1 Samuel 12
We left the general assembly of the states together, in the close of
the foregoing chapter; in this chapter we have Samuel's speech to them,
when he resigned the government into the hands of Saul, in which,
I. He clears himself from all suspicion or imputation of mismanagement,
while the administration was in his hands,
1 Samuel 12:1-5.
II. He reminds them of the great things God had done for them and for
1 Samuel 12:6-13.
III. He sets before them good and evil, the blessing and the curse,
1 Samuel 12:14,15.
IV. He awakens them to regard what he said to them, by calling to God
1 Samuel 12:16-19.
V. He encourages them with hopes that all should be well,
1 Samuel 12:20-25.
This is his farewell sermon to that august assembly and Saul's
|Samuel's Discourse to Israel.
||B. C. 1069.|
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
2 And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old
and gray-headed; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have
walked before you from my childhood unto this day.
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.
4 And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us,
neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand.
5 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.
I. Samuel gives them a short account of the late revolution, and of the
present posture of their government, by way of preface to what he had
further to say to them,
1 Samuel 12:1,2.
1. For his own part, he had spent his days in their service; he began
betimes to be useful among them, and had continued long so: "I have
walked before you, as a guide to direct you, as a shepherd that
leads his flock
from my childhood unto this day." As soon as he was illuminated
with the light of prophecy, in his early days, he began to be a burning
and shining light to Israel; "and now my best days are done: I am
old and gray-headed;" therefore they were the more unkind to cast
him off, yet therefore he was the more willing to resign, finding the
weight of government heavy upon his stooping shoulders. He was old, and
therefore the more able to advise them, and the more observant they
should have been of what he said, for days shall speak and
the multitude of years shall teach wisdom; and there is a
particular reverence due to the aged, especially aged magistrates and
aged ministers. "I am old, and therefore not likely to live long,
perhaps may never have an opportunity of speaking to you again, and
therefore take notice of what I say."
2. As for his sons, "Behold" (says he), "they are with
you, you may, if you please, call them to an account for any thing
they have done amiss. They are present with you, and have not, upon
this revolution, fled from their country. They are upon the level with
you, subjects to the new king as well as you; if you can prove them
guilty of any wrong, you may prosecute them now by a due course of law,
punish them, and oblige them to make restitution."
3. As for their new king, Samuel had gratified them in setting him over
(1 Samuel 12:1):
"I have hearkened to your voice in all that you said to me,
being desirous to please you, if possible, and make you easy, though to
the discarding of myself and family; and now will you hearken to me,
and take my advice?" The change was now perfected: "Behold, the king
walketh before you"
(1 Samuel 12:2);
he appears in public, ready to serve you in public business. Now that
you have made yourselves like the nations in your civil government, and
have cast off the divine administration in that, take heed lest you
make yourselves like the nations in religion and cast off the worship
II. He solemnly appeals to them concerning his own integrity in the
administration of the government
(1 Samuel 12:3):
Witness against me, whose ox have I taken? Observe,
1. His design in this appeal. By this he intended,
(1.) To convince them of the injury they had done him in setting him
aside, when they had nothing amiss to charge him with (his government
had no fault but that it was too cheap, too easy, too gentle), and also
of the injury they had done themselves in turning off one that did not
so much as take an ox or an ass from them, to put themselves under the
power of one that would take from them their fields and vineyards, nay,
and their very sons and daughters
(1 Samuel 8:11),
so unlike would the manner of the king be from Samuel's manner.
(2.) To preserve his own reputation. Those that heard of Samuel's
being rejected as he was would be ready to suspect that certainly he
had done some evil thing, or he would never have been so ill treated;
so that it was necessary for him to make this challenge, that it might
appear upon record that it was not for any iniquity in his hands that
he was laid aside, but to gratify the humour of a giddy people, who
owned they could not have a better man to rule them, only they desired
a bigger man. There is a just debt which every man owes to his own good
name, especially men in public stations, which is to guard it against
unjust aspersions and suspicions, that we may finish our course with
honour as well as joy.
