I Samuel 12
SAMUEL’S EXHORTATION TO THE PEOPLE AT GILGAL
This speech of Samuel is not to be regarded as a farewell address made upon his
resignation of his office; for though a new power had been introduced, and
Samuel’s sons excluded from the succession, yet it was only gradually that
a change was made in his own position. He was still judge (ch. 7:15),
and on extraordinary occasions came forward with decisive
authority (ch. 15:33). But as Saul gathered men of war round
him (ch. 14:52), the moral power possessed by Samuel would be
overshadowed by the physical force which was at Saul’s command. But no
formal change was made. It had been the weakness of the office of the
judges that their power was irregular, and exercised fitfully on special
occasions. Such a power must fall into abeyance in the presence of the
regular authority of a king surrounded by armed men. Without any direct
deposition, therefore, or even still retaining the form of his office, Samuel
would henceforward chiefly act as the prophet, and Saul as Jehovah’s king.
The address divides itself into three parts:
1. The testimony to Samuel’s integrity as judge (vs. 1-5).
2. The reproof of the people for their disobedience and ingratitude (vs. 6-17).
3. The Divine testimony to Samuel’s uprightness and teaching (vs. 18-25).
SAMUEL’S INTEGRITY (vs. 1-5)
1 “And Samuel said unto all
your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.”
I have hearkened unto your voice. See ch.8:7, 9, 22.
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.” The king walketh before you. I.e. you have
now one to protect and lead the nation, whereas my business was to raise its
religious and moral life. The metaphor is taken from the position of the shepherd
in the East, where he goes before his flock to guide and guard them. On this
account the word shepherd or pastor is used in the Bible of the temporal
ruler (Jeremiah 2:8; 23:4, etc.), and not, as with us, of the spiritual
guide. My sons are with you. This is no mere confirmation of the fact just
stated that he was old, but a direct challenge of their dissatisfaction with
his sons’ conduct, as far at least as concerns any connivance on his part, or
support of them in their covetousness. Samuel says, You know all about
my sons; I do not profess to be ignorant that charges have been brought
against them. Give full weight to them, and to everything said against them
and me, and then give judgment.
Piety in Old Age (v. 2)
“Old and grey headed.” On speaking of himself as “old and grey headed,”
Samuel immediately afterwards made reference to his childhood. “I have
walked before you from my childhood unto this day.” He loved to linger
(as old men are wont) over his early days; and in his case there was every
reason for doing so, for they were surpassingly pure and beautiful. One of
the chief lessons of his life is that a well spent childhood and youth
conduces greatly to a happy and honored age. Consider him as an eminent
illustration of piety in old age.
Ø Piety prevents indulgence in vices that tend to shorten life. How many
are brought by such vices to a premature grave! When, therefore, we see
an old man we naturally infer that he has been a good man, nor can there
be any doubt that he has exercised much self-control. Samuel was a
Ø It has a direct tendency to prolong life by producing healthful virtues.
“The fear of the Lord prolongeth days” (Proverbs 10:27).
Ø It has the promise of many days. “With long life will I satisfy him”
(Psalm 91:16). “Even to old age I am; and even to hoar hairs will I
carry you” (Isaiah 46:4). “A good old age” (Genesis 15:15). “Thou
shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in
his season” (Job 5:26).
Ø It is commonly associated with long life. There are, doubtless,
exceptions, the causes of which are not far to seek, but this is the rule.
Ø Its maintaining the respect which is naturally felt for the aged. Among
the Spartans, when a hoary headed man entered their assemblies, they all
immediately rose, and remained standing till he had taken his place; and it
is enjoined in the law of Moses: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head,
and honor the face of the old man” (Leviticus 19:32). (This is not the sin that
the lack of respect by the young people of for their elders. CY – 2016)
But this injunction assumes the possession of godliness, without which old
age neither deserves nor receives appropriate reverence.
Ø The beauty and perfection of character which it develops. There is
beauty in the fresh springing corn, but there is still greater beauty in “the
full corn in the ear,” bending under its golden burden. A good old man,
matured in character by long growth, and abounding in “the fruit of the
Spirit,” is one of the noblest sights on earth. He is a king amongst men.
“The hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of
righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31; 20:29).
Ø The conflicts and perils that have been passed. “An old disciple”
(Acts 21:16), or “such an one as Paul the aged” (Philemon 1:9), is like a
veteran soldier bearing on him the scars of many a hard fought battle, and
wearing the honors conferred by a grateful country. He is like a giant of
the forest, standing erect when the storm has laid his companions in the dust.
Ø The good that has been done in past time, and lives to bear witness to
the doer, and “praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:31) We value the
young for the good they may hereafter effect, the old for the good they
have already accomplished. “Them that honor me I will honour.”
Ø Furnishes a convincing evidence of the truth and power of religion.
When faith survives doubts, temptations, difficulties, its very existence is
an argument for the reality of that which is believed, a proof of the
practicability of a religious life, and a commendation of its unspeakable worth.
Ø Sets forth an impressive example of the spirit of religion:
o cheerfulness (Genesis 48:21; Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:10,12;
23:14; II Samuel 19:32).
3. Bears valuable testimony for God, and continues in prayer and labor on
behalf of men. “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age,” etc. (Psalm
92:14-15; 71:14,17-18). Although some services are no longer possible,
others, often more valuable, may, and ought to, be rendered till the close of
4. Affords wise counsel to the younger and less experienced. Wisdom is
proverbially associated with age. Those who have seen and heard much of
the world, and had long experience of life, may be expected to know more
than those who are just starting out in their course. Their judgment is less
influenced by passion and impulse; they look at things in a clearer light, and
in a calmer frame of mind, and are more likely to perceive the truth
“Whose ripe experience doth attain
To somewhat of prophetic strain.”
Much of the inspired wisdom of the Scriptures is based upon the sanctified
experience of the aged. “Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able
after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (II Peter
1:15, 12-14; I Peter 5:1, 5). “My little children, let us not love in word,
neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:18). “Little
children, love one another.”
drawbacks and troubles. Bodily infirmities increase, the mental powers lose
their vigor, and friends become fewer (Ecclesiastes 12). It is also liable to
moral failings, such as irritability, fretfulness, despondency, and excessive
carefulness, which need to be guarded against.
“When I consider in my mind, I find four causes why old age is thought
o one, that it calls us away from the transactions of affairs;
o the second, that it renders the body more feeble;
o the third, that it deprives us of almost all pleasures; and
o the fourth, that it is not very far from death”
(Cicero ‘on Old Age ‘).
But notwithstanding such things, it has, “with godliness,” abundant
compensations, consisting of:
Ø Pleasant recollections of the past, especially of the Divine benefits that
have been received. “Surely I will remember thy wonders of old”
Ø Wide observation of the works and ways of God. “I have been young,
and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his
seed begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25).
Ø Inward support and consolation derived from communion with God.
“Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by
day” (II Corinthians 4:16). “The glory of the old age of the godly
consists in this, that while the faculties for the sensible no less than mental
enjoyments gradually decline, and the hearth of life gets thus deprived of its
fuel, the blessings of godliness not only continue to refresh the soul in old
age, but are not until then most thoroughly enjoyed. The sun of piety rises
the warmer in proportion as the sun of life declines.”
Ø Bright prospects of the heavenly home — “a house not made with
hands,” the vision of God, perpetual youth, reunion with parted friends,
perfect and endless blessedness. As the world of light draws near, some of
its rays seem to shine through the crevices of the earthly tabernacle that is
falling into decay (Genesis 49:18; Luke 2:29-30).
“The state in which I am now is so delightful, that the nearer I approach
to death, I seem, as it were, to get sight of land; and at length, after a long
voyage, to be getting into the harbor. O glorious day! when I shall depart
to that Divine company and assemblage of spirits, and quit this troubled
and polluted scene”
“If the mere conception of the reunion of good men in a future state infused
a momentary rapture into the mind of Tully; if an airy speculation — for
there is reason to fear it had little hold on his convictions — could inspire
him with such delight, what may we be expected to feel who are assured
of such an event by the true sayings of God” (R. Hall). “I have a desire
to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23;
II Timothy 4:6-8)
Let us live in such a way that if we are blessed with old age, that we will be
honored and happy!
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.” Witness against me. Literally,
“answer,” as in a court of justice to the formal question of the judge.
His anointed. I.e. the king (see on ch. 2:10, 35; 10:1). Whose ox,... whose ass?
See on ch. 8:16. Of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine
eyes therewith? Bribe should be rendered ransom. Literally it signifies a
covering, and was used of money given by a guilty person to induce the
judge to close or “blind his eyes,” and not see his sin. It does not mean,
therefore, any bribe, but only that given to buy off a guilty person. Such
persons are generally powerful men who have oppressed and wronged
others; and the knowledge that they can cover their offence by sharing their
gains with the judge is to this day in the East the most fruitful source of
bad government. (How unlike God’s judgment! At the judgment there will
be many eyes opened when they compare God’s righteous judgment with
what they got away with in the world! CY – 2016) The people all bear witness
to Samuel’s uprightness, nor is there any contradiction between this and their
desire to have a king. His internal administration was just and righteous, but
they were oppressed by the nations round them, and needed a leader in war.
And in Samuel’s sons they had men, not vicious or licentious, but too fond
of money, and so neither fit to be their generals in war nor their judges in peace.
We gather from ch. 22:2 that though Saul proved a competent leader in
war, he was not successful in the government of the country in peace.
Character a Power (vs. 1-5)
The facts are:
1. Samuel reminds the people that he:
(a) has carried out their wishes in setting a king over them,
(b) is now a very old man, and
(c) has spent the whole of his life among them.
2. He appeals to God in asserting that the whole of his official life has been
free from self-seeking.
3. The people freely admit that his public conduct has been honest,
considerate, and free from greed.
The meaning of Samuel’s reference to himself is to be sought not in egotism,
but in a desire to find a basis for his intended argument and appeal. The actual
weight of counsel depends not on the abstract wisdom of the language used,
but on the readiness of the hearers to give heed to the speaker and their
conviction of his integrity of purpose. Samuel appeals to character in order to
secure moral power in argument. He availed himself of the privilege of
· CHARACTER IS A GROWTH. A human being is mutable in purpose
and disposition, and time is requisite in order to insure fixity of either.
Character lies in determinateness, permanent fixity. Morally it is the form,
style, and expression the life eventually assumes. It remains a long
unsettled question as to what determinateness some men’s nature is to
come. In so far as instability itself is an undesirable quality, its presence is
the sign of permanent badness. But even in the absence of instability, men
suspend their judgment of their fellow men because all good qualities in
them are regarded as only tentatively established in the soul. The true
progress of a life is secured when holiness of disposition becomes so
gradually master of every faculty as to be the distinctive, invariable mark of
the man. Obviously, this character is a passing of an inner silent force into
all the avenues of thought, feeling, and action, repeating its self-manifestations
in these day by day, till those who know the individual are
compeled to see that such is the natural, fixed, reliable style of his life.
· THE CONDITIONS OF ITS POWER ARE TWOFOLD — one in the
individual himself, and the other in observers.
Ø Constancy and steadiness of growth is one condition. It is this which
creates a belief that the man is true. There is a strong belief that
fluctuations in conduct and opinion are signs of either weakness or actual
badness. Those who watch the steady, early growth of a doubtful plant,
and observe how by the action of a powerful law it at length assumes a
given type of leaf and bud, know then what they have in sight, and treat it
accordingly. So a quiet advance in goodness is essential to the acquisition
of power in character.
Ø The existence in observers of a sense of right is another condition. The
power which a holy, consistent character has over all grades of men implies
that there is something in them which, in virtue of its own nature, pays
homage to goodness. Men know and inwardly revere the right. In this
moral necessity of judgment we have a clue to the deference often paid by
bad men to the good; the uneasiness of the vile and unjust in presence of
purity; and the strong hold which the holy gospel of Christ has secretly
over even the most daring of its opponents.
· THE POWER OF CHARACTER IS SOMETIMES DEVELOPED
BY UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES. It may exist as the result of a
growing, unconscious influence over observers. Neither party may be
aware of its real force. Many a man exercises more power on society than
either he or others contemplate. The degree to which the present condition
of the world is owing to this silent, unconscious influence of holy,
consistent characters is beyond all conception. The fact should be a
comfort to those whose lives seem to be barren of usefulness because no
great deeds are chronicled. But now and then events transpire which bring
out the depth of reverence and respect cherished for, it may be, an ordinary
quiet Christian man.
· IT IS ALLOWABLE TO USE CHARACTER AS A MEANS OF
URGING IMPORTANT CLAIMS. Samuel was right in referring to his
long consistent life. He could honestly, and without self-glorying, speak of
his having never enriched himself by his office. He was within the limits of
modesty in claiming some credit for consistency, for his object was to
enforce the claims of God. Thus the Apostle Paul referred to his manner of
life, his self-denying labors, in order to win among Corinthians attention
to the message he delivered, and counteract the insinuations of false
brethren (II Corinthians 11). There are occasions when a pastor, a teacher,
and parent may fitly refer to their general character as furnishing a reason
for attention to their appeals.
· PRACTICAL LESSONS:
Ø It is of supreme importance to be well established in strong religious
principles early in life; roots set in virgin soil strike deep and thrive steadily.
Ø We should watch carefully against tendencies to instability, and at the
same time not think over much about what men think of us.
Ø No man who is ambitious to obtain power of character will get it: it
comes to those who are concerned to be good rather than to have the
power which goodness conifers.
Ø We honor God when we pay honor to those who bear His image.
Ø The quality of holy self-sacrifice is that in official persons which most
impresses observers, and should, after the Saviour’s example, be
cultivated by all persons in things small and great.
Integrity in Public Office (vs. 3-5)
“Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord.” It is a noble thing
for a man in any position of life, but especially in exalted, public, and
responsible office, to “do justly and love mercy” as well as to “walk
humbly with his God” (Micah 6:8); to continue for many years in the fulfilment
of his duty with strictest integrity and unselfish devotion to the public good. Of
this Samuel was an illustrious pattern. Concerning integrity in public office,
Ø The superior knowledge which one who fills such an office is assumed
to possess (Ezra 7:25).
Ø The important trust which is reposed in him. “Moreover, it is required in
stewards that a man be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2).
Ø The powerful influence which he exerts over others, for good or evil
Ø To prefer his ease and pleasure to laborious and self-denying duty
Ø To use his power for the enrichment of himself and his family, to the
disregard of the general welfare, and even by means of extortion,
fraud, and oppression (Acts 16:22; 24:26).
Ø To seek the praise of men more than the praise of God, and to yield to
the evil wishes of the multitude for the sake of personal advantage
Ø The conduct of a public man cannot be wholly hidden from view.
Ø His responsible position invites men, and gives them a certain right, to
judge concerning the course he pursues; and, in many instances, his actions
directly affect their persons, property, or reputation.
Ø As it is impossible to restrain their criticism, so it is, on the whole,
beneficial that it should be exercised as a salutary restraint upon those
“who are in authority.” Happy is he in whom “none occasion nor fault can
be found, forasmuch as he is faithful” (Daniel 6:4).
Ø The reasons of the conduct of one in public office are not always fully
understood, nor the difficulties of his position properly considered, nor the
motives of his actions rightly interpreted.
Ø Evil doers, to whom he is “a terror,” may be expected to hate and speak
ill of him. “What evil have I done?” said Aristides, when told that he had
everyone’s good word.
Ø Men are apt to be envious of those who are exalted above them, and to
forget their past services if they do not favor the gratification of the
present popular feeling. Samuel’ was not the only judge who experienced
ingratitude. “Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal,
namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he showed unto
Ø Personal character and reputation. “I have not taken one ass from them,
neither have I hurt one of them” (Numbers 16:5).
Ø Truth, and righteousness, and the honor of God. How often, on this
account, did the Apostle Paul vindicate himself, in his epistles, from the
accusations that were made against him!
