Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel)
Samuel's Address at the Renewal of the Monarchy - 1 Samuel 12
Samuel closed this solemn confirmation of Saul as king with an address to all Israel, in which he handed over the office of judge, which he had hitherto filled, to the king, who had been appointed by God and joyfully recognised by the people. The good, however, which Israel expected from the king depended entirely upon both the people and their king maintaining that proper attitude towards the Lord with which the prosperity of Israel was ever connected. This truth the prophet felt impelled to impress most earnestly upon the hearts of all the people on this occasion. To this end he reminded them, that neither he himself, in the administration of his office, nor the Lord in His guidance of Israel thus far, had given the people any reason for asking a king when the Ammonites invaded the land (Sa1 12:1-12). Nevertheless the Lord had given them a king, and would not withdraw His hand from them, if they would only fear Him and confess their sin (Sa1 12:13-15). This address was then confirmed by the Lord at Samuel's desire, through a miraculous sign (Sa1 12:16-18); whereupon Samuel gave to the people, who were terrified by the miracle and acknowledged their sin, the comforting promise that the Lord would not forsake His people for His great name's sake, and then closed his address with the assurance of his continued intercession, and a renewed appeal to them to serve the Lord with faithfulness (Sa1 12:19-25). With this address Samuel laid down his office as judge, but without therefore ceasing as prophet to represent the people before God, and to maintain the rights of God in relation to the king. In this capacity he continued to support the king with his advice, until he was compelled to announce his rejection on account of his repeated rebellion against the commands of the Lord, and to anoint David as his successor.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 12:1
The time and place of the following address are not given. But it is evident from the connection with the preceding chapter implied in the expression ויּאמר, and still more from the introduction (Sa1 12:1, Sa1 12:2) and the entire contents of the address, that it was delivered on the renewal of the monarchy at Gilgal.
Samuel starts with the fact, that he had given the people a king in accordance with their own desire, who would now walk before them. הנּה with the participle expresses what is happening, and will happen still. לפני התהלּך must not be restricted to going at the head in war, but signifies the general direction and government of the nation, which had been in the hands of Samuel as judge before the election of Saul as king. "And I have grown old and grey (שׂבתּי from שׂיב); and my sons, behold, they are with you." With this allusion to his sons, Samuel simply intended to confirm what he had said about his own age. By the further remark, "and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day," he prepares the way for the following appeal to the people to bear witness concerning his conduct in office.
"Bear witness against me before the Lord," i.e., looking up to the Lord, the omnipotent and righteous God-king, "and before His anointed," the visible administrator of His divine government, whether I have committed any injustice in my office of judge, by appropriating another's property, or by oppression and violence (רצץ, to pound or crush in pieces, when used to denote an act of violence, is stronger than אשׁק, with which it is connected here and in many other passages, e.g., Deu 28:33; Amo 4:1), or by taking atonement money (כּפר, redemption or atonement money, is used, as in Exo 21:30 and Num 35:31, to denote a payment made by a man to redeem himself from capital punishment), "so that I had covered my eyes with it," viz., to exempt from punishment a man who was worthy of death. The בּו, which is construed with העלים, is the בּ instrumenti, and refers to כּפר; consequently it is not to be confounded with מן, "to hide from," which would be quite unsuitable here. The thought is not that the judge covers his eyes from the copher, that he may not see the bribe, but that he covers his eyes with the money offered him as a bribe, so as not to see and not to punish the crime committed.
The people answered Samuel, that he had not done them any kind of injustice.
To confirm this declaration on the part of the people, he then called Jehovah and His anointed as witnesses against the people, and they accepted these witnesses. כּל־ישׂראל is the subject to ויּאמר; and the Keri ויּאמרוּ, though more simple, is by no means necessary. Samuel said, "Jehovah be witness against you," because with the declaration which the people had made concerning Samuel's judicial labours they had condemned themselves, inasmuch as they had thereby acknowledged on oath that there was no ground for their dissatisfaction with Samuel's administration, and consequently no well-founded reason for their request for a king.
