A. Testimony to Samuel’s integrity.
1. (1-3) Samuel talks about his leadership over Israel.
Now Samuel said to all Israel: “Indeed I have heeded your voice in all that you said to me, and have made a king over you. And now here is the king, walking before you; and I am old and grayheaded, and look, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my childhood to this day. Here I am. Witness against me before the LORD and before His anointed: Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes? I will restore it to you.”
a. Samuel said to all Israel: After the victory of Saul over the Ammonites in 1 Samuel 11, Samuel knew the nation would now begin to look to this king for leadership. Here he helped Israel make the transition from Samuel’s leadership to Saul’s leadership. Samuel made this clear when he said, “now here is the king” and “I am old and grayheaded.” Samuel told Israel that his day was over, and Saul’s day was beginning.
i. It is true that Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life (1 Samuel 7:15), but now that a king was raised up, his role would change and diminish. Samuel never officially “stepped down” from leading Israel as a judge but didn’t allow his shadow to eclipse Saul. Perhaps he knew Saul would have enough trouble on his own and Samuel didn’t want to be accused of subverting Saul’s reign as king.
ii. In this, Samuel showed himself as a truly godly man. He was willing to pass from the scene when God brought up another leader. Samuel did not grasp onto a position when God wanted to change it.
b. Indeed I have heeded your voice in all that you said to me: Samuel wanted it known that it was not his idea to appoint a king over Israel. This idea began in the hearts of Israel, not in the heart and mind of God. God allowed it and directed its execution, but it was the voice of the people that prompted it.
c. My sons are with you: In 1 Samuel 8:1-5, Samuel was challenged to take his sons out of leadership in Israel because they were not godly men. Though it must have been difficult, he did it. The words my sons are with you are proof; Samuel’s sons were simply a part of the assembly of Israel and not “up on the platform” with Samuel.
i. “It is generally agreed that these words intimate [imply] that Samuel had deprived them of their public employ, and reduced them to a level with the common people.” (Clarke)
d. I have walked before you from my childhood to this day: Samuel remembered his humble beginnings as a child, dedicated to the LORD and serving Israel and the LORD at the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:18, 3:1).
i. I have walked before you is not the idea “I have been on display before you.” Instead, it is the idea of a shepherd walking before his flock, leading it on. Samuel was a godly leader and shepherd for Israel these many years.
e. Witness against me before the LORD: Samuel reminded them that he had not cheated or oppressed or been corrupt in any way. He simply challenged the nation: “If I have wronged you or been corrupt, come forward now and declare it.”
i. Samuel wanted the nation to know that he passed a good legacy of leadership to the new king, Saul. He wanted Israel to recognize that he didn’t hand Saul a mess to clean up. If Saul proved to be a poor leader no one could say it was because of Samuel’s bad example.
f. I will restore it: It seems as if Samuel meant, “I may have wronged someone without knowing it. If that is the case, state it now, so I can make it right. I don’t want to leave any unfinished business.” This testified to Samuel’s humble heart.
2. (4-5) Israel affirms the blameless leadership of Samuel.
And they said, “You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man’s hand.” Then he said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they answered, “He is witness.”
a. You have not cheated us or oppressed us: Israel knew Samuel was a good, godly leader. He did not lead them for what he could get from them, but for what he could give to them.
b. The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day: Samuel settled the matter. All parties agreed that he led Israel well. This is the second time Samuel mentioned His anointed in this passage, and the phrase refers to Saul because he was anointed as king (1 Samuel 10:1). Samuel deliberately included Saul in all this to make the idea of a transition between his leadership and Saul’s clear.
i. In what sense was the LORD witness against them? If Israel were to later accuse Samuel of wrong, he could call them back to what they said here as a witness against them. As well, if Israel ever tried to blame Saul’s problems on Samuel, what they said here would be a witness against them.
B. Samuel challenges Israel to serve God under their new king.
1. (6-12) Samuel gives a brief history lesson.
Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the LORD who raised up Moses and Aaron, and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt. Now therefore, stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous acts of the LORD which He did to you and your fathers: When Jacob had gone into Egypt, and your fathers cried out to the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. And when they forgot the LORD their God, He sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them. Then they cried out to the LORD, and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals and Ashtoreths; but now deliver us from the hand of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you dwelt in safety. And when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king.”
a. The righteous acts of the LORD: In this remembrance of God’s work from the time of the Exodus until his day Samuel focused not on the history of Israel, but on the history of the righteous acts of the LORD.
b. Who brought your fathers up out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place: Israel should remember their salvation from slavery and the new life God gave them in the Promised Land. This was one of the righteous acts of the LORD.
c. He sold them into the hand of Sisera: Israel should remember how God allowed a disobedient Israel to be dominated by their enemies, as a chastisement intended to bring them to repentance. This was one of the righteous acts of the LORD.
i. We should recognize chastisement as one of the righteous acts of the LORD. His discipline is just as righteous as His deliverance.
d. They cried out to the LORD…now deliver us from the hand of our enemies, and we will serve You. And the LORD sent…and delivered you: Israel should remember when they cried out to God, confessed their sin and humbled themselves in repentance before Him, that He delivered them. This was one of the righteous acts of the LORD.
i. Jerubbaal was another name for Gideon (Judges 6:32). There is no mention of Bedan in the book of Judges. Perhaps he was a deliverer known in their history, but not recorded in the book of Judges. Or, Bedan may be a variant spelling or name for Barak, mentioned in Judges 4:6. The Septuagint, an ancient translation of the Old Testament, translates the name as Barak. Other ancient translations have Samson, and some commentators believe Jair is intended.
e. Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you: Samuel remembered the most recent example of God’s deliverance for Israel (recorded in 1 Samuel 11). Samuel linked together the story of God’s deliverance for Israel from the time of the Exodus to the present day. Each of these was an example of the righteous acts of the LORD.
i. As Israel made the transition into a monarchy, they must remember the righteous acts of the LORD. Everything the LORD will do is in the setting of what He has already done in our lives.
f. You said to me, “No, but a king shall reign over us,” when the LORD your God was your king: As they began to live under the king, Samuel reminded the nation of their disobedient desire for a king. The LORD was a good king for Israel, but they wanted a king for carnal and fleshly reasons.
2. (13-15) If you fear the LORD: a choice for Israel.
“Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the LORD your God. However, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”
a. Here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired: Samuel probably had the feeling, “Here is the king you wanted. You will find that he isn’t quite the king you need, but he is the king you wanted.”
b. If you fear the LORD and serve Him and obey His voice: Samuel presents Israel with an important choice. They were disobedient in wanting a king, yet God gave them one. Even so, if they would fear the LORD and serve Him, God could still bless them.
i. One wrong turn did not put them out of God’s plan forever. Israel should have never sought a human king. But now they had one, and Samuel simply called them to serve the LORD where they were now.
c. However, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD…then the hand of the LORD will be against you: Samuel put the choice before Israel. They made a wrong turn, yet God put them at a fork in the road. On one side is submission to God and obedience; on the other is rebellion and disobedience. If they chose the wrong path, they could trust God would not bless it.
d. As it was against your fathers: Every individual generation is tempted to think of itself as a special exception. They know of the righteous acts of the LORD in previous generations, yet somehow feel they are an exception regarding God’s correction or judgment. Samuel reminded Israel they were not any different from their fathers, and God would not deal with them any differently than He did with their fathers.
3. (16-18) God confirms Samuel’s word with a sign.
“Now therefore, stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes: Is today not the wheat harvest? I will call to the LORD, and He will send thunder and rain, that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking a king for yourselves.” So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
a. Now therefore, stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do: Samuel will pray and ask God to send a sign to confirm His word. This is a concession to the wicked hearts of the people because Samuel knew only a sign from God would impress them.
b. That you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking a king for yourselves: Why would Samuel and the LORD wait until now for such a dramatic sign? Why not do it when Israel first asked for a king, so they would have known their sin and take back their request for a king?
· Because God had a purpose in allowing the “people’s king,” Saul, to come first.
· Because if it had happened in the first days of Saul’s reign, the people would have cast him off just as quickly and just as wrongly as they asked for him. Now, that his reign has been confirmed by the victory of 1 Samuel 11 and accepted by the people, they can be more directly confronted with their sin.
· Because Samuel might have been accused of reproving the people out of a personal sense of hurt. By waiting until now, everyone knew that Samuel wasn’t saying, “Get rid of Saul so I can lead the nation again.”
