Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 1 Samuel 12:1-25. Samuel’s farewell address to the people
The assembly at Gilgal marks an important epoch in Jewish history. It ratified the work of the assembly at Mizpah, finally closed the period of the Judges, and formally inaugurated the New Monarchy. Samuel, though he was still to retain his influence and authority as Prophet, now resigned his office as Judge, and in doing so delivered a solemn address to the assembled people.
(a) He challenges them to impeach his official purity (1 Samuel 12:1-3), and is answered by the unanimous confirmation of his integrity (1 Samuel 12:4-5). (b) Recalling Jehovah’s past mercies, he upbraids them with unbelief and ingratitude in demanding a king (1 Samuel 12:6-12). (c) And now their future depends upon their bearing towards Jehovah, in confirmation of which he appeals to a miraculous sign (1 Samuel 12:13-18). (d) Finally Samuel consoles the terrified people (1 Samuel 12:19), by assuring them of Jehovah’s faithfulness 1 Samuel 12 :, and his own continued intercession (1 Samuel 12:23), and concludes with a reiterated warning (1 Samuel 12:24-25).
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. I have hearkened unto your voice] Cp. 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 8:9; 1 Samuel 8:22.
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.2. the king walketh before you] Goes in and out in your presence in the exercise of his regal authority.
and I am old and gray-headed; and, behold my sons are with you] Samuel refers to the two reasons alleged by the elders in ch. 1 Samuel 8:5 for asking a king, (a) his own age, (b) the misgovernment of his sons. He mentions the first expressly, but with the natural reluctance of a father to dwell upon his sons’ misconduct, only hints at the second. The Hebrew conjunction “and” here as often introduces the reason, and may be translated by “for” or “seeing that.”
from my childhood] “From my youth,” as the word is rendered everywhere else in the E. V. Samuel’s public life may be said to have commenced when God first spoke to him in Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:11), so that they had had full opportunity of knowing him from the first.
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.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.”
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.
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.6. It is the Lord] Or, Yea Jehovah [is witness]. This verse forms the transition to what follows. Samuel proceeds to identify Jehovah, to whom they were now appealing as witness, with the God who brought their fathers out of the bondage of Egypt.
advanced] Appointed. Lit. made, cp. Hebrews 3:2.
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.7. stand still, that I may reason with you] Present yourselves that I may plead with you. The figure of a trial (1 Samuel 12:3 note) is still kept up; but the relation of the parties is changed. Samuel is now the accuser, Israel the defendant. Cp. Ezekiel 20:35-36; Micah 6:1-5.
the righteous acts of the Lord] Punishments for sin and deliverances from distress alike proved the righteousness of Jehovah in His covenant with Israel. Cp. Jdg 5:11.
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.8. When Jacob, &c.] The additions of the Sept. seem necessary to complete the sense. It reads, “When Jacob and his sons were come into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, your fathers cried,” &c. Cp. Exodus 2:23-25.
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.9. he sold them] God’s abandonment of His people to their enemies is described under the figure of sale, just as the deliverance of them is called redemption or buying back. Cp. Jdg 2:14; Jdg 3:8; Psalm 44:12.
The three chief oppressors of Israel during the period of the Judges are mentioned. (1) The Canaanites, who were led by Sisera, general of the army of King Jabin. Their chief city was Hazor (= stronghold) situated on the high ground west of the Lake of Merom, where Jebel Hadîreh perhaps still preserves the name. This oppression lasted for 20 years. See Jdg 4:5. (2) The Philistines. See Jdg 3:31; Jdg 10:7; Jdg 13:1, and Note IV. p. 238. (3) The Moabites under Eglon. See Jdg 3:12-30.
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.10. And they cried unto the Lord] The resemblance of the language to Jdg 10:10 is so close as to lead us to suppose that the compiler of Samuel had the book of Judges before him, or at any rate that the words are derived from a common source. Cp. also Jdg 2:18; Jdg 3:15; Jdg 4:3; Jdg 6:7.
