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SECTION 1. The Birth, Rise, Prophetic Ministry And Judgeship of Samuel (1-12).
This first section of the book covers the life of Samuel from his birth to the setting up of Saul as king in response to the people’s request. The first three chapters deal with the birth and spiritual growth of Samuel. This is then followed in chapter 4 by the Philistine invasion in which the Ark of YHWH of hosts is lost to Israel, something which takes place while Samuel is still a youth. That loss indicates YHWH’s demonstration of the fact that He no longer sees Himself as king over an Israel that has forsaken Him. However, He then goes on to demonstrate His authority over the gods of the Philistines by bringing disaster on them, so that His Ark is restored to Israel by the Philistines, who also pay Him generous tribute. The Ark is then placed with due honour (after a previous unfortunate incident) in the house of Abinadab where it will remain for many years. It is a recognised symbol that YHWH is still present as King over His people, and will therefore, once they turn back to Him, act on their behalf through His appointed deliverers.
This will firstly be through Samuel in this section, then through Saul before he is finally rejected, in the next section, and then through the young David in the final section, until he is outlawed and then exiled as a result of Saul’s activities. As a result of his exile there will be a lull, and the Philistines triumph. But in the second part of the book David will become the Spirit inspired king, the Philistines will be defeated, and then the Ark will be restored for public worship, having been ‘purified’ by its period spent in the house of Abinadab. The Kingship of YHWH has triumphed.
C). The Judgeship of Samuel At The End Of Which The People Seek And Are Granted A Human King (7:15-12:25).
In this subsection from 7:15-12:25 the writer describes the desire of the people for a king and the way in which that king is appointed. Such an appointment would inevitably be a tricky one in Israel, for Israel was comprised of a number of semi-independent tribes, each of which was jealous for its own position, with Judah and Ephraim, the two largest, being especially protective about their rights. And yet someone had to be found who once appointed would have the support of them all. Furthermore, on top of this, Samuel would want to ensure that whoever was appointed was YHWH’s choice.
Samuel clearly recognised the dangers and therefore waited on YHWH’s guidance, and it is the reconciling of these different problems that explains the slow process towards the appointment of the king, a process which in fact went as follows:
1). Samuel waits and prays for YHWH to indicate the right man for the position. When YHWH brings that man to him he must have been relieved to discover that the man was a Benjaminite. They were only a small tribe (which would serve to prevent tribal jealousy among the larger tribes) and were famed for their warlike ability. So he first interviews him, and then secretly anoints him with oil as YHWH’s chosen appointee. The man’s name is Saul. This satisfies Samuel that he has found the right man (1 Samuel 9:1 to 1 Samuel 10:1).
2). He subsequently arranges for Saul to prophesy among the prophets indicating both to him and to others his suitability as a man of God, and that he is acceptable YHWH. This will serve to satisfy the righteous in Israel, and the prophets themselves, who seemingly had an important part to play in the running of affairs. They too are now satisfied that this is their man (1 Samuel 10:5-13).
3). The next step is to have him accepted in the eyes of popular opinion. So Samuel arranges for the assembly of the tribes of Israel to be called together and in view of the fact that there was no precedent for choosing a king, choice is then made by sacred lot in the sight of all. As expected by Samuel the lot falls on Saul. This method of choice by sacred lot was an accepted one in Israel and was seen as revealing the mind of YHWH. We can compare its use under different circumstances in Joshua 7:16-18. In view of the fact that the choice by sacred lot was seen as publicly revealing the mind of YHWH, was carried out before their eyes, and was accepted as a standard way of making such decisions in Israel, it would be enough to satisfy the people that Saul was their man. Thus this would satisfy the common people (1 Samuel 10:17-24).
However, there was inevitably some dissension, from some ‘worthless men’ who did not see how this upstart from a small tribe could ‘save Israel’. Nevertheless the vast majority were with Saul, and preparations would begin for having him officially enthroned and acclaimed in accordance with practise elsewhere.
4). Meanwhile an Ammonite invasion across the Jordan in Transjordan provides an opportunity for Saul to prove his suitability by gaining a victory over the invading Ammonites. This quells the dissension and makes him acceptable to all (1 Samuel 11:1-13).
5). Having been fully established as the right candidate Saul is then acclaimed as king at Gilgal before YHWH (1 Samuel 11:14-15).
6). Samuel resigns his judgeship and YHWH expresses His anger at the people’s decision with a storm at harvest time (1 Samuel 12:1-25).
By these means the acceptability of Saul as king was established, both among the prophets and throughout all the tribes. This would ensure that there would only be minimal dissension in the future, because Saul was now seen as ‘YHWH’s anointed’. All recognised that Samuel had selected him, that YHWH was pleased with him, that the lot had confirmed his acceptability to God, that he had proved himself a suitable war-leader (a most necessary qualification in those days), and that he had been finally and officially crowned and acclaimed.
The whole subsection may be analysed as follows:
a Samuel judges Israel faithfully and well (1 Samuel 7:15-17).
b Samuel’s sons prove unworthy and the people call for a King (1 Samuel 8:1-6).
c The manner of the King that they will receive (1 Samuel 8:7-22).
d Saul is brought to Samuel by God and is revealed and greeted by him as the new king (1 Samuel 9:1-21).
e Saul is feasted and then secretly anointed, and learns that the asses have been found (1 Samuel 9:22 to 1 Samuel 10:2).
f The signs of Saul’s acceptance and his coming enduing with the Spirit of YHWH (1 Samuel 10:3-7).
g Saul is to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to come in order to offer offerings and sacrifices and to show him what he is to do (1 Samuel 10:8).
f The promised signs are fulfilled and the Spirit of YHWH comes on Saul (1 Samuel 10:9-13).
e Saul returns to his uncle and informs him that Samuel had told him that the asses had been found, but maintains the secret of the kingship (10:14-16).
d Saul is brought before the people, revealed as their king by lot and greeted by them as the king (1 Samuel 10:17-24).
c Samuel records ‘the manner of the kingship’ and writes it in a book (1 Samuel 10:25-27).
b YHWH delivers His people from the Ammonites through Saul and the kingship is finally confirmed at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:1-15).
a Samuel hands back the judgeship to the people and charges the people to be faithful to YHWH (1 Samuel 12:1-25).
Samuel Withdraws From His Position Of Authority (1 Samuel 12:1-25 ).
Now that Samuel could see that Saul’s position was secure he wanted to make clear that as far as he was concerned it was the end of his own rulership over Israel. He indicated that he would continue to be YHWH’s prophet on their behalf, but that they must recognise once and for all that the civil authority now lay in the hands of Saul. This clear break was very wise, for it was important to avoid possible future divisions in the kingdom. No nation could have two masters.
This desire to make a clean break explains why he so openly gave account of his stewardship. It was in order to make abundantly clear to the people that, this account having been made, he bore no further responsibility. He stressed that as a prophet he would certainly continue to pray for them, and that he would instruct them and the king in the right way. But from now on he would not interfere in the rulership.
This was an important moment in Israel’s history. It was the end of the period of judgeship during which leaders were appointed by YHWH, and the beginning of a full scale kingship which was intended to lead to a dynasty. Gideon had been a petty king, but that had only been over a small part of Israel, and any dynastic ambitions collapsed. But now Saul had been appointed over all Israel as king, and it will be noted that from now on Israel’s fortunes will be closely tied in with their king’s fortunes. When the king does what is right in YHWH’s eyes things will go well. When the king does not do right in YHWH’s eyes things will go badly. This will be evidenced in the life of David, and it was the price of having a king.
However, before handing over Samuel will seek to bring home to them the sinfulness and folly of what they had done. He describes how right from the time when Jacob had taken Israel into Egypt God had been their king, raising up deliverers and war leaders whenever His people sought His face. But now they had rejected God’s direct rule. From now on they would have a king, with all the consequences that would result from it. And he wants them to know that while God had graciously acceded to their request, He was not pleased about it. For He recognised it for what it was. Rejection of His hand being directly over them.
Samuel Now Explains How They Have Offended YHWH And Calls On YHWH For A Sign Which Will Demonstrate To Them What They Have Done, After Which He Promises That As Their Prophet He Will Continue To Pray For Them (1 Samuel 12:6-25 ).