But in order to bring the people to a still more thorough acknowledgment of their sin, Samuel strengthened still more their assent to his solemn appeal to God, as expressed in the words "He is witness," by saying, "Jehovah (i.e., yea, the witness is Jehovah), who made Moses and Aaron, and brought your fathers out of the land of Egypt." The context itself is sufficient to show that the expression "is witness" is understood; and there is no reason, therefore, to assume that the word has dropped out of the text through a copyist's error. עשׂה, to make, in a moral and historical sense, i.e., to make a person what he is to be; it has no connection, therefore, with his physical birth, but simply relates to his introduction upon the stage of history, like ποιεῖν, Heb 3:2. But if Jehovah, who redeemed Israel out of Egypt by the hands of Moses and Aaron, and exalted it into His own nation, was witness of the unselfishness and impartiality of Samuel's conduct in his office of judge, then Israel had grievously sinned by demanding a king. In the person of Samuel they had rejected Jehovah their God, who had given them their rulers (see Sa1 8:7). Samuel proves this still further to the people from the following history.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 12:7
"And now come hither, and I will reason with you before the Lord with regard to all the righteous acts which He has shown to you and your fathers." צדקות, righteous acts, is the expression used to denote the benefits which Jehovah had conferred upon His people, as being the results of His covenant fidelity, or as acts which attested the righteousness of the Lord in the fulfilment of the covenant grace which He had promised to His people.
The first proof of this was furnished by the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and their safe guidance into Canaan ("this place" is the land of Canaan). The second was to be found in the deliverance of the people out of the power of their foes, to whom the Lord had been obliged to give them up on account of their apostasy from Him, through the judges whom He had raised up for them, as often as they turned to Him with penitence and cried to Him for help. Of the hostile oppressions which overtook the Israelites during this period of the judges, the following are singled out in Sa1 12:9 : (1) that by Sisera, the commander-in-chief of Hazor, i.e., that of the Canaanitish king Jabin of Hazor (Jdg 4:2.); (2) that of the Philistines, by which we are to understand not so much the hostilities of that nation described in Jdg 3:31, as the forty years' oppression mentioned in Jdg 10:2 and Jdg 13:1; and (3) the Moabitish oppression under Eglon (Jdg 3:12.). The first half of Jdg 13:10 agrees almost word for word with Jdg 10:10, except that, according to Jdg 10:6, the Ashtaroth are added to the Baalim (see at Sa1 7:4 and Jdg 2:13). Of the judges whom God sent to the people as deliverers, the following are named, viz., Jerubbaal (see at Jdg 6:32), i.e., Gideon (Judg 6), and Bedan, and Jephthah (see Judg 11), and Samuel. There is no judge named Bedan mentioned either in the book of Judges or anywhere else. The name Bedan only occurs again in Ch1 7:17, among the descendants of Machir the Manassite: consequently some of the commentators suppose Jair of Gilead to be the judge intended. But such a supposition is perfectly arbitrary, as it is not rendered probable by any identity in the two names, and Jair is not described as having delivered Israel from any hostile oppression. Moreover, it is extremely improbable that Samuel should have mentioned a judge here, who had been passed over in the book of Judges on account of his comparative insignificance. There is also just as little ground for rendering Bedan as an appellative, e.g., the Danite (ben-Dan), as Kimchi suggests, or corpulentus as Bttcher maintains, and so connecting the name with Samson. There is no other course left, therefore, than to regard Bedan as an old copyist's error for Barak (Judg 4), as the lxx, Syriac, and Arabic have done, - a conclusion which is favoured by the circumstance that Barak was one of the most celebrated of the judges, and is placed by the side of Gideon and Jephthah in Heb 11:32. The Syriac, Arabic, and one Greek MS (see Kennicott in the Addenda to his Dissert. Gener.), have the name of Samson instead of Samuel. But as the lxx, Chald., and Vulg. all agree with the Hebrew text, there is no critical ground for rejecting Samuel, the more especially as the objection raised to it, viz., that Samuel would not have mentioned himself, is far too trivial to overthrow the reading supported by the most ancient versions; and the assertion made by Thenius, that Samuel does not come down to his own times until the following verse, is altogether unfounded. Samuel could very well class himself with the deliverers of Israel, for the simple reason that it was by him that the people were delivered from the forty years' tyranny of the Philistines, whilst Samson merely commenced their deliverance and did not bring it to completion. Samuel appears to have deliberately mentioned his own name along with those of the other judges who were sent by God, that he might show the people in the most striking manner (Sa1 12:12) that they had no reason whatever for saying to him, "Nay, but a king shall reign over us," as soon as the Ammonites invaded Gilead. "As Jehovah your God is your king," i.e., has ever proved himself to be your King by sending judges to deliver you.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 12:13
After the prophet had thus held up before the people their sin against the Lord, he bade them still further consider, that the king would only procure for them the anticipated deliverance if they would fear the Lord, and give up their rebellion against God.