· Because now, Israel rejoiced greatly (1 Samuel 11:15). They were perhaps a little too excited about their new king, and Samuel wants them to have a more spiritual perspective.
c. The LORD sent thunder and rain that day: Thunder and rain were unusual during the wheat harvest. This was a remarkable sign from God.
i. Because it was the wheat harvest, the sign displayed not only God’s power but also His judgment. Heavy rain during the harvest could destroy all their crops. The sign was a warning. “In that part of the world not only is ‘rain in harvest… not fitting’ (Prov. 26:1), it is so totally unexpected that it could easily be interpreted as a sign of divine displeasure.” (Youngblood)
d. The people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel: The result was good, but it showed something weak and carnal in the hearts of the people. Didn’t they know God was this powerful before? Perhaps their knowledge was only intellectual knowledge. They could have known the power and majesty and sovereignty of God in their hearts before this, and then it would have been unnecessary to bring a sign before the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
e. I will call to the LORD, and He will send thunder…. So Samuel called to the LORD: This is an impressive example of power in prayer. Samuel is known in the Bible as a mighty man of prayer (Psalm 99:6, Jeremiah 15:1).
4. (19) Israel sees their sin of desiring a king.
And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.”
a. Pray for your servants: Samuel just proved he was a mighty man of prayer, and Israel now knew how much they needed prayer. It made sense to ask Samuel to pray for them!
b. We have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves: Finally, Israel saw their sin of wanting a king. They saw it too late; if only they had realized it in 1 Samuel 8, when Samuel first warned them! Now they are stuck with a king, yet God could still turn it for good if Israel would repent and seek the LORD.
5. (20-25) Samuel exhorts Israel to walk right with the LORD today.
Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me 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 what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”
a. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart: Samuel would not minimize Israel’s sin. Yet, he did not want them to dwell on the sin of the past, but to go on walking with the LORD today.
i. The Living Bible puts the thought well: Make sure now that you worship the Lord with true enthusiasm, and that you don’t turn your back on Him in any way. We can’t do anything about yesterday, and at the present moment we can’t serve God tomorrow. At the present moment all we can do is not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Satan loves it when we live in the past or in the future, when we do anything but serve the LORD with all we have right now.
b. Do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing: Samuel wanted Israel to know that rejecting the LORD and turning aside from Him just doesn’t work. If they would not serve God for spiritual reasons, then let them do it simply to succeed because nothing else can profit or deliver.
c. For the LORD will not forsake His people…it has pleased the LORD to make you His people: Samuel wanted Israel to know that God loves them. Despite the sin of their past, they could get on with serving the LORD and still see His blessing because God loves them. His favor towards Israel was not prompted by the good they did, were doing, or promised to do. It was for His great name’s sake because it pleased the LORD to do it. The reasons were in Him, not in Israel.
d. Far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: Samuel knew the best thing he could do for Israel was to pray for them. His words would make no difference if the LORD did not work in their hearts, and the best way to promote the work of the LORD in their hearts was through prayer.
i. Samuel could have felt hurt that the people rejected him and the LORD as leaders over the nation. He might have been bitter against the people and refused to pray for them. But Samuel was a godlier man than that.
ii. Many would say, “I promise I will start praying for you.” For Samuel, starting to pray was a non-issue, because he was already praying. For him, the issue was ceasing to pray. “Samuel had become so rooted in the habit of prayer for the people that he seems to start at the very thought of bringing his intercession to an end.” (Spurgeon)
iii. This statement of Samuel makes it plain: it is a sin for a leader of God’s people to stop praying for them. It is the most basic of his duties as a leader. If it is a sin to stop praying, how much worse must it be to even fail to start praying!
iv. The blessing of unceasing prayer is not the property of the preacher or leader alone. All can share in it. “Perhaps you will never preach, but you may pray. If you cannot climb the pulpit you may bow before the mercy-seat, and be quite as great a blessing.” (Spurgeon)
e. I will teach you the good and the right way: Samuel would pray, but he would not only pray. There was still a place for teaching, and Samuel would faithfully fulfill that role as well.
i. “Whether a minister shall do more good to others by his prayers or preaching, I will not determine, saith one; but he shall certainly by his prayers reap more comfort to himself.” (Trapp)
ii. Samuel wants the people of Israel to know that even as he steps back and allows Saul to emerge as a leader, he will not forsake Israel. He will continue to lead and to serve them, but more in a spiritual way through prayer and teaching.
f. Only fear the LORD…for consider what great things He has done for you: All our service, all our obedience, all our love for God should be put in this context. We do it because of the great things He has done for us. We don’t serve God so as to persuade Him to do great things for us. He has done great things and asks us to receive them by faith. Then we serve Him because of the great things He has done for us.
i. We can only keep perspective in our Christian lives if we keep focused on what great things He has done for us. If we lose perspective, everything is distorted. Many people tend to magnify their problems and lose sight of what great things He has done for us.
g. If you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away: This warning became the sad legacy of Israel when they were conquered and taken from the land in captivity.
i. “Never was a people more fully warned, and never did a people profit less by the warning.” (Clarke)
© 2022 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org