(3.) As he designed hereby to leave a good name behind him, so he
designed to leave his successor a good example before him; let him
write after his copy, and he will write fair.
(4.) He designed, in the close of his discourse, to reprove the people,
and therefore he begins with a vindication of himself; for he that
will, with confidence, tell another of his sin, must see to it that he
himself be clear.
2. In the appeal itself observe,
(1.) What it is that Samuel here acquits himself from.
[1.] He had never, under any pretence whatsoever, taken that which was
not his own, ox or ass, had never distrained their cattle for tribute,
fines, or forfeitures, nor used their service without paying for it.
[2.] He had never defrauded those with whom he dealt, nor oppressed
those that were under his power.
[3.] He had never taken bribes to pervert justice, nor was ever biassed
by favour for affection to give judgment in a cause against his
(2.) How he calls upon those that had slighted him to bear witness
concerning his conduct: "Here I am; witness against me. If you
have any thing to lay to my charge, do it before the Lord and the
king, the proper judges." He puts honour upon Saul, by owning
himself accountable to him if guilty of any wrong.
III. Upon this appeal he is honourably acquitted. He did not expect
that they would do him honour at parting, though he well deserved it,
and therefore mentioned not any of the good services he had done them,
for which they ought to have applauded him, and returned him the thanks
of the house; all he desired was that they should do him justice, and
that they did
(1 Samuel 12:4)
1. That he had not made his government oppressive to them, nor used his
power to their wrong.
2. That he had not made it expensive to them: Neither hast thou
taken aught of any man's hand for the support of thy dignity. Like
Nehemiah, he did not require the bread of the governor
had not only been righteous, but generous, had coveted no man's
silver, or gold, or apparel,
IV. This honourable testimony borne to Samuel's integrity is left upon
record to his honour
(1 Samuel 12:5):
"The Lord is witness, who searcheth the heart, and his
anointed is witness, who trieth overt acts;" and the people agree
to it: "He is witness." Note, The testimony of our neighbours,
and especially the testimony of our own consciences for us, that we
have in our places lived honestly, will be our comfort under the
slights and contempts that are put upon us. Demetrius is a happy man,
that has a good report of all men and of the truth itself,
3 John 1:12.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
13 Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and
whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over
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:
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.
Samuel, having sufficiently secured his own reputation, instead of
upbraiding the people upon it with their unkindness to him, sets
himself to instruct them, and keep them in the way of their duty, and
then the change of the government would be the less damage to them.
I. He reminds them of the great goodness of God to them and to their
fathers, gives them an abstract of the history of their nation, that,
by the consideration of the great things God had done for them, they
might be for ever engaged to love him and serve him. "Come," says he
(1 Samuel 12:7),
"stand still, stand in token of reverence when God is speaking to you,
stand still in token of attention and composedness of mind, and give me
leave to reason with you." Religion has reason on its side,
The work of ministers is to reason with people, not only to exhort and
direct, but to persuade, to convince men's judgments, and so to gain
their wills and affections. Let reason rule men, and they will be good.
He reasons of the righteous acts of the Lord, that is, "both the
benefits he hath bestowed upon you, in performance of his promises, and
the punishments he has inflicted on you for your sins." His favours are
called his righteous acts
because in them he is just to his own honour. He not only puts them in
mind of what God had done for them in their days, but of what he had
done of old, in the days of their fathers, because the present age had
the benefit of God's former favours. We may suppose that his discourse
was much larger than as here related.
1. He reminds them of their deliverance out of Egypt. Into that house
of bondage Jacob and his family came down poor and little; when they
were oppressed they cried unto God, who advanced Moses and Aaron, from
mean beginnings, to be their deliverers, and the founders of their
state and settlement in Canaan,
1 Samuel 12:6,8.
2. He reminds them of the miseries and calamities which their fathers
brought themselves into by forgetting God and serving other gods,
1 Samuel 12:9.
They enslaved themselves, for they were sold as criminals and captives
into the hand of oppressors. They exposed themselves to the desolation
of war, and their neighbours fought against them.
