or king, cite a relative passage from Pope’s Essay on Man.

12. What further evidence that the people had to see and admit their wrong in seeking to displace Samuel as judge?

13. How were the words of Samuel confirmed?

14. What was the result?

15. Analyze Samuel’s reply.

16. With what other great events in their history may 1 Samuel 12 be compared?

17. What two great doctrines in Samuel’s address need to be emphasized?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/1-samuel-12.html.
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