1 Sam. 12:12-22 - EW Commentary
B. Samuel challenges Israel to serve God under their new king.
1. (1 Sam. 12:12) Samuel gives a brief history lesson.
12 When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, 'No, but a king shall reign over us,' although the LORD your God was your king.
a. When you saw Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you: Samuel remembers the most recent example of God's deliverance for Israel (recorded in 1 Samuel 11). Samuel is tying together the story of God's deliverance for Israel, from the time of the Exodus to the present day. Each of these were examples of the righteous acts of the LORD.
i. Why the history lesson? Because as Israel makes the transition into monarchy, they need to remember the righteous acts of the LORD. Everything the LORD wants to do in our lives now is in the setting of what He has already done in our lives.
b. You said to me, "No, but a king shall reign over us," when the LORD your God was your king: As they begin to live under the king, Samuel reminds the nation of their disobedient desire for a king. The LORD had been a good king for Israel, but they wanted a king for political reasons...status as a nation.
2. (1 Sam. 12:13-15) If you fear the LORD: a choice for Israel.
13 Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. 14 If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. 15 If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers.
a. Here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired: Samuel probably had the feeling, "Here is the king you wanted. You will find that he isn't quite the king you need, but he is the king you wanted."
b. If you fear the LORD and serve Him and obey His voice: Samuel presents Israel with an important choice. They had been disobedient in their desire for a king, yet God had given them a king. Even so, if they would fear the LORD and serve Him, God could still bless them.
i. One wrong turn had not put them out of God's plan forever. Yes, Israel should have never sought a human king. But now they had one, and Samuel simply calls them to serve the LORD where they are at now. We need to know that one wrong turn doesn't wreck our lives before God! Instead of agonizing over the past, get right with God today. Fear the LORD and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and God will bring good even out of yesterday's wrong turn.
c. However, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD ... then the hand of the LORD will be against you: Samuel puts the choice before Israel. They had made a wrong turn, yet God puts them at fork in the road. On one side is submission to God and obedience; on the other is rebellion and disobedience. If they choose the wrong path, they can trust God will not bless it.
d. As it was against your fathers: Every individual every generation is tempted to think of itself as a special exception. They know of the righteous acts of the LORD in previous generations, yet somehow feel they are excepted from God's correction or judgment. Samuel is reminding Israel they are not any different from their fathers, and God will not deal with them any differently than He did with their fathers.
3. (1 Sam. 12:16-18) God confirms Samuel's word with a sign.
16 Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the LORD by asking for yourselves a king." 18 So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
a. Now therefore, stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do: Samuel will pray and ask God to send a sign to confirm His word. This is a concession to the wicked hearts of the people, because Samuel knows only a sign from God will impress them.
b. That you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking a king for yourselves: Why would Samuel and the LORD wait until now for such a dramatic sign? Why not do it when Israel first asked for a king, so they would have known their sin right then, and taken back their request for a king?
i. Because God had a purpose in allowing the "people's king," Saul, to come first.
ii. Because if it had happened in the first days of Saul's reign, the people would have cast him off just as quickly, and just as wrongly, as they asked for him. Now, that his reign has been confirmed by the victory of 1 Samuel 11 and accepted by the people, they can be more directly confronted with their sin.
iii. Because Samuel might have been accused of reproving the people out of a personal sense of hurt. By waiting until now, everyone knows that Samuel isn't saying, "Get rid of Saul so I can lead the nation again."
iv. Because now, Israel rejoiced greatly (1 Samuel 11:15). They were perhaps a little too excited about their new king, and Samuel wants them to have a more spiritual perspective.
v. "This is an excellent way of preaching - to mingle promises and threatenings. Sour and sweet make the best sauce." (Trapp)
c. The LORD sent thunder and rain that day: Thunder and rain were unusual during the wheat harvest. This was a truly remarkable sign from God.
i. The sign was especially meaningful because one of the common gods of that day was Baal, who was thought to be the god of thunder and rain. The LORD was showing that He was the true God of the weather.