His oration can be divided into two halves, the first dealing with how they have offended YHWH, as the people did of old. And the second part looking at what is required for the future, accompanied by a portentous sign of YHWH’s displeasure, and his assurance that he will pray for them. For he wants them to appreciate that they are still accountable to YHWH.
a And Samuel said to the people, “It is YHWH who appointed Moses and Aaron, and who brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Samuel 12:6).
b “Now therefore stand still, that I may plead with you before YHWH concerning all the righteous acts of YHWH, which he did to you and to your fathers” (1 Samuel 12:7).
c “When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried to YHWH, then YHWH sent Moses and Aaron, who brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them to dwell in this place” (1 Samuel 12:8).
d But they forgot YHWH their God; and 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” (1 Samuel 12:9).
e “And they cried to YHWH, and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken YHWH, and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve you’. And YHWH sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you dwelt in safety” (1 Samuel 12:10-11).
f “And when you saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when YHWH your God was your king” (1 Samuel 12:12).
g “Now therefore see the king whom you have chosen, and whom you have asked for, and see, YHWH has set a king over you” (1 Samuel 12:13).
h “If you will fear YHWH, and serve him, and listen to his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of YHWH, and both you and also the king who reigns over you be followers of YHWH your God, then it will be well with you. But if you will not listen to the voice of YHWH, but rebel against the commandment of YHWH, then will the hand of YHWH be against you, as it was against your fathers” (1 Samuel 12:14-15).
g “Now therefore stand still and see this great thing, which YHWH will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call to YHWH, that he may send thunder and rain” (1 Samuel 12:17 a).
f “And you will know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of YHWH, in asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called to YHWH, and YHWH sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared YHWH and Samuel (1 Samuel 12:17-18).
e And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to YHWH your God, that we do not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king” (1 Samuel 12:19).
d And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid. You have indeed done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following YHWH, but serve YHWH with all your heart, and do not turn aside, for then would you go after vain things which cannot profit nor deliver, for they are vain (1 Samuel 12:20-21).
c For YHWH will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased YHWH to make you a people for himself” (1 Samuel 12:22).
b “Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against YHWH in ceasing to pray for you, but I will instruct you in the good and the right way” (1 Samuel 12:23).
a “Only fear YHWH, and serve him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great the things that he has done for you. But if you shall still do wickedly, you will be consumed, both you and your king” (1 Samuel 12:24-25).
Note that in ‘a’ they are reminded that it was YHWH Who appointed both Aaron and Moses, and delivered their fathers, and in the parallel they are warned that if they do not obey YHWH they will not be delivered, but both they and their king will be consumed, (as in fact Moses and Aaron were for disobedience). In ‘b’ he pleads with the people before YHWH concerning His righteous acts towards His people, and in the parallel he assures them that he will not sin against YHWH by ceasing to pray for them. In ‘c’ he declares how previously YHWH had delivered His people through Aaron and Moses in response to His people’s prayers (making them a people for himself), and in the parallel he confirms that YHWH will not forsake them, because He has made them a people for Himself. In ‘d’ their ancestors had forgotten YHWH and been sold into the hands of their enemies, and in the parallel they are not to turn aside and go after unprofitable vain things. In ‘e’ their ancestors had cried to YHWH because they had sinned, and they sought deliverance, and in the parallel the people ask Samuel to pray for them that they dies not, admitting their sins. In ‘f’ when they saw Nahash coming against them they demanded a king, and in the parallel because they had demanded a king they would experience thunder and rain. In ‘g’ they are ‘now’ (‘atah) to see and behold the king that they have chosen and asked for, and in the parallel they are ‘now’ (gam ‘atah) to stand still and see the great thing which YHWH will do before their eyes. In ‘h’ and centrally they are to fear YHWH and serve Him, both they and their king, and are warned what will happen if they do not listen to Him.
Samuel Makes A Clean Break From His Civic Responsibilities (1 Samuel 12:1-5 ).
In his farewell speech Samuel begins by making clear that he is now free from all civil responsibility for Israel. He wants them to know without any shadow of doubt that from now on he will act only as YHWH’s prophet. The deliberate detail in which he does this emphasises the cleanness of the break. As far as he is concerned once the people have given him clearance he ceases his duties. From now on they must look to the king whom they have chosen to watch over their interests in all civil matters. He will no longer be their ‘Judge’.
a And Samuel said to all Israel, “Look, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me, and have made a king over you. And now, see, the king walks before you, and I am old and grey-headed, and look, my sons are with you, and I have walked before you from my youth to this day” (1 Samuel 12:1-2).
b “Here I am. Witness against me before YHWH, 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 taken a ransom with which to blind mine eyes? And I will restore it you.” (1 Samuel 12:3).
b And they said, You have not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, nor have you taken anything of any man’s hand” (1 Samuel 12:4).
a And he said to them, “YHWH is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness” (1 Samuel 12:5).
