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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

1 Samuel 12

Verses 1-25

CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES.—

1 Samuel 12:1. “And Samuel said,” etc. “The time and place of the following address are not given, but it is evident from the connection with the preceding chapter, and still more from the introduction and the entire contents of the address, that it was delivered on the renewal of the monarchy at Gilgal.”(Keil.) “I have hearkened.” etc. These words correspond exactly to the words in 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 8:21. Samuel at the same time testifies indirectly to the fact that he had therein obeyed the command of God: “Hearken to the voice of the people.” (Erdmann.) “By appointing a great part of this chapter (viz. to 1 Samuel 12:22) to be read in the synagogues as a Haphtarah to Numbers 16:0; Numbers 17, 18, the ancient Hebrew Church suggests the parallel between this speech of Samuel and the address of Moses in reply to Korah and his rebellious associates.” (Wordsworth.)

1 Samuel 12:2. “My sons are with you.” “They are reduced to the condition of private persons, and are subjects of the king, as ye are.” (Wordsworth.) “Perhaps only an amplification of the words ‘I am old and grey-headed.’ His grown-up sons were evidences of his age. Possibly, however, a tinge of mortified feeling at the rejection of himself and his family, mixed with a desire to recommend his sons to the good-will of the nation, is at the bottom of this mention of them.” (Biblical Commentary.)

1 Samuel 12:3. “Witness against me.” “The venerable judge, in resigning his magisterial authority, challenged the most minute inquiry into every act of his administration.… History scarcely anywhere presents a more striking example of the moral sublime. Grotius compares Samuel to Aristides.” (Jamieson.) “What Samuel here affirms of his official career stands in direct contrast with what is said in 1 Samuel 8:3, of the blameworthy conduct of his sons; since it is inconceivable that he did not know, and had not now in mind the covetousness and perversion of judgment and the resulting discontent of the people, which was a co-factor in their desire for a royal government. The mode, as well as the fact and contents of the following justification, naturally suggest the statement in 1 Samuel 8:3, and lead to the conclusion that this was the occasion of this (otherwise surprising) justification of his official career, on which in the eyes of the people a shadow had fallen in consequence of the opposite conduct of his sons.” (Erdmann.) “His anointed:”i.e., of course, king Saul. The title Messiah, or anointed, had been given to the High Priests (Leviticus 4:3-5, etc.), and in Hannah’s prophetic song and in the prophecy of the man of God sent to Eli, prophetic mention had been made of God’s anointed; but this must be noted as the earliest instance of an actual king of Israel bearing the title of God’s Christ, and thus typifying the true Messiah or Christ of God. The application of the term anointed to Saul, makes it probable that he had been publicly anointed by Samuel at Gilgal. The secret anointing, mentioned at 1 Samuel 10:1, would not be notorious enough to explain the phrase to the whole people of Israel.” (Biblical Commentary.) “To blind mine eyes therewith,” rather “that I should hide mine eyes at him.” “The thought is not that the judge covers his eyes from the copher (or ransom) that he may not see the bribe, but that he covers his eyes with it, so as not to see and not to punish the crime committed.” (Keil.) “I will restore.” Compare Zaccheus’s saying, Luke 19:8. (Biblical Commentary.)

1 Samuel 12:6. “It is the Lord that advanced, etc.” Literally made, i.e., appointed them to their office. “The word make is to be understood of those excellent gifts which God had bestowed on Moses and his brother Aaron, that He might use their ministry in leading the people out of Egypt.” (Calvin.) “Observe the constant reference to the Exodus as the well-known turning point of their national life.” (Biblical Commentary.)

1 Samuel 12:7. “Stand still, that I may reason with you.” “Both verbs have a forensic sense. They would be better rendered stand up (as if in a court of justice) that I may contend with you before the Lord. Samuel is, as it were, the advocate of Jehovah, vindicating the righteousness of His dealings with Israel, and throwing all the blame of their calamities on themselves (compare Stephen’s speech, Acts 7:0).” (Biblical Commentary.)

1 Samuel 12:9. “Samuel here introduces individual facts from the times of the Judges, but only prominent events as they occurred to him, neglecting their order, which was in itself unessential.” (Erdmann.)

1 Samuel 12:11. “Bedan.” This name does not occur in the book of Judges, and only in one other place in the Bible (1 Chronicles 7:17). As Samuel here places it between the names of two well-known Hebrew deliverers, many commentators agree with Kiel in believing that it is a copyist’s error for Barak, the Hebrew letters in both words being nearly identical in form. Samuel. Some commentators here substitute Samson, thinking it more natural than that the prophet should mention himself, and omit the greatest of the judges. But Erdmann remarks that “Samuel could mention himself without exciting surprise, because he was conscious of his high mission as judge and deliverer, and the profound significance of his office for the history of Israel was universally recognised. By this mention of himself he honours not himself but the Lord, who had made him (like Moses and Aaron before) what he was (comp. 1 Samuel 12:6-9). Besides, it was under him that the yoke of the forty years dominion of the Philistines was broken, which work of deliverance Samuel was only able to begin.”

