1 Samuel 12:3
Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind my eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed.—I speak in a solemn presence, before the Eternal,” went on the old man, looking up heavenward, “and before His anointed,” pointing with a reverent gesture to the kingly form by his side. “His Anointed”—this is the earliest instance of a king bearing this title of honour. The high priest, whose blessed office brought him in such close contact with the invisible and eternal King, is in the early Hebrew story styled now and again by this honoured name. But henceforth it seems to be limited to the man invested with the kingly dignity. The infinite charm which the name “Anointed of the Eternal” carried with it for centuries is, no doubt, due to the fact that one greater than any of the sons of men would, in the far future, assume the same sacred designation—“His Anointed,” or His Christ.” (The words are synonymous, both being translations of the Hebrew word Messiah.)

Nor has this peculiar reverence for the “Lord’s Anointed “been limited to His own people. Since the seer in the early morning on the hill-side, looking on “Ramah of the Watchers,” poured out the holy oil on the young Saul’s head, and then before all Israel gathered at Gilgal styled the new king by the title of the “Anointed of the Eternal,” wherever the one true God has been worshipped, an infinite charm has gone with the name, a strange and peculiar reverence has surrounded every one who could fairly claim to bear it, and for many a century, among all peoples, an awful curse has at once attached itself to any one who would dare lift his hand against the “Lord’s Anointed.”

Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken?—The ox and the ass are taken as representative possessions in this primitive age, in a country where agriculture formed the principal source of the national resources. Before the wars and conquests of David and Solomon, there was comparatively little of the precious metals among the Hebrew people, who seem to have traded in those early days but rarely with foreign nations; horses were, too, unknown among them. The law of Exodus 20:17 especially makes mention of the ox and the ass as things the Israelite was forbidden to covet. On these words of Samuel the Babylonian Talmud has an important note, which well illustrates the doctrine of the “Holy Spirit” as taught in Israel before the Christian era.

“Rabbi Elazer said, on three occasions did the Holy Spirit manifest Himself in a peculiar manner—in the judicial tribunal instituted by Shem, in that of Samuel the Ramathite, and in that of Solomon. In that of Shem, Judah declared, “She is righteous,” &c. How could he know it? Might not another man have come to her as well as he did? But an echo of a voice was heard exclaiming: Of me (the word ממגי is separated from the preceding word, and taken as a distinct utterance of the Holy Spirit); these things were overruled by me. Samuel said (1Samuel 12:3-5), “Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? . . . And he said unto them, The Lord is witness against you, &c . . . And he said, He is witness” (ו׳אמך). It ought to read, “And they said.” But it was the Holy Spirit that gave that answer. So with Solomon the words “She is the mother thereof (1Kings 3:27) were spoken by the Holy Spirit.”—Treatise Maccoth, fol. 23, Colossians 2.

Whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed?—Alluding, of course, to his conduct during his long continuance in office as supreme judge in Israel. The “bribe”—literally, ransom—alludes to that practice unhappily so common in the East of giving the judge a gift (usually of money) to buy his favour, and thus a criminal who had means was too often able to escape punishment.

The sons of Samuel, we know from 1Samuel 8:3, “took bribes, and perverted judgment.” This accusation, we know, had been preferred by the very elders of the nation before whom the seer was then speaking. The old judge must have been very confident of his own spotless integrity to venture upon such a solemn challenge. The elders had shown themselves by their bold accusation of the seer’s sons no respecters of persons, and from the tone of Samuel’s address, must have felt his words were but the prelude of some scathing reproaches they would have to listen to, and yet they were constrained with one voice to bear their witness to the perfect truth of his assertion that his long official life had been indeed pure and spotless. The Talmud has a curious tradition respecting the prophets, based apparently upon this saying of Samuel. “All the prophets were rich men. This we infer from the account of Moses, Samuel, Amos, and Jonah. Of Moses, as it is written (Numbers 16:15), ‘I have not taken one ass from them.’ Of Samuel, as it is written (1Samuel 12:3), ‘Behold, here I am; witness against me before the Lord, and before His anointed. Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken?’ Of Amos, as it is written (Amos 7:14), ‘I was an herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit,’ i.e., I am proprietor of my herds and own sycamores in the valley. Of Jonah, as it is written (Jonah 1:3), ‘So he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it.’ Rabbi Yochanan says he hired the whole ship. Rabbi Rumanus says the hire of the ship amounted to four thousand golden denarii.”—Treatise Nedarim, fol. 38, Colossians 1.

