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1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 12.
Samuel having appointed a king unto the people, testifieth his own integrity, to which they witness, 1 Samuel 12:1-5.
He setteth before them the sins of their ancestors, and their own sin in asking a king, 1 Samuel 12:6-13; comforts them if they will obey the Lord; threateneth the disobedient; terrifies them by thunder in harvest: they confess their sin, and desire to be reconciled to the Lord, 1 Samuel 12:14-19.
He comforts and exhorts them to fear and serve the Lord; promising also to pray for them, 1 Samuel 12:20-25.
Samuel said this to all Israel, whilst they were assembled together in Gilgal. And this is another instance of Samuel’s great wisdom and integrity. He would not reprove the people for their sin, in desiring a king, whilst Saul was raw, and weak, and unsettled in his kingdom, and in the people’s hearts, lest through their accustomed levity they should as hastily cast off their king as they had passionately desired him, and so add one sin to another; and therefore he chooseth this season for it; partly because Saul’s kingdom was now confirmed and illustrated by an eminent victory, and so the danger of rejecting him was out of doors; which circumstance was also considerable for Samuel’s vindication, that it might appear that his following reproof did not proceed from any selfish respects or desires, which he might be supposed to have of retaining the power in his own hands, but merely from the conscience of his duty, and a sincere desire of all their good: and partly because the people rejoiced greatly, as is said in the next foregoing verse; and upon this occasion applauded themselves for their desires of a king; and interpreted the success which God had now given them, as a Divine approbation of those desires; whereby they were like to be hardened in their impenitency, and might be drawn to many other inconveniencies. Samuel therefore thinks fit to temper their excessive joys, and to excite them to that repentance and holy fear which he saw wanting in them, and which he knew to be absolutely necessary, to prevent the curse of God upon their new king, and the whole kingdom.
Walketh before you; goeth out and cometh in before you, i.e. ruleth over you, as that phrase signifies, Numbers 27:17; Deuteronomy 31:2; 2 Chronicles 1:10. To him I have fully resigned all my power and authority, and do hereby renounce it, and own myself for a private person, and one of his subjects.
I am old and gray-headed; and therefore unable to bear the burden of government, and feel myself greatly at ease to see it cast upon other shoulders; and therefore do not speak what I am about to say from envy of Saul’s advancement, or from discontent at the diminution of my own power.
My sons are with you, or among you, in the same stake and place, private persons, as you are; if they have injured any of you in their government, as you once complained, the law is now open against them; any of you may accuse them, your king can punish them; I do not intercede for them, I have neither power nor will to keep them from receiving the just fruits of their misdemeanours.
I have walked before you, i.e. been your guide and governor, partly as a prophet, and partly as a judge.
Witness against me; I here present myself before the Lord, and before your king, being ready to give an account of all my administrations, and to make satisfaction for any injuries that I have done. And this protestation Samuel makes of his integrity, not out of ostentation or vain-glory; but partly, for his own just vindication, that the people might not hereafter, for the defence of their own irregularities, reproach his government; partly, that being publicly acquitted from all faults in his government, he might more freely and boldly reprove the sins of the people, and particularly that sin of theirs in desiring a king, when they had so little reason for it, and they had so just a governor, from whom they might have promised themselves an effectual redress of his sons’ mal-administrations, if they had acquainted him therewith; and partly, that by his example he might tacitly admonish Saul of his duty, and prevent his misunderstanding of what he had formerly said, 1 Samuel 8:11 &c., and mistake that for the rule of his just power, which was only a prediction of his evil practices.
Whom have I oppressed? whom have I wronged, either by fraud and false accusation, or by might and violence?
Any bribe, Heb. price of redemption, given to redeem an unjust and lost cause or person from that righteous sentence which they deserved.
To blind mine eyes therewith; that I should not discern what was right and just, or dissemble it, as if I did not see it. Or, that I should hide or cover mine eyes (i.e. wilfully wink at the plain truth) for it, i.e. for the bribe; or, for him, i.e. for his sake. I will restore it you, or, and I will cover mine eyes for him, i.e. I will take shame to myself, and cover my face as one ashamed to look upon him.
The Lord is witness against you, to wit, if you shall at any time hereafter reproach my government or memory. Or rather, against you, that I gave you no cause to be weary of God’s government of you by judges, or to desire a change of the government; and thereby the blame of it wholly rests upon yourselves. But this was only insinuated, and therefore the people did not fully understand his drift in it.