ii. Because it was the wheat harvest, the sign displayed not only God's power, but His judgment also. Heavy rain during the harvest could destroy all their crops. The sign was a warning. "In that part of the world not only is 'rain in harvest ... not fitting' (Prov. 26:1), it is so totally unexpected that it could easily be interpreted as a sign of divine displeasure." (Youngblood)
d. The people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel: The result was good, but it shows something weak and carnal in the hearts of the people. Didn't they know God was this powerful before? Perhaps their knowledge of it was purely intellectual knowledge. They could have known the power and majesty and sovereignty of God in their hearts before this, and then it would have been unnecessary to bring a sign before the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
i. Even more impressive than thunder during harvest time is the thunder of the Holy Spirit's conviction in the heart. Even more impressive than rain during harvest time is the love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The inner work is more effective in making us serve God than any outward sign, no matter how impressive.
e. I will call to the LORD, and He will send thunder ... So Samuel called to the LORD: This is an impressive example of power in prayer. Samuel is known in the Bible as a mighty man of prayer (Ps 99:6, Jer 15:1).
4. (1 Sam. 12:19) Israel sees their sin of desiring a king.
19 Then all the people said to Samuel, "Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king."
a. Pray for your servants: Samuel had just shown himself a mighty man of prayer, and Israel now knows how much they need prayer. It made sense to ask Samuel to pray for them!
b. We have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves: Finally, Israel sees their sin of wanting a king. They see it too late; if only they had realized it in 1 Samuel 8, when Samuel first warned them! Now they are stuck with a king, yet God can still turn it for good if Israel will repent and seek the LORD.
i. It is sad that it took thunder and rain for Israel to be impressed with God's power and majesty. What will it take for us to fear the LORD and treat Him as a God of power and majesty?
ii. Trapp on we have added to all our sins: "By occasion of this sin, they came to the sight and recognition of many more. Our lives are as full of sins as the firmament is of stars, or the furnace of sparks."
5. (1 Sam. 12:20-22) Samuel exhorts Israel to walk right with the LORD today.
20 Samuel said to the people, "Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21 You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. 22 For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.
a. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart: Samuel will not minimize Israel's sin. Yet, he does not want them to dwell on the sin of the past, but to get on walking with the LORD today.
i. The Living Bible puts the thought well: Make sure now that you worship the Lord with true enthusiasm, and that you don't turn your back on Him in any way. We can't do anything about yesterday, and at the present moment we can't serve God tomorrow. At the present moment, all we can do is not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Satan would love for us to live in the past or in the future; to do anything but serve the LORD with all we have right now!
b. Do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing: Samuel wants Israel to know that rejecting the LORD, and turning aside from Him, just doesn't work. If they will not serve God out of spiritual reasons, then let them do it for pragmatic reasons: nothing else can profit or deliver!
i. It is precious place in our walk with God when we realize this. It isn't easy to come to this place; we usually learn by bitter experience that nothing else can profit or deliver. But how wonderful to say with Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). What a gift to know that as tough as it might be serving God, it is only worse to turn aside from Him!
c. For the LORD will not forsake His people ... it has pleased the LORD to make you His people: Samuel wants Israel to know that God loves them. This is why, despite the sin of their past, they can get on with serving the LORD and still see His blessing. Because God loves them. His favor towards Israel was not prompted by good they had done, were doing, or promised to do. It was for His great name's sake, because it pleased the LORD to do it. The reasons were in Him, not in Israel.
i. Why doesn't God give up on Israel? Because He loves them. Why is God willing to put away the sin of the past? Because He loves them. Why is God willing to give them a new start? Because He loves them. Only God's love makes any sense of this!