"But now behold the king whom ye have chosen, whom ye have asked for! behold, Jehovah hath set a king over you." By the second והנּה, the thought is brought out still more strongly, that Jehovah had fulfilled the desire of the people. Although the request of the people had been an act of hostility to God, yet Jehovah had fulfilled it. The word בּהרתּם, relating to the choice by lot (Sa1 10:17.), is placed before שׁאלתּם אשׁר, to show that the demand was the strongest act that the people could perform. They had not only chosen the king with the consent or by the direction of Samuel; they had even demanded a king of their own self-will.
Still, since the Lord had given them a king, the further welfare of the nation would depend upon whether they would follow the Lord from that time forward, or whether they would rebel against Him again. "If ye will only fear the Lord, and serve Him, ... and ye as well as the king who rules over you will be after Jehovah your God." אם, in the sense of modo, if only, does not require any apodosis, as it is virtually equivalent to the wish, "O that ye would only!" for which אם with the imperfect is commonly used (vid., Kg2 20:19; Pro 24:11, etc.; and Ewald, 329, b.). There is also nothing to be supplied to יהוה אחר ... והיתם, since אחר היה, to be after or behind a person, is good Hebrew, and is frequently met with, particularly in the sense of attaching one's self to the king, or holding to him (vid., Sa2 2:10; Kg1 12:20; Kg1 16:21-22). This meaning is also at the foundation of the present passage, as Jehovah was the God-king of Israel.
"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.
In 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 Exo 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" (Exo 9:28), are harbingers of judgment.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 12:18
This miracle therefore inspired the people with a salutary terror. "All the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel," and entreated the prophet, "Pray for thy servants to the Lord thy God, that we die not, because we have added to all our sins the evil thing, to ask us a king."
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 12:20
Samuel thereupon announced to them first of all, that the Lord would not forsake His people for His great name's sake, if they would only serve Him with uprightness. In order, however, to give no encouragement to any false trust in the covenant faithfulness of the Lord, after the comforting words, "Fear not," he told them again very decidedly that they had done wrong, but that now they were not to turn away from the Lord, but to serve Him with all their heart, and not go after vain idols. To strengthen this admonition, he repeats the תּסוּרוּ לא in Sa1 12:21, with the explanation, that in turning from the Lord they would fall away to idols, which could not bring them either help or deliverance. To the כּי after תּסוּרוּ the same verb must be supplied from the context: "Do not turn aside (from the Lord), for (ye turn aside) after that which is vain." התּהוּ, the vain, worthless thing, signifies the false gods. This will explain the construction with a plural: "which do not profit and do not save, because they are emptiness" (tohu), i.e., worthless beings (elilim, Lev 19:4; cf. Isa 44:9 and Jer 16:19).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 12:22
"For (כּי gives the reason for the main thought of the previous verse, 'Fear not, but serve the Lord,' etc.) the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake; for it hath pleased the Lord (for הואיל, see at Deu 1:5) to make you His people." The emphasis lies upon His. This the Israelites could only be, when they proved themselves to be the people of God, by serving Jehovah with all their heart. "For His great name's sake," i.e., for the great name which He had acquired in the sight of all the nations, by the marvellous guidance of Israel thus far, to preserve it against misapprehension and blasphemy (see at Jos 7:9).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 12:23
Samuel then promised the people his constant intercession: "Far be it from me to sin against the Lord, that I should cease to pray for you, and to instruct you in the good and right way," i.e., to work as prophet for your good. "In this he sets a glorious example to all rulers, showing them that they should not be led astray by the ingratitude of their subordinates or subjects, and give up on that account all interest in their welfare, but should rather persevere all the more in their anxiety for them" (Berleb. Bible).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 12:24
Lastly, he repeats once more his admonition, that they would continue stedfast in the fear of God, threatening at the same time the destruction of both king and people if they should do wrong (on Sa1 12:24, see Sa1 7:3 and Jos 24:14, where the form יראוּ is also found). "For see what great things He has done for you" (shown to you), not by causing it to thunder and rain at Samuel's prayer, but by giving them a king. עם הגדּיל, as in Gen 19:19.