And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.1 Samuel 12:1. Samuel said unto all Israel — While they were assembled together in Gilgal. And this is another instance of Samuel’s great wisdom and integrity. He would not reprove the people for their sin, in desiring a king, while Saul was unsettled in his kingdom; lest, through their accustomed levity, they should as hastily cast off their king, as they had passionately desired him; and therefore he chooseth this season for it, because Saul’s kingdom was now confirmed by an eminent victory, and because the people rejoiced greatly, applauded themselves for their desires of a king, and interpreted the success which God had given them as a divine approbation of those desires. Samuel, therefore, thinks fit to temper their joys, and to excite them to that repentance which he saw wanting in them, and which he knew to be necessary to prevent the curse of God upon their new king and the whole kingdom.
And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.1 Samuel 12:2. The king walketh before you — Ruleth over you. To him I have fully resigned my power, and own myself one of his subjects. I am old — And therefore unable to bear the burden of government. My sons are with you — Or, among you, in the same state, private persons, as you are; if they have injured any of you, the law is now open against them; any of you may accuse them, your king can punish them, I do not intercede for them. Walked before you — That is, been your guide and governor; partly, as a prophet; and partly, as a judge.
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 mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.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.
And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand.
And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.1 Samuel 12:5. The Lord is witness — There cannot be a stronger or more amiable picture of integrity than we have in this speech of Samuel. Who can read it without feeling his heart touched with admiration of his character? Happy Samuel, who could thus call a whole kingdom to bear witness to his uprightness! Strange, infatuated people, that could wish to change such a governor for a king possessed of absolute power!
And Samuel said unto the people, It is the LORD that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.
Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD of all the righteous acts of the LORD, which he did to you and to your fathers.1 Samuel 12:7. Now, therefore, stand still — Having obtained an honourable testimony from them as to his own conduct, he would not dismiss them till he had represented to them the great benefits which they had received from God, and their ingratitude to him. Of all the righteous acts of the Lord — Hebrews the righteousnesses; that is, mercies or benefits, the chief subject of the following discourse; some of their calamities being but briefly named, and that for the illustration of God’s mercy in their deliverances.
When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.1 Samuel 12:8. Made them dwell in this place — In this land: in which Moses and Aaron are said to settle them; because they brought them into, and seated them in part of it, that without Jordan; because they were, under God, the principal authors of their entering into the land of Canaan; inasmuch as they brought them out of Egypt, conducted them through the wilderness, and there, by their prayers to God, and counsels to them, preserved them from ruin, and gave command from God for the distribution of the land among them, and encouraged them to enter into it. And, lastly, Moses substituted Joshua in his stead, and commanded him to seat them there, which he did.
And when they forgat the LORD their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them.1 Samuel 12:9. They forgat the Lord — That is, they revolted from him, and carried themselves as if they had wholly forgotten his innumerable favours. This he says to answer an objection, that the reason why they desired a king was, because in the time of the judges they were at great uncertainties, and often exercised with sharp afflictions: to which he answereth by concession that they were so; but adds, that they themselves were the cause of it, by their forgetting God: so that it was not the fault of that kind of government, but their transgressing the rules of it. Fought — With success, and subdued them.
And they cried unto the LORD, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.
And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe.1 Samuel 12:11. And Bedan — We have no mention of Bedan in the book of Judges or elsewhere before, and therefore many commentators think this is another name for Barak. Others, however, think Samson to be the person here meant, being here called Ben-Dan, the son of Dan, or Be-Dan, that is, in or of Dan, because he was of that tribe, and to signify that they had no reason to distrust God, who could raise so eminent a saviour out of so obscure a tribe. And ye dwelled safe — So that it was not necessity, but mere wantonness, that made you desire a change.