1 Sam. 12:12-22 - Pulpit Commentary
v. 12: Nahash the king of the children of Ammon. This makes it probable that there had been threats of war, and even incursions into the Israelite territory, by Nahash before his attack on Jabesh-Gilead. We thus, too, should be able to account for the rancour displayed in his wish so to treat the men of that town as to make them a reproach to all Israel; for his hatred of Israel may have grown in intensity in the course of a harassing war, or he may have learnt to despise a people incapable of offering a regular resistance. At all events, Samuel describes Nahash as giving the final impetus to the desire of the nation for a king. When Jehovah your God was your king. See Judges 8:23.
v. 13: Behold the king whom ye have chosen!... behold, Jehovah hath set a king over you. We have here the two sides of the transaction. The people had desired a king, chosen and appointed by themselves, to represent the nation in temporal matters; Jehovah gave them a king to represent himself, with authority coming from God, and limited by God. Most, too, of the kings of Judah were as truly representatives of Jehovah as any of the judges had been, and David even more so. Desired is rather "demanded," "required." They had done much more than desire a king.
v. 14: If ye will fear, etc. This verse, like Luke 19:42, is left unfinished, and we must supply well, as in Exodus 32:32. For the verse cannot be translated as in the A.V; but is as follows: "If ye will fear Jehovah, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment (Hebrew, the mouth) of Jehovah, and if both ye and the king that reigneth over you will follow Jehovah your God, it shall be well." Samuel piles up one upon another the conditions of their happiness, and then from the depth of his emotion breaks off, leaving the blessed consequences of their obedience unsaid. "To follow Jehovah" implies willing and active service as his attendants, going with him where he will, and being ever ready to obey his voice.
v. 15: Against you, as it was against your fathers. The Hebrew has "against you and your fathers," and so the Vulgate, for which the Septuagint reads, "against you and your king," as in 1 Samuel 12:25. The text is probably corrupt, and to make sense requires the insertion of some such words as those given in the A.V; with which the Syriac also agrees.
v. 16: Stand. Better stand forth, as in 1 Samuel 12:7; take your places in solemn order.
v. 17: Wheat harvest. Barley was fit for reaping at the Passover, and wheat at Pentecost, i.e. between the middle of May and the middle of June. Jerome, on Amos 4:7, testifies that during his long residence in Palestine he had never seen rain there during June and July; but Conder, says, "Storms still occur occasionally in harvest time." He shall send thunder. Hebrew, voices, and so in verse 18 (see 1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 7:9).
DIVINE TESTIMONY TO SAMUEL'S INTEGRITY (verses 18-25).
v. 18: Jehovah sent thunder and rain. Rain in Palestine falls usually only at the autumnal and vernal equinox, and though thunder storms are not unknown at other times, yet, by the general testimony of travellers, they are very rare. Naturally, therefore, this storm deeply impressed the minds of the people. Though not in itself miraculous, the circumstances made it so.
v. 19: Pray for thy servants. On Samuel's mediatorial office see 1 Samuel 7:5, 1 Samuel 7:8.
v. 20: Ye have done all this wickedness. The ye is emphatic, and to give its force we should translate, "Ye have indeed done all this evil." From following Jehovah. See on 1 Samuel 12:15.
v. 21: For then should ye go after vain things. The word for is omitted in all the ancient versions, and the sense is complete without it: "And turn ye not aside after tohu," the word used in Genesis 1:1, and there translated "without form." It means anything empty, void, and so is often used, as here, for "an idol," because, as St. Paul says, "an idol is nothing in the world" (1 Corinthians 8:4). So Isaiah (Isaiah 44:9) calls the makers of idols vanity, Hebrew, tohu, i.e. empty people, with no sense in them. The word is used again at the end of the verse-which idols cannot profit nor deliver; for they are tohu, emptiness.
v. 22: For his great name's sake. Though Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:14 had described their well being as dependent upon their own conduct, yet in a higher light it depended upon God's will. He had chosen Israel not for its own sake (Deuteronomy 7:7, Deuteronomy 7:8), but for a special purpose, to minister to the Divine plan for the redemption of all mankind, and so, though individuals might sin to their own ruin, and the nation bring upon itself severe chastisements, yet it must continue according to the tenor of God's promises (see on 1 Samuel 2:30), and through weal and woe discharge the duty imposed upon it.