1 Samuel 12:12. “And when ye saw that Nahash.” “It hence appears not improbable that Nahash had made incursions into the Hebrew territory before the Israelites had demanded a king, and after his election had returned, and begun the siege of Jabesh.” (Clericus).

1 Samuel 12:14. “Translate If ye will fear the Lord, and serve Him, and obey His voice, so as not to rebel against the mouth of the Lord, and will be (both you and your king that reigns over you) followers after the Lord your God.” (Biblical Commentary.)

1 Samuel 12:17. “Is it not wheat-harvest to-day?” The wheat-harvest occurs in Palestine between the middle of May and the middle of June. “In ordinary seasons, from the cessation of the showers in spring until their commencement in October and November, rain never falls, and the sky is usually serene.” (Robinson.) “Thunderings, as ‘the voices of God’ (Exodus 9:28), are the harbingers of judgment.” (Keil.)

1 Samuel 12:18. “Feared the Lord and Samuel” “Compare the very similar phrase (Exodus 14:31).” (Biblical Commentary.) “Samuel is added because he—as before by his word, so by his introduction of this manifestation, wonderful and contrary to the ordinary course of nature, of God’s wrath—had displayed himself as instrument of the judicial power and glory of the God-king.” (Erdmann.)

1 Samuel 12:21. “Vain things,” i.e., the idols, “because they are vain;” literally emptiness, i.e., worthless beings.

1 Samuel 12:22. “For His great name’s sake,”i.e., for the great name which He had acquired in the sight of all the nations by the marvellous guidance of Israel thus far to preserve it against misapprehension and blasphemy.” (Keil.)

1 Samuel 12:24. “How great things,” etc. Some refer this to the miracle mentioned in 1 Samuel 12:18, but the immediate connection seems to refer it to the mighty deliverances of which Samuel has just been reminding them.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE CHAPTER

SAMUEL’S PUBLIC RESIGNATION OF HIS OFFICE

I. A change of relationship or position naturally suggests a review of the past. When, on a journey, we have for some time been travelling in one direction, and we suddenly come to a turn in the road, we very naturally stand for a moment and look at the path which we have trodden, and which we are now about to quit. If we are journeying in a country with which we are unacquainted, such a review will probably be useful to us—it will help us to a more definite conception of our whereabouts. So when a man is about to enter into new relationships, whether of a private or public character, it is natural that he should look back upon the path which he has trodden up to the present moment, and if he do this in a right spirit it will be helpful to him in the future. It is good for a man to do this when he is about to undertake a position of responsibility, whether public or private; and it is good for him to do it also when he is about to resign any office of trust, whether to a single master or to his country. Happy will he be if at such a time he can, with Samuel, call God to witness that he has performed his duties faithfully. Samuel had, during a long life, been God’s vicegerent in Israel; his public work was now about to cease, and consequently his relationship to the nation would be changed. It is not in egotism or boastfulness that he recalls the manner in which he has discharged his trust, or reminds them that by him (1 Samuel 12:11) God had delivered them out of the hand of their enemies—such a review of the past was natural and right. But Samuel not only looks back upon the road by which he has arrived at the present turning-point in his life, he also bids the people whom he is addressing recall the steps by which they, as a nation, had arrived at the position in which they now stood. His relationship to them was about to undergo a change, which was in some respects the natural result of his advancing years, although it was partly due to the late national movement. But they had by their own choice taken an entirely new position, and assumed entirely new responsibilities; and although their sinful self-willed action in the past could not be recalled, yet many sins and much misery might be avoided in the future if they now gratefully and humbly remembered all the way by which the Lord their God had led them.

II. Whenever a nation rejects God, such rejection will be followed by signs of God’s displeasure. The miracle which followed Samuel’s words was a confirmation of their truth. It was a token that he was expressing the feelings of the Divine mind regarding Israel’s conduct. The conception which Israel now had of a king was not God’s conception, and their desire to have a king like the nations was a rejection of their Divine and invisible King. Hence this token of His displeasure. In later days this same nation rejected this Divine King when He came to them in human flesh, and they themselves then became what they have ever since remained—a sign to the entire human race of the danger of not improving national privileges. Nations who do not find a God and King after their own heart in Him who is their rightful sovereign will make one after their own likeness (Psalms 50:21); but signs will not be wanting of His displeasure.

III. The servants of God sin against Him when they neglect to pray for their fellow countrymen.

1. They ought to pray for them because they are their fellow creatures. Paul, speaking by inspiration, desires that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men … for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1; 1 Timothy 2:3-4.)

