1 Samuel 12:21
And turn you not aside: for then should you go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
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(21) For then should ye go after vain things.—The passage is more forcible without the “for” and the words in italics supplied in the English translation. The verse without it would run thus: “Turn ye not aside after vain things which cannot profit,” &c. Singularly enough, not one of the ancient versions translate the Hebrew ki, “for”: they all omit it. It is therefore clear that this “for” has, through some copyist’s error, got into the text since the versions were made.

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.Wheat harvest - Between May 15 and June 15. Jerome's testimony (that of an eye-witness) "I have never seen rain in the end of June, or in July, in Judaea" is borne out by modern travelers. 1Sa 12:17-25. He Terrifies Them with Thunder in Harvest-time.

17-25. Is it not wheat harvest to-day?—That season in Palestine occurs at the end of June or beginning of July, when it seldom or never rains, and the sky is serene and cloudless. There could not, therefore, have been a stronger or more appropriate proof of a divine mission than the phenomenon of rain and thunder happening, without any prognostics of its approach, upon the prediction of a person professing himself to be a prophet of the Lord, and giving it as an attestation of his words being true. The people regarded it as a miraculous display of divine power, and, panic-struck, implored the prophet to pray for them. Promising to do so, he dispelled their fears. The conduct of Samuel, in this whole affair of the king's appointment, shows him to have been a great and good man who sank all private and personal considerations in disinterested zeal for his country's good and whose last words in public were to warn the people, and their king, of the danger of apostasy and disobedience to God.

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 Deu 1:4 1 Kings 14:14 2 Kings 9:27.

Vain things; so idols are called, Deu 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 Deu 2:30. And turn ye not aside,.... From his worship: for then; if they turned aside from that:

should ye go after vain things; idols, which are vanity, and less than vanity:

which cannot profit nor deliver; neither bestow good things on their votaries, nor deliver them from evils, or from the hands of their enemies

for they are vain; empty, useless, and unprofitable; an idol is nothing in the world, 1 Corinthians 8:4.

And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
21. for then should ye go after vain things] The word “for” necessitates the insertion of a verb to complete the sentence. But it is expressed in none of the ancient versions, and the sense gains by its omission. Translate: “And ye shall not turn aside after vain things which cannot profit nor deliver.” “Vain things” are false gods and idols, Heb. tôhû, literally emptiness. The same word is applied to them in Isaiah 41:29 (E. V. confusion), and to idol-makers in Isaiah 44:9. Cp. 1 Corinthians 8:4.Verse 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. "But if ye do not hearken to the voice of Jehovah, and strive against His commandment, the hand of Jehovah will be heavy upon you, as upon your fathers." ו in the sense of as, i.e., used in a comparative sense, is most frequently placed before whole sentences (see Ewald, 340, b.); and the use of it here may be explained, on the ground that בּאבתיכם contains the force of an entire sentence: "as it was upon your fathers." The allusion to the fathers is very suitable here, because the people were looking to the king for the removal of all the calamities, which had fallen upon them from time immemorial. The paraphrase of this word, which is adopted in the Septuagint, ἐπὶ τὸν βασιλέα ὑμῶν, is a very unhappy conjecture, although Thenius proposes to alter the text to suit it.
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