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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 12

Verses 1-25

This chapter intervenes in the history as a solemn reproof to Israel and a warning of the dangers to which they had exposed themselves by asking for a king The voice of the prophet is not to be put in the background because the people have a king, Samuel brings to Israel's attention some plain facts, the significance of which they ought to seriously consider. They had been given their way, with a king established over them, Now he had become old.

He invites their criticism. Had he used the place God had giver him for his own advantage? Had he taken anything from anyone? Had he defrauded anyone? Had he oppressed anyone? Had he ever received a bribe? He addressed this publicly to all Israel and spoke as in the presence of God. Was there even one who could point the finger at him?

Their answer is clear and decisive to the effect that he had not been guilty of any aberration whatever in his relationship with the people, To more deeply impress this on them, Samuel invokes the witness of the Lord, to which they respond, "He is witness." Sad it is to say that not many men in authority could stand up to a test of this kind. But Samuel had learned early in life to depend upon the pure grace of God, the result being a steady, consistent life of truth and stability. This showed be true of every servant of God.

He speaks then of Moses and Aaron whom God had put in the Place of leader bring Israel out of Egypt. It was no less true that it was without any official appointment. He did not say this, but they ought to have recognized it without his claiming it. He asks them to stand still and pay close attention to his reasoning with them before the Lord, not concerning his life before them, but concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord by which Israel had been blessed.

When the family of Jacob had been in Egypt (of course for some time) they cried to the Lord because of their bondage, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron to deliver them with the object of bringing them into their own land. This was an accomplishment, the conducting of (probably) between two and three million people for fourty years through the wilderness and establishing them in a land from which God had to drive out the previous inhabitants. History has never seen anything like it. At the time, and later time, and later Israel accepted it as a matter of fact, but hardly realized the wonder of the grace of God in so dealing with them in marvelous blessing.

Verse 9 refers to the book of Judges, chapter 4:1-2 as well as chapter 13-1 and 3-12. Samuel does not use chronological order here, for which he has no doubt a reason, but in the cases of all those enemies it was Israel's disobedience to God that led to Israel's captivity. In each case God heard their prayers when their distress became sufficient to make them cry to Him in confession of their sin and in entreaty for deliverance. How faithful and gracious He had been in spite of their unfaithfulness! Three men are singled out whom God sent as deliverers, Jerubaal (or Gideon), Bedan and Jeohthah. These were military leaders in contrast to Samuel himself, whom God sent for Israel's deliverance also by means of spiritual and moral power rather than by warfare. The deliverance was effective in enabling Israel to dwell safely.

However, he tells them that when they feared an attack by Nahash the Ammonite, instead of realizing that only their own sin would leave them vulnerable, and therefore appealing in confession and faith to their faithful Creator, they demanded a king! This was virtually telling God that He was no longer to be trusted as their king!

Yet they did not think they were displacing God: they thought they could have their king and serve God too. So Samuel tells them that if they will obey the Lord and serve Him, not rebelling against any of His commandments, now that they have their king, then so long as they did this, they and their king would continue following the Lord. If they think it is an actual advantage to have a king, let them prove it by their obedience to God. On the other hand, they are solemnly warned that if they will not obey the Lord, then the hand of the Lord would be against them in serious discipline, just as had been the case with their fathers when they had been guilty of rebelling against the commandments of God.

However, it was necessary that Samuel's words should be confirmed by a clear public sign from God in order to press these facts solemnly upon their consciences. He calls upon them to stand and see the great thing that God would do. During wheat harvest in Israel a thunder storm was unheard of. Samuel told them that he would pray and the Lord would send such a storm in order that they might realize that their wickedness was great in asking a king. There was no suggestion that they change their minds now; for since they have received their king, they may not get rid of him again, but must learn the consequences of their own folly. God answers the prayer of Samuel in sending thunder and rain, a sign so clear that the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

They ask for Samuel's prayers for themselves, that they should not die on account of their sin, a sin added to many more. At least their consciences were reached, and Samuel reassures them, telling them to fear not. For in spite of their having done wickedly they can depend on the faithfulness of God; and he urges them not to turn from following Him, but to serve Him with all their heart. Thus he stirs their sober exercise, whether or not he had confidence that they would thoroughly obey. They are told to avoid those vain things that too often become idols, totally unable to deliver anyone from bondage, and devoid of value. The encouragement he gives is based on the faithfulness of God. He would not forsake His people: the honor of His own name was involved in His continuing to care for them.

Verse 23 shows the seriousness with which Samuel considered his responsibility to pray for the people. To cease to pray for them would be sin in his estimation. Let us remember that sins of omission are not to be lightly regarded. Together with prayer, he would teach them the good and right way, for if one honestly prays for others, he is most concerned that they should be guided in the ways of the Lord. He therefore urges them to fear the Lord and to serve Him in truth with all their heart. He based this exhortation upon the abundance of God's grace to them in the past He had done great things for them, just as we today have been blessed beyond measure by virtue of the great sacrifice of Christ. May we well consider what great things He has done for us, and respond with willing obedience to Him. On the other hand, Samuel warns them faithfully that if they choose to still act wickedly, they can expect to be consumed by it, and their king also. The scales of God's justice are right and equal.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-samuel-12.html. 1897-1910.