3. He reminds them of their fathers' repentance and humiliation before
God for their idolatries: They said, We have sinned,
1 Samuel 12:10.
Let not them imitate the sins of their fathers, for what they had done
amiss they had many a time wished undone again. In the day of their
distress they had sought unto God, and had promised to serve him; let
their children then reckon that good at all times which they found good
in bad times.
4. He reminds them of the glorious deliverances God had wrought for
them, the victories he had blessed them with, and their happy
settlements, many a time, after days of trouble and distress,
1 Samuel 12:11.
He specifies some of their judges, Gideon and Jephthah, great
conquerors in their time; among the rest he mentions Bedan, whom we
read not of any where else: he might be some eminent person, that was
instrumental of salvation to them, though not recorded in the book of
Judges, such a one as Shamgar, of whom it is said that he
delivered Israel, but not that he judged them,
Perhaps this Bedan guarded and delivered them on one side, at the same
time when some other of the judges appeared and acted for them on
another side. Some think it was the same with Jair (so the learned Mr.
Poole), others the same with Samson, who was Ben Dan, a son of Dan, of
that tribe, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him Be-Dan, inn Dan,
in the camp of Can. Samuel mentions himself, not to his own praise, but
to the honour of God, who had made him an instrument of subduing the
5. At last he puts them in mind of God's late favour to the present
generation, in gratifying them with a king, when they would prescribe
to God by such a one to save them out of the hand of Nahash king of
1 Samuel 12:12,13.
Now it appears that this was the immediate occasion of their desiring a
king: Nahash threatened them; they desired Samuel to nominate a
general; he told them that God was commander-in-chief in all their wars
and they needed no other, that what was wanting in them should be made
up by his power: The Lord is your king. But they insisted on it,
Nay, but a king shall reign over us. "And now," said he, "you
have a king, a king of your own asking--let that be spoken to your
shame; but a king of God's making--let that be spoken to his honour and
the glory of his grace." God did not cast them off, even when they in
effect cast him off.
II. He shows them that they are now upon their good behaviour, they and
their king. Let them not think that they had now cut themselves off
from all dependence upon God, and that now, having a king of their own,
the making of their own fortunes (as men foolishly call it) was in
their own hands; no, still their judgment must proceed from the Lord.
He tells them plainly,
1. That their obedience to God would certainly be their happiness,
1 Samuel 12:14.
If they would not revolt from God to idols, nor rebel against him by
breaking his commandments, but would persevere in their allegiance to
him, would fear his wrath, serve his interests, and obey his will, then
they and their king should certainly be happy; but observe how the
promise is expressed: Then you shall continue following the Lord
your God; that is,
(1.) "You shall continue in the way of your duty to God, which will be
your honour and comfort." Note, To those that are sincere in their
religion God will give grace to persevere in it: those that follow God
faithfully will be divinely strengthened to continue following him. And
observe, Following God is a work that is its own wages. It is the
matter of a promise as well as of a precept.
(2.) "You shall continue under the divine guidance and protection:"
You shall be after the Lord, so it is in the original, that is,
"he will go before you to lead and prosper you, and make your way
plain. The Lord is with you while you are with him."
2. That their disobedience would as certainly be their ruin
(1 Samuel 12:15):
"If you rebel, think not that your having a king will secure you
against God's judgments, and that having in this instance made
yourselves like the nations you may sin at as cheap a rate as
they can. No, the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was
against your fathers when they offended him, in the days of the
judges." We mistake if we think that we can evade God's justice by
shaking off his dominion. If God shall not rule us, yet he will judge
|Samuel Calls for Thunder; Samuel Encourages and Comforts Israel.
||B. C. 1069.|
16 Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD
will do before your eyes.
17 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.
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
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.
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;
21 And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain
things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
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
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:
24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your
heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.
25 But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed,
both ye and your king.