Ø The welfare of the people themselves, on whom misrepresentation and
unfounded suspicions exert an injurious influence.
Ø Time and circumstances bring real worth to the light.
Ø There is in men a sense of truth and justice which constrains them to
acknowledge and honor the good.
God takes care of the reputation of those who take care of His honor.
There comes a “resurrection of reputations.” The judgment of one
generation concerning public men is often reversed by the next. “There is
nothing hidden that shall not be made manifest.” (Luke 12:2) “And the
righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.”
SAMUEL’S REPROOF OF THE PEOPLE (vs. 6-17)
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
absolutely, without any government, and the Septuagint rightly supplies is
witness. Samuel had said, “Jehovah is witness against you;” the people in
answer shouted the last word, “Witness” (see end of v. 5, where He is is
supplied). Then Samuel solemnly repeats Jehovah s name, saying, “Even
Jehovah that advanced Moses and Aaron.” This rapid interchange of words
brings the whole scene vividly before us, whereas nothing could be tamer
than the Authorized Version. Out of the land of Egypt. Samuel begins with this
as the first act of Jehovah as
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
LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, which brought
fathers out of
Stand still. Literally, station yourselves, take your places, stand forth (see
ch. 10:23). That I may reason with you. Literally, “that I may deal as judge,”
i.e. that with all the authority of my office I may declare that Jehovah has acted
justly by you, and that you have dealt unjustly with Him. Righteous acts. The margin,
benefits, is wrong. Samuel vindicates God’s dealings with them against the charge of
His having failed to protect them implied in their demand for a king.
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
and into the hand of the king of
fought against them.” When they forgat Jehovah their God. The theocracy,
as we have seen (ch. 10:18), was a moral government, under which
idolatry and the immorality attendant upon it, as being rebellion, were
punished by Jehovah’s withdrawing His protection, and the consequent
subjection of the nation to foreign rule. It was the repeated sin, therefore,
of the people which made
(Judges 4:2), the Philistines (ibid. ch. 3:31), and Eglon,
12), are mentioned as three of the
earlier oppressors of
are given here in the reverse order to that found in the Book of Judges.
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.” We have served [the] Baalim and [the] Ashtaroth. I.e.
the numerous Baals and Astartes, which were worshipped under various titles
by the heathen. For though representing the same power, each people had
their own epithets for their own particular personification of the god (see
on ch. 7:4).
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.” Bedan. Numerous ingenious explanations of this name have
been given, but the only probable account is that Bedan is a misreading for
Barak. The two names are very similar in the Hebrew, and the two most
ancient versions, the Septuagint and the Syriac, actually have Barak. And
Samuel. This is even more puzzling than Bedan. We cannot suppose that
Samuel, who hitherto had confined himself to the old deliverances, would
thus suddenly introduce his own name. In mentioning only them he had
avoided everything that would grate upon the ears of the people, but this
would look like giving way to personal vexation. Some, therefore, would
read Samson; but this, though found in the Syriac, is supported by no other
version. Possibly some scribe, mindful of Samuel’s recent achievement at
Mizpah, wrote his name in the margin, whence it was admitted into the
text. And ye dwelled safe. Literally, “in confidence,” in security. With sin
came danger and unquiet; upon repentance, not only was their country free
from danger, but their minds were at rest.
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.”
Nahash the king of the children of Ammon. This makes it
probable that there had been threats of war, and even incursions into the
Israelite territory, by Nahash before his attack on Jabesh-Gilead. We thus,
too, should be able to account for the rancor displayed in his wish so to
treat the men of that town as to make them a reproach to
war, or he may have learned to despise a people incapable of offering a
regular resistance. At all events, Samuel describes Nahash as giving the
final impetus to the desire of the nation for a king. When Jehovah your
God was your king. See Judges 8:23.
Doctrine in History (vs. 8-12)
This is an important chapter in the history of
certain truths of universal import, which are also illustrated, though less
distinctly, in the history of other nations. They are such as follows:
make you His people” (v. 22). Of His own free and gracious will, always
founded in perfect wisdom, He raises up a people from the lowest
condition, confers upon them special blessings and privileges, and exalts
them to the most eminent place among the nations of the earth
(Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts
17:26-27). As it was with
it been with other peoples. His right so to deal with men cannot be
questioned, His power therein is manifested, His undeserved goodness
should be acknowledged, and the gifts bestowed employed not for selfish
ends, but for HIS GLORY and the welfare of mankind.
So constantly and universally have men departed from God and
goodness as to make it evident that there is in human nature an inherited
tendency to sin. “It is that tendency to sinful passions or unlawful
propensities which is perceived in man whenever objects of desire are
placed before him, and laws laid upon him.” As often as God in His great
goodness has exalted him to honor, so often has he fallen away from his
service; and left to himself, without the continual help of Divine grace, his
course is DOWNWARD! “In times past the Divine nature flourished in men,
but at length, being mixed with mortal custom, it fell into ruin; hence an
inundation of evils in the race” (Plato). “There is nothing in the whole
earth that does not prove either the misery of man or the compassion of
God; either his powerlessness without, or his power with God” (Pascal).
of Sisera,” etc. (v. 9).
“The sword of Heaven is not in haste to smite,
Nor yet doth linger, save unto his seeming
Who, in desire or fear, doth look for it.” —
(Dante, ‘Par.’ 22.).
“Morning by morning doth he bring his judgment to light; he faileth not”
(Zephaniah 3:5). “History is a voice forever sounding across the
centuries the laws of right and wrong. Opinions alter, manners change,
creeds rise and fall, but THE MORAL LAW IS WRITTEN ON THE
TABLES OF ETERNITY! For every false word or unrighteous deed,
for cruelty and oppression, for lust or vanity, the price has to be paid at last;
not always by the chief offenders, but paid by some one. Justice and truth
alone endure and live. Injustice and falsehood may be long lived, but
DOOMSDAY COMES at last to them as in French revolutions and other
terrible woes” (Froude, ‘Short Studies’).
Lord, and said, We have sinned,” etc. (v. 10). Underneath what is in
itself an evil, and a result of the violation of law, physical or moral, there is
ever working a Divine power which makes it the means of convincing men
of sin, turning them from it, and improving their character and condition. A
state of deepest humiliation often precedes one of highest honor. It is only
those who refuse to submit to discipline (Job 36:10) and harden
themselves in iniquity that sink into hopeless ruin.
you,” etc. (v. 11). “Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He
delivered them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:6,13,19,28). As it
those who have had but little knowledge of “the Hearer of prayer.”
“In even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
And the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God’s right hand in that darkness,
And are lifted up and strengthened”
(‘The Song of Hiawatha’).
and Aaron” (v. 8). “And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and
Jephthah, and Samuel” (v. 11). He sent help by men specially raised up
and appointed, and deliverance came through their labors, conflicts, and
sufferings. One people also has been often made the medium of blessing to
others. And herein we see a shadowing forth of the work of the great
Mediator and Deliverer, and (in an inferior manner) of His people on behalf
of the world.
have had the experience of former generations to profit by, and who have
received higher privileges than they (vs. 12, 19). “Now all these things
were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are
come.” (I Corinthians 10:11). “Two things we ought to learn from history:
one, that we are not in ourselves superior to our fathers; another, that we
are shamefully and monstrously inferior to them if we do not advance
beyond them” (Froude).
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.”
We have here the two sides of the transaction. The people had desired a king,
chosen and appointed by themselves, to represent the nation in temporal matters;
Jehovah gave them a king to represent Himself, with authority coming from God,
and limited by God.
Most, too, of the kings of
of Jehovah as any of the judges had been, and David even more so. Desired is rather
“demanded,” “required.” They had done much more than desire a king.
