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1 Samuel 12:1-25 – Samuel’s Farewell Address


The Deuteronomistic editors bring the era of the Judges to a close with this speech that once again condemns the people's demand for a king, even as it accedes to their request. They must still obey the Lord, as must the king.


This address marks Samuel's last public appearance. It serves as both a summary of the past and a preview of the future. It displays several correspondences with chapter 8. Samuel begins with a statement that he has obeyed the will of the people in giving them a king, despite his convictions to the contrary, and challenges them to find fault with his tenure as their leader. The justification of his past service implicitly denies responsibility for the future excesses of the monarchy as well. Calling upon the Lord as a witness against the people is evidence of the seriousness with which Samuel takes the situation (vv. 1-5).

Following this somewhat self-serving harangue, Samuel broadens his critique to the history of the people (vv. 6-12). From the time of their deliverance in the exodus, Israel has experienced the cyclical pattern of deliverance (v. 8b), sin (v. 9a), defeat (v. 9b), repentance (v. 10), and deliverance (v. 11), familiar from the book of Judges (especially, Judges 2:11-19). But now, the people have grown unsatisfied with this past history of God's gracious deliverance. Instead of crying out to the Lord, as in the past (vv. 8, 10), the people now cry out for a king, despite the fact that God was their king (v. 12).

Verse 13 is the core of Samuel's address. Does his voice drip with sarcasm as he sneers, "Well, here's the king you have chosen," before he correctly states that "the LORD has set [literally, "given"] a king over you"? The reference to a king the people have "asked for" is a pun on the name of the king they got, Saul ("asked for/requested").

Despite Israel's rejection of God as king in their request for a king like the other nations, God continues to deal graciously with them as in the past. If both the king and the people fear and serve the Lord, all will go well; if such is not the case, even the king will not be able to prevent God's judgment (vv. 14-15). The Deuteronomic principle of retributive justice is evident.

The address concludes with a dramatic demonstration. Rain during the wheat harvest (that is, early summer) is very rare, and very destructive. The demonstration serves to authenticate Samuel's words and remind the people that God will continue to speak through the prophets (vv. 16-18).

Following the demonstration of Samuel's power and authority, the people plead for intercession on their behalf (v. 19). His response, quite magnanimous in light of his earlier opposition, reminds them that though they now have a king, the same relational situation remains. They need to remain faithful and avoid other gods (vv. 20-22). Significantly, Samuel's self-imposed agenda of intercession and instruction "in the good and the right way" becomes the model subsequent prophets will seek to emulate (v. 23).

1 Samuel 12:1-25

Samuel’s Farewell Address

12Samuel said to all Israel, ‘I have listened to you in all that you have said to me, and have set a king over you. 2See, it is the king who leads you now; I am old and grey, but my sons are with you. I have led you from my youth until this day. 3Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me* and I will restore it to you.’ 4They said, ‘You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from the hand of anyone.’ 5He 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 said, ‘He is witness.’

Samuel said to the people, ‘The Lord is witness, who* appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of the land of Egypt. 7Now therefore take your stand, so that I may enter into judgement with you before the Lord, and I will declare to you* all the saving deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your ancestors. 8When Jacob went into Egypt and the Egyptians oppressed them,* then your ancestors cried to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought forth your ancestors out of Egypt, and settled them in this place. 9But they forgot the Lord their God; and he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of King Jabin of* Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them. 10Then they cried to the Lord, and said, “We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served the Baals and the Astartes; but now rescue us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve you.” 11And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak,* and Jephthah, and Samson,* and rescued you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you lived in safety. 12But when you saw that King Nahash of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, “No, but a king shall reign over us”, though the Lord your God was your king. 13See, here is the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; see, the Lord has set a king over you. 14If you will fear the Lord and serve him and heed his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well; 15but if you will not heed the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.* 16Now therefore take your stand and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 17Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain; and you shall know and see that the wickedness that you have done in the sight of the Lord is great in demanding a king for yourselves.’ 18So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

19 All the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray to the Lord your God for your servants, so that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of demanding a king for ourselves.’ 20And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; 21and do not turn aside after useless things that cannot profit or save, for they are useless. 22For the Lord will not cast away his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. 23Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 24Only fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things he has done for you. 25But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.’

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