Two things Samuel here aims at:--
I. To convince the people of their sin in desiring a king. They were
now rejoicing before God in and with their king
(1 Samuel 11:15),
and offering to God the sacrifices of praise, which they hoped God
would accept; and this perhaps made them think that there was no harm
in their asking a king, but really they had done well in it. Therefore
Samuel here charges it upon them as their sin, as wickedness, great
wickedness in the sight of the Lord. Note, Though we meet with
prosperity and success in a way of sin, yet we must not therefore think
the more favourably of it. They have a king, and if they conduct
themselves well their king may be a very great blessing to them, and
yet Samuel will have them perceive and see that their wickedness was
great in asking a king. We must never think well of that which God
in his law frowns upon, though in his providence he may seem to smile
upon it. Observe,
1. The expressions of God's displeasure against them for asking a king.
At Samuel's word, God sent prodigious thunder and rain upon them, at a
season of the year when, in that country, the like was never seen or
1 Samuel 12:16-18.
Thunder and rain have natural causes and sometimes terrible effects.
But Samuel made it to appear that this was designed by the almighty
power of God on purpose to convince them that they had done very
wickedly in asking a king; not only by its coming in an unusual
time, in wheat-harvest, and this on a fair clear day, when there
appeared not to the eye any signs of a storm, but by his giving notice
of it before. Had there happened to be thunder and rain at the time
when he was speaking to them, he might have improved it for their
awakening and conviction, as we may in a like case; but, to make it no
less than a miracle, before it came,
(1.) He spoke to them of it
(1 Samuel 12:16,17):
Stand and see this great thing. He had before told them to
stand and hear
(1 Samuel 12:7);
but, because he did not see that his reasoning with them affected them
(so stupid were they and unthinking), now he bids them stand and
see. If what he said in a still small voice did not reach
their hearts, nor his doctrine which dropped as the dew, they shall
hear God speaking to them in dreadful claps of thunder and the great
rain of his strength. He appealed to this as a sign: "I will call
upon the Lord, and he will send thunder, will send it just now, to
confirm the word of his servant, and to make you see that I spoke truly
when I told you that God was angry with you for asking a king."
And the event proved him a true prophet; the sign and wonder came to
(2.) He spoke to God for it. Samuel called unto the Lord, and, in
answer to his prayer, even while he was yet speaking, the Lord sent
thunder and rain. By this Samuel made it to appear, not only what a
powerful influence God has upon this earth, that he could, of a sudden,
when natural causes did not work towards it, produce this dreadful rain
and thunder, and bring them out of his treasures
but also what a powerful interest he had in heaven, that God
would thus hearken to the voice of a man
and answer him in the secret place of thunder,
Samuel, that son of prayer, was still famous for success in prayer. Now
by this extraordinary thunder and rain sent on this occasion,
[1.] God testified his displeasure against them in the same way in
which he had formerly testified it, and at the prayer of Samuel too,
against the Philistines. The Lord discomfited them with a great
1 Samuel 7:10.
Now that Israel rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit, he turned to be
their enemy, and fought against them with the same weapons which, not
long before, had been employed against their adversaries,
[2.] He showed them their folly in desiring a king to save them, rather
than God or Samuel, promising themselves 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
[3.] He intimated to them that how serene and prosperous soever their
condition seemed to be now that they had a king, like the weather in
wheat-harvest, yet, if God pleased, he could soon change the face of
their heavens, and persecute them with his tempest, as the Psalmist
2. The impressions which this made upon the people. It startled them
very much, as well it might.
(1.) They greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. Though when they
had a king they were ready to think they must fear him only, God made
them know that he is greatly to be feared and his prophets for
his sake. Now they were rejoicing in their king, God taught them to
rejoice with trembling.
(2.) They owned their sin and folly in desiring a king: We have
added to all our sins this evil,
1 Samuel 12:19.
Some people will not be brought to a sight of their sins by any gentler
methods than storms and thunders. Samuel did not extort this confession
from them till the matter was settled and the king confirmed, lest it
should look as if he designed by it rather to establish himself in the
government than to bring them to repentance. Now that they were
flattering themselves in their own eyes, their iniquity was found to
(3.) They earnestly begged Samuel's prayers
(1 Samuel 12:19):
Pray for thy servants, that we die not. They were apprehensive
of their danger from the wrath of God, and could not expect that he
should hear their prayers for themselves, and therefore they entreat
Samuel to pray for them. Now they see their need of him whom awhile ago
they slighted. Thus many that will not have Christ to reign over
them would yet be glad to have him intercede for them, to turn away
the wrath of God. And the time may come when those that have despised
and ridiculed praying people will value their prayers, and desire a
share in them. "Pray" (say they) "to the Lord thy God;
we know not how to call him ours, but, if thou hast any interest in
him, improve it for us."