Ye have not found ought, i.e. any thing which I have gotten by bribery or oppression.
They answered, Heb. he answered, i.e. the whole people, who are here spoken of as one person, because they answered thus with one consent.
That for your sakes raised, constituted, and exalted Moses and Aaron to that great power and reputation which they had, and used, to deliver you.
That I may reason with you: since God hath laid so great obligations upon you, let us a little consider whether you have answered them.
The righteous acts, Heb. the righteousnesses, i.e. mercies or benefits; for so that word is oft used, as Psalms 24:5; Psalms 36:10; Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 11:4; and that is the chief subject of the following discourse; some of their calamities being but briefly named, and that for the illustration of God’s mercy in their deliverances.
In this land; in which Moses and Aaron are said to settle them; partly, because they brought them into and seated them in part of it, to wit, that without Jordan; partly, because they were, under God, the principal authors of their entering into the land of Canaan; inasmuch as they brought them out of Egypt, conducted them through the wilderness, and there by their prayers to God, and counsel to them, preserved them from utter ruin, and gave command and direction from God for the distribution of the land among them, and encouraged them to enter into it by promises and assurances of success; and lastly, Moses substituted Joshua in his stead, and commanded him to carry them thither, and seat them there, which also he did.
They forgat the Lord, i.e. they revolted from him, as it is explained, 1 Samuel 12:10, and carried themselves as ungratefully and unworthily towards God, as if they had wholly forgotten his great and innumerable favours, and their infinite obligations to him.
Forgetting of God is oft put for all manner of wickedness, whereof indeed that is the true cause. See Isaiah 17:10; Jeremiah 3:21; Ezekiel 22:12. This he saith, partly to answer all objection, That the reason why they desired a king was, because in the time of the judges they were at great uncertainties, and ofttimes exercised with sharp afflictions: to which he answereth by concession that they were so; but adds, by way of retortion, that they themselves were the cause of it, by their forgetting of God; so that it was not the fault of that kind of government, but their transgressing the rules of it; and partly to mind them that this their ungrateful carriage towards God was no new or strange thing, but an hereditary and inveterate disease, that so they might more easily believe their own guilt herein, and be more deeply humbled, both for their own and for their parents’ sins.
They fought against them, to wit, with success, and subdued them.
Bedan is certainly one of the judges; and because there is no judge so called in the Book of Judges, it is reasonably concluded that this was one of the judges there mentioned having two names, as was very frequent. And this was either, first, Samson, as most interpreters believe, who is called Bedan, i.e. in Dan, or of Dan, or the son of Dan, one of the tribe, to signify that they had no reason to distrust that God, who could, and did, raise so eminent a saviour out of so obscure a tribe. Or, secondly, Jair the Gileadite, of whom Judges 10:3; which may seem best to agree, first, With the time and order of the judges; for Jair was before Jephthah, but Samson was after him. Secondly, With other scriptures; for among the sons of a more ancient and a famous Jair, of whom see Numbers 32:41, we meet with one called Bedan, 1 Chronicles 7:17, which name seems here given to Jair the judge, to distinguish him from that first Jair. Thirdly, With he following words, which show that this Bedan was one of those judges who
delivered them out of the hand of their enemies an every side, and made them to dwell safely; which seems not so properly to agree to Samson, who did only begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, as was foretold of him, Judges 13:5, as to Jair, who kept them in peace and safety, in the midst of all their enemies, as may be gathered from Judges 10:3-6; and so did all the rest of the judges here mentioned.
And Samuel; he speaks of himself in the third person, which is frequent in the Hebrew tongue, as Genesis 4:23; Psalms 132:1,Psalms 132:10,Psalms 132:11; Daniel 1:6; Isaiah 1:1. And he mentions himself not through vain ostentation, but for his own just and necessary vindication, and for the justification and enforcement of his following reproof, to show that he had not degenerated from his predecessors, nor had been so inconsiderable and unprofitable to them, as to give them any occasion to contrive or desire this change of government in his days.
Ye dwelled safe; so that it was no necessity, but mere wantonness, that made you desire a change.
A king shall reign over us: See Poole "1 Samuel 11:1". When the Lord your God was your king, i.e. when God was your immediate King and Governor, who was both able and willing to deliver you, if you had cried to him, whereof you and your ancestors have had plentiful experience; so that you did not at all need any other king; and your desire of another was a manifest reproach against God, as if he were either grown impotent, or unfaithful, or unmerciful to you.
