1 Samuel Chapter 12: Samuel’s Last Address as Judge of Israel

Feb 12th, 2010 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Samuel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Samuel Chapter 12: Samuel’s Last Address as Judge of Israel

1 Sam. 12:1 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 Sam. 12:2 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 Sam. 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 mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.

1 Sam. 12:4 And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken aught of any man’s hand.

As Samuel felt his days of usefulness and service were drawing to a close, he gave the people an opportunity to witness against him, for he felt he had been blameless in his ministry. The people replied, “Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken aught of any man’s hand.”

Q: Why did Samuel mention his two sons, who were guilty of much evil?

A: For their disobedience, he was remanding his sons over to the people for judgment.

1 Sam. 12:5 And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found aught in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.

1 Sam. 12:6 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.

1 Sam. 12:7 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 Sam. 12:8 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 Sam. 12:9 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 Sam. 12:10 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.

In verses 6-13, Samuel reviewed the history of how God had led the nation of Israel. The specifics of these incidents are covered in prior books of the Bible, especially Judges. The 450 years of the Period of the Judges were a time of obedience for a while followed by disobedience, then chastisement through captivity and servitude until God raised up a judge and brought deliverance, again obedience for a while followed by a lapse back into disobedience, etc. It was periodically necessary for God to raise up some individual as a judge and empower him to save the Israelites from servitude.

1 Sam. 12:11 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.

Jerubbaal (Gideon), Bedan (probably Barak), Jephthah, and Samuel were all judges. However, some feel that Samuel was actually Samson in this listing, the justification being Hebrews 11:32, which enumerates some of the Ancient Worthies: “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon [Gideon], and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae [Jephthah]; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.” Moreover, it seems unlikely that Samuel would have listed his own name in writing the historical Book of 1 Samuel, even though he was the last of the judges and was certainly faithful in trying to minister as a judge underneath Jehovah as King.

Occasional mistakes do occur in historical books. There are perhaps a half dozen mistakes in the Old Testament, but they were overruled, for internal evidence self-corrects the errors.

Samuel was prone to be self-effacing in some of his remarks but not when he spoke to God. When the Israelites wanted a king, he was grieved that he was not appreciated more fully—that is, until he found out that Jehovah was the One not being properly recognized. Similarly, in our own experiences, there are periods in our life when we need to be taken down a peg or two to make us properly evaluate our circumstance.

Comment: It seems that all of chapter 12 was reprimanding the people for wanting a king.

Reply: Yes, although God favored the Israelites in spite of that improper request—perhaps because He realized that with a king, they would have other problems, and there would be an increased burden on them to be faithful.

1 Sam. 12:12 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 Sam. 12:13 Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you.

Samuel continued his last public discourse, which was a review of Israel’s history. When Nahash, the king of the children of Ammon, came against the Israelites, the people said, “Nay; but a king shall reign over us.” Here we get an insight into one of the primary reasons the Israelites audibly expressed their desire to have a king; namely, a king was leading the host that came against them. Perhaps Samuel’s disposition and character were not that of a general, so the people wanted someone who could be out in front leading them in battle. Samuel rebuked the Israelites for desiring a king, for Jehovah was their King. Nevertheless, God acquiesced and set Saul as king over the nation.

1 Sam. 12:14 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:

Even though it was wrong for the people to want a king, God would continue to favor both the king and the people if they were faithful. Both had a responsibility. It was as though God separated the people and the king into two different divisions of responsibility.

1 Sam. 12:15 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.

If not faithful, they would be conquered as had happened repeatedly during the 450-year Period of the Judges. The Book of Joshua deals mostly with the acquisition of the land and dividing it into territories and boundaries for the 12 tribes. Then the Book of Judges tells of various captivities that occurred, and in due time, the Lord raised up a judge to deliver the Israelites from each circumstance. In other words, there was a history of Israel’s past delinquency.