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:”
If ye will fear, etc. This verse, like Luke 19:42, is left unfinished, and we must
supply well, as in Exodus 32:32. For the verse cannot be translated as in the
Authorized Version, but is as follows: “If ye will fear Jehovah, and serve Him,
and obey His voice, and not rebel against the commandment (Hebrew, the mouth)
of Jehovah, and if both ye and the king that reigneth over you will follow
Jehovah your God, it shall be well.” Samuel piles up one upon another the
conditions of their happiness, and then from the depth of his emotion breaks off,
leaving the blessed consequences of their obedience unsaid. “To follow Jehovah”
implies willing and active service as His attendants, going with Him where He will,
and being ever ready to obey His voice.
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.” Against you, as it was against your fathers.
The Hebrew has “against you and your fathers,” and so the Vulgate, for which the
Septuagint reads, “against you and your king,” as in v. 25. The text is probably
corrupt, and to make sense requires the insertion of some such words as those
given in the Authorized Version, with which the Syriac also agrees.
The Immutable Condition of Well Being (vs. 6-15)
The facts are:
1. Samuel, having shown his right to be heard, calls on the people to
hearken to his argument.
2. He refers to historic instances to show that trouble always came with
unfaithfulness to God, and prosperity with a return to fidelity.
3. He reminds them that their desire for a king implied distrust of God.
4. Recognizing the new order of things, he insists that the adversity or
prosperity of the nation rested where it always had — on their own
disobedience or obedience to God.
Samuel, having gained a respectful hearing, proceeds to urge his argument
with the view to convince
future, on their part, the only rational conduct. The principles involved
are universal, and they imply what some have recklessly denied or
questioned, namely, the essential reasonableness of religion. Changing the
historic allusions for corresponding facts in modern experience, the identical
argument could be urged with equal force upon many who fain would escape
the yoke of Christ as being inconsistent with the claims of human reason.
· CONFORMITY TO THE WILL OF GOD IS THE SUPREME
OF WELL BEING.
safety, be rich, prosperous, and, in fact, realize all the best ends of national
existence, in proportion as they obeyed the Lord God. The interactions of
material agencies, and the habits of irrational beings, in so far as they flow
from necessary physiological laws, are conformed to the Divine will. The
possession by man of moral freedom renders it possible for him to be
resolutely and knowingly out of accord with the same. The will of God is
variously expressed, though always one. In external nature, in constitution
of mind, in moral relations, in social laws, in Scripture there are
harmonious expressions of will varying according to the subject matter and
occasions. It being in the power of man, as free, to conform in feeling, in
purpose, and actual outward movement of will to what God reveals of
Himself, perfect life, personal, social, and national, lies in that conformity,
and that alone. The continuous act of obedience is conformity. Observing
physical, mental, and moral laws in every detail of life; acting in harmony
with the revealed requirements of repentance and effort after holiness;
constant exercise of faith in Christ as the revealed means of the highest
spiritual life — this course of action is a fulfilment of the conditions of
blessedness, the prelude to final likeness to Christ.
· THAT SUCH CONFORMITY IS THE CONDITION OF WELL
BEING IS A TRUTH ATTESTED BY HISTORY. It could be shown by
independent lines of proof that religion, as consisting in true conformity to
God’s will, is essentially reasonable, and that, conversely, sinful men are
most irrational. But Samuel knows human nature, and, therefore, he deals
with the concrete facts of history, and points out how the past records of
to Sisera and the Philistines. A return to God brought deliverance once
more. Therefore history connected prosperity with due recognition of God,
adversity with disobedience. Every sinful nation and individual is deluded
by fallacy. There is induced, by the blinding effect of moral corruption on
the intellect, a belief that the miseries endured are not connected with
moral causes. But a fair induction of the facts of public and private life will
demonstrate Samuel’s position, that when the soul of the nation has been
true to God it has enjoyed the truest prosperity. The very prosperity of
fools is in the long run their destruction, The merriment of the impious, like
the brilliant glare of a rocket, yields to a more conspicuous reverse. Pious
men may not in some instances be equal, in power and general social
usefulness, to men not pious; yet, given men of equal natural abilities, the
pious will do more and better than the not pious. Every day life is full of
cases in which men, by conforming to the gospel law of repentance and
faith, at once place themselves and their homes in a new and better relation
to all material and mental laws; and rise from poverty, disease, ignorance,
and shame to comfort, health, fair attainments, and honor. A nation of
true Christians would be a model to the world in all excellence and
acquisitions and happiness.
· ALL ATTEMPTS TO EVADE THE CONDITION OF WELL
BEING ARE FRUITLESS.
Samuel’s reference to
king, in connection with his argument and closing appeal, evidently means
that the people were under the delusive impression that their troubles and
dangers were in some way associated with the external form of government
under which they had hitherto lived. But Samuel points out the sin involved
in this thought — it was distrust of God’s all-sufficiency; and he also
indicates that the attempted substitution of a form of government for the
practice of righteousness is utterly vain. Human nature is constant in its
self-revelations. This attempted substitution of what is formal and outward
for what is moral and inward is of common occurrence. Nations often cry
out for changes of form of government when the real need is a change in
DISPOSITION and CONDUCT. (outward change is no sure cure for
the inward unrighteousness). Nominal Christians present an outward,
and, in emergencies, a more elaborate, form of worship in place of the
sacrifice of the penitent and contrite heart. It is hard to learn the lessons
of history; but all its testimony confirms what could be, a priori, shown to
be true — that however good external arrangements may be per se, they are
as fruitless to secure a nation’s highest good, a Church’s truest prosperity,
and an individual’s most vigorous and joyous piety, in the absence of a
conformity to the whole will of God,
a king fruitless to insure, apart from righteousness of life, safety from
danger and internal prosperity. “Abide in me.” “For without me ye can do
nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
· THE TRUTH THUS VINDICATED CAN BE VERIFIED IN SPITE
OF PAST SINS AND ERRORS. Samuel admits the existence of the king
as a fact, though having its
origin in sin and folly. He does not cut
from the hope of proving the truth of his contention, that well being
depends on conformity to the will of God. Under their new and, as he
thinks, unjustifiable arrangements they may, if they will, verify the
correctness of his teaching; and hence the urgent appeal. The sins and
errors of men in the past have had the natural effect of placing them in
disadvantageous circumstances for the fullest development of piety. Even
in so called Christian countries the social arrangements and customs, the
habits of thought, the methods and principles of commerce, the form and
spirit of legislation, and the attitude of class toward class, are the
expression of the faults as well as of the virtues of our ancestors. They to
that extent impede the full expression of the gospel spirit. The same holds
good of antecedents in private and Church life. Nevertheless, God gives to
nations, Churches, and individuals opportunities for testing the value of
conformity to His will, and each may prove its sufficiency by new acts of
obedience. Here we have a philosophy of life which each may
16 “Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will
do before your eyes.” Stand. Better stand forth, as in v. 7; take your places in
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.” Wheat harvest. Barley was fit for reaping at the Passover,
and wheat at Pentecost, i.e. between the middle of May and the middle of
June. Jerome, on Amos 4:7, testifies that during his long residence in
(‘Handbook of Bible,’ p. 221), says, “Storms still occur occasionally in
harvest time.” He shall send thunder. Hebrew, voices, and so in v. 18
(see ch. 2:10; 7:9).
DIVINE TESTIMONY TO SAMUEL’S INTEGRITY (vs. 18-25)
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.”
thunder and rain. Rain in
usually only at the autumnal and vernal equinox, and though thunder
storms are not unknown at other times, yet, by the general testimony of
travelers, they are very rare. Naturally, therefore, this storm deeply
impressed the minds of the people. Though not in itself miraculous, the
circumstances made it so.
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.” Pray for thy servants. On Samuel’s
mediatorial office see ch. 7:5, 8.
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;” Ye have done all this wickedness.
The ye is emphatic, and to give its force we should translate, “Ye have
indeed done all this evil.” From following Jehovah. See on v. 15.
21 “And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things,
which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.”
For then should ye go after vain things. The word for is
omitted in all the ancient versions, and the sense is complete without it:
“And turn ye not aside after tohu,” the word used in Genesis 1:2, and
there translated “without form.” It means anything empty, void, and so is
often used, as here, for “an idol,” because, as Paul says, “an idol is
nothing in the world” (I Corinthians 8:4). So Isaiah (Isaiah 44:9)
calls the makers of idols vanity, Hebrew, tohu, i.e. empty people, with no
sense in them. The word is used again at the end of the verse — which
idols cannot profit nor deliver; for they are tohu, emptiness.
