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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Samuel 12

A.M. 2909. B.C. 1095.

Samuel clears himself from all imputation of abusing the power which he now resigns to Saul, 1 Samuel 12:1-5 . He reminds them of the great things God had done, 1 Samuel 12:6-13 . He sets before them the blessing and the curse, 1Sa 12:14 , 1 Samuel 12:15 . He calls upon God for thunder, 1 Samuel 12:16-19 . He encourages and exhorts them, 1 Samuel 12:20-25 .

Verse 1

1 Samuel 12:1. Samuel said unto all Israel While 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, while Saul was unsettled in his kingdom; lest, through their accustomed levity, they should as hastily cast off their king, as they had passionately desired him; and therefore he chooseth this season for it, because Saul’s kingdom was now confirmed by an eminent victory, and because the people rejoiced greatly, applauded themselves for their desires of a king, and interpreted the success which God had given them as a divine approbation of those desires. Samuel, therefore, thinks fit to temper their joys, and to excite them to that repentance which he saw wanting in them, and which he knew to be necessary to prevent the curse of God upon their new king and the whole kingdom.

Verse 2

1 Samuel 12:2. The king walketh before you Ruleth over you. To him I have fully resigned my power, and own myself one of his subjects. I am old And therefore unable to bear the burden of government. My sons are with you Or, among you, in the same state, private persons, as you are; if they have injured any of you, the law is now open against them; any of you may accuse them, your king can punish them, I do not intercede for them. Walked before you That is, been your guide and governor; partly, as a prophet; and partly, as a judge.

Verse 3

1 Samuel 12:3. Behold, here I am I here present myself before the Lord, and before your king, ready to give an account of all my administrations. And this protestation Samuel makes of his integrity, not out of ostentation, but for his own just vindication, that the people might not hereafter, for the defence of their own irregularities, reproach his government; and that, being publicly acquitted from all faults in his government, he might more freely reprove the sins of the people, and particularly that sin of theirs in desiring a king, when they had so little reason for it.

Verse 5

1 Samuel 12:5. The Lord is witness There cannot be a stronger or more amiable picture of integrity than we have in this speech of Samuel. Who can read it without feeling his heart touched with admiration of his character? Happy Samuel, who could thus call a whole kingdom to bear witness to his uprightness! Strange, infatuated people, that could wish to change such a governor for a king possessed of absolute power!

Verse 7

1 Samuel 12:7. Now, therefore, stand still Having obtained an honourable testimony from them as to his own conduct, he would not dismiss them till he had represented to them the great benefits which they had received from God, and their ingratitude to him. Of all the righteous acts of the Lord Hebrews the righteousnesses; that is, mercies or benefits, 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.

Verse 8

1 Samuel 12:8. Made them dwell in this place In this land: in which Moses and Aaron are said to settle them; because they brought them into, and seated them in part of it, that without Jordan; 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 counsels to them, preserved them from ruin, and gave command from God for the distribution of the land among them, and encouraged them to enter into it. And, lastly, Moses substituted Joshua in his stead, and commanded him to seat them there, which he did.

Verse 9

1 Samuel 12:9. They forgat the Lord That is, they revolted from him, and carried themselves as if they had wholly forgotten his innumerable favours. This he says to answer an objection, that the reason why they desired a king was, because in the time of the judges they were at great uncertainties, and often exercised with sharp afflictions: to which he answereth by concession that they were so; but adds, that they themselves were the cause of it, by their forgetting God: so that it was not the fault of that kind of government, but their transgressing the rules of it. Fought With success, and subdued them.

Verse 11

1 Samuel 12:11. And Bedan We have no mention of Bedan in the book of Judges or elsewhere before, and therefore many commentators think this is another name for Barak. Others, however, think Samson to be the person here meant, being here called Ben-Dan, the son of Dan, or Be-Dan, that is, in or of Dan, because he was of that tribe, and to signify that they had no reason to distrust God, who could raise so eminent a saviour out of so obscure a tribe. And ye dwelled safe So that it was not necessity, but mere wantonness, that made you desire a change.

Verse 12

1 Samuel 12:12. When ye saw that Nahash came against you, &c. From this it appears that Nahash had levied war against them some time before he came against Jabesh-gilead, as mentioned in the foregoing chapter; and that they took occasion from thence to demand a king, as being fearful and impatient of staying till God should raise them up a deliverer, or command Samuel, who was their judge, to go out to fight against him. When the Lord your God was your king That is, 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.

Verse 13

1 Samuel 12:13. Behold the king 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, and confirmed it. The Lord hath set a king ever you He hath yielded to your inordinate desire.

Verse 14

1 Samuel 12:14. Then, &c. Hebrew, then shall ye be (that is, walk, or go) after the Lord; that is, 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, and denotes not a duty to be performed, but 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.

Verse 15

1 Samuel 12:15. As it was against your fathers Who lived under the judges; and you shall have no advantage by the change of government, nor shall your kings be able to protect you against God’s displeasure. We mistake, if we think we can evade God’s justice by shaking off his dominion. If we will not let God rule us, yet he will judge us.

Verse 17

1 Samuel 12:17 . Is it not wheat-harvest to-day? At which time it was a rare thing in those parts to have thunder or rain; the weather being more constant in its seasons than it is with us, and the rain being wont to fall periodically, only in the autumn and the spring, called the former and latter rain. He shall send thunder and rain That you may understand that God is displeased with you, and see how foolishly and wickedly you have acted, in rejecting the government of that God at whose command are all things, both in heaven and in earth.

Verse 18

1 Samuel 12:18. The Lord sent thunder and rain Such was the power and favour with God that this man of God possessed! By this thunder and rain, God showed them their folly in desiring a king to save them, rather than God or Samuel, expecting more from an arm of flesh than from the arm of God, or from the power of prayer. Could their king thunder with a voice like God? Could their prince command such forces as the prophet could by his prayers? Likewise he intimates, that how serene soever their condition was now, (like the weather in wheat-harvest,) yet if God pleased he could soon change the face of the heavens, and persecute them with his storms.

Verses 19-21

1 Samuel 12:19-21. The Lord thy God Whom thou hast so great an interest in, while we are ashamed and afraid to call him our God. Fear not With a desponding fear, as if there are no hope left for you. But turn not ye aside After idols, as they had often done before, and, notwithstanding this warning, did afterward. Vain things So idols are called Deuteronomy 32:21, Jeremiah 2:5; and so they are, being mere nothings, having no power in them, no influence upon us, nor being of any use or benefit to us.

Verse 22

1 Samuel 12:22. His name’s sake That is, for his own honour, which would suffer much among men, if he should not preserve and deliver his people in imminent dangers. And this reason God 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 serve God with all their hearts, yet even in that case their salvation would not be due to their merits, but the effect of God’s free mercy. To make you his people Out of his own free grace, without any desert of yours, and therefore he will not forsake you, except you thrust him away.

Verse 24

1 Samuel 12:24. Only fear the Lord, and serve him with truth, &c. Otherwise neither my prayers nor counsels will stand you in any stead. Thus we see that amidst all the changes of the Hebrew state, their prophets steadily inculcated one and the same great principle, namely, that of fearing and serving the one true and living God, in spirit and in truth. Whether Moses or Joshua, the elders, or judges, or kings, were their governors, this great point was kept in view, and pursued still. And this indeed was the end of the Divine Providence in selecting this people: to preserve and spread among mankind the knowledge and worship of the true God, and obedience to his will, was the great point in view, in the divine counsels, in all that was done to and for the Israelites. And this great purpose, notwithstanding all their revolts and rebellions, was still carried on, at least in a measure, and accomplished.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-samuel-12.html. 1857.