1 Samuel 12
Samuel’s last advice for Israel
Samuel the old and gray1Samuel told the people in Israel, “I did everything you asked. I gave you a king. And he’s ruling the country. 2From now on, he’s the boss. I have been your leader since I was a young man. No more. I’ve gotten old and gray. But my sons will stay with you.
Samuel the innocent3Take the witness stand and answer a few questions about me. Have I stolen anyone’s ox or donkey? Have I cheated anyone? Have I mistreated anyone? Have I ever taken a bribe? Tell me, because if I have done anything wrong, I’ll make it right as best I can.”
4The people answered, “No, no. You haven’t cheated us or stolen from us. You haven’t robbed anyone of anything.”
5Samuel said, “The LORD has heard what you just said. So has the LORD’s anointed king. You have testified that I did nothing wrong.” The people said, “Yes we did, and the LORD knows it.”
God’s history of kindness to Israel6Samuel said, “The LORD who witnessed what we’ve done here today is the same LORD who chose Moses and Aaron to lead our ancestors.  He’s the LORD who brought our people out of Egypt. 7Gather around. I want to remind you of the LORD’s kindness toward you and your ancestors.
8Long ago, Jacob moved his family to Egypt. But the Egyptians turned on those families, abusing and exploiting them. Your ancestors prayed for the LORD to help them, and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron. They led your people out of Egypt, to settle here.
Invaders torment the Israelites9But the people of Israel forgot about the LORD their God. So God let neighboring nations terrorize them. The commander of King Jabin’s army at Hazor, Sisera, defeated them.  So did the Philistines.  So did the king of Moab.  They all fought with your ancestors.
10When the people couldn’t take it anymore, they told the LORD, ‘We’re sorry. We were wrong to ignore you and to worship the Baal  and Ashtaroth  gods. Please rescue us and we will do whatever you say.’ 11So, the LORD sent leaders to their rescue: Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, and Samson.  They saved you from enemies who attacked you from all directions. Afterward, you lived in peace.
Israel, scared into getting a king12Yet you were so terrified by King Nahash  of Ammon that you told me, ‘We need a king.’ Well, you already had a king. The LORD your God was your king. 13Look. There’s your king now. You acclaimed him as your king, but it was the LORD who chose him in the first place.
14I hope you and the king will respect the LORD, obey his law, and not reject him. Life will go better for you if you obey the LORD your God. 15But if you don’t do what the LORD says, and you break his laws, he’ll come after you and your king.
16So, stay alert—watch and see what the LORD will do. It’s going to be big and wonderful.
God’s message in thunder17It’s time to harvest the wheat, isn’t it? Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you a sign to prove that you were wrong to demand a king. I’m going to ask the LORD to send thunder and rain.”
18Samuel prayed to the LORD, and the LORD filled the sky with thunder and soaked the ripe harvest in rain. That terrified the people. They became afraid of God as well as Samuel. 19The terrified people told Samuel, “We don’t want to die. Pray to the LORD your God for us. We’ve sinned many times and in many ways. And now we’ve added the sin of demanding a king.”
20Samuel said, “Don’t be afraid. Yes, you’ve sinned a lot. But don’t leave the LORD. Stay with him. Follow him with the heart of someone completely devoted to him. 21Don’t get distracted by worthless stuff like idols. They’re good for nothing. They can’t save you. 22The LORD isn’t going to quit on you. His name and reputation are on the line. He picked you alone to become the people in this world to represent him. You are his people.
23And when it comes to me praying for you, count on it. I would never commit the sin of failing to pray for you. I’ll do more than that, too. I’ll keep teaching you how to live the way God wants you to live.
24Just respect the LORD, do what he says, and do it with all your heart. Remember all the wonderful things he has done for you and your people. 25But if you go back to an evil way of life, you’ll end up with no life at all. You and your king and your nation will be erased.”
King Jabin oppressed Israel for 20 years (Judges 4:2-3). Numbers like this in Judges seem rounded, with many reported as 40 years, about a generation. He controlled the northern territory because he had 900 chariots.
1 Samuel 4; Judges 13:1.
Philistines controlled Israel for a generation, 40 years (Judges 3:12).
Some scholars say this Baal refers to different forms of the main Canaanite god, Baal. He was a god of weather and fertility in family, flocks, and fields. People worshiped him using different styles of idols and by calling him various names: Hadad, Cloud Rider, Baal of [fill in whatever the local region was, such as Baal-zephon or Baal of Peor]. Peor was a mountain in Moab where people worshiped Baal. Baal of Peor was apparently a local representation of him. When women from Moab seduced some of the Israelite men to engage in either ritual sex or just plain ol’ illicit sex, it led the men into idolatry (Numbers 25).
This god is also known as Ashtarte, the Greek form of her name. Like Baal, she was a god of fertility. But she was also a go-to god for matters of love and war. Sometimes she’s described as Baal’s wife. Her figurines portray her as well-endowed, and then some—with her privates exposed and prominently displayed.
Scholars have comments or questions about all four of these names. Gideon’s name in the Hebrew text is “Jerubbaal,” which is a second name Bible writers had for him (Judges 6—9), “Barak” is “Bedan” in some ancient manuscripts. But the story is apparently about Deborah’s victory over an enemy chariot corps (Judges 4—5). So, the question is why not mention Deborah instead of one of her subordinates? As for Jephthah, some scholars wonder if he and Barak/Bedan are the same person, like Gideon and Jerubbaal. Samson? Some Bibles say “Samuel” instead because some ancient copies read that way. Others point to Samson. One argument against “Samuel” is that he would have referred to himself in the third person, like some sports figures do when they refer to themselves like they’re talking about someone else.
1 Samuel 11.
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