Baalim and Ashtaroth] See note on 1 Samuel 7:3.
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.11. And the Lord sent, &c.] Four typical deliverers of the nation are mentioned. (1) Jerubbaal, who brought the Midianite oppression to an end (Judges 6-8). His original name Gideon was changed to Jerubbaal (= let Baal plead) for his bold act of piety in destroying the altar of Baal (Jdg 6:31-32). (2) Bedan. This name is not found in the book of Judges, but as that book is not a complete history, Bedan may possibly have been the name of a judge not mentioned there. But more probably Bedan is a copyist’s error for Barak, which is the reading of the Sept. and Syriac. The letters of the two words are much alike. In this case the reference will be to the deliverance from the Canaanite oppression already mentioned (Jdg 4:6 ff.). Bedan has also been explained as a name of Samson, either = Ben-Dan, i.e. the son of Dan or Danite (Jdg 13:2): or as a bye-name = corpulent. (3) Jephthah the Gileadite, who routed the Ammonites (Judges 11). (4) Samuel. That Samuel should thus mention himself need not surprise us if we remember (a) that the apparent abruptness of the mention is due to the condensation of the narrative, which gives only a summary of the original speech: (b) that he has resigned his office, and standing as it were outside the era of the Judges, he reviews it as a whole: (c) that in order to point his rebuke of the Israelites for ingratitude to Jehovah in asking a king, it was necessary to prove that He had not forsaken them, but had continued His deliverances down to the present.
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.12. And when ye saw] As the demand for a king preceded the invasion of Nahash recorded in ch. 11, the reference must be to earlier inroads, or to a threatened attack. This reason for desiring a king is hinted at in 1 Samuel 8:20.
Nay] Refusing to listen to my expostulations (1 Samuel 8:6; 1 Samuel 8:19).
when the Lord your God was your king] Cp. Jdg 8:23.
Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you.13. whom ye have desired] Asked, as in 1 Samuel 12:17; 1 Samuel 12:19. The word however is omitted by the Sept., and may possibly be an addition to the original text.
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:14. If ye will fear, &c.] Better, “If ye will fear Jehovah, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of Jehovah, and both ye and also the king who reigneth over you continue following after Jehovah your God, [it shall be well with you]: but if, &c.” The apodosis must be supplied from the context, as in Exodus 32:32.
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.15. as it was against your fathers] As set forth in 1 Samuel 12:9. The Sept. however reads, “and against your king,” which offers a more complete parallel to 1 Samuel 12:14. Cp. 1 Samuel 12:25.
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.17. he shall send thunder and rain] “In ordinary seasons from the cessation of the showers in spring [about the end of April] until their commencement in October or November, rain never falls, and the sky is usually serene.” Robinson, Bibl. Res. I. 430. Wheat harvest was in May and June. See note on 1 Samuel 6:13. “Rain in harvest” served as a figure for what was unseemly and anomalous (Proverbs 26:1).
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.18. feared the Lord and Samuel] The unexpected rain was a “sign,” attesting the prophet’s words. Cp. Exodus 14:31.
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.19. Pray for thy servants] See note on 1 Samuel 7:5.
this evil] Wickedness: the same word as in 1 Samuel 12:17; 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;
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.
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.22. for his great name’s sake] Lest He should seem in the eyes of the heathen not to be such as He declares Himself to be, Almighty, True, Faithful. Compare the use of this plea by Moses (Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13 ff.), and Joshua (Joshua 7:9). See also Romans 11:1-2.
it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people] God’s free choice of Israel to be his people is dwelt upon at length in Deuteronomy 7:6-11.
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.24. how great things he hath done for you] Lit. with you. The reference can scarcely be limited to the recent storm as a display of God’s greatness, but includes all his gracious dealings with His people. Samuel concludes his speech as he began it (1 Samuel 12:6-7), with an appeal to these as the motive for loyal obedience.
But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.