2. Because national love ought to be an element in the character of every godly man. The best men are ever deeply interested in the welfare of the nation to which they belong. Paul’s love to “his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh,” notwithstanding all that he had suffered at their hands, was intense (Romans 9:1-3). And he who is a true patriot cannot serve his country so effectually in any other way as by praying for the godliness of the people, for a nation’s greatness depends upon the relation of its individual members to the Living God.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

1 Samuel 12:2. I have hearkened to your voice, which was so violent and impetuous. Now you must hearken to my voice, and be told that after your peace-offerings God hath still a quarrel with you.—Trapp.

God will not let his people run away with the arrearages of their sins, but, when they least think of it, calls them to account. All this while was God angry with their rejection of Samuel; yet, as if there had been nothing but peace, He gives them a victory over their enemies, He gives way to their joy in their election.… God may be angry enough with us, while we outwardly prosper: it is the wisdom of God to take His best advantages; He suffers us to go on till we should come to enjoy the fruit of our sin, till we seem past the danger either of conscience or of punishment; then, even when we begin to be past the feeling of our sin, we shall begin to feel His displeasure for our sins. This is only where He loves, where He would both forgive and reclaim: He hath now to do with His Israel; but where He means utter vengeance, He lets men harden themselves to a reprobate senselessness, and make up their own measure without contradiction as purposing to reckon with them but once for ever.—Bp. Hall.

1 Samuel 12:2-3. Samuel’s life is both an example and a rebuke.

1. An example. To stand forth and make so successful an appeal must have presented to Saul an illustrious example of personal excellence and of public probity. He thus saw that it was possible to live in high places and be a righteous man; to administer the state, and retain integrity; to direct the concerns of millions, and receive their spontaneous and unanimous approval—truths which few governors have ever found.… He was also an example to the whole people; for the same goodness that made him faithful, with his many talents and his many trusts, could supply them with ability to use theirs with fidelity.

2. A rebuke. The unimpeachable life of Samuel was a great rebuke to Israel. They had not improved his ministry, and had grown weary of so godly a regime as his.… Every good man’s life condemns the world that refuses to follow his way.—Steel.

1 Samuel 12:9. When God’s people abandon Him, He, by virtue of the same righteousness which blesses them if they are faithful, abandons them to their enemies, who enslave and oppress them. The “selling” refers to the right of the father to sell his children as slaves, here exercised by God as the extremest paternal right, as it were. (Judges 2:14; Judges 3:8; Judges 4:2; Judges 4:9; Deuteronomy 32:10; Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 52:3; Ezekiel 30:12.)—Lange’s Commentary.

1 Samuel 12:13. In this declaration is set forth the origin of Saul’s kingly position—

(1) on its human side, by the words: Whom ye have chosen;
(2) on its divine side, by the words: Behold, the Lord hath set a king over you—your demand sprang from an evil root, yet hath the Lord granted it; this king, though chosen and demanded by you, is yet alone the work of God. By these words is confirmed the truth, that the Lord is and remains king.—Erdmann.

1 Samuel 12:14-15. With whom or against whom is the hand of the Lord? The answer to this question depends on the following considerations:—

1. whether one has, or has not, given himself to be the Lord’s with his whole heart—(a) in true fear of God, (b) in true service of God.

2. Whether one is, or is not, in his will thoroughly obedient to the will of the Lord—(a) hearkening unconditionally to His word, (b) not resisting His commandments.

3. Whether one is, or is not, in his whole walk ready to follow the Lord in His guidance—(a) keeping in the way pointed out by Him, (b) keeping in view the goal set up by Him.—Lange’s Commentary.

Here is a precedent for preachers, who must one while chide their people, another while comfort them, and always pray for them. They must turn themselves into all shapes and fashions of speech and of spirit to bring men home to God. This is an excellent way of preaching, to mingle promises with threatenings. Sour and sweet makes the best sauce.—Trapp.

1 Samuel 12:16-19.

I. Unseasonable weather is one of God’s punishments. We suffer sometimes from lack of rain to moisten the earth and prevent the miseries of drought. Such a calamity was inflicted upon Israel on account of sin in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:1). At other times rain is unseasonable and injurious, as was the case in the present instance. It comes at the call of the prophet, to mar the fruits of the earth, and to injure the harvest, that the people “might perceive their wickedness to be great.”

II. We must ask for fair and seasonable weather upon no other condition than that of repentance. We must bring forth fruits meet for repentance, if we expect that the earth should bring forth fruits meet for our sustenance; for God sometimes sees fit to withhold these blessings, to make us know their worth by the want of them. He is sometimes pleased to send us an abundance of good things to see how we will use them, and whether we will grow better by them. But if we consume them upon our lusts, as Israel did here, instead of having more, that which we have shall be taken away.—Matthew Hole.

