1. 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.
Now Samuel speaks to all Israel. Of course, there were millions of people in Israel, and Samuel could not possibly speak to all of them. This phrase refers to the leaders, who were qualified to represent the people. The message Samuel was given was intended for every person in Israel, but it would get to them through the representative men carrying it back to their places of residence and the people they represented, not by everyone coming together to hear Samuel at once.
First Samuel reviews for them what has taken place. He reminds them that he has done as they demanded in making Saul king.
2. 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.
Samuel presents Saul to them. Here is the king they asked for! Then Samuel presents himself. He urges them to notice that he is old and grayheaded. He points out his sons, who are with them as representative men. As we have seen, these sons were not admirable characters, as they had chosen to take bribes and pervert justice among the people they represented. Yet here they were. Samuel had hoped to put them as judges in his place, but, alas, their character was not acceptable for the job.
Finally, Samuel sets out his life before them for their judgment. He points out that he has walked before them from his childhood. In other words, they have seen his life and conduct this entire time.
3. 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.”
Again, Samuel presents himself, and calls the LORD and His anointed Saul to be witnesses of what is about to take place. Then, he asks if they can bring any charge of corruption or wrongdoing against him. Has he stolen, cheated, oppressed, or taken bribes? If so, he offers to restore what he has wrongfully taken at this time.
4. And they said, “You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man’s hand.”
The people have to admit that Samuel has neither cheated nor oppressed, nor has he taken any bribes from anyone. Rare is the ruler of whom this can truly be said! Yet for God’s rulers, this is normal. That is one of the reasons why we so look forward to the day when God’s government will rule over this earth at last!
5. 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.”
Samuel again calls Jehovah to witness against them along with His anointed Saul that when he called upon them to do so they had no charge of any sort of wrongdoing whatsoever to bring against him. They witness that this is true. Therefore, we can see that it was not because of any wrong on Samuel’s part that they rejected him as judge.
6. 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 Samuel starts to review the history of Israel in order to remind them of what Yahweh did for their forefathers. This gave Him the right to lead them, and to set up the rulers He saw fit. The point is that in spite of this, they had rejected His choice.
First, he reminds them of the raising up of Moses and Aaron as rulers among them, who brought their fathers up from the land of Egypt where they were enslaved.
7. 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:
Samuel calls upon them to stand still and listen to him, as he will now review all the good things that the LORD did for them in the past, both for them and for their forefathers.
8. 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.
It was Jacob who had first gone into Egypt. For a while their life there had been good, until the Egyptians in fear turned against them. Their fathers then cried out to Jehovah because the Egyptians made them slaves and treated them shamefully. Jehovah had responded and sent them Moses and Aaron as deliverers to bring them out of Egypt. These two then brought them to the land of Israel, and made them to dwell there instead.
9. 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.
Once they were safely settled in the land, however, the Israelites soon forgot the LORD their God Who had so graciously rescued them. This happened in the book of Judges when the people started worshipping idols. Therefore, He sold them into the power of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor. Sisera means “Battle Array,” and Hazor means “Castle.” Hazor was a place in Arabia, it seems, south of Israel. He also gave them into the power of the Philistines, and into the power of the king of Moab.
10. 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.’
When they had suffered oppression long enough, the people would realize their mistake in turning from Yahweh, admitting their inconstancy in forsaking Him and serving Baals and Ashtoreths instead. They would turn back to Him and pray for His deliverance from their enemies, and promise that, if He would save them, they would serve Him.
11. 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.
To rescue them, the LORD sent them judges, such as Jerubbaal, another name for Gideon which means “Let Baal Contend.” Next was Bedan, which means “In Judging.” Bedan is a judge not mentioned in Judges, so this probably is another name for Barak, or else a spelling error of his name on the part of some copyist of Samuel. There also was Jephthah, or He Opens, another judge. Finally, the LORD raised up Samuel himself. It seems rather strange that Samuel would mention himself in this context. The Peshito (the Revised Syriac) has “and Samson,” which could be correct. Yet Samuel was speaking God’s words, so He could be mentioning Samuel here. These four judges had rescued the Israelites from their enemies and ruled over them on behalf of the LORD.
12. 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.
Interestingly, we here learn more information about why the Israelites asked for a king back in I Samuel 8:5. It was because of this same King Nahash that Saul defeated in chapter 11. Apparently they could see that he was preparing for a campaign against them. Because they feared him, they demanded a king to reign over them. Not wanting to deal with Nahash themselves, they hoped to pass the responsibility off to a king. But Samuel points out that this was really a rejection of Jehovah, Who was their true King.