II. He aims to confirm the people in their religion, and engage them
for ever to cleave unto the Lord. The design of his discourse is much
the same with Joshua's,
1 Samuel 23:1-24:22
1. He would not that the terrors of the Lord should frighten them from
him, for they were intended to frighten them to him
(1 Samuel 12:20):
"Fear not; though you have done all this wickedness, and though
God is angry with you for it, yet do not therefore abandon his service,
nor turn from following him." Fear not, that is, "despair not,
fear not with amazement, the weather will clear up after the storm.
Fear not; for, though God will frown upon his people, yet he will not
(1 Samuel 12:22)
for his great name's sake; do not you forsake him then." Every
transgression in the covenant, though it displease the Lord, yet does
not throw us out of covenant, and therefore God's just rebukes must not
drive us from our hope in his mercy. The fixedness of God's choice is
owing to the freeness of it; we may therefore hope he will not forsake
his people, because it has pleased him to make them his people.
Had he chosen them for their good merits, we might fear he would cast
them off for their bad merits; but, choosing them for his name's
sake, for his name's sake he will not leave them.
2. He cautions them against idolatry: "Turn not aside from God
and the worship of him"
(1 Samuel 12:20,21);
"for if you turn aside from God, whatever you turn aside to, you will
find it is a vain thing, that can never answer your expectations, but
will certainly deceive you if you trust to it; it is a broken reed, a
broken cistern." Idols could not profit those that sought to them in
their wants, nor deliver those that sought to them in their straits,
for they were vain, and not what they pretended to be. An idol is
nothing in the world,
1 Corinthians 8:4.
3. He comforts them with an assurance that he would continue his care
and concern for them,
1 Samuel 12:23.
They desired him to pray for them,
1 Samuel 12:19.
He might have said, "Go to Saul, the king that you have put in my
room," and get him to pray for you; but so far is he from upbraiding
them with their disrespect to him that he promised them much more than
(1.) They asked it of him as a favour; he promised it as a duty, and
startles at the thought of neglecting it. Pray for you! says he,
God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in not doing it.
Note, It is a sin against God not to pray for the Israel of God,
especially for those of them that are under our charge: and good men
are afraid of the guilt of omissions.
(2.) They asked him to pray for them at this time, and upon this
occasion, but he promised to continue his prayers for them and to cease
as long as he lived. Our rule is to pray without ceasing; we sin
if we restrain prayer in general, and in particular if we cease praying
for the church.
(3.) They asked him only to pray for them, but he promised to do more
for them, not only to pray for them, but to teach them; though they
were not willing to be under his government as a judge, he would not
therefore deny them his instructions as a prophet. And they might be
sure he would teach them no other than the good and the right
way: and the right way is certainly the good way: the way of duty
is the way of pleasure and profit.
4. He concludes with an earnest exhortation to practical religion and
1 Samuel 12:24,25.
The great duty here pressed upon us is to fear the Lord. He had
(1 Samuel 12:20),
"Fear not with a slavish fear," but here, "Fear the Lord, with a
filial fear." As the fruit and evidence of this, serve him in the
duties of religious worship and of a godly conversation, in truth and
sincerity, and not in show and profession only, with your heart, and
with all your heart, not dissembling, not dividing. And two
things he urges by way of motive:--
(1.) That they were bound in gratitude to serve God, considering
what great things he had done for them, to engage them for ever
to his service.
(2.) That they were bound in interest to serve him, considering what
great things he would do against them if they should still do wickedly:
"You shall be destroyed by the judgments of God, both you and
your king whom you are so proud of and expect so much from, and who
will be a blessing to you if you keep in with God." Thus, as a faithful
watchman, he gave them warning, and so delivered his own soul.