Men have so many ways of shifting off their own guilt that unless they be taken in the act they will hardly confess it, and when convicted of the fact they will deny the fault or the measure. To cut off all excuses, therefore, Samuel appeals to God, the highest judge, for His sentence, and dares trust to a miraculous conviction. Had not Samuel before consulted with his Maker, and received warrant for this act, that would have been presumption which was now a noble improvement of faith.… Rather than Israel shall go clear away with a sin, God will accuse and arraign them from heaven. No sooner hath Samuel’s voice ceased than God’s voice begins. Every crack of thunder spake vengeance against the rebellious Israelites, and every drop of rain was a witness of their sin. Now they found that they had displeased Him who rules in heaven by rejecting the man who ruled for Him on earth.—Bishop Hall.

The elements are exclusively under the control of the Creator, and He alone can say what shall be in relation to the clouds; yet for special ends—generally moral ends—they have occasionally been placed for a season at the service of men. This instance is a parallel to that which occurred in Egypt (Exodus 9:23).

The revelation of the Lord’s power through Samuel has for its aim—I. To glorify the name of God, and to exhibit the people’s high calling as chosen people and God’s property. II. To show more strikingly the people’s sin and thereby induce sincere repentance. III. To show the penitent people the source of consolation and help, and fix in their hearts the ground of hope for future salvation.—Lange’s Commentary.

1 Samuel 12:20-21. A threefold word of exhortation to penitent sinners.

1. A word reminding of past sin. “Ye have done all this wickedness.”

2. A word consolingly pointing to Divine grace. “Fear not.”

3. A word exhorting to fidelity. “Turn not aside from the Lord.”—Lange’s Commentary.

1 Samuel 12:23. In this Samuel sets a glorious example to all rulers, showing them that they should not be led astray by the ingratitude of their subordinates or subjects, and give up on that account all interest in their welfare, but should rather persevere all the more in their anxiety for them.—Berlenberger Bible.

Moses and Samuel are specified by God as having extraordinary power with Him (Jeremiah 15:1); and why? Because they prayed for their enemies.—Wordsworth.

1 Samuel 12:24. I. Fear and service go together. Serve the Lord in fear, saith David (Psalms 2:11); Fear the Lord and serve Him, saith Joshua (Joshua 24:14); and, fear ever before service; for that, unless our service proceed from fear, it is hollow and worthless.… Behold the same tongue that bade them not fear (1 Samuel 12:20), now bids them fear; and the same Spirit that tells us they feared exceedingly (1 Samuel 12:18), now enjoins them to fear more. What shall we make of this? Their other fear was at the best initial; for now they began to repent: and, as one says of this kind of fear, that it hath two eyes fixed upon two divers objects, so had this of theirs: one eye looked upon the rain and thunder, the other looked up to the God that sent it. The one of these is borrowed of the slavish or hostile fear, as Basil calls it, the other of the filial; for the slavish fear casts both eyes upon the punishment; the filial looks with both eyes upon the party offended. Samuel would rectify and perfect this affection, and would bring them from the fear of slaves, through the fear of penitents, to the fear of sons: and indeed one of these makes way for another. It is true that perfect love thrusts out fear; but it is as true that fear brings in that perfect love which is joined with the reverence of sons: like the needle or bristle, as one compares it, draws in the thread after it. The compunction of fear, saith Gregory, fits the mind for the compunction of love. We shall never rejoice truly in God except it be with trembling; except we have quaked at His thunder, we shall never joy in His sunshine.… II. As our service must be grounded on fear, so our fear must be reduced to service. Indeed, the worst kind of fear is that we call servile; but the best fear is the fear of servants; for there is no servant of God but fears filially. And God hath no son but he serves.… We all know what service means; for we all are, or were, I imagine, either servants or masters, or servants of the public, or masters of servants, or all these. We cannot, therefore, be ignorant either of what we require of ours, or what our superiors require of us. If service consisted only in wearing of liveries, in taking of wages, in making of courtesies, and kissing of hands, there were nothing more easy or more common.… But be not deceived: the life of service is work: the work of a Christian is obedience to the law of God.—Bp. Hall.

1 Samuel 12:25. I. If there be a moral governor of the universe, sin must provoke him. II. If sin provoke God, He is able to punish it. III. Bodies of men are punishable in this world only; in eternity there are no families, churches, nations. If, therefore, a country is to be destroyed, it is tried, and condemned, and executed here. IV. There is a tendency in the very nature of sin to injure and ruin a country. It violates all the duties of relative life; it destroys subordination; it relaxes the ties which bind mankind together, and makes them selfish and mean; it renders men enemies to each other. Social welfare cannot survive the death of morals and virtue.—Jay.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-samuel-12.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.