Note that in ‘a’ he points out that he has made a king over them and has walked before them openly since his youth, and in the parallel he charges them in the sight of YHWH and the king to bear witness that he has not failed them in any way. In ‘b’ he sets out the charges that might possibly have been laid against him, and in the parallel the people refute them.
1 Samuel 12:1-2
‘ And Samuel said to all Israel, “Look, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me, and have made a king over you. And now, see, the king walks before you, and I am old and grey-headed, and look, my sons are with you, and I have walked before you from my youth to this day.”
He begins by pointing out that he has listened to their voice and made a king over them. He wants them to be absolutely clear that it was their choice and not his. Let them recognise that he had not wanted them to have a king over them. He had wanted YHWH to be their King. But they have gone their own way and chosen a king.
How much we all like a king (whether it be a pastor, or a youth leader, or some other person in authority). It is so much easier to have someone who will tell us exactly what to do so that no blame might be laid at our door. And we then hope that he will not make too many demands on us. But what we really do not want to have to do is look to God directly for guidance, and to commit our way totally to Him. For we know that, in His case, any demands that He makes on us will be absolute, and that such a walk requires faith and obedience. It is a call to full surrender.
Then Samuel stresses that their king walks before them (and he could have added ‘in the prime of life’) for he contrasts the king with himself, old in years and grey-headed, with grown up sons who live among them. And he stresses that from his youth he has walked openly before them and served them. But that is now over. Now they must look for their young king to serve them.
1 Samuel 12:3
“ Here I am. Witness against me before YHWH, 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 taken a ransom with which to blind mine eyes? And I will restore it you.”
So he then calls on them to bear witness concerning him in the sight of YHWH, and of the one whom YHWH has ‘anointed’. For the latter see 1 Samuel 10:1; and compare 1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 2:35. The anointing indicated someone totally separated to God, and they could see in each one who was anointed by YHWH the potential future coming king who was described in 1 Samuel 2:10. But, alas, one by one each one of them, even David, would prove a disappointment.
And he asks the people whether, in the sight of these two, YHWH and His representative, they are able honestly to accuse him of any misdemeanour? Has he taken their oxen or asses (deprived them of their most valued possessions)? Has he ever defrauded them? Has he ever oppressed them? Has he ever accepted a bribe which has made him close his eyes to the truth (compare Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; and contrast 1 Samuel 8:3)? If they can rightly accuse him of any of these things he will recompense them now, restoring to them what they claim that they have lost.
1 Samuel 12:4
‘ And they said, You have not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, nor have you taken anything of any man’s hand.” ’
Their reply is that he is clear of any of those things. They recognise that he has been honest and true in all things.
1 Samuel 12:5
‘ And he said to them, “YHWH is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.” ’
He then asks them to confirm the fact in front of YHWH and in front of the one whom He has anointed, with both of them acting as witnesses. They reply by affirming that YHWH Himself is witness, and as the Greater includes the lesser, so also is His anointed. Thus Samuel has a twofold witness that he has not failed them in any way. And having sworn to his innocence they now know without any doubt that Samuel’s long watch over them as Judge is over. They can no longer look to him to act in civil affairs. From now on they must look to Saul.
Samuel First Briefly Recounts The History of YHWH’s Goodness In Appointing Deliverers In Order To Deliver Them (The Way In Which He Has Chosen To Rule Them), And Yet Even Then They Have Continually Failed To Respond To Him, Something Which Has Finally Come To A Head In Their Replacing YHWH With An Earthly King (1 Samuel 12:6-12 ).
The people having borne witness to his faithfulness and integrity before YHWH as their witness, he now turns the tables on them and bears witness to their faithlessness and lack of integrity in the eyes of God when God acted as their Judge, first of their fathers, and then of themselves. For after He had delivered them from Egypt they had failed Him constantly. And yet even so they had also constantly depended on Him when they were in trouble, and at such times He had appointed Saviours for them. And He had done this even to the last, in appointing Saul as their present war-leader and deliverer, and in doing so He had tried to point them in the way of making him only their war-leader (nagid), and continuing in the old way. But they had refused and had rather chosen to make him their full-blown king.
1 Samuel 12:6-7
‘ And Samuel said to the people, “It is YHWH who appointed Moses and Aaron, and who brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still, that I may plead with you before YHWH concerning all the righteous acts of YHWH, which he did to you and to your fathers.” ’
The one ‘on trial’ has suddenly become the accuser. He reminds them of God’s method of saving and ruling His people, that when they were in bondage in Egypt it was YHWH Who had appointed Moses and Aaron to be His people’s deliverers and bring them out of the land of Egypt. YHWH had not failed them then. And he asks them to stand and listen while he goes on to demonstrate before YHWH concerning all the righteous things that YHWH has done for them and their fathers, after which he lists some of YHWH’s appointments in terms of the names of the ones whom He sent.
1 Samuel 12:8
“ When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried to YHWH, then YHWH sent Moses and Aaron, who brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them to dwell in this place.”
First, when Jacob had brought the people into Egypt they had cried to YHWH in the time of bondage that had resulted from this, and He had then sent Moses and Aaron who had brought their fathers out of Egypt into this very place that they now were. That they were there at all was due to YHWH.
1 Samuel 12:9
“ But they forgot YHWH their God; and 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.”
But they had then forgotten YHWH their God, and so He had, as it were, sold them as slaves into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor (Judges 4-5), and into the hand of the Philistines (Judges 3:31), and into the hand of Moab (Judges 3:12-30), and they had come and fought against them. Note that Samuel here lists them in reverse order as compared with the Book of Judges, while after 1 Samuel 12:10 the next three will be listed forwards. This deliberately centres all the emphasis on their failure described in verse 10, pointing to it like an arrow from both sides.
1 Samuel 12:10
“ And they cried to YHWH, and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken YHWH, and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve you’.”
Here was the crunch of the matter. Each time they had forsaken YHWH and had served other gods. But when they were in distress and those gods could not help them they had called on YHWH, and had admitted their sin and idolatry, and had then prayed for deliverance and had promised to serve Him. And each time YHWH had heard them.
1 Samuel 12:11
“ And YHWH sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you dwelt in safety.”
And the result of their pleas was that YHWH had sent Jerub-baal (Gideon - Judges 6-8), Bedan (‘Abdon - Judges 13:13? or Barak - Judges 4-5?), Jephthah (Judges 11-12) and Samuel, and each time He had delivered them from the hands of their enemies so that they dwelt in safety. The mention of Samuel’s own name may suggest that he was figuratively ticking off the names of the Judges on a mental list with which the people were familiar, possibly one cited at the annual feasts. It was, of course, important that his name be mentioned because it brought the deliverances right up to date. And yet the citing of his name suggested that he wanted to avoid making it personal.
Jerub-baal was an alternative name given to Gideon (Judges 6:31-32; Judges 7:1). Bedan (bdn meaning ‘corpulent’) may have been a well known judge and deliverer, known to all Israel and not to us (otherwise he is out of order). It may have been a variant of ‘Abdon (‘bdn) who had seventy offspring who rode on seventy asses (Judges 12:13-14). Or it may be a humerous twisting of the name of Barak (in the Hebrew Bedan and Barak look fairly similar) possibly because Barak was remembered in the tradition as corpulent (this thus being given as a nick name, ‘fatty’). However, against the idea that it refers to Barak is the fact that the earlier judges, of which he was one, have already been dealt with previously without being named. Or it has even been suggested that it could be an abbreviation of ben-Dan (son of Dan) referring to Samson, but it seems unlikely. Jephthah we know of from Judges 11-12.
1 Samuel 12:12
“ And when you saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when YHWH your God was your king.”
And when they had seen Nahash, the king of the children of Ammon, coming against them they had been provided with Saul as a war-leader (nagid - 1 Samuel 9:16), but had demanded rather that they might have him as a king, even though YHWH their God was their King. (This verse presents what has been said previously, in abbreviated form). So the line of deliverers right up to the present day had ended in the rejection of YHWH as their King.
Samuel Then Stresses That YHWH Has Graciously Given Them Their Desire And Calls On Them To Respond In Like Manner (1 Samuel 12:13-15 ).