Whom ye have chosen: though God chose him by lot, yet the people are said to choose him; either generally, because they chose that form of government, or particularly, because they approved of God’s choice, 1 Samuel 10:24, and confirmed it, 1 Samuel 11:15.
The Lord hath set a king over you; he hath yielded to your inordinate desire.
Heb. Then shall ye be (i.e. walk, or go) after the Lord, i.e. God shall still go before you, as he hath hitherto done, as your Leader or Governor, to direct, protect, and deliver you; and he will not forsake you, as you have given him just cause to do. Sometimes this phrase of going after the Lord signifies a man’s obedience to God; but here it is otherwise to be understood; (as it is no new thing for the same phrase in several places to be understood in quite different senses;) and it notes not a duty to be performed, but a promise of a privilege to be received upon the performance of their duty, because it is opposed to a threatening denounced in case of disobedience in the next verse.
Who lived under the judges; and you shall have no advantage in that point by the change of government, nor shall your kings be able to protect you against God’s displeasure.
By standing he intends not the posture of their bodies, but the consistency of their minds, by serious and fixed consideration.
At wheat harvest it was a rare thing in those parts to have thunder or rain, as the Scripture oft implies; and St. Jerome affirms, who was an eye-witness of it; the weather being more constant and certain in its seasons there, and in divers other parts, than it is with us who live in islands, as all travellers inform us.
He shall send thunder and rain; that by this unseasonable and pernicious storm you may understand that God is displeased with you; and also how foolishly and wickedly you have done in rejecting the government of that God, at whose command are all things, both in heaven and in earth.
Who had such great power and favour with God.
Pray for thy servants; for so we shall still own ourselves to be, though we have got another master.
Unto the Lord thy God, whom thou hast so great an interest in, and canst so easily prevail with for any mercy, whilst we are ashamed and afraid to call him our God, because we have so highly offended him.
That we die not; that this terrible storm may be taken away, lest our persons and the fruits of the earth be all destroyed.
To ask us a king: so horribly were they biassed with their prejudices and passions, that nothing but a miracle could convince them of this particular sin.
Fear not, to wit, with a servile and desponding fear, as if there were no hope left for you.
Turn ye not aside, to wit, after idols; as they had often done before; and, notwithstanding this warning, did afterwards.
Should ye go, or, should ye turn aside; which words are easily to be understood out of the foregoing branch, such ellipses being most frequent in Scripture, as Deuteronomy 1:4; 1 Kings 14:14; 2 Kings 9:27.
Vain things; so idols are called, Deuteronomy 32:21; Jeremiah 2:5, and so they are, being mere nothings, 1 Corinthians 8:4, having no divinity nor power in them; no influence upon us, nor use or benefit to us.
Which cannot profit nor deliver, i.e. which will not only be unprofitable, but highly pernicious to you; the contrary affirmative being understood under the negative, as Exodus 20:7; Numbers 21:23; Deuteronomy 2:30.
For his great name’s sake, i.e. for his own honour, which would seem to suffer much among men, if he should not preserve and deliver people in eminent dangers; as if he were grown feeble, or forgetful, or inconstant, or unfaithful, or regardless of human affairs, or unkind to those who own and worship him, when all the rest of the world forsake him. Hence this argument hath been oft pleaded with God, not without good success, as Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13, &c. And this reason God here allegeth to take them off from all conceit of their own merit; and to assure them, that if they did truly repent of all their sins, and served God with all their heart, which is here supposed, yet even in that case their salvation would not be due to their merits, but only the effect of God’s free mercy.
It hath pleased the Lord, to wit, out of his own free grace, without any desert of yours, as he saith, Deuteronomy 7:7; Deuteronomy 9:5; and therefore he will not easily forsake you, except you thrust him away.
Think not that because you have so highly disobliged and rejected me, that I will revenge myself by neglecting to pray for you, or by praying against you, as I have now done for your conviction and humiliation, and so for your preservation; I am sensible it is my duty, as I am a man, a Israelite, a minister, a prophet, to pray for you.
But I will teach you, Heb. and I will, &c., i.e. I will not only pray for you, which is one branch of my duty; but will also teach and instruct you, which is the other branch of it. And though you have cast me off from being your judge and ruler, yet I will not cease to be your instructer and monitor, to keep you from sin and destruction.
Fear the Lord, and serve him; otherwise neither my prayer nor counsels will stand you in any stead.
He hath done for you, or, among you, both at this time and formerly.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27