Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 12

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-25

Samuel’s Farewell Address (12:1-25)

This speech belongs to the second and later tradition, and is paralleled by Joshua’s farewell address in Joshua 24. The speech continues the emphasis of 1 Samuel 10:17-27. Samuel reminded his hearers that he had gone along with them in the election of a king, and now he offered his apologia. He made no mention of the misdemeanor of his sons, but affirmed his honesty in the discharge of his judgeship, listing the errors into which he might have fallen.

He had not defrauded or oppressed the Israelites, nor had he taken a bribe to let a murderer go free (the word for "bribe" here applies specifically to this kind of case).

Samuel followed up the declaration of innocence by a survey of Israel’s past history. The Deuteronomic cycles of sin and judgment, repentance and mercy, already disclosed in the framework of Judges, are here delineated in summary form. The Lord’s deliverance of his people can be described as his "saving deeds"; in them he manifests his righteousness by delivering the oppressed. The prophets saw the Lord as a righteous God and a Savior (Isaiah 45:21). Now Israel’s greatest sin has been committed. The antimonarchial theme appears, as Samuel arraigns the people for choosing a king to put in the place of the Lord. Yet all may still be well if they and their king obey God and walk in his ways. If they do not, then the hand of God will be against them in judgment. As a sign that his message was authentic Samuel called for what was a miracle in Palestine — rain during the harvest. The latter rains preceded the harvest and then normally no more came until the autumn. The sign was given, a thunderstorm which was a manifestation of God’s presence in judgment and in mercy. We have here yet another reminder of how, in these early days, the natural phenomena of lightning and thunder, storm and fire, could become extensions of the divine Presence, disclosing and also veiling God’s glory.

The people’s repentance, as this miraculous rain descended, met with a twofold response on Samuel’s part. The first was the injunction that the true worship of the Lord must be preserved, even under the new conditions of a monarchy. The second was the affirmation that they were God’s Chosen People, and that he would not cast them off, because he had chosen them and must abide true to himself and to his choice. This is the meaning of the phrase "for his great name’s sake." God’s name is himself, and God must be true to his own character. If God is righteous, he must abide by the norm that is himself; he cannot belie himself. If he has chosen Israel, then he will abide by his choice, even in his judgment on his people. At this point, Samuel stopped short, and it was left for the later prophets to hope for a divine righteousness which, through judgment, would work redemption for Israel, a hope fulfilled in Jesus and his Church, the New Israel.

We notice how the prophetic function of intercession is reaffirmed. Samuel offered his services as intercessor for the people. This was his duty under God. To forego praying for his fellows would be sin against God. Prayer was now the most effective aspect of his ministry, for by it the floodgates of heaven’s mercy must be opened.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/1-samuel-12.html.
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