1 Samuel 12:16
Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes.
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(16) This great thing, which the Lord will do.—Then, to give greater emphasis to his warning words, Samuel adds: “O, ye elders, stand forth. I will show you by means of a Voice from heaven that this very asking for a king, though the Eternal has granted your prayer, is evil in His sight.” Their wishing for an earthly king was the crown of a long course of rebellion against the Supreme will. It was, in fact, the breaking up for ever of the glorious ideal which had been for so long before the eyes of the noblest spirits in Israel.

1 Samuel


1 Samuel 12:13 - 1 Samuel 12:25

Samuel’s office as judge necessarily ended when Saul was made king, but his office of prophet continued. This chapter deals with both the cessation and the continuance, giving at first his dignified, and somewhat pained, vindication of his integrity, and then passing on to show him exercising his prophetic function in exhortation, miracle, and authoritative declaration of Jehovah’s will.

I. The first point is the sign which Samuel gave. Usually there is no rain in Palestine from about the end of April till October. Samuel was speaking during the wheat harvest, which falls about the beginning of June. We note that he volunteered the sign, and, what is still more remarkable, that he is sure that God will send it in answer to his prayer. Why was he thus certain? Because he recognised that the impulse to proffer the sign came from God. We know little of the mental processes by which a prophet could discriminate between his own thinkings and God’s speech, but such discrimination was possible, or there could have been no ring of confidence in the prophet’s ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ Not even a ‘Samuel among them that call upon His name’ had a right to assume that every asking would certainly have an answer. It is when we ask ‘anything according to His will’ that we know that ‘He heareth us,’ and are entitled to predict to others the sure answer.

It seems a long leap logically from hearing the thunder and seeing the rain rushing down on the harvest field, to recognising the sin of asking for a king. But the connecting steps are plain. Samuel announced the storm, he asked God to send it, it came at his word; therefore he was approved of God and was His messenger; therefore his words about the desire for a king were God’s words. Again, God sent the tempest; therefore God ruled the elemental powers, and wielded them so as to affect Israel, and therefore it had been folly and sin to wish for another defender. So the result of the thunder-burst was twofold-they ‘feared Jehovah and Samuel,’ and they confessed their sin in desiring a king. They were but rude and sense-bound men, like children in many respects; their religion was little more than outward worship and a vague awe; they needed ‘signs’ as children need picture-books. The very slightness and superficiality of their religion made their confession easy and swift, and neither the one nor the other went deep enough to be lasting. The faith that is built on ‘signs and wonders’ is easily battered down; the repentance that is due to a thunderstorm is over as soon as the sun comes out again. The shallowness of the contrition in this case is shown by two things,-the request to Samuel to pray for them, and the boon which they begged him to ask, ‘that we die not.’ They had better have prayed for themselves, and they had better have asked for strength to cleave to Jehovah. They were like Simon Magus cowering before Peter, and beseeching him, ‘Pray ye for me to the Lord, that none of the things which ye have spoken may come upon me.’ That is not the voice of true repentance, the ‘godly sorrow’ which works healing and life, but that of the ‘sorrow of the world which worketh death.’ The real penitent will press the closer to the forgiving Father, and his cry will be for purity even more than for pardon.

II. Samuel’s closing words are tender, wise, and full of great truths. He begins with encouragement blended with reiteration of the people’s sin. It is not safe for a forgiven man to forget his sin quickly. The more sure he is that God has forgotten, the more careful he should be to remember it, for gratitude, humility and watchfulness. But it should never loom so large before him as to shut out the sunshine of God’s love, for no fruits of goodness will ripen in character without that light. It is a great piece of practical wisdom always to keep one’s forgiven sin in mind, and yet not to let it paralyse hopefulness and effort. ‘Ye have indeed done all this evil, . . . yet turn not aside from following Jehovah.’ That is a truly evangelical exhortation. The memory of past failures is never to set the tune for future service. Again, Samuel based the exhortation to whole-hearted service of Jehovah on Jehovah’s faithfulness and great benefits {1 Samuel 12:22 - 1 Samuel 12:24}, It is suicidal folly to turn away from Him who never turns away from us; it is black ingratitude, as well as suicidal folly, to refuse to serve Him whose mercies encompass us. That divine good pleasure, which has no source but in Himself, flows out like an artesian well, unceasing. His ‘nature and property’ is to love. His past is the prophecy of His future. He will always be what He has been, and always do what He has done. Therefore we need not fear, though we change and are faithless. ‘He cannot deny Himself.’ His revealed character would be dimmed if He abandoned a soul that clung to Him. So our faith should, in some measure, match His faithfulness, and we should build firmly on the firm foundation.