13. “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.
Now Samuel calls their attention to Saul, the very king they had asked for. Notice that he first says that this was the king they chose and desired, and then says that Yahweh set him over them. It may have been Yahweh Who picked Saul to be the king, but Samuel makes it clear to them here that the king he had given them was the king they had chosen. In other words, He gave them such a man as they wanted and asked for. The criteria He used in picking Saul were their criteria, not His. Saul was the king they wanted, and Saul was the king they got. It would not be until David was chosen as king that Yahweh’s choice for king would be revealed.
14. 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.
The commandment for the king is the same as the commandment for the people: continue to fear and serve and obey the LORD. They are not to rebel against Him, nor to cease to listen to His voice. If they will do this, all will be well with them.
15. 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.
With this promise, however, there comes a corresponding warning. If they do not obey Jehovah’s voice, but instead rebel against Him, then His hand will be against them, as their fathers already experienced it against them in the days of the judges, and as we have seen it in the war with the Philistines back in chapter 4. The hand is a symbol for the strength. If they rebelled, Jehovah’s strength would actually be against them rather than for them.
16. “Now therefore, stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes:
Yahweh is going to show them a great sign to prove that His words through Samuel are true. He calls upon them to stand and behold it.
17. 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.”
In order to understand this sign, we must realize that wheat harvest was during the dry season in Israel. Therefore, it would never rain at wheat harvest time. For the LORD to bring rain during wheat harvest, then, was for Him to clearly demonstrate to them His power. The LORD wanted to show them by this mighty sign in nature how great their sin was in asking for someone else other than Him to be their king.
18. 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.
Samuel calls to Jehovah to send rain, and He sends it. Moreover, we read that there was thunder with the rain, so this was not just a light rain, but a thunderstorm. In this, the people doubtless saw the power in the storm as a sign of the power of Jehovah’s anger against them for their rebellion. This caused them to greatly fear both Jehovah and Samuel His servant.
19. 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.”
Now the people are at last convicted regarding their past actions. They at last see the seriousness of what they did, and are afraid Yahweh might kill them for their sin. They ask Samuel to pray and intercede with God for them that death might not come upon them for their wicked deed of asking for a king.
20. 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.
Samuel reassured them by advising them not to fear. The LORD is not planning to kill them at this time, Samuel assures them. Yet notice that he does not promise that He will not kill them for their sin! Rather, he advises them that what is important now is that they must not turn aside from following the LORD. If they serve Him with all their hearts, then their sins will be forgiven, and they need not fear death coming upon them.
21. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing.
They are not to turn aside from following Him, for he knows that if they do, it will be to go after empty things that cannot profit them. These empty things he refers to are idols. According to the nations who worshipped them, these idols had power. Yet these people have seen the power of Jehovah in sending rain during wheat harvest, and now He assures them that these idols are really nothing. All they are are statues which represent gods who do not really exist. These statues certainly cannot command the weather like Jehovah can!
22. 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.
It is because of Himself, not because of them, that Yahweh will not forsake them. He is jealous for His great name, that is, His reputation. It pleased Him to make them His people. This is interesting, as it shows us something about God’s motivations. We might wonder why He would love and choose a people who were so stubborn and rebellious as the Israelites were? The answer seems to be that it could only be because of His love! The same is true of us. His choice of us has little to do with us and what we are, and everything to do with Him and Who He is. He chooses us because of Him, not because of us. How grateful we can be that He is so loving and gracious!
23. 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.
As for their request that Samuel pray for them, he promises them that he will never stop praying for them. This, he reveals, would be a sin against the LORD Himself! Since He had made Samuel His mediator with the people, it was Samuel’s duty to mediate for them before the LORD, and it would not have been right for him to do anything else. I believe that, like the LORD, Samuel too loves this people, though they are foolish and rebellious. Therefore, he promises that he will continue to teach them the good and right way that they should follow in going after the LORD and serving Him.
24. Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.
He urges them once again to continue to fear and serve Jehovah with all the might of their inner beings. He urges them to this in consideration of all the great things He has done for them in the past up until now.
25. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”
One last time he warns them what will happen if they do wickedness. This warning is for both the people and for Saul. If they do wickedly, they will be swept away. Alas, though it was a long time in coming, this was at last the sad fate of this people of Israel. Yet the LORD was longsuffering and gracious, and so it was a very long time yet until this punishment would come upon them. We will consider His continued work with them as we further consider this book of Samuel.