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.12:1-5 Samuel not only cleared his own character, but set an example before Saul, while he showed the people their ingratitude to God and to himself. There is a just debt which all men to their own good name, especially men in public stations, which is, to guard it against unjust blame and suspicions, that they may finish their course with honour, as well as with joy. And that we have in our places lived honestly, will be our comfort, under any slights and contempt that may be put upon us.His anointed - i. e., king Saul. The title Messiah, Χριστὸς Christos, unctus, or anointed, had been given to the High Priests (Leviticus 4:3 : compare also 1 Samuel 2:10, 1 Samuel 2:35); but this is the earliest instance of an actual king of Israel bearing the title of God's Christ, and thus typifying the true Messiah or Christ of God.

Any bribe - literally, a "ransom," the fine paid by a criminal in lieu of bonds or death Exodus 21:30, applied to the bribe paid to an unjust judge to induce him to acquit the guilty. (Compare Amos 5:12.)

To blind ... - See the margin. The phrase is used of one who averts his eyes, as refusing assistance, or as showing contempt, or, as here, as winking at what is wrong.

CHAPTER 12

1Sa 12:1-5. Samuel Testifies his Integrity.

1-4. Samuel said unto all Israel—This public address was made after the solemn re-instalment of Saul, and before the convention at Gilgal separated. Samuel, having challenged a review of his public life, received a unanimous testimony to the unsullied honor of his personal character, as well as the justice and integrity of his public administration.

Witness against me; I here present myself before the Lord, and before your king, being ready to give an account of all my administrations, and to make satisfaction for any injuries that I have done. And this protestation Samuel makes of his integrity, not out of ostentation or vain-glory; but partly, for his own just vindication, that the people might not hereafter, for the defence of their own irregularities, reproach his government; partly, that being publicly acquitted from all faults in his government, he might more freely and boldly reprove the sins of the people, and particularly that sin of theirs in desiring a king, when they had so little reason for it, and they had so just a governor, from whom they might have promised themselves an effectual redress of his sons’ mal-administrations, if they had acquainted him therewith; and partly, that by his example he might tacitly admonish Saul of his duty, and prevent his misunderstanding of what he had formerly said, 1 Samuel 8:11 &c., and mistake that for the rule of his just power, which was only a prediction of his evil practices.

Whom have I oppressed? whom have I wronged, either by fraud and false accusation, or by might and violence?

Any bribe, Heb. price of redemption, given to redeem an unjust and lost cause or person from that righteous sentence which they deserved.

To blind mine eyes therewith; that I should not discern what was right and just, or dissemble it, as if I did not see it. Or, that I should hide or cover mine eyes (i.e. wilfully wink at the plain truth) for it, i.e. for the bribe; or, for him, i.e. for his sake. I will restore it you, or, and I will cover mine eyes for him, i.e. I will take shame to myself, and cover my face as one ashamed to look upon him. Behold, here I am,.... No longer the supreme governor, but a subject, and accountable for any misdemeanour charged upon me, and to which I am ready to give answer, being now at your bar to be tried and judged before you:

witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed; signifying, that if they had anything to lay to his charge, that they would produce it, and give proof and evidence of it in the presence of God, in whose name they met, and of Saul, anointed king, and supreme judge and ruler of the nation:

whose ox have I taken? by force to employ in his own service in ploughing his ground, or treading out his corn:

or whose ass have I taken? to ride about on in his circuit, or to carry any burden for him:

or whom have I defrauded? of their money or goods, by any artifice circumventing and cheating them:

whom have I oppressed? struck, beaten, broken, or caused to be so used wrongfully; to whose person have I been injurious any more than to their property? Some derive the word from a root which signifies favour and goodwill, and interpret it as some of the Rabbins do, of his not taking money of persons with their goodwill; or rather, that he had done nothing as a judge for favour and affection, but had acted the upright part, without regard to rich or poor, friends or foes:

or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? his meaning is, that he had never taken a gift or present from any person to favour his cause, that was to be brought before him, and give it for him right or wrong; to connive at any injury he had done, or to turn away his eyes from seeing where the justice of the cause lay; or that he had not received money to spare the life of a criminal that deserved to die; for the word used for a bribe signifies a ransom price, see Deuteronomy 16:19.

and I will restore it to you; the ox or ass, money or goods, gifts and presents, or bribes taken, or make compensation for any injury done to the persons or estates of men. Some render it, "I will answer you" (f), or give in an answer to any such charges when exhibited.

(f) "respondebo vobis", Munster.

Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: {c} whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.

(c) God would have this confession be a pattern for all who have any charge or office.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. Behold, here I am] Samuel puts himself on his trial. The people are to be the accusers: Jehovah, and His representative Saul are the judges.

before his anointed] The title “the anointed of Jehovah” (see 1 Samuel 10:1, note) is here for the first time actually applied to the King, though it had been employed before in prophecy (ch. 1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 2:35). Its use certainly gains point if we may follow the Sept. in 1 Samuel 11:15 (see note), and suppose that the ceremony of anointing had just been performed in the presence of all the people.

whose ox … whose ass] The most valuable property of a pastoral and agricultural people, hence named expressly in the Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17). Cp. Numbers 16:15.

any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith] Cp. Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19.

The Sept. reads here, “from whose hand have I received as a bribe even a pair of shoes? Answer against me, and I will restore it to you.” A pair of shoes seems to have been a proverbial expression for a mere trifle, a paltry bribe. See Amos 2:6; Amos 8:6. This rendering represents a small change in the consonants of the Heb. text, and may possibly preserve the original reading. At any rate it is as old as the Greek translation of the book of Ecclesiasticus (170–150 b.c.), the author of which must have found it in the Sept. (even if the author of the Hebrew original did not find it in his Hebrew text), for in ch. Sir 46:19 we read, “And before his long sleep [Samuel] made protestations in the sight of the Lord and his anointed, I have not taken any man’s goods, so much as a shoe: and no man did accuse him.”Verses 3, 4, 5. - Witness against me. Literally, "answer," as in a court of justice to the formal question of the judge. His anointed. I.e. the king (see on 1 Samuel 2:10, 35; 2:1). Whose ox,... whose ass? See on 1 Samuel 8:16. Of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? Bribe should be rendered ransom. Literally it signifies a covering, and was used of money given by a guilty person to induce the judge to close or "blind his eyes," and not see his sin. It does not mean, therefore, any bribe, but only that given to buy off a guilty person. Such persons are generally powerful men who have oppressed and wronged others; and the knowledge that they can cover their offence by sharing their gains with the judge is to this day in the East the most fruitful source of bad government. The people all bear witness to Samuel's uprightness, nor is there any contradiction between this and their desire to have a king. His internal administration was just and righteous, but they were oppressed by the nations round them, and needed a leader in war. And in Samuel's sons they had men, not vicious or licentious, but too fond of money, and so neither fit to be their generals in war nor their judges in peace. We gather from 1 Samuel 22:2 that though Saul proved a competent leader in war, he was not successful in the government of the country in peace. Renewal of the Monarchy. - Saul had so thoroughly acted the part of a king in gaining this victory, and the people were so enthusiastic in his favour, that they said to Samuel, viz., after their return from the battle, "Who is he that said, Saul should reign over us!" The clause עלינוּ ימלך שׁאוּל contains a question, though it is indicated simply by the tone, and there is no necessity to alter שׁאוּל into השׁאוּל. These words refer to the exclamation of the worthless people in 1 Samuel 10:27. "Bring the men (who spoke in this manner), that we may put them to death." But Saul said, "There shall not a man be put to death this day; for to-day Jehovah hath wrought salvation in Israel;" and proved thereby not only his magnanimity, but also his genuine piety.

(Note: "Not only signifying that the public rejoicing should not be interrupted, but reminding them of the clemency of God, and urging that since Jehovah had shown such clemency upon that day, that He had overlooked their sins, and given them a glorious victory, it was only right that they should follow His example, and forgive their neighbours' sins without bloodshed." - Seb. Schmidt.)

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