Samuel now stresses that, in spite of their attitude towards Him, it is still YHWH Who has set over them this king whom they had demanded, and have now chosen. Therefore if both they and their king will continue to hear His voice and obey Him then all will go well with them. But if they refuse to listen to His voice and do not obey Him and His commandments, than they must rather expect that it will go ill with them. Thus although their choosing a king other than YHWH will make if more difficult for them to continue looking to YHWH, how it eventually turns out will depend on them and them alone.
1 Samuel 12:13
“ Now therefore see the king whom you have chosen, and whom you have asked for, and see, YHWH has set a king over you.”
He presents Saul to them as the one that they have themselves chosen. Notice the emphasis on the fact that it is their choice which has been effective (even though guided by him and approved by lot), which suggests again that Samuel has been keeping himself in the background during the confirmation of kingship. And he stresses they have chosen him as a result of the fact that they had first asked for him. All the responsibility for these actions thus lies on them. And it is because of all this that YHWH had set him as king over them.
(What the people had done should be a reminder to us of how often we manoeuvre God into doing our will, something to which He responds out of His compassion for us, and then we blame Him when things go wrong, whereas if only we had really listened to His voice in the first place, it would never have happened).
1 Samuel 12:14
“ If you will fear YHWH, and serve him, and listen to his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of YHWH, and both you and also the king who reigns over you be followers of YHWH your God, then it will be well with you.”
The new situation need not turn out badly. It is up to them. For the appointment of a king has not altered YHWH’s basic requirements, nor has it let the people off from obedience. It is still required of them that they fear YHWH, and serve Him, and listen to His voice. Both they and the king must be followers of YHWH. And the implication is that if they do this, it will be well with them. (‘Then it will be well with you’ is not expressed in the Hebrew, but is the implication to be read in).
1 Samuel 12:15
“ But if you will not listen to the voice of YHWH, but rebel against the commandment of YHWH, then will the hand of YHWH be against you, as it was against your fathers.”
On the other hand if having a king results in their not listening to His voice, but in their rebelling against the commandments of YHWH, then the hand of YHWH will be against them, as it was regularly against their fathers when they also neglected God.
We may ask, what difference then would having a king make? And the answer is that it would insulate them from God so that they did not have to deal with God directly. That would be left to the king. And the inevitable result of that would be that the trust of most of them would be in the king and not in God. And when things went wrong it would be the king that they blamed, rather than their own state before God.
Samuel Then Calls On YHWH To Witness From Heaven The Fact Of Their Sinfulness By Sending Thunder And Rain At The Time Of The Wheat Harvest (1 Samuel 12:16-19 ).
Then, lest the people begin to think that perhaps their action has not been so bad after all, Samuel gives them a sign from God of His displeasure. It was the time of the wheat harvest, the time in Israel when the sky was daily blue and cloudless, and when rain was something far away from their minds because it was not expected for at least a few months, so Samuel calls on YHWH to do the ‘impossible’, to bring thunder and rain at Samuel’s request. And when He does so the people are filled with awe and fear and ask Samuel to pray for them that they might not die, for they recognise now the greatness of their sin and folly in asking for a king.
1 Samuel 12:16
“ Now therefore stand still and see this great thing, which YHWH will do before your eyes.”
Samuel faces the people and tells them to stand where they are, for in that very place they will see the great thing that YHWH will do before their eyes.
1 Samuel 12:17
“ Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call to YHWH, that he may send thunder and rain, and you will know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of YHWH, in asking for yourselves a king.”
And then he informs them what it will be. At this very time of wheat harvest (May and June) when the weather was always hot and sunny (as it always is in Palestine at this time of year, without a cloud in the sky), he will call on YHWH to send thunder and rain so that they might recognise and see that their wickedness was great in asking for a king for themselves, something which they had done before the very eyes of YHWH.
Control of the weather was always recognised as being in YHWH’s hands, and the sending of rain at the right time was to be seen as one of the evidences of His blessings on His people, whereas a shortage of rain indicated His displeasure. But rain and thunder had regularly been a means by which God had revealed His judgment on His people’s enemies (1 Samuel 7:10; compare Judges 5:20-21). Thus this rain and thunder, coming at this time, could only indicate to the people that God was angry with them. Indeed rain in harvest was seen as something of such rarity that it was as rare as the possibility of a fool receiving honour (Proverbs 26:1).
The parallel in the chiasmus also indicates something further. It suggests that the rain and thunder were symbolic of coming judgments. Because they had chosen their own king rather than being in full submission to YHWH they would experience future judgments. And as we move on into Saul’s reign we discover that that is precisely what did happen. Indeed had God in His mercy not provided a David it would have been very much worse. But He tempered justice with mercy.