1 Sam. 12:16 Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes.

A sign would be presented to the nation to confirm Samuel’s words. Similarly, Gabriel told Daniel, “Seventy weeks are determined … to seal up the vision and prophecy [or prophet, that is, Daniel]” (Dan. 9:24). Particularly in Old Testament times, when a sign or prophecy was fulfilled, that fulfillment verified the authenticity of the prophet.

1 Sam. 12:17 Is it not wheat harvest today? 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.

What was so peculiar about sending thunder and rain during wheat harvest? Rarely did it rain in those months, especially not in a storm of this caliber. Not only would such rain be most unusual in June or July, but it would be somewhat of a catastrophe. If the sign (the rain) came to pass, it would verify that the people merited a rebuke and punishment from God for their great wickedness in asking for a king. He had already criticized them for their wrong attitude, but to now get a providential confirmation would have a striking effect on the nation.

Comment: Saying that the people’s “wickedness is great” for desiring a king was a strong statement.

Reply: While Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were wicked and also Samuel’s two sons, Joel and Abiah, the people’s motives in resenting the evil may not have been pure. For example, some relatives might have been debauched by the priesthood. Those people had a gripe, but the griping was not necessarily an indication of a righteous character, for faultfinding in itself, even if the fault is correctly exposed, is not an indicator that the person is right. Other factors are needed to verify whether the motive is proper or improper. When the people called Eli’s attention to the sins of his sons and Eli failed to remove them from the priesthood, that did not necessarily mean the people themselves were exonerated, although no doubt some of them were genuine in their criticism because they felt the sins were an effrontery to God. In other words, the guilt is not always confined to the leadership. The congregation can be at fault too.

1 Sam. 12:18 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.

Samuel called to the Lord, and God sent thunder and rain that very day. As a result, all of the people “greatly feared” God and Samuel.

1 Sam. 12:19 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.

Samuel’s rebuke had the intended effect. The people reacted properly by asking him to pray for them. Had Samuel not made his speech, there would have been no repentance. The people had had a wrong attitude for some time, so if Samuel had simply given a “swan song” speech and smooth talk—had he spoken of the greatness of the nation without calling attention to their present circumstance—they would not have repented. It was not as though he was warning a justified, purified people about the future, for their present condition was wrong.

Therefore, to merely state that the good and evil of the future depended upon their obedience was not sufficient. Rather, as a faithful prophet, he called attention to something unpopular— he exposed their current condition. In the “Elias Shall First Come” chapter of the SecondVolume, the Pastor showed that the Lord’s people who are faithful receive persecution because they expose popular error and advocate unpopular truths. This quality should be a part of their character in life as it was for all of God’s faithful prophets in the Old Testament.

1 Sam. 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;

1 Sam. 12:21 And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.

1 Sam. 12:22 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.

Samuel’s behavior here somewhat reminds us of Moses with regard to God’s not utterly forsaking the people called by His name.

1 Sam. 12:23 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:

1 Sam. 12:24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

1 Sam. 12:25 But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.

Samuel faded into the background from this point, for Saul, in the new office of king, came to the forefront after his inauguration. Temporarily Samuel continued in the priestly function, but preparations were being made for even that to phase out shortly into a new arrangement. The king was a prominent figure before the nation in everyday commercial and business life.

Comment: Samuel was an unusual person with great humility to give up all he had worked for and get behind Saul, a younger man.

Reply: Yes. Samuel saw immediately that the people erred in asking for a king, but he had to be corrected to see that the wrong was done chiefly to God and only secondarily to himself.

However, upon seeing that the Lord acquiesced to the people’s request by choosing Saul to be king, Samuel wholeheartedly recognized the arrangement. In fact, God told Samuel to anoint Saul, and then, seeing that Saul was to be king in spite of what had gone before, Samuel accepted the new situation and was humble enough to step back. He told the people, “The least I can do now is to pray for you constantly.”

Samuel would come on the scene later but in a different and personalized way. Whereas he was judge and priest before, he would now assume an advisory role, teaching the people “the good and the right way.” He continued, “Consider how great things he [God] hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.”

(1985-1987 Study)

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