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.”
For His great name’s sake. Though Samuel in v. 14 had
described their well being as dependent upon their own conduct, yet in a
higher light it depended upon God’s will. He had chosen
own sake (Deuteronomy 7:7-8), but for a special purpose, to minister
to the Divine plan for the redemption of all mankind, and so, though
individuals might sin to their own ruin, and the nation bring upon itself
severe chastisements, yet it must continue according to the tenor of God’s
promises (see on ch. 2:30), and through weal and woe discharge
the duty imposed upon it.
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:” God forbid, Hebrew, “Far be it from me.” That I should
sin... in ceasing to pray for you. In no character of the Old Testament
does this duty of intercessory prayer stand forward so prominently as in
Samuel (see v. 19); nor does he rest content with this, but adds, I will
teach you the good and the right way. This was a far higher office than
that of ruler; and not only was Samuel earnest in discharging this prophetic
office of teaching, but he made provision for a supply of teachers and
preachers for all future time by founding the schools of the prophets.
Intercessory prayer (v. 23)
“God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.
“I bless God,” said Mr. Flavel, the Puritan, on the death of his father, “for a
religious and tender father, who often poured out his soul to God for me; and
this stock of prayers I esteem the fairest inheritance on earth.” And another
eminent man said that he “set a greater worth upon the intercessions of the good
than upon all the wealth of the
prayers of Samuel on their behalf in like manner. They had experience of
their amazing power and worth (ch. 7:8-9); they were in great
need of them; they appear to have thought that he might cease to offer
them on account of their past treatment of him, and they entreated him,
saying, “Pray for thy servants,” etc. (v. 19). His reply was, “Moreover as
for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray
for you.” Every true Christian, as “a priest unto God,” an intercessor
with God for his fellow men, ought to adopt this language as his own. It
Ø Arises out of the fact that it is one of the principal means of doing good
to others — obtaining invaluable blessings for them. Of the fact there can
be no doubt (James 5:16). Why it should have been ordained as such a
means we cannot fully tell; but it is plainly in accordance with the intimate
relationship and mutual dependence of men; teaches them to feel a deeper
interest in each other, and puts signal honor upon eminent piety. The
principle of mediation pervades all things, human and Divine.
Ø Is an essential part of the duty of love which we owe to others; the
force of the obligation being determined by the nearness of their
relationship, and the extent of their claims upon our love and service,
our kindred and friends, our country, mankind.
Ø Is often expressly enjoined in the word of God. “Pray one for another”
(Luke 11:5-10; I Timothy 2:1). “If any man see his brother sin a sin
which is not unto death, he shall ask (of God), and he shall give him life
for them that sin not unto death” (I John 5:16).
Ø Is inculcated by the example of the best men — Abraham, Moses, Job
(Job 42:8,10), Samuel and all the prophets; above all, by the example
of our Lord Himself, who has prayed for us all, and through whose
intercession we present our prayers and hope for their acceptance.
offered. It is sometimes omitted from:
Ø Want of consideration of others; the worth of their souls, their lost
condition, the love of God to them, the ransom that has been given for
them. Attention is so absorbed in other objects that they are uncared for.
The more we think of them, the more we shall feel and pray for them.
“Love for souls as souls is not a passion of earthly growth. It is a holy fire
from heaven. But how can we have it; how can it be begotten in our hard
hearts? The only true method is to draw near to them, and to look at them
— to look on them in the light of reason and revelation, of immortality and
of God” (C. Morris).
Ø Deficiency of love and desire for their salvation.
Ø Delay in the fulfilment of our requests, and apparent denial of them. But
remember that sincere prayer is never offered in vain, and “pray without
ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) God knows best when and how to
answer our petitions.
to) “sin against the Lord,” etc. The sin of its omission is spoken of in direct
relation to Him, and consists in:
Ø Disregarding His benevolent designs concerning others. “The Lord will
not forsake his people,” etc. (v. 22) If He loves them and seeks their
welfare, we should do the same.
Ø Disobeying His declared will concerning ourselves. He has not only
commanded us to intercede for others, but the very position in which He
has placed us is a plain indication of his will. Ye who remember Jehovah,
leave yourselves no rest, and “give Him no rest,” etc. (Isaiah 62:6-7).
Ø Burying in the earth the greatest talent that He has entrusted to us.
Ø Grieving the Holy Spirit, who is ever inciting those in whom He dwells
to “cry unto God day and night.” (Luke 18:7) “Quench not the Spirit.
(I Thessalonians 5:17) Whilst the devout should be urged by these
considerations to “continue instant in prayer” (Romans 121:12),
others should remember that it is possible to place an improper reliance on
the intercessions of the good, especially in expecting to obtain benefit from
their prayers whilst they neglect to pray for themselves or walk in “the
good and 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.”
For consider, etc. Samuel concludes his address by appealing
to the mighty deeds wrought in old time by Jehovah for His people;
literally, it is, “For consider how grandly He hath wrought with you.”
The Good Man’s Weapons (v. 23)
There was a vein of misgiving evident in the words of Samuel. Perhaps the
new king and his triumphant soldiers ascribed it to the timorousness of old
age; but the seer looked further into the future than they, and if he felt
bound to warn them of the danger they would incur by rebelling against the
commandment of the Lord, he gave them at the same time an assurance
that he would do all in his power to preserve them from such wickedness
and its inevitable consequences. The man of God could never forget
But what could he do in old age for this intractable people? The reins of
government had been taken out of his hands; and it had never been his
duty, now less than ever, to go out to battle. What remained for him to do?
Must he not let king and people take their own course — sow as they
pleased, and then reap what they sowed? Nay. Samuel would not, under a
plea of helplessness, withdraw himself from all care for
There remained to him the two greatest weapons for moral effect:
o prayer and
The one points to God in heaven, the other to men on the
earth. Such are a prophet’s weapons, and they are mightier than a king’s
scepter or a warrior’s sword. That the intellectual and the moral are the
highest forms of greatness and usefulness is a truth which has established
itself throughout all history. The most illustrious and influential of the
Hebrew race were the prophets. Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah,
Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, none of the kings compare with these, except David
and Solomon, and they because they had qualities resembling those of the
prophets — the one of them a poet, and the other a sage. In like manner
the greatest of the Greeks were not their warriors or rulers, but such as
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle — the men who thought and who taught.
That unique and ancient people, the Chinese, regard as by far their most
important man the sage Confucius. Their most powerful emperors have
been comparatively little men. Our modem nations too have had their
characters molded by their thinkers and teachers far more than by their
princes and soldiers; and a nation’s character makes its history as much as
its history shapes its character. There is a supreme illustration of this truth.
Unspeakably the greatest effect ever produced by one personality on the
human race has been exerted by THE MAN CHRIST JESUS! The widest,
deepest,and most beneficial influence has issued from Him; and He began that
mighty movement, which has outlasted many governments, and shows no
symptom of weakness or decay, by the very instruments or weapons which
were named and used by the prophet Samuel, viz., prayer and instruction.
Jesus prayed; Jesus taught. How weak in comparison were the men of the
sword — Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and Pilate’s imperial
Jesus had no worldly title, and used no carnal weapon. If He was a king, it
was to bear witness to the truth. The weapons by which He overcame were
these — He prayed, and so prevailed with God; He taught, and so prevailed
with men. In the same manner He continues to animate and strengthen the
Church. He makes continual intercession in heaven; and by the abiding of
His words and the living guidance of His Spirit He gives continual
instruction on earth. In the very beginning of the Church the apostles
showed their deep appreciation of this truth, and refused to be drawn aside
from that way of highest usefulness which their Master had shown to them.