III. Samuel answers the people’s request for his prayers with a wise word, full of affection, and also full of dignity and warning, all the more impressive because veiled. He promises his continued intercession, but he puts it as a duty which he owes to God rather than to them only, and he thus sufficiently asserts his God-appointed office. He promises to do more than pray for them; namely, to continue as their ethical and religious guide, which they had not asked him to be. That at once makes his future position in the monarchy clear. He is still the prophet, though no longer the judge, and, as the future was to show, he has to direct monarch as well as people. But it also hints to the people that his prayers for them will be of little avail unless they listen to his teaching. Whether a Samuel prays for us or not, if we do not listen to the voices that bid us serve God, we ‘shall be consumed.’

12:16-25 At Samuel's word, God sent thunder and rain, at a season of the year when, in that country, the like was not seen. This was to convince them they had done wickedly in asking a king; not only by its coming at an unusual time, in wheat harvest, and on a clear day, but by the prophet's giving notice of it before. He showed their folly in desiring a king to save them, rather than God, or Samuel; promising themselves more from an arm of flesh, than from the arm of God, or from the power of prayer. Could their prince command such forces as the prophet could do by his prayers? It startled them very much. Some will not be brought to see their sins by any gentler methods than storms and thunders. They entreat Samuel to pray for them. Now they see their need of him whom shortly before they slighted. Thus many who will not have Christ to reign over them, would yet be glad to have him intercede for them, to turn away the wrath of God. Samuel aims to confirm the people in their religion. Whatever we make a god of, we shall find it deceive us. Creatures in their own places are good; but when put in God's place, they are vain things. We sin if we restrain prayer, and in particular if we cease praying for the church. They only asked him to pray for them; but he promises to do more, to teach them. He urges that they were bound in gratitude to serve God, considering what great things he had done for them; and that they were bound in interest to serve him, considering what he would do against them, if they should still do wickedly. Thus, as a faithful watchman, he gave them warning, and so delivered his own soul. If we consider what great things the Lord hath done for us, especially in the great work of redemption, we can neither want motive, encouragement, nor assistance in serving him.Bedan - No such name occurs among the Judges who delivered Israel. Some versions and commentators read "Barak," the form of the letters of both words being in Hebrew somewhat similar.

And Samuel - There is nothing improper or out of place in Samuel mentioning his own judgeship. It had supplied a remarkable instance of God's deliverance 1 Samuel 7:12-15; and, as it was the last as well as one of the very greatest deliverances, it was natural he should do so. The passage in Hebrews 11:32 is quite as favorable to the mention of Samuel here as to that of "Samson," which some propose to read instead of "Samuel."

11. Bedan—The Septuagint reads "Barak"; and for "Samuel" some versions read "Samson," which seems more natural than that the prophet should mention himself to the total omission of the greatest of the judges. (Compare Heb 11:32). By standing he intends not the posture of their bodies, but the consistency of their minds, by serious and fixed consideration.

Now therefore stand,.... Which does not so much respect the position of their bodies as the fixed attention of their minds:

and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes; meaning the storm of thunder and rain which presently followed; which coming at a time when such things were not usual, and on a day when there was no appearance or likelihood of anything of this kind, and suddenly, at once, upon the prayer of Samuel, it was no less than a miracle, and might be called a "great thing", new and unheard of, and the pure effect of almighty power.

Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes.
Verse 16. - Stand. Better stand forth, as in ver. 7; take your places in solemn order. 1 Samuel 12:16In order to give still greater emphasis to his words, and to secure their lasting, salutary effect upon the people, Samuel added still further: Even now ye may see that ye have acted very wickedly in the sight of Jehovah, in demanding a king. This chain of thought is very clearly indicated by the words גּם־עתּה, "yea, even now." "Even now come hither, and see this great thing which Jehovah does before your eyes." The words גּם־עתּה, which are placed first, belong, so far as the sense is concerned, to את־הד ראוּ; and התיצּבוּ ("place yourselves," i.e., make yourselves ready) is merely inserted between, to fix the attention of the people more closely upon the following miracle, as an event of great importance, and one which they ought to lay to heart. "Is it not now wheat harvest? I will call to Jehovah, that He may give thunder (קלוה, as in Exodus 9:23, etc.) and rain. Then perceive and see, that the evil is great which ye have done in the eyes of Jehovah, to demand a king." The wheat harvest occurs in Palestine between the middle of May and the middle of June (see by Bibl. Arch. i. 118). And during this time it scarcely ever rains. Thus Jerome affirms (ad Am. c. 4): "Nunquam in fine mensis Junii aut in Julio in his provinciis maximeque in Judaea pluvias vidimus." And Robinson also says in his Palestine (ii. p. 98): "In ordinary seasons, from the cessation of the showers in spring until their commencement in October and November, rain never falls, and the sky is usually serene" (see my Arch. i. 10). So that when God sent thunder and rain on that day in answer to Samuel's appeal to him, this was a miracle of divine omnipotence, intended to show to the people that the judgments of God might fall upon the sinners at any time. Thunderings, as "the voice of God" (Exodus 9:28), are harbingers of judgment.
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