1 Sam. 12:12-22 - Extra Commentary
1 Samuel 12:12 "And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God [was] your king."
"When ye saw that Nahash the king of the children ... came against you": According to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus, Nahash was campaigning over a large area. It was that Ammonite threat that seemingly provoked Israel to demand a human king (8:1-20).
"The Lord your God was your king": The clearest indictment of Israel for choosing a mere man to fight for her instead of the Lord God (8:20).
He had, probably, been threatening war on these people before they asked for an earthly king. Their heavenly King had delivered them over and over. They should have trusted in Him, but they did not. This is the climax of their unfaithfulness in the LORD as King.
Verses 13-14: Even though Israel had "chosen" an earthly king, they were to trust in God, viewing the king as an instrument of His rule. Nothing had changed in the covenant relationship between God and Israel.
1 Samuel 12:13 "Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, [and] whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you."
"The king whom ye have chosen ... and desired": The Lord gave them their request (Psalm 106:15).
For the first time since Israel had been a nation, they now have an earthly king like the heathens around them. Saul is king of Israel.
1 Samuel 12:14 "If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God:"
"Fear the Lord": A reminder of (Joshua 24:14). Israel was to stand in awe of the Lord and submit to Him (Deut. 10:12).
"Ye and ... the king ... following the Lord": Both the people and the king were given the same command. The standard was the same, obedience to God's commands.
This has been the condition of their blessings from the beginning. If they remain faithful to the LORD and keep His commandments, they shall be blessed tremendously. The king is subject to the laws and commandments of the LORD, as well as the people are. For Israel to do well, they must reverence the LORD and keep His commandments (with or without a king).
1 Samuel 12:15 "But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as [it was] against your fathers."
"Rebel": "Disobey, not heed, forsake." Echoing the promises (of Deut. 28), there would be blessings for obeying and curses for disobeying the commands of the Lord.
It is the same throughout the Bible. When they become unfaithful to Him, and begin to follow after false gods, He will chastise them with defeat at the hands of their enemies.
The "wheat harvest" came at the end of the dry season, so rain was very unusual. The people understood the thunderstorm to be a supernatural sign of God's displeasure at their insistence on a king.
1 Samuel 12:16 "Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes."
"This great thing": Though rain during the wheat harvest (late May to early June), was unusual, the Lord sent the rain and thunder to authenticate Samuel's words to the people.
He wants them to be totally aware, that it is the LORD who does this. It is not Samuel or Saul, it is the LORD. He may work through them, but it is the LORD.
Verses 17-18: For thunderstorms as a sign of the divine presence (see the note on 2:10). Coming during the "wheat harvest" of late spring, such an event would be a sure sign of divine condemnation.
1 Samuel 12:17 "[Is it] not wheat harvest today? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness [is] great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king."
The Canaan wheat harvest is between the middle of May and the middle of June. Rain in that season seldom or never falls, but if it does it is usually severe. This is the testimony of one who spoke as a resident, and his statement is confirmed by the observations of the latest travelers and scholars. The terrible storm of rain accompanied with thunder, at a time of year when these storms of thunder and rain rarely took place, coming, as it did, in direct answer to the seer's invocation, struck the people naturally with great fear, and for the moment they thoroughly repented of the past, and entreated Samuel. Who, they felt, stood on strangely familiar terms with that awful yet loving Eternal, to intercede for them.
This would be an unnatural time for rain. Samuel is calling for this rain, to leave no doubt in the minds of the Israelites that the LORD is displeased that they want an earthly king. This is rejection of the LORD. They have been rejecting and rebelling against Him from the beginning. This is a sign to them of their great sin.
1 Samuel 12:18 "So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel."
Such was the power and favor 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 whatever 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.
At the very minute this is happening they recognize it as punishment for their sins. They greatly fear the LORD who can send rain at any given time. They fear Samuel, because he can pray and have an immediate answer. The problem with the fear they have now, is this is in the form of terror, rather than in reverence.