1 Samuel 12:18
‘ So Samuel called to YHWH, and YHWH sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared YHWH and Samuel.’
Samuel then carried out his proposal and called on YHWH, and YHWH sent thunder and rain ‘that very day’, and the result was that the people realised just how much they had angered both God and Samuel, and they were filled with fear before both of them (compare Exodus 14:31 for a similar situation). Samuel was not, of course, simply seeking to terrify them. In his heart he was doing it for their good so that they might learn a lesson for the future. He wanted them to recognise that this manipulation of the weather was something that their new king would not be able to do for them. And he did not want them to forget YHWH.
1 Samuel 12:19
‘ And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to YHWH your God, that we do not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” ’
The display of divine power made the people realise how foolish they had been, and they begged Samuel, on whom they had always depended in the past, to pray for them to YHWH his God that they might not die in the terrible storm, for they now recognised that they had added to all their previous sins this evil, that they had sought for themselves a king. Most of them would forget it once the storm was over. But for the present it was mightily effective.
Samuel Promises Them That He Will Not Forget His Responsibility Towards Them as Their Prophet, Assures Them That He will Pray For Them And Continue To Teach Them The Right Way, And Warns Them Again Of The Necessity Of Being Faithful To YHWH (1 Samuel 12:20-25 ).
While they are in this state of remorse Samuel takes the opportunity to stress what they must do in the future. He assures them that he will not fail in his responsibilities of praying for them and teaching them in the future, and in return they are to ensure that they do not turn aside from following YHWH, but are to follow Him faithfully, serving Him with all their heart, and not turning after what is vain and cannot profit them or deliver them.
1 Samuel 12:20-21
‘ And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid. You have indeed done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following YHWH, but serve YHWH with all your heart, and do not turn aside, for then would you go after vain things which cannot profit nor deliver, for they are vain.” ’
Samuel seeks to comfort them and assure them that for now at least YHWH intends them no harm. He accepts that they have done great evil, both in the past and in their present decision, but calls on them not to turn aside from following YHWH. Rather they are to serve Him with all their heart. For if they do turn aside it will only be to go after vain things (i.e. false gods who are nothings - compare the same word in Isaiah 41:29; Isaiah 44:9, and see 1 Corinthians 8:4) which can neither profit them nor deliver them. There really is no sound alternative from YHWH.
1 Samuel 12:22
“ For YHWH will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased YHWH to make you a people for himself.”
In return he guarantees that YHWH will never finally forsake His people. He reminds them that He has been pleased in His unmerited love to make them a people for Himself (see especially Deuteronomy 7:6-11), and that He will therefore, for His own Name and reputation’s sake, be faithful to His promises. Compare Moses’ argument in Exodus 32:11-13.
Note the unconditional nature of God’s faithfulness. It is because of what He has determined and brought about in His sovereign will that He will be faithful to them. And that faithfulness continued throughout all Israel’s unfaithfulness, until it finally resulted in the new Israel founded on Christ through His Apostles of which all believers become a part, and to which God will be everlastingly faithful. God is faithful to Israel still.
1 Samuel 12:23
“ Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against YHWH in ceasing to pray for you, but I will instruct you in the good and the right way.”
Samuel guarantees that he also will be faithful to them. To sin against YHWH by ceasing to pray for them is something that is far from his heart. Rather they can be sure that he will continue faithfully to instruct them in the good and the right way, the way of YHWH. If they fail it will not be because he has failed.
Thus they are assured that whatever they have done, their faithful prophet who has watched over them for so long, will continue to look after their spiritual interests.
1 Samuel 12:24
“ Only fear YHWH, and serve him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great the things that he has done for you.”
So what they must do in response is walk before YHWH in the fear of God, and serve Him in truth as they consider all the great things that He has done for them.
1 Samuel 12:25
“ But if you shall still do wickedly, you will be consumed, both you and your king.”
On the other hand, if they do still behave sinfully, then they will be consumed, both them and their king. Thus their responsibility towards God is still the same. They cannot hide behind their king.
And with these exhortations, promises and pleas he relinquished his civic authority over them into the hands of Saul. From now on he would only have responsibility for their spiritual lives, and that only if they sought God with all their hearts.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany