12:1 Said - While they were assembled together in Gilgal. And this is another instance of Samuel's great wisdom and integrity. He would not reprove the people for their sin, in desiring a king, whilst Saul was unsettled in his kingdom; lest through their accustomed levity, they should as hastily cast off their king, as they had passionately desired him, and therefore he chuseth this season for it; because Saul's kingdom was now confirmed by an eminent victory; and because the people rejoiced greatly, applauded themselves for their desires of a king; and interpreted the success which God had given them, as a divine approbation of those desires. Samuel therefore thinks fit to temper their joys, and to excite them to that repentance which he saw wanting in them, and which he knew to be necessary, to prevent the curse of God upon their new king, and the whole kingdom.
12:2 Walketh - Ruleth over you. To him I have fully resigned my power, and own myself one of his subjects. Old - And therefore unable to bear the burden of government. My sons - Or, among you, in the same states private persons, as you are; if they have injured any of you, the law is now open against them; any of you may accuse them, your king can punish them, I do not intercede for them. Walked before you - That is, been your guide and governor; partly, as a prophet; and partly, as a judge.
12:3 Behold - I here present myself before the Lord, and before your king, ready to give an account of all my administrations. And this protestation Samuel makes of his integrity, not out of ostentation; but for his own just vindication, that the people might not hereafter for the defence of their own irregularities, reproach his government, and that being publickly acquitted from all faults in his government, he might more freely reprove the sins of the people, and, particularly, that sin of theirs in desiring a king, when they had so little reason for it.
12:7 Righteous acts - Heb. the righteousnesses; that is, mercies or benefits the chief subject of the following discourse; some of their calamities being but briefly named, and that for the illustration of God's mercy in their deliverances.
12:8 This place - In this land: in which Moses and Aaron are said to settle them; because they brought them into, and seated them in part of it, that without Jordan; because they were, under God, the principal authors of their entering into the land of Canaan; inasmuch as they brought them out of Egypt, conducted them through the wilderness; and thereby their prayers to God, and counsel to them, preserved them from ruin, and gave command from God for the distribution of the land among them, and encouraged them to enter into it. And lastly, Moses substituted Joshua in his stead, and commanded him to seat them there, which he did.
12:9 Forgat - That is, they revolted from him, and carried themselves, as if they had wholly forgotten his innumerable favours. This he saith to answer an objection, that the reason why they desired a king, was, because in the time of the judges they were at great uncertainties, and often exercised with sharp afflictions: to which he answereth by concession that they were so; but adds, by way of retortion, that they themselves were the cause of it, by their forgetting God: so that it was not the fault of that kind of government, but their transgressing the rules of it. Fought - With success, and subdued them.
12:11 Bedan - This was either Samson, as most interpreters believe, who is called Bedan; that is, in Dan, or of Dan, one of that tribe, to signify that they had no reason to distrust that God, who could raise so eminent a saviour out of so obscure a tribe: or, Jair the Gileadite, which may seem best to agree, first, with the time and order of the judges; for Jair was before Jephthah, but Samson was after him. Secondly, with other scriptures: for among the sons of a more ancient Jair, we meet with one called Bedan, 1Chron 7:17, which name seems here given to Jair the judge, to distinguish him from that first Jair. Safe - So that it was no necessity, but mere wantonness, that made you desire a change.
12:12 Your king - That is, when God was your immediate king and governor, who was both able and willing to deliver you, if you had cried to him, whereof you and your ancestors have had plentiful experience; so that you did not at all need any other king; and your desire of another, was a manifest reproach against God.
12:13 Ye have chosen - Though God chose him by lot, yet the people are said to chuse him; either generally, because they chose that form of government; or particularly, because they approved of God's choice, and confirmed it. The Lord - He hath yielded to your inordinate desire.
12:14 Then, and c. - Heb. then shall - ye - be, (that is, walk, or go) after the Lord; that is, God shall still go before you, as he hath hitherto done, as your leader or governor, to direct, protect, and deliver you; and he will not forsake you, as you have given him just cause to do. Sometimes this phrase of going after the Lord, signifies a man's obedience to God; but here it is otherwise to be understood, and it notes not a duty to be performed, but a privilege to be received upon the performance of their duty; because it is opposed to a threatening denounced in case of disobedience, in the next verse .
12:15 Your fathers - Who lived under the judges; and you shall have no advantage by the change of government, nor shall your kings be able to protect you against God's displeasure. The mistake, if we think we can evade God's justice, by shaking off his dominion. If we will not let God rule us, yet he will judge us.
12:17 Wheat - harvest - At which time it was a rare thing in those parts to have thunder or rain; the weather being more constant in its seasons there, than it is with us. Rain - That you may understand that God is displeased with you; and also how foolishly and wickedly you have done in rejecting the government of that God, at whose command are all things both in heaven and in earth.
12:18 Samuel - Who had such power and favour with God. By this thunder and rain, God shewed them their folly in desiring a king to save them, rather than God or Samuel, expecting more from an arm of flesh than from the arm of God, or from the power of prayer. Could their king thunder with a voice like God? Could their prince command such forces as the prophet could by his prayers? Likewise he intimates, that how serene soever their condition was now, (like the weather in wheat harvest) yet if God pleased, he could soon change the face of their heavens, and persecute them with his storms.
12:19 Thy God - Whom thou hast so great an interest in, while we are ashamed and afraid to call him our God.
12:20 Fear not - With a desponding fear, as if there were no hope left for you.
12:21 Turn aside - After idols; as they had often done before; and, notwithstanding this warning, did afterwards. Vain things - So idols are called, Deut 32:21 Jer 2:5, and so they are, being mere nothings, having no power in them; no influence upon us, nor use or benefit to us.
12:22 His name's sake - That is, for his own honour, which would suffer much among men, if he should not preserve and deliver his people in eminent dangers. And this reason God alledgeth to take them off from all conceit of their own merit; and to assure them, that if they did truly repent of all their sins, and serve God with all their heart; yet even in that case their salvation would not be due to their merits; but the effect of God's free mercy. To make - Out of his own free grace, without any desert of yours, and therefore he will not forsake you, except you thrust him away.
12:24 Only, and c. - Otherwise neither my prayer nor counsels will stand you in any stead.