FIRST SAMUEL 7-12
A Devotional Commentary by Nate Wilson
With the ASV Text
Click here to download a map of cities mentioned in I Samuel.
I Samuel CHAPTER 7
1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came, and fetched up the ark of Jehovah, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of Jehovah. 2 And it came to pass, from the day that the ark abode in Kiriath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after Jehovah.
3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto Jehovah with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you, and direct your hearts unto Jehovah, and serve him only; and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.
4 Then the children of Israel did put away the Baalim and the Ashtaroth, and served Jehovah only. 5 And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray for you unto Jehovah. 6 And they gathered together to Mizpah, and drew water, and poured it out before Jehovah, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against Jehovah. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah.
7 And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto Jehovah our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. 9 And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a whole burnt-offering unto Jehovah: and Samuel cried unto Jehovah for Israel; and Jehovah answered him. 10 And as Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel; but Jehovah thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten down before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath Jehovah helped us.
13 So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more within the border of Israel: and the hand of Jehovah was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the border thereof did Israel deliver out of the hand of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. 15 And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went from year to year in circuit to Beth-el and Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all those places. 17 And his return was to Ramah, for there was his house; and there he judged Israel: and he built there an altar unto Jehovah.
What a special position, to be "keeper of the ark of Jehovah!" Can you imagine what it must have been like for Eleazar? He watched over the ark--the very presence of God, the receptacle for His law, that most holy thing for which thousands had just been struck dead for mishandling. What awe Eleazar must have had; what a sense of privilege He must have felt! What a desire he must have had to simply be near it..., and what care he must have taken to keep his place spotless! And yet, we the church now have God's Spirit living INSIDE US! Are we awed by this? Are we afraid that God may strike us dead for sinning against Him? Are we keeping our bodies and minds spotless before this holy God that dwells in us? Do we have a sense of joy that God is with us and desire to commune with Him all day long? Oh God, please give me grace to remember and live out this spiritual reality as much as Eleazar did with the physical ark!
Just a side note: Abinidab must have been a great man of God and a great father. He was the one they carried the ark to--the whole Levite clan there felt he was the one most worthy of the office of ark-keeper. He had trained his sons in God's ways so well that he could appoint his son for this prodigious office! Oh God, may it be so with me, that I stay holy and true to You and teach my sons Your ways, and just like Abinidab, be able to delegate big spiritual responsibilities to my sons!
For 20 years the ark stayed with Eleazar, and during this time, the people of Israel had a revival! They put away their idols and began serving Jehovah only. They had a big meeting at Mizpah to confess their sins of idol-worship and receive God's forgiveness. This time was appropriately observed with fasting. They wanted to take the matter to God when they heard of an impending Philistine attack. Wow, this is exciting and encouraging! Oh God, would You let this happen in my nation?
I think a major factor in this revival was that Israel had godly leaders. Careless Eli, Hophni, and Phineas were now replaced by godly Abinidab and Eleazar, and the prophet Samuel was a major leader, whereas there had been no prophet earlier. Oh God, how wonderful it would be if truly godly men could fill the seats of my nation's government!
I'm kinda surprised that those superstitious Philistines decided to attack Israel again after the ark incident. But the Israelites were all in one place and, since they had come for a religious ceremony, they probably were not armed for battle. The Philistines had them now, and the Israelites remembered how they'd been slaughtered the last time by the Philistines. But they cried out to God. Their strength had not won last time. Their carrying the ark with them didn't win last time either. They cried out to God and asked their godly leader to cry out to God for them too. They were right before God this time--they had ditched their idols and confessed their sin, and they were worshipping and praying to God wholeheartedly. And God answered by frightening those superstitious Philistines, this time with thunder. The men of Israel (notice, just the men were in the army) pursued the fleeing Philistines and "whupped up on 'em!"
v.12 So this is where the second verse to the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" comes from: "Here I lay my Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I'm come." The setting up of monuments commemorating God's work is a good thing to do (See also Josh 4). This was a big deal--the subduing of the Philistines, and Samuel wanted this to be remembered throughout the generations; that GOD did it when the people were right before Him.
Lord, let me be a godly leader like Samuel! Let me always confess my sins to You and keep You on the throne of my life, not displacing you with anything! Let me always cry out to You in trouble. And let me always remember to thank You for Your deliverance and somehow record it for the generations to come, what You do for me.
I Samuel CHAPTER 8
1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 Now the name of his first-born was Joel; and the name of his second, Abijah: they were judges in Beer-sheba. 3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted justice.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah; 5 and they said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto Jehovah. 7 And Jehovah said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, in that they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. 9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit thou shalt protest solemnly unto them, and shalt show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. 10 And Samuel told all the words of Jehovah unto the people that asked of him a king. 11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: he will take your sons, and appoint them unto him, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and they shall run before his chariots; 12 and he will appoint them unto him for captains of thousands, and captains of fifties; and he will set some to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots. 13 And he will take your daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16 And he will take your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks: and ye shall be his servants. 18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king whom ye shall have chosen you; and Jehovah will not answer you in that day. 19 But the people refused to hearken unto the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay: but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. 21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of Jehovah. 22 And Jehovah said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.
What a shame! Samuel followed in the steps of Eli and did not disciple his sons well. (Funny, the Bible never mentions that he had a wife...) Oh God, I praise you that my earthly father was a godly man; please let me walk in his footsteps and walk in Your ways and diligently teach my children your ways. Oh please let my boys become great men of God who would be fit to "judge" a nation!
At least the elders had the righteousness to rebuke Samuel for his sons this time (God had to prompt a prophet to do it in Eli's day!). But the elders wanted a KING. They wanted to be "like all the other nations." Watch out! God's people are not to model their lives after ungodly people but rather after God's Word. Israel had a republican government (elders), which was God's ideal, but they wanted a monarchy. This was a rejection of God's Word, a show of mistrust and rebellion against Him.
I don't understand why God blesses men who have not governed their family well. I guess God looks at it like any other sin and does not hold it against a man who has cultivated a close relationship personally with Him. Nevertheless, such a man will reap trouble from his unruly family. Anyway, Samuel is still in communication with God, and he tells the people the pitfalls of monarchy. God knows that the people will rebel, but He wants His prophet to warn them anyway.
Lord, please let me be sensitive to You, even if no one else will obey. Let me hear the quiet voice of Your true Word and Your true prophets and respond in love to You. If I speak Your words and people don't heed them, help me remember not to take it personally. When we act as God's representatives in this world, the world will treat us with the innate hatred they have for God. It's not us they hate so much as the God we represent.
A king, in many ways, is a human replacement to God that you revere, tithe to, and obey. This is only natural in a humanistic society, and it certainly has gained popularity in the USA. It's not so much over one man yet (although the President seems to be getting more and more attention--that bears a frightening resemblance to the tabloid coverage of European royalty.) Still, for us right now, it's more obeisance to the big government--an unknown mass of powerful bureaucrats who take 50% of our earnings and regulate every detail of our lives. And the foolish masses ask for more, because they have no other god (except themselves).
The Israelites became adamant in their rebellion, gainsaying Samuel. They even forgot how God had gone before them in battle just a few decades ago and routed the Philistines (Chapter 7). They wanted something "better," more tangible than God. They wanted a human king to lead them into battle.
I Samuel CHAPTER 9
1 Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite, a mighty man of valor. 2 And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a young man and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.
3 And the asses of Kish, Saulís father, were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses. 4 And he passed through the hill-country of Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they found them not: then they passed through the land of Shaalim, and there they were not: and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they found them not. 5 When they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant that was with him, Come, and let us return, lest my father leave off caring for the asses, and be anxious for us. 6 And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is a man that is held in honor; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can tell us concerning our journey whereon we go. 7 Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we? 8 And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have in my hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way. 9 (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he said, Come, and let us go to the seer; for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.) 10 Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.
11 As they went up the ascent to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here? 12 And they answered them, and said, He is; behold, he is before thee: make haste now, for he is come to-day into the city; for the people have a sacrifice to-day in the high place: 13 as soon as ye are come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he goeth up to the high place to eat; for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that are bidden. Now therefore get you up; for at this time ye shall find him. 14 And they went up to the city; and as they came within the city, behold, Samuel came out toward them, to go up to the high place. 15 Now Jehovah had revealed unto Samuel a day before Saul came, saying, 16 To-morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be prince over my people Israel; and he shall save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me. 17 And when Samuel saw Saul, Jehovah said unto him, Behold, the man of whom I spake to thee! this same shall have authority over my people.
18 Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seerís house is. 19 And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer; go up before me unto the high place, for ye shall eat with me to-day: and in the morning I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thy heart. 20 And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not they mind on them; for they are found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for thee, and for all thy fatherís house? 21 And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou to me after this manner? 22 And Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the guest-chamber, and made them sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden, who were about thirty persons. 23 And Samuel said unto the cook, Bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, Set it by thee. 24 And the cook took up the thigh, and that which was upon it, and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, Behold, that which hath been reserved! set it before thee and eat; because unto the appointed time hath it been kept for thee, for I said, I have invited the people. So Saul did eat with Samuel that day. 25 And when they were come down from the high place into the city, he communed with Saul upon the housetop. 26 And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called to Saul on the housetop, saying, Up, that I may send thee away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad. 27 As they were going down at the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us (and he passed on), but stand thou still first, that I may cause thee to hear the word of God.
And what was the criterion for choosing a king? How good-looking he was! Forget his competency as a leader or his relationship with God, just put someone good-looking over us! This sounds familiar...
So, we are presented with Saul, a tall man of warrior's lineage, who is ass-searching. Already he has trouble making up his mind and is seeking supernatural guidance (which isn't necessarily bad, but he is depending on witches or the godliness of other men to direct him). His servant is even telling him what to do--in fact he even takes marching commands from the women at the city well! This is democracy at it's best, right?
Interesting that God had in mind for future King Saul to "exercise restraint" over Israel. When a nation is not personally self-disciplined, they can not support a Constitutional Republic (governance by elders using the Mosaic Law), so God, rather than letting them fall into anarchy again, raised up judges and now kings to exercise "restraint" over His people. Boy am I seeing that in my nation! But Saul was the sort of man who could fight and lead in battle, and he was the man God appointed that Israel be delivered from the Philistines. Why would God appoint such a man? Surely a sorry leader could have been chosen easily enough by the people without God's help! Hmm... perhaps they would have chosen a much worse leader, had it truly been a democratic election!
Interesting that Saul only picks up on the last part of Samuel's message. No relief is shown that the asses are safe; just a marvelling that he was famous. Not a good sign! I hope I am not unduly ragging on Saul, but the record does not seem good!
I Samuel CHAPTER 10
1 Then Samuel took the vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not that Jehovah hath anointed thee to be prince over his inheritance? 2 When thou art departed from me to-day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachelís sepulchre, in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found; and, lo, thy father hath left off caring for the asses, and is anxious for you, saying, What shall I do for my son? 3 Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the oak of Tabor; and there shall meet thee there three men going up to God to Beth-el, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine: 4 and they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread, which thou shalt receive of their hand. 5 After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a timbrel, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they will be prophesying: 6 and the Spirit of Jehovah will come mightily upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. 7 And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion shall serve thee; for God is with thee. 8 And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt-offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace-offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come unto thee, and show thee what thou shalt do.
9 And it was so, that, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. 10 And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a band of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came mightily upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11 And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied with the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets? 12 And one of the same place answered and said, And who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets? 13 And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place. 14 And Saulís uncle said unto him and to his servant, Whither went ye? And he said, To seek the asses; and when we saw that they were not found, we came to Samuel. 15 And Saulís uncle said, Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said unto you. 16 And Saul said unto his uncle, He told us plainly that the asses were found. But concerning the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.
17 And Samuel called the people together unto Jehovah to Mizpah; 18 and he said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all the kingdoms that oppressed you: 19 but ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saveth you out of all your calamities and your distresses; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before Jehovah by your tribes, and by your thousands. 20 So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken. 21 And he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by their families; and the family of the Matrites was taken; and Saul the son of Kish was taken: but when they sought him, he could not be found. 22 Therefore they asked of Jehovah further, Is there yet a man to come hither? And Jehovah answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the baggage. 23 And they ran and fetched him thence; and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward. 24 And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom Jehovah hath chosen, that there is none like him along all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, Long live the king. 25 Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before Jehovah. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. 26 And Saul also went to his house to Gibeah; and there went with him the host, whose hearts God had touched. 27 But certain worthless fellows said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no present. But he held his peace.
Saul must have wondered why on earth he was getting such special attention from the great seer. After a day of special treatment, Samuel anoints Saul to be king. God knows that this will be overwhelming to Saul, so He gives him signs to confirm to Saul that Samuel isn't just making this up. That day, Saul began to fulfill what was said of a king by Samuel--he takes 2/3 of the people's bread.
v.5 interesting that the prophets were also musicians! Saul is transformed into another man upon meeting with this band of prophets, and God's hand begins to bless him. Other people notice this.
I guess Samuel cast lots in the choosing of the new king. They confirmed the earlier prompting of God to anoint Saul.
So why did Saul hide? Did Samuel's admonishment that in choosing a king, Israel was rejecting God make him not want to become king? Was he just taking some time alone? Was he overwhelmed with the possibility of being a king?
Samuel wrote down guidelines on how the kingship should be (where is this book?), then placed the book before God--perhaps as a symbol that God was the supreme ruler over this king and that God would judge this king according to how Saul followed the guidelines.
What was the "[army] host whose hearts God had touched" that went home with Saul? They are contrasted with the "sons of worthlessness" who were not "with" Saul, but "despised" him? How is it that God says choosing a king is bad, yet He counts as "worthless" those who despise the king once he is instated? I don't understand! Perhaps monarchy was a grey area that was neither right nor wrong morally, yet not ideal. God begrudgingly gives Israel less than the ideal because of their stubbornness. However, once the king is in place he must be well-respected. Opposition to the king not only hurts the nation, but destroys the analogy to the kingship of God.
Oh God, please give me to desire Your desires, not to clamour after something less-than-ideal! And please give me a heart that honors You fully as true and total king. And give me grace not to speak ill of the rulers of my nation--however far from ideal they are. Show me how to respect them, yet counteract their evil.
I Samuel CHAPTER 11
1 Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabesh-gilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee. 2 And Nahash the Ammonite said unto them, On this condition will I make it with you, that all your right eyes be put out; and I will lay it for a reproach upon all Israel. 3 And the elders of Jabesh said unto him, Give us seven daysí respite, that we may send messengers unto all the borders of Israel; and then, if there be none to save us, we will come out to thee. 4 Then came the messengers to Gibeah of Saul, and spake these words in the ears of the people: and all the people lifted up their voice, and wept.
5 And, behold, Saul came following the oxen out of the field; and Saul said, What aileth the people that they weep? And they told him the words of the men of Jabesh. 6 And the Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul when he heard those words, and his anger was kindled greatly. 7 And he took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the borders of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the dread of Jehovah fell on the people, and they came out as one man. 8 And he numbered them in Bezek; and the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. 9 And they said unto the messengers that came, Thus shall ye say unto the men of Jabesh-gilead, To-morrow, by the time the sun is hot, ye shall have deliverance. And the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh; and they were glad. 10 Therefore the men of Jabesh said, To-morrow we will come out unto you, and ye shall do with us all that seemeth good unto you. 11 And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch, and smote the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they that remained were scattered, so that not two of them were left together.
12 And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death. 13 And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day; for to-day Jehovah hath wrought deliverance in Israel. 14 Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. 15 And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before Jehovah in Gilgal; and there they offered sacrifices of peace-offerings before Jehovah; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
Jabesh Gilead was a town of Manasseh's tribe in the center of Israel just on the East side of the Jordan River. The Ammonites lived close by, and they wanted that city. The Israelites tried to work out a compromise when the Ammonite army came up for war, but gouging out the right eye of every man in the city didn't sound so good to them. So they sent for Saul. Would this new king come to their aid? Would he be a real king who protects his people?
Why was Saul plowing a field? Why did everyone hear the news before him? This is no king! He didn't want to be king--he had gone back home to work on his dad's farm! But when he heard the news, God's Spirit turned him into a king. This was his first kingly assignment. The fact that he was a quick-tempered man helped in this instance, but it doesn't mean an even keeled man would not have done better! In his first kingly act, he destroyed half of his farming livelihood by butchering his oxen (the other half, of course was his land, which he couldn't lose),--thus he will no longer be a farmer.
Do you suppose he could have made good on his threat? Imagine messengers running down the road with a bloody chunk of flesh in hand saying, "Saul will butcher YOUR oxen too if you don't 'jine up!'" It worked--too bad he had to appeal to the people's self interest rather than their compassion and sense of justice. Perhaps Israel was in such a weak spiritual state that this was all that would appeal to them.
v.8 Interesting that even this far back before the political division of Israel (Rehoboam and Jeroboam, North and South) distinctions in troops are made between Israel and Judah.
God gave them victory over the Ammonites, who were either not anticipating unity among the Israelite tribes or were overstepping their abilities out of pride. And Saul is proven as a warrior king--just the man for the job of driving back all the other resident nations from the land. If it weren't for Saul's foundation, David's kingdom would not have been so great.
The people of Israel are sold on Saul's kingship and they want to kill everyone who isn't (10:27). But, for the second time, Saul cools it off and does not seek that kind of punitive work. He would not be like the pagan kings who slaughtered everyone who disagreed with them--like Hitler, Idi Amin, Stalin, and so many others. For this and for the fact that he gave credit to God, Saul is to be commended.
What an exciting party that must have been! The possibility of long-term unity and power in Israel, a new king, a great military victory, peace offerings being made to God... Man, that would have been worth seeing!
I Samuel CHAPTER 12
1 And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you. 2 And now, behold, the king walketh before you; and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my youth unto this day. 3 Here I am: witness against me before Jehovah, 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 taken a ransom 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 aught of any manís hand. 5 And he said unto them, Jehovah is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found aught in my hand. And they said, He is witness.