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.1 Samuel 12:12. When ye saw that Nahash came against you, &c. — From this it appears that Nahash had levied war against them some time before he came against Jabesh-gilead, as mentioned in the foregoing chapter; and that they took occasion from thence to demand a king, as being fearful and impatient of staying till God should raise them up a deliverer, or command Samuel, who was their judge, to go out to fight against him. When the Lord your God was your king — That is, when God was your immediate king and governor, who was both able and willing to deliver you, if you had cried to him, whereof you and your ancestors have had plentiful experience; so that you did not at all need any other king; and your desire of another was a manifest reproach against God.
Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you.1 Samuel 12:13. Behold the king whom ye have chosen — Though God chose him by lot, yet the people are said to choose him; either generally, because they chose that form of government; or particularly, because they approved of God’s choice, and confirmed it. The Lord hath set a king ever you — He hath yielded to your inordinate desire.
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:1 Samuel 12:14. Then, &c. — Hebrew, then shall ye be (that is, walk, or go) after the Lord; that is, God shall still go before you, as he hath hitherto done, as your leader or governor, to direct, protect, and deliver you; and he will not forsake you, as you have given him just cause to do. Sometimes this phrase of going after the Lord, signifies a man’s obedience to God; but here it is otherwise to be understood, and denotes not a duty to be performed, but a privilege to be received upon the performance of their duty; because it is opposed to a threatening denounced in case of disobedience, in the next verse.
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.1 Samuel 12:15. As it was against your fathers — Who lived under the judges; and you shall have no advantage by the change of government, nor shall your kings be able to protect you against God’s displeasure. We mistake, if we think we can evade God’s justice by shaking off his dominion. If we will not let God rule us, yet he will judge us.
Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes.
Is it not wheat harvest to day? 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.1 Samuel 12:17. Is it not wheat-harvest to-day? — At which time it was a rare thing in those parts to have thunder or rain; the weather being more constant in its seasons than it is with us, and the rain being wont to fall periodically, only in the autumn and the spring, called the former and latter rain. He shall send thunder and rain — That you may understand that God is displeased with you, and see how foolishly and wickedly you have acted, in rejecting the government of that God at whose command are all things, both in heaven and in earth.
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.1 Samuel 12:18. The Lord sent thunder and rain — Such was the power and favour 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 soever 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.
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.1 Samuel 12:19-21. The Lord thy God — Whom thou hast so great an interest in, while we are ashamed and afraid to call him our God. Fear not — With a desponding fear, as if there are no hope left for you. But turn not ye aside — After idols, as they had often done before, and, notwithstanding this warning, did afterward. Vain things — So idols are called Deuteronomy 32:21, Jeremiah 2:5; and so they are, being mere nothings, having no power in them, no influence upon us, nor being of any use or benefit to us.
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;
And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
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.1 Samuel 12:22. His name’s sake — That is, for his own honour, which would suffer much among men, if he should not preserve and deliver his people in imminent dangers. And this reason God allegeth, to take them off from all conceit of their own merit; and to assure them, that if they did truly repent of all their sins, and serve God with all their hearts, yet even in that case their salvation would not be due to their merits, but the effect of God’s free mercy. To make you his people — Out of his own free grace, without any desert of yours, and therefore he will not forsake you, except you thrust him away.
Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:
Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.1 Samuel 12:24. Only fear the Lord, and serve him with truth, &c. — Otherwise neither my prayers nor counsels will stand you in any stead. Thus we see that amidst all the changes of the Hebrew state, their prophets steadily inculcated one and the same great principle, namely, that of fearing and serving the one true and living God, in spirit and in truth. Whether Moses or Joshua, the elders, or judges, or kings, were their governors, this great point was kept in view, and pursued still. And this indeed was the end of the Divine Providence in selecting this people: to preserve and spread among mankind the knowledge and worship of the true God, and obedience to his will, was the great point in view, in the divine counsels, in all that was done to and for the Israelites. And this great purpose, notwithstanding all their revolts and rebellions, was still carried on, at least in a measure, and accomplished.
But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.