They would concentrate their energies on moral and spiritual work. “We
will give ourselves to the word of God and to prayer.” (Acts 6:4) Paul was of
the same mind in his apostolate. He relied on weapons “not carnal, but mighty
through God.” (II Corinthians 10:4) He foresaw, and it is evident from the
writings of Peter and John that they too in old age foreboded, evil days, as Samuel
did in his declining years; but those apostles knew no better course to recommend
to the faithful than that which Samuel followed — to pray always, and to
teach sound doctrine. Evil might come, even apostasy might ensue; but the
elect would be proved and purified, and after troubled days the kingdom
would ultimately be set up in “the sure mercies of David,” and the
confusion of the time of Saul would be past forever. No emphasis is laid on
rite or ceremony. Samuel was a priest, and lived in a dispensation of
religion which gave great scope for ritual. But we are left to assume that
the rites prescribed through Moses were observed at this period. We hear
wonderfully little about them. Samuel was intent on teaching that “to obey
is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (ch. 15:22)
How weak and puerile to lay the stress of our religion on the observance of ritual,
or the performances of a priesthood! The way to make and keep a people
Christian is not to sing masses for them, or multiply altar ceremonies and
celebrations, but to pray, and to “teach the good and the right way,” of
obedience to conscience and to God. Whoso (like David – Acts 13:36) would serve
his own generation well, let him pray, and let him by example, and persuasive
speech or writing, preach righteousness. These are the good man’s
weapons, and these through God are mighty. Mischief may go on, as Saul
went on to distress the people of God; but prayer and teaching quietly
counteract the mischief, and prepare the way for a revival of piety and the
reign of the “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
The Outward Sign (vs. 16-25)
The facts are:
1. Samuel, to confirm his argument, calls for thunder and rain during the
wheat harvest, thus imperiling their property.
2. The people, awed by the event, entreat for his intercession.
3. Samuel encourages hope on the ground of God’s mercy, and promises
to pray for and instruct them.
4. He makes a final appeal, setting forth the blessed and sad alternative
Samuel knew well with whom he had to deal; and, therefore, besides securing a
deferential hearing in virtue of age and character, and enforcing the reasonableness
of conformity to God’s will, he now calls attention to a display of Divine power in
a form suggestive of the material disasters that may come if they should, by
disobedience, come into collision with that power. Men soon feel the force of an
argument that touches their property. The natural force of his previous statements
would compel the assent of reason, and secure the echo of conscience. But in
morally weak men the clear light of reason is apt to become eclipsed by the
uprising of willful desires, and the voice of conscience dies away amid the
clamors of passion. It was, therefore, great kindness, an act of beautiful,
Divine consideration, to introduce another means of insuring the
impressment of the lessons conveyed.
· OUTWARD SIGNS ARE HELPFUL TO RELIGION. Manifestations
of God’s presence and power in impressive forms, in some instances
miraculous, are aids to faith and practice. There is a modern tendency to
dispute this. Even some Christian apologists speak of the miraculous
events recorded in Scripture as rather a hindrance than an aid to faith. The
difficulty proceeds from a defective comprehension of all the facts that
enter into a consideration of the question. No doubt moral truth is its own
witness; no doubt reason recognizes what lies within the range of her
vision. The whole sum of truth we have in Christ, and in the records
associated with His name, enables us to say, “This is the Son of God.” The
personal experience of the man who is one in life with Christ is superior to
all “external evidences.” But obviously all this applies to men in the full
light of Christian truth, and can have no appreciable bearing on the gradual
education of the world by a chosen nation, through “here a little and there
a little” (Isaiah 28:10), as men were morally and intellectually fit to receive
it. Observe more specifically:
Ø General education by outward signs is universal. By education we mean
development of the entire nature, rational and moral We have to regulate
life and unfold its capabilities by means other than the mere subjective
effect of what is perceived and appreciated as rational or moral.
o In childhood the mind accepts truth on external authority. Its
movements, its receptivity, and its resistance to certain influences
are often determined by the appearance of an external power, which
either awakens fear or insures unquestioning submission.
o In mature life we are influenced not by subjective truth alone, but by
external authority in form of testimony on matters of importance. This
testimony has sometimes sufficient force to compel conduct against
inclination, and create fear as determinant in action. Also in
government the exercise of external power insures on the part of
many a respect in practice for moral truth which otherwise would not
o In the formation of opinion we are constantly looking out for an
external confirmation. That is, we do not live intellectually even by
the sheer light that is within. In so far as external confirmations are
necessary for some of our opinions, we are dependent on powers
outside us for the direction our own thought, and, consequently,
conduct, will take. That these powers, human it may be, do not act
suddenly and miraculously is not to the point, for the principle
contended for is education by outward signs.
Ø Spiritual education of men by appropriate outward signs is a fact
recognized throughout all time. The three means, irrespective of
inspiration of the heart by the Holy Spirit, of spiritual education —
presentation of truth to the moral perception, the convincing of the
judgment by reasons, and the suggestive power of outward signs — are
found in the whole course of history, from the day when Adam’s
conscience recognized the moral force of the Divine command because
Divine, appreciated the argument of life or death as the alternative of
obedience or disobedience, and looked on the “tree” as a visible sign of a
power worthy to be feared, unto the latest observance of the Lord’s
Supper, affording an outward sign of a power merciful in its almightiness.
o The entire dispensation covered by the Old and New Testament was
characterized by the outward sign in a miraculous manner. Abraham
desired to know by some means that he should inherit the land
(Genesis 15:8), and the sign was given. Moses had granted to him a
sign of his delegation (Exodus 4:1-5). The blackness and darkness
around Sinai were visible demonstrations to inspire the too rash
people with becoming awe. Signs and wonders were one means by
which Nicodemus recognised the “Teacher come from God”
(John 3:1-2). The excision of the miraculous element may be
consistent for those who exclude God from direct action in the
education of mankind, but it is an illogical act when
done by believers in a personal “living God.” The Bible is
a very consistent book.
o In so far as the Bible record is an education of mankind, it, containing
a faithful account of the visible signs of the past, causes those signs to
be a formative influence still. The visible manifestations during the
ages covered by Biblical records not only made people then know and
feel the reality of God’s presence and power to a degree that otherwise
would not have been possible, but they cause the “ends of the earth”
to be more thoroughly convinced of it. It takes much effort to shake
men out of their indifference to the Unseen, to strengthen faith in an
ever ruling Power. The Bible comes to the aid of our reason and
conscience, and by these recorded facts helps us to live as though
we saw Him who is invisible. Those who object to the reality of
miracles in the past because, forsooth, similar do not occur now,
and are not needed, forget how much of their present faith in
God is due to the combination of these ancient miracles with the
spiritual element that abides. We may have a spiritual appreciation
of the truth of Christianity which amply satisfies us; but that spiritual
Christianity so appreciated is impossible apart from the stupendous
“outward sign” of an Incarnation and Resurrection.
o The facts consequent on the establishment of Christianity are outward
signs which continue to furnish aid to faith. The indirect result, in the
continued existence of the Jews as an essentially separate people, is
impressive. The direct effects, in the salvation of souls, the pure,
elevating spirit, and the social ameliorations naturally flowing
from Christianity, are signs and wonders which indicate the
mighty power of God.
Ø Spiritual education by outward signs is very reasonable. This will be
admitted so far as relates to our children, and also the formation of
character by outward signs of power that are not miraculous. Therefore the
controversy is limited to the reasonableness of the outward miraculous
signs related in the Bible. Here observe, those who admit that the
Incarnation, “God manifest in the flesh” (I Timothy 3:16) was a reality,
and not a figure of speech, have conceded the principle; and if it was the
Divine intention by this miracle to save men in Christ, where is the difficulty
of admitting that by miracle God wrought the way for Christ, and educated
the world for the event? If the escape is sought in the supposed number of
miracles in Old Testament times, then who is to tell God how many He
shall work? Where do wisdom and propriety begin and end? Let any one
try and settle what and how often God shall work. Moreover, it is all a
delusion as to the vast number of miracles. Genesis covers at least 2800
years, and yet not over twenty-two miracles, or strictly open manifestations,
are recorded during that period, giving an average of one in 127 years.
Further, what more reasonable than, e.g., this of the “thunder”? The
people have had the truth, and reason has been appealed to; but they are
weak, as history proves. God is the supreme Power, but they evidently
need to be impressed, so that the lessons just given may abide. Fear thus
produced will act with consciousness of moral truth and force of reason,
and consequently it is an act of great mercy to render them this additional
aid, just as it is an act of kindness to enforce lessons on children by an
authority which they can appreciate.
· THERE ARE SPECIAL ENCOURAGEMENTS TO CONFORMITY
TO GOD’S WILL set forth by His prophets, justified by reason and
conscience, and supported by outward signs. It is instructive to note how
God’s methods have respect to the whole man. Moral obligation is placed
before the conscience (vs. 13-15), reason is appealed to (vs. 7-11), fear
of disobedience is aroused by outward sign of supreme power, and now the
hopes of the soul are to be sustained by appropriate considerations. Would
that men who sneer at the Old Testament records had the heart to study its
spiritual teaching! They would see how beautifully the terrible and the mild
blend to meet the needs of the real man. The encouragement is threefold.
Ø An assurance of God’s great mercy. “Fear not.” He “will not forsake His
people. This “fear not” comes to the sinful soul still. It came with the
over the plains of
flock;” and the conscience smitten jailor heard the same. God “hath not
forsaken” mankind. Not for what virtue He sees in perverse, ungrateful
men, but “for
His own sake” he
own sake” been made His people, with prospective reference to the
introduction of the Messiah and the future education of the world, so in the
redemption wrought by Christ every man on earth is embraced in a
covenant of mercy, sealed with the “blood that cleanseth from all sin.” To
know that God is merciful and gracious, that all His terrible displays of
power are in love, this brings cheer to the entire race of man. If only
despisers of the gospel knew the richness of its mercy for all men, they
would surely not seek to hinder its acceptance by this sorrowing world.
Ø The prayer and sympathy of the faithful. Samuel assures
will bear them on his heart. His affection for them and his spiritual duty to
them were such that not to continue to pray would be sin (v. 23). This
encouragement has every one who is called on to conform to the will of
God. The Church pleads “for all men.” The penitent and struggling are
especially on the heart of God’s faithful children. In thousands of homes
daily prayer is made for persons never seen and unknown by name.
Ø Continuous instruction. As long as Samuel lived he would teach them
“the good and the right way.” No doubt, like the Apostle Peter, he would
also devise means so that they should have his wise words “after” his
“decease.” It requires “line upon line, precept upon precept,” to keep men
in the safe and blessed pathway; and how fully is this secured to us in the
“lively oracles”! By the written word, by the suggestions of the Holy Spirit,
by the wise counsel of friends, God teaches us the way in which we should
go. We are not left to wander at our will, or to follow the contradictory
voices of men. There is “a sure word of prophecy which shineth as a light
in a dark place.” (II Peter 1:19)
Samuel’s Admonitions to
1. The occasion of his admonitions was the full recognition of the first king
duties of his office as judge. He was not mortified at parting with power,
nor did he wish to reverse the change which had been effected. He
cheerfully acquiesced in the will of God, and cordially united with the
people in giving honor to the “Lord’s anointed” (vs. 3, 5). Yet he might
not allow them to suppose that there was nothing blameworthy in their
desire for a king, as they were apt to do, or enter upon their new career in
perilous self-complacency, without warning them of the rocks ahead. He
spoke not merely as judge, but also as a prophet and “faithful priest” (v. 19).
2. The form which they assumed is varied. They consist generally of a
dialogue between him and the elders; partly of an apology, or defense of
his official conduct; partly of a narration of the dealings of God with
connected together. The whole may be conceived of as a judicial scene
occurring before the invisible Judge, in which Samuel, having vindicated
himself as against the people, sets forth their sin against God, who Himself
confirms His words in the thunderstorm (Job 38:1), which leads them to
confess their transgression and seek the intercession of the prophet, who
consoles and admonishes them, and assures them of his continued help.
The language is direct and rugged and full of force.
3. The main subject is the course of sinful perversity which
pursued in desiring a king; the chief aim to produce a humble and penitent
state of mind, and lead to the maintenance of a proper relation to the
invisible King. His former words may be compared (ch. 3:11-14;
7:3-6; 8:10-18; 10:17-19); also the words of Moses (Numbers 16:25-30;
Deuteronomy 29.), and of Joshua (Joshua 24.). He speaks of their
of his just administration. He sets himself, as it were, before the tribunal of
the invisible Judge, and before the king, — himself, “old and grey headed,”
on the one hand,
public men are often under the necessity of doing); not, however, so much
from regard to his own dignity as to their welfare and the honor of God.
We have here:
Ø A challenge, on the part of Samuel, to bear witness against him.
“Behold, here I am,” etc. (v. 3). It is a common temptation for men in
authority and power to use their position for selfish and unjust purposes,
o appropriating wrongfully what belongs to others,
o defrauding them of what is their due,
o oppressing the poor and weak, and
o perverting the proper course of justice, especially in the case of
the rich and strong, for the sake of “a gift” or bribe.
How have these evils prevailed in every age! But Samuel had consciously
wronged no one, and if any can show that he has done so, he stands ready
to make restitution (Luke 19:8). His conscience is “as the noontide
clear.” “No doubt he found himself guilty before God of many private
infirmities; but for his public carriage he appeals to men. A man’s heart can
best judge of himself; others can best judge of his actions. Happy is that
man that can be acquitted by himself in private, in public by others, by God
in both” (Hall).
Ø A testimony, on the part of the elders, to his integrity (v. 4); ready,
explicit, and with one voice. It is almost impossible for men in public office
to be faithful without making enemies. If Samuel had any, they now
nowhere appear; and his character shines forth “as the sun when he goeth
forth in his might” (Judges 5:31).
Ø An invocation, on the part of both, to the Lord and His anointed to
confirm the testimony (v. 5); thereby making it more solemn and
memorable. Why, then, seeing his government was so unblamable, did they
wish to set it aside? Their testimony to him was a sentence of
condemnation on themselves for their inconsideration, ingratitude, and
discontent. The force of the testimony was increased by his further
invocation of the Lord as He who had “appointed Moses and Aaron, and
fathers out of the
rejection was the rejection of the Lord. With this he passes on to speak of
their course as:
the light of the righteous dealings of God in past time. “Now therefore
stand forth,” etc. (v. 7). He and they now change places; he becomes
their accuser, and reasons or contends with them (in order to convict them
of sin) “concerning the righteous acts of Jehovah,” who had acted justly in
His covenant relation with them throughout their whole history, faithfully
fulfilled His promises, inflicted punishment only when it was deserved, and
bestowed upon them the greatest benefits (Ezekiel 33:17; Micah 6:2).
These acts include:
Ø A wonderful deliverance (v. 8) from a crushing oppression, in
compassion to the cry of the needy, through the instrumentality of men
raised up for the purpose, with “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,”
and completed in their possession of the land of promise. This deliverance
is always regarded as the foundation of their history. “History was born in
that night in which Moses, with the law of God, moral and spiritual, in his
heart, led the
Ø Repeated chastisements (v. 9), rendered necessary by forgetfulness of
God, varied (the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Moabites), and with a view
to their moral improvement. “Notice here Samuel’s prudence in reproof.
o By his reproof of their ancestors he prepares their minds to receive
o he shows that their ingratitude is old, and so worse, and they should
take care that it grow no stronger;
o he chooses a very mild word, ‘forget,’ to express their offence” (Pool).
Ø Continued help (vs. 10-11), through penitence and prayer, by means
of successive “saviours,” — Jerubbaal (Gideon),
Samuel (ch. 7:10; referring to himself in the third person,
because now speaking as the advocate of Jehovah), — against their
“enemies on every side,” and in their safe preservation unto the present
time. “And ye dwelled safe.” But what return did they make for all his
benefits? As soon as they saw the threatening attitude of Nahash (v. 12),
they forgot the lessons of the past, lost their confidence in God, trusted in
an arm of flesh, and recklessly and persistently demanded a king, virtually
rejecting the Lord as their king. Former experience of the goodness and
severity of God greatly aggravates present transgression (v. 19).
light of present circumstances. “Now therefore behold the king whom ye
have chosen,” etc. Although they had taken the initiative in the matter, he
had reserved to himself the authority of appointing him, and abides the
supreme Ruler over both people and king (v. 12). In the new order of
Ø They are specially liable to forget this primary truth, and to trust in
man, and hence he impresses upon them once and again the fact that “the
Lord God is their king.” No earthly monarch can release them from their
responsibility to Him, and no human help can save them apart from Him.
“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes”
Ø They can prosper only by being faithful to Him. “If ye will fear the
Lord,” etc., it will be well with you and your king. But:
Ø If unfaithful, they will expose themselves to HEAVY JUDGMENTS,
as their fathers had done before them. Wherein, then, have they improved
their condition? What a perilous course have they entered upon! And how
can they hope to avoid its consequences except by profound humiliation,
and SEEKING THE LORD “with full purpose of heart”?
light of approaching judgment. “Now therefore stand and see this great
thing,” etc. Hitherto the words of Samuel appear to have produced little
effect; something further was necessary that they might not be spoken in
vain; and, in response to his prayer, the thunder crashed above the heads of
the great assembly, and the rain fell in torrents around them — things
“incomprehensible to a Hebrew” in time of harvest. The miraculous sign:
Ø Corroborates the word of truth as well as the Divine commission of Him
who uttered it, and confirms the testimony borne to His integrity. The voice
of the supreme Judge answers the appeal which had been made to Him (v. 5),
and there is “an end of all controversy” (Hebrews 6:16).
Ø Is significant of the Divine displeasure at their sin, and of terrible
judgments (Exodus 9:28). “Hereby the Lord showed His power, and the
people their foolishness in not being contented to have such a mighty God
for their protector, who could with thunder and rain fight for them against
as He did for
before this against the Philistines. And, beside, it appeared with what small
reason they should be weary of Samuel’s government, who by his prayer
could fetch down rain and thunder from heaven” (Willet). “God had
granted their desire; but upon them and their king’s bearing toward the
Lord, not upon the fact that they had now a king, would the future of
were, prove before them in a symbol. Did they think it unlikely, nay, well
nigh impossible, to fail in their present circumstances? God would bring the
unlikely and seemingly incredible to pass in a manner patent to all. Was it
not the time of wheat harvest, when in the East not a cloud darkens the
clear sky? God would send thunder and rain to convince them, by making
the unlikely real, of the folly and sin of their thoughts in demanding a king”
3. Is designed to effect a moral end, in filling them with salutary fear. “That
ye may perceive that your wickedness is great” (v. 17). And it is not in
vain; for “all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel” (v. 18), thus
solemnly avouched to be His prophet. God is never at a loss for means to
accomplish His purposes, and goes beyond His usual method of operations
when the occasion demands it. The end of His dealings with men is to bring
them to repentance and make them holy.
the light of the great name and merciful purposes of God. By means of
repentance and faith men place themselves within the circle where the
“consuming fire” of Divine wrath (Romans 1:18; Hebrews 12:29) is
transformed into the genial beams of Divine grace; and “He is faithful
and just to forgive us our sins” (I John 1:9). We have here:
Ø A description of a penitent people (v. 19), overwhelmed with fear,
freely and fully confessing their sin, rendering honor where they had
formerly shown ingratitude and disrespect, and seeking Divine mercy in the
way in which they had reason to believe it might be obtained.
Ø An exhortation to an amended course of life (vs. 20-21).
o A consoling word. “Fear not.”
o A reminding and humbling word. “Ye have done all this wickedness.”
o A restraining word. “Turn not aside from following the Lord” (as ye
have done in your distrust and self-will).
o A directive word. “But serve the Lord with all your heart” (in faith,
and love, and entire consecration).
o A warning word. “And turn ye not aside” (from God to any false
object of trust, idols).
o An instructive word. “For they are vain” (utterly empty and
Ø An assurance of mercy and grace (v. 22), resting on:
o His relationship. They are still “His people.”
o His name — His revelations of power and salvation to His people,
and His honor and glory before all the nations.
o His good will. “Because” (He will not forsake His people, because)
“it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people.” Whatever
benefits He has conferred have proceeded from His pure benevolence,
and are a pledge of further benefits (Jeremiah 31:3). HIS FREE
AND UNMERITED LOVE is the sinner’s chief hope.
Ø A promise of continued aid, on the part of Samuel, in intercession and
instruction (v. 23). “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 further persevere all the more in their anxiety for them.”
Ø A final admonition to steadfast obedience (vs. 24-25), without which
both people and king will be overwhelmed in destruction. In keeping with
the tone which pervades these admonitions, and as in foresight of coming
evils, they end with a warning.
The Good and
“Only fear the Lord,” etc. Samuel assured the people that (as a priest) he
would continue to pray for them, and (as a prophet) to show them the way
of happiness and righteousness (Acts 7:4). Of this way the text may be
taken as a further explanation, and gives:
Ø Filial reverence. “Fear not” (be not terrified — vs. 17-18, 20); but fear
(with a lowly, affectionate, trustful reverence.), implying a knowledge of
God’s character and saving purposes, in so far as He has revealed them to
men; in our case, of Him who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Ø Practical obedience. “And serve Him.” Recognize yourselves as
servants, His servants, and act accordingly. “Fear God, and keep his
commandments” (the practical expression of the principle): “for this is the
whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The two may not be disjoined
(Joshua 24:14; Psalm 2:11). “The life of service is work; the work
of a Christian is obedience to the law of God” (Hall).
Ø Thorough sincerity and whole heartedness. “In truth, with all your
heart.” Do not suppose that it is sufficient to render an outward and formal
service; or a partial service, in which the love of idols may be united with
the love of God. “Serve Him only” (ch. 7:3). “God will put up
with many things in the human heart; but there is one thing he will not put
up with in it — a second place. He who offers God a second place offers
him no place; and he who makes religion his first object makes it his whole
for it is only by doing so that you can:
Ø Avoid walking in the evil and wrong way. The “vision of life” which the
great Teacher saw and described contained only two ways, the broad and
the narrow, and there is no other. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Ø Escape the destructive consequences of that way. You have already
entered on a perilous course, only (in order that you may escape the end to
which it naturally conducts), “fear the Lord,” etc. “If ye still do wickedly,
ye shall be consumed, both you and your king” (v. 25). “The way of
transgressors is hard.” (Proverbs 13:15) “it leadeth to destruction.”
Ø Receive, and continue to receive, the blessings that have been
promised. “The Lord will not forsake His people,” only (in order that you
may enjoy His favor), “fear,” etc. “I will pray for you, and teach you,”
only (in order that you may be really benefited thereby), “fear,” etc.
(Jeremiah 6:16; Isaiah 1:19-20). (A very bad characteristic of a society
without God is that they exhibit “there is no fear of God in their eyes.”
Romans 3:18 – CY – 2016)
you.” The motive here is not fear of punishment, nor hope of reward, nor
even the sense of right, but gratitude and love.
Ø What benefits; so great, so numerous, so long continued — temporal
and spiritual (vs. 6-11).
Ø Toward you, in comparison with others (v. 22).
Ø He hath wrought. HE and no other; freely and graciously. “Free love is
that which has never been deserved, which has never been desired, and
which never can be requited.” “We have known and believed the love that
God hath to us. God is love” (I John 4:16). But in order that His love
may be perceived and its influence felt, in awakening love, we must
consider, fix attention upon it, especially as manifested in “His unspeakable
gift” (II Corinthians 9:15). Our responsibility in regard to “salvation” depends
directly on the power we possess of directing attention to Divine truth, and
considering it with a real and earnest desire to KNOW IT AND LIVE
ACCORDING TO IT and by this means, as ice is melted by the sunbeams,
so the heart is softened, renewed, and sanctified by the Spirit of truth.
The plea of God is “O that they were wise; that they understood this,
that they would consider their latter end!” (Deuteronomy 32:29)
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