6 And Samuel said unto the people, It is Jehovah that appointed Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. 7 Now therefore stand still, that I may plead with you before Jehovah concerning all the righteous acts of Jehovah, which he did to you and to your fathers. 8 When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto Jehovah, then Jehovah sent Moses and Aaron, who brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them to dwell in this place. 9 But they forgat Jehovah their God; and he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them. 10 And they cried unto Jehovah, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken Jehovah, and have served the Baalim and the Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee. 11 And Jehovah sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and ye dwelt in safety. 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 Jehovah your God was your king. 13 Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have asked for: and, behold, Jehovah hath set a king over you. 14 If ye will fear Jehovah, and serve him, and hearken unto his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of Jehovah, and both ye and also the king that reigneth over you be followers of Jehovah your God, well: 15 but if ye will not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah, but rebel against the commandment of Jehovah, then will the hand of Jehovah be against you, as it was against your fathers.
16 Now therefore stand still and see this great thing, which Jehovah will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not wheat harvest to-day? I will call unto Jehovah, that he may send thunder and rain; and ye shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of Jehovah, in asking you a king. 18 So Samuel called unto Jehovah; and Jehovah sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared Jehovah and Samuel. 19 And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto Jehovah thy God, that we die not; for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. 20 And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not; ye have indeed done all this evil; yet turn not aside from following Jehovah, but serve Jehovah with all your heart: 21 and turn ye not aside; for then would ye go after vain things which cannot profit nor deliver, for they are vain. 22 For Jehovah will not forsake his people for his great nameís sake, because it hath pleased Jehovah to make you a people unto himself. 23 Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against Jehovah in ceasing to pray for you: but I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 24 Only fear Jehovah, 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.
Why does Samuel take such pains to prove his own righteousness to the people is Israel in verses 1-5? Perhaps he was preparing them for the rest of his message, reminding them that his word was trustworthy and that his actions would be for the best of the people.
v.6-11 Samuel proves from Israel's past history that it was God who raised up deliverers for Israel and who made them victorious. He mentions Jerubbabel (another name for Gideon --Judges 6-9--who conquered the Midianites with an army of only 300 men), Bedan (another rendering of Abdon--Judges 12--the judge before Samson who had 30 sons who rode thirty donkeys), and Jephtha (the God-honoring judge who knew Israel's history and saved Gilead from being conquered by the Amorites in Judges 11). God delivers His people when they cry out to Him. In this, Samuel was reminding the people that to trust in a mere man (i.e. Saul) was wrong. They must trust in the God behind the man.
v.12-19 Saul shows them that in asking for a king, they were trusting in man rather than in God. (Interesting that the name "Saul" means "asked.") This was wrong! He shows them that whether or not they have a king, God is still in power. With this background, Samuel proclaims judgement for trusting in man rather than in God in setting up Saul as King: God would send a big storm to destroy their crops at peak harvest time. Wow, what a devastating punishment! People would go hungry that year because they had asked for a king. But I guess the same thing has happened to the Soviet countries and to our own country--if not actually hunger, certainly economic dearth. Was this storm something Samuel came up with, or had God told him to ask for it? I don't know, but the fact that a storm came is evidence that God approved, whatever the case. The storm was so bad that the people were afraid that they themselves would be killed by it!
The people of Israel responded well. They listened to the message, and rather than getting mad at Samuel, they remembered his preface in vs. 1-5 and did not accuse him of dissing them. They remembered his admonition to trust in God rather than in man, and they asked Samuel to beg God to stop the storms. They passed the test with flying colours and confessed their sin and found God's favour.
God used this hardship to help train them to immediately turn to Him first in a hardship. Do I do this? Lord, help me to practically put my trust in You rather than in myself or in any other human agency. When I lose something, rather than rack my brain, remind me to first ask You. When I do wrong, rather than trying to cover up, let me confess my sin and ask You to make it right. When things look hopeless for something I desire, rather than asking other people to help as my first thought, let my first thought be to lay it before You in petition!
Samuel's golden heart shines through in this passage despite all the gruff warnings and omens. He cares about the people of Israel and he is committed to never stop instructing them in God's ways and to never stop praying for them. In this, he is an example to any spiritual leader. We must care so deeply for the welfare of our people that we will never stop teaching and praying for them, no matter how frustrating they may be. This passion mirrors the nature of our Saviour, whose Spirit teaches us and who is always interceding for us before the Father. Lord Jesus, let me be like You!
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