Verses 19-25: It is a believer's responsibility to "pray for" others even if he or she is displeased with them, as Samuel was with the Israelites. Amid his warnings to the people, Samuel offered a helpful model for intercessory prayer: pray that others will "fear" the Lord, "serve" Him wholeheartedly and in truth, and "consider" God's great deeds on their behalf (Matt. 5:44).
1 Samuel 12:19 "And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins [this] evil, to ask us a king."
"Pray for thy servants": The Peoples response to the power of God was their recognition of their sinful motives in asking for a king. They needed Samuel's prayers to intercede for them.
They fear that the LORD will be so angry with this latest sin, that He will kill them. They feel that Samuel has an access to the LORD that they do not have. This is why they ask him to pray.
1 Samuel 12:20 "And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart;"
"Serve the Lord with all your heart": An often-expressed covenant requirement (Deut. 10:12-13; 11:13-14).
There is no question, they have sinned. The LORD will forgive them, as He has so many times in the past, if they will turn from their wicked ways, and worship and serve Him. They must worship the LORD in their hearts and have faith and He will save them.
1 Samuel 12:21 "And turn ye not aside: for [then should ye go] after vain [things], which cannot profit nor deliver; for they [are] vain."
"Vain things": Meaning idols.
Those that go after vain things are those who chase after things of this world. He is saying, do not become worldly people. The things of this earth are the creations of God. They should worship the Creator, not His creation.
1 Samuel 12:22 "For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people."
The name of the "Lord" signifies His revealed character and reputation. Later, "name" came to be a term that could be substituted for God Himself (Dan. 9:8-19; Amos 2:7; 9:12), so that the pronunciation of the Hebrew word for the name (hashem), could be utilized for the unutterable divine Tetragrammaton "YHWH". The name was thus God Himself in all that He had revealed Himself to be. In the New Testament, the term became applied to Christ (Acts 4:12; 5:41; 3 John 7). For Israel as God's special "people" (see Exodus 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18).
God had chosen them out of all the people in the world to be His people. They are not only His creation, but His family. Everyone is God's creation. Those who love Him and accept Him as their Savior are His sons.
1 John 3:2 "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
1 SAMUEL 11:14-15. THEY MADE SAUL KING IN GILGAL
14Then Samuel said to the people, "Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there." 15All the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before Yahweh in Gilgal; and there they offered sacrifices of peace offerings before Yahweh; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
In the intervening chapters, the Lord chose Saul to be king and Samuel anointed Saul and proclaimed him king (chapters 9-10)-but "certain worthless fellows said, "How shall this man save us?" They despised him (Saul), and brought him no present. But he held his peace" (10:27).
Shortly thereafter, the Ammonites sought to shame and intimidate the people of Jabesh-gilead. When Saul learned of it, he became very angry. He cut a yoke of oxen into pieces and sent them throughout Israel by messengers who proclaimed, "Whoever doesn't come forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen" (11:7). The people of Israel responded, and Saul defeated the Ammonites decisively. The people who followed Saul proposed killing the worthless fellows who had refused to honor Saul earlier, but Saul responded graciously, "There shall not a man be put to death this day; for today Yahweh has worked deliverance in Israel" (11:13).
"Then Samuel said to the people, 'Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there'"(v. 14). Gilgal is near Jericho, about 6 miles (10 k) west of the Jordan River and 12 miles (20 k) north of the Dead Sea. It is where the people of Israel encamped when they first entered the Promised Land (Joshua 4:19). After anointing Saul (9:27ff), Samuel had Saul go to Gilgal to wait there until Samuel came to him (10:8). Now Samuel chooses Gilgal as the place to renew Saul's kingship.
"All the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before Yahweh in Gilgal" (v. 15a). Some scholars interpret "they made Saul king before Yahweh," to mean that this ceremony constitutes "a renewal of allegiance to the kingship of Yahweh" (Tsumura, 312; see also Baldwin, 98) rather than a rebellion against Yahweh. However, this seems improbable, given the Lord's words in verse 7.
"There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly" (v. 15b). The people are celebrating their victory over the Ammonites, and also the accession of Saul to the throne. They wanted a king. Now they have one.