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Samuel’s Address, vs. 1-5
One wonders what might have been the thinking of Samuel during the indeterminate period during which Saul was only king nominally. Perhaps he had decided that Saul would never assert himself as king and that the idea of a king would be forgotten by the people of Israel. Now, however, the outlook is different. The issue is at last settled. Saul has become a hero, and the vast majority of the people have fallen in with him. Saul too has warmed to the idea, and seems now to be ready to assume the leadership of the people. So all of Samuel’s fears will come to pass.
It seems that Samuel could not resist a last reminder to the people that they have made a serious mistake. He is just human enough, also, to feel that somehow their choice of a king is an indictment of his leadership as their judge. In this last address Samuel tells them that his last official duty on their behalf has been to accede to their demands and to make them a king. Their king is now before them, strong, handsome, and stalwart. He is only old, grayheaded Samuel, who has served them faithfully from his very childhood at Shiloh. Not only have the people at large seemingly cast him aside, but his own sons have joined with the people in desiring a king.
Samuel desired absolute exoneration of his judgeship from them. He asks for any who can to bear witness against him of any wrongdoing toward them. Has he taken their work animals from them? or defrauded them? or been oppressive? or taken a bribe to pass unjust sentence? If any can prove any such against him Samuel will restore to him whatever it is. But the people confessed that he had been guilty of none of these things, and that he had been absolutely fair with them. Samuel required their oath in the presence of the Lord, and they gave it. By their words, then, they admitted that it is of their own selfish pride they have rejected the Lord and His appointed judge and required for themselves a king instead.
Review and Preview, vs. 6-15
As Samuel continued his address to the people, gathered to renew the coronation of Saul as their king, he very pointedly stressed some things of importance they should consider and keep in mind. The first of these is that heretofore when Israel needed a leader God had selected him and sent him to their rescue. Moses and Aaron were a case in point. Moses will now reason to the gathering from this basis, and he calls God as his witness therein.
When the people in bondage in Egypt became in earnest about wanting deliverance the Lord raised up Moses and Aaron, delivered them from the land, led them to Canaan, and gave them that land, wherein they were presently dwelling. This brought Samuel to his second major point. The Lord allowed chastisement to come upon them every time they turned away from Him. Thus they fell into the hands of Sisera, the Philistines, the Moabites, who fought against them and subjected them.
The third point of Samuel was that the Lord always delivered them out of the hand of their oppressors, when they got their hearts right and acknowledged that they had sinned in worshipping the Baalim and the Ashtaroth. They would make their pledge to serve the Lord alone, and the Lord would raise up a judge to deliver them. These included Jerubbaal (or Gideon), who delivered them from the Philistines (Judges, chapters 6-8); Bedan, who may have been the minor judge Abdon (Judges 12:13-15), but more likely is the same as Barak (Judges, chapters 4-5); Jephthah, who delivered them from the Ammonites (Judges, chapters 10:6-12:7); Samuel, who delivered them from the Philistines (1 Samuel, chap. 7).
Samuel’s fourth point is that the Israelites have again gone contrary to the Lord. When Nahash, the Ammonite king, began to make depredations against them they did not wait for the Lord to rescue them, nor did they seemingly bother to confess their sins, but instead took things into their own hands and requested a king to lead them. They now have their king whom they chose instead of the Lord. He is the king of their choice, and they are called on to look him over and see that he is exactly the kind of man they desired, very manly and good to look at.
The next point is that, though they have rejected the Lord, He has not rejected them. He still stands ready to hear their cries to Him. They are still expected to reverence the Lord and keep His commandments. If they and their king continue following the Lord He will bless their land, but if they rebel against Him they will suffer just as did their fathers before them when they rebelled against the Lord.
Terror of God Leads to Repentance, vs. 16-25
Samuel’s next move was to call on the Lord for an object lesson, to teach the people of Israel the serious nature of their deed in asking for a king. The crowning of Saul occurred in the time of wheat harvest. It was very unusual to have rain in Israel at that time of year. Furthermore heavy rain on the mature, ripe wheat would wreak havoc on the harvest. Yet Samuel said that he would call on the Lord to send thunder and rain to prove to them that it was a wicked thing they had done in asking for a king.
The Lord sent a terrible thunderstorm which terribly frightened the people and must have destroyed their harvest. They came crying to Samuel that he would pray to the Lord to withhold His destruction lest they die, confessing that they had added this latest evil in asking for a king to the many of which they were already guilty. It instilled the fear of God in the Israelites, and they feared the great power of the Lord possessed by Samuel.
Now that the people had confessed their sin concerning the king, Samuel turns to assurance for them. Just as they had previously been told it was too late to undo the mistake in asking for the king, for God had told them He would not hear when they called on them for that (1 Samuel 8:18). Yet they were not to fear, though they have done wickedly, but should remain faithful to the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly. To turn away from the Lord, even though they had a king to lead them, would be vain and foolish, for there would be none who could deliver them save the Lord.
The people were told that the Lord was not doing this, remaining with them though they had rejected Him, because of them. He was doing it for His own name’s sake, and because He had given promises concerning them to make them His people. As for himself, Samuel, emphasized that he would never cease praying for them, or teaching them to walk in the good and right way before the Lord. Samuel confessed that it would be sin on his part to discontinue his influence in Israel for their good. He concluded his address by once more stressing their reverence for, and wholehearted dedication in service to, the Lord. He admonished them to remember the great things God had done for Israel and to think on them. Such would keep them reminded of God’s love for them. If they failed, and did wickedly, the Lord would consume the people and their king.
This chapter teaches 1) God’s people should take every available opportunity to bear testimony for Him; 2) the world should not be able to bring any charge of wrongdoing against God’s people; 3) it is good to be reminded of how God has graciously dealt with His people in history past; 4) the Lord will allow chastisement to fall on those who rebel against Him; 5) one should not cease praying for those who have rebelled against God.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany