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1 Samuel 12:1. And Samuel said unto all Israel— Saul being now publicly recognised for the king of Israel, Samuel takes the occasion of this solemn meeting to appeal to the people in the presence of their king, in justification of himself and his conduct since he had been judge over them: his office ceasing of course, now that God had given them a king.
1 Samuel 12:2. Behold, the king walketh before you— When Samuel says, and my sons are with you, he seems to mean that the sons of whom they complained are now in their hands, deprived of their public station, reduced to the rank of subjects to the king, like the rest of the people, and punishable before his tribunal, according to their deserts. See Wall's note on the place. This fine apology which Samuel makes for himself puts one in mind of St. Paul's upon the like occasion. See Acts 20:33.
1 Samuel 12:11. The Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel— Houbigant, after several of the versions, reads, Jerubbaal, Deborah and Barak, Jephthah and Samson. St. Paul seems to confirm this reading; for in Heb 11:32 he says, the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, of Barak, of Samson, of Jephtha, &c.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Before Samuel parts with the assembly, he addresses himself to them,
1. By way of appeal for his own integrity among them. He had now resigned the government; their king stood before them, and he was a subject as well as they, and ready to answer any man who would call him to account; and his sons are now private persons, and open to any accusation which might be laid against them. He reminds them of his grey hairs, which they should have regarded with greater reverence, as coming upon him in their service, in which from earliest infancy he had been employed.—He challenges them to lay the least crime to his charge, of bribery or oppression committed by him during all his administration; and therein tacitly reflects upon their own sin and folly in rejecting one who, without fee or reward, had governed them with such impartial justice. Note; (1.) To vindicate our character from the aspersions of calumny, is a debt due to a man's good name. (2.) They who are conscious of their own integrity are not afraid of inquiry into their conduct.
2. The people willingly bear testimony to his uprightness among them. He had never oppressed them in the least matter, nor received aught at their hands, as a reward for his service. The Lord, therefore, is appealed to against any future charge, as their own confessions proclaim his innocence; and they replied, He is witness, that they had fully cleared him from every suspicion of mal-administration. Note; It is a great comfort to have God for a witness to our integrity.
2nd, Samuel, having vindicated himself, proceeds to remind them of what God had done for them, as a proof of their ingratitude in rejecting him; yet with instructions how this change might operate to their good.
1. He abridges their history. God had delivered them from Egypt; but their ungrateful fathers forsook him for idols, and brought themselves thereby into bitter distress, under Sisera, the Philistines, and Moabites: yet, whenever they returned to him in penitence, he returned to them in mercy, and delivered them by the hands of judges divinely raised up, until his own time, who had been the last of them. Notwithstanding this, they were bent on a king, and God had gratified them. He reasons with them, therefore, on the obligation they were under to this gracious God, and their ingratitude in resolving to have another king; in which also his compliance with their request was a fresh token of his patience and mercy towards them. Note; (1.) The more we reflect upon God's dealings with us, the more reason we shall have to choose his government, and to condemn the folly and ingratitude of ever leaving him. (2.) Past experience should be remembered for present conduct. They who ever forsook God always suffered for it.
2. He instructs them how the alteration of the government might turn to their good. If they were faithful to God, observant of his worship, and persevering in his service, then God would keep them in his holy ways, and it would go well with them and their king: but if they apostatized from God, then they might expect to feel his heavy hand, till they were consumed together. Note; (1.) They who are faithful to the grace bestowed, as their reward, shall have that grace confirmed and strengthened. (2.) God's service brings a present reward along with it now, and ensures an eternal reward hereafter. (3.) They who will not be brought under the yoke of God's laws, must be broken by the rod of his judgments.
1 Samuel 12:16-18. Now, therefore, stand and see, &c.— Rain indiscriminately in the winter months, and none at all in the summer, is what is most common in the East; so it is at Aleppo, and about Algiers: and so Jacobus de Vitriaco assures us it is in Judea: for he observes, that "lightning and thunder are wont, in the western countries, to be in the summer, but happen in the Holy Land in winter: that in the summer it seldom or never rains there; but in winter, though the returns of rain are not so frequent, yet after they begin to fall, they pour down for three or four nights together, most vehemently as if they would drown the country;" See Gesta Dei per Francos, vol. 1: p. 1097. But though commonly there is no rain at Aleppo through the whole summer, yet sometimes there is such a thing as a smart thunder-shower. So Dr. Russel tells us, that in the night between the first and second of July 1743, some severe thunder-showers fell: but he adds, that it was a thing very extraordinary at that season. Possibly it may be more uncommon still at Jerusalem; for St. Jerome, who lived long in the Holy Land, declares, in his Commentary on Amos, that he never saw rain in those provinces, and especially in Judea, in the end of June, or in the month of July: but if it should be found to be otherwise, and that, though St. Jerome had never seen it, such a thing may now and then happen there, as it did at Aleppo while Dr. Russel resided in that city; the fact here recorded might nevertheless be an authentic proof of what Samuel affirmed; since a very rare and unusual event, happening immediately, without any preceding appearance of such a thing, upon the prediction of a person professing himself to be a prophet, and giving this as an attestation of his being a messenger of God, is a sufficient proof of a divine mission, (as is also its happening at any other time distinctly marked out) though a like event has sometimes happened without any such declared interposition of God, and therefore understood on all hands to be casual, and without design. Bishop Warburton has sufficiently argued this point in his Julian, where he supposes that those fiery eruptions, crosses, &c. which happened upon that emperor's attempt to rebuild the Jewish temple at Jerusalem, were such as have happened at other times, without any particular meaning; and yet, as they were then circumstanced, were an authentic attestation to the truth of Christianity. It should not be forgotten, that this thunder and rain of Samuel's seem to have been in the day-time, and while Samuel and the Israelites continued together, solemnizing Saul's inauguration; which circumstance added considerably to the energy of this event; Dr. Russel informing us, that the rains in those countries usually fall in the night, as did those uncommon thunder-showers of July 1743. See Observations, p. 4. 6 and Scheuchzer on the place.
1 Samuel 12:21, &c. Vain things, which cannot profit— Samuel in these gentle terms dissuades them from idolatry, the practice of which was as useless to themselves as it was disgraceful to God. We have a fine instance in this chapter of the pleasing comfort, and satisfaction of heart, which those judges must enjoy who have conscientiously discharged their duty. How great must be their peace, when about to render up an account of their administration to GOD, the Judge of all! The remonstrances which Samuel makes to the Israelites concerning their frequent deviations, and God's paternal mercy towards them, supply us with a convincing proof of the infinite goodness of God towards men, and of his wonderful patience and long suffering. Blessed with favours far more excellent than those conferred on the Israelites by the Lord, how inexcusable shall we be if we rebel against Him! Samuel gives us to know, that the felicity or downfall of states depends upon the religion both of the prince and of the people. Those states where piety, virtue, and justice flourish and abound will be blessed of God; but where indifference to each prevails, both prince and people will, sooner or later, feel his avenging hand. Happy the nation in which there are Samuels, faithful pastors and good magistrates, who have the most tender affection for those committed to their trust; who never cease to pray for them; who never are weary of instructing them in the good and the right way which leads to present and eternal felicity!
REFLECTIONS.—Whatever God pleased of his Almighty grace to do for them in a way of mercy, that did not at all lessen their guilt before him. Therefore, though he had given them a promise just before, and they were now to appearance successful in their choice, yet he would remind them that their sin was great. Note; Success in an evil way never sanctifies it. To convince them of this, he uses an argument more effectual than words, to which they might be inattentive, and dull of hearing. For,
1. He prays to God in their presence, and instantly terrible thunders utter their voice, and the thick clouds gather round and pour down a torrent of water. These were manifest evidences of God's displeasure at their folly in preferring the sword of a king, before the prayers of such a prophet; and warnings how soon their sin would turn their present peaceful calm into a storm of wrath. Note; (1.) All the elements are ready armed to avenge God's quarrels, whenever he pleases to send them. (2.) It is a dangerous thing to turn the prayers of God's ministers against us, for their quarrel is the Lord's.
2. Terror and dismay seize the affrighted congregation. Fearing God's displeasure, and perceiving the power of Samuel's prayers, they confess their guilt and folly, and earnestly intreat him to intercede for them, that they perish not, as they were conscious they had deserved to do. Note; (1.) The time will come, when sinners will cry for the prayers of them whom now they despise. (2.) Though the terrors of the Lord put men into a fright, they of themselves work no lasting change; when the storm is blown over, men quickly relapse into their former ways.
3. Samuel kindly undertakes to be their advocate, their comforter, and friendly adviser. He bids them not fear. These thunders were not to destroy, but to humble them, and bring them to a sense of their great wickedness. For his own part, he could not but pray for them without ceasing, and should continue to give them his best advice, to preserve them in fidelity to their covenant God, exhorting them earnestly to fear the Lord, and serve him in simplicity, both in gratitude and love, for the great things he had already done for them, and lest their disobedience should provoke him to destroy both them and the king in whom they gloried. Note; (1.) Whatever creature engages our affections from God, it makes the heart idolatrous, and will deceive our expectations. (2.) Those who injure us, we must still pray for; how much more those who turn and say, Forgive. (3.) Ministers must not cease to teach people the good and right way, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. (4.) The more we consider what God has done for us, the more shall we feel ourselves constrained to love and serve him. (5.) When a minister is faithful, if the people continue refractory, he will have the comfort of having delivered his own soul.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 12". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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