Poole on 1 Samuel 12:1-5: Samuel's Solemn Protestation
Verse 1: And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto (1 Sam. 8:5, 19, 20) your voice in all that ye said unto me, and (1 Sam. 10:24; 11:14, 15) have made a king over you.
[Now, Samuel said] Question: Why would he reprove the Israelites only now, rather than previously? Responses: 1. Lest, if he had reproved them previously, they had repudiated Saul, who had not yet been confirmed (Mendoza out of Tostatus). For, although God was not willing that a King be sought by the people, He nevertheless willed that that the one once sought should be admitted: Whence you will gather the probity of Samuel, who was easily able to urge the people to exclude Saul, and to keep him in government, if he had argued that a little earlier (Mendoza). 2. This was a time of rejoicing; and the people was pleased with itself, that they had asked a king of God: for they had seen that God now gave to them both a merciful king and victory (Martyr). Therefore, they were able to think that they had not sinned (Lyra). Prudently, where the danger of sin was greater, there he applied an opportune remedy. And, lest their effusive joy be turned into foolishness (as it often happens), he tempered it with reproof (Mendoza).
Samuel said this to all Israel, whilst 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 raw, and weak, and unsettled in his kingdom, and in the people’s hearts, lest through their accustomed levity they should as hastily cast off their king as they had passionately desired him, and so add one sin to another; and therefore he chooseth this season for it; partly because Saul’s kingdom was now confirmed and illustrated by an eminent victory, and so the danger of rejecting him was out of doors; which circumstance was also considerable for Samuel’s vindication, that it might appear that his following reproof did not proceed from any selfish respects or desires, which he might be supposed to have of retaining the power in his own hands, but merely from the conscience of his duty, and a sincere desire of all their good: and partly because the people rejoiced greatly, as is said in the next foregoing verse; and upon this occasion applauded themselves for their desires of a king; and interpreted the success which God had now given them, as a Divine approbation of those desires; whereby they were like to be hardened in their impenitency, and might be drawn to many other inconveniencies. Samuel therefore thinks fit to temper their excessive joys, and to excite them to that repentance and holy fear which he saw wanting in them, and which he knew to be absolutely necessary, to prevent the curse of God upon their new king, and the whole kingdom.
Verse 2: And now, behold, the king (Num. 27:17; 1 Sam. 8:20) walketh before you: (1 Sam. 8:1, 5) and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.
[The king walketh before you] That is, he governs your Republic (Vatablus, Malvenda). Behold, the King, a leader at your head (the Chaldean in Lapide). Thus next, I myself have walked before you (Vatablus). This expression signifies, not local motion, but the power of government. Thus in Numbers 27:17; Deuteronomy 31:2; 2 Chronicles 1:10 (Mendoza). Samuel here resigns the principate, as it were; that is to say, I have performed my office: I gave a king; he will hereafter be your governor (Lapide). A King has now been established, and I am a private citizen: therefore, anyone is able by law to treat with me and, if I have sinned, to demand satisfaction through the Prince (Menochius).
Walketh before you; goeth out and cometh in before you, that is, ruleth over you, as that phrase signifies, Numbers 27:17; Deuteronomy 31:2; 2 Chronicles 1:10. To him I have fully resigned all my power and authority, and do hereby renounce it, and own myself for a private person, and one of his subjects.
[I am old, etc.] Question: Why does he make mention of his old age here? Response 1: That is to say, I submit my whole life, from adolescence to old age, to your judgment. 2. He speaks only of that age of life which he had spent in governing. Note here the modesty of Samuel; he commended only that part of his life that required commendation at that time. He says nothing of his childhood, although altogether commendable (Mendoza). 3. [Others refer this to the following words.] Moreover, my sons are with you [which they variously explain]: 1. that is to say, if old age should take my life, my sons survive me, whom ye may compel to make satisfaction to you in my place (Menochius); who themselves shall fulfill what belongs to my responsibilities, and, if I be found to owe anything to anyone, they shall be obliged to render it in my name (Tirinus). 2. They are with you, tht is, in a common condition with you, that is, reduced to the order of private citizens, although previously they acted as magistrates (Junius, Malvenda, Piscator). My sons, whom ye accused, are among you, and have not evaded judgment; they are able to render an account of their administration, and are of such an age that they might speak for themselves. But surely ye are not prepared to accuse me (Menochius). 3. They are with you. Ye shall easily ask of them concerning my life, whether I fostered or helped their wickedness: For they are not now under my power, but with you. And to you is their wickedness to be attributed, who never reported their evil deeds to me: but not to me, who, when I learned those things, immediately deposed them (Mendoza). 4. They are with you; that is, they shall succeed into my place; ye shall be able to consult them concerning sacred matters (Vatablus).
I am old and gray-headed; and therefore unable to bear the burden of government, and feel myself greatly at ease to see it cast upon other shoulders; and therefore do not speak what I am about to say from envy of Saul’s advancement, or from discontent at the diminution of my own power. My sons are with you, or among you, in the same stake and place, private persons, as you are; if they have injured any of you in their government, as you once complained, the law is now open against them; any of you may accuse them, your king can punish them; I do not intercede for them, I have neither power nor will to keep them from receiving the just fruits of their misdemeanours.
[Having lived before you, הִתְהַלַּ֣כְתִּי לִפְנֵיכֶ֔ם] I have walked before you; that is, I have administrated your republic (Vatablus). Others: I have dwelt among you constantly and earnestly. See Genesis 5:24. The Hithpael denotes this (Malvenda).
I have walked before you, that is, been your guide and governor, partly as a prophet, and partly as a judge.
Verse 3: Behold, (Ecclus. 46:19) here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before (1 Sam. 12:5; 10:1; 24:6; 2 Sam. 1:14, 16) his anointed: (Num. 16:15; Acts 20:33; 1 Thess. 2:5) 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 received any bribe (Heb. ransom) to (Deut. 16:19) blind mine eyes therewith (or, that I should hide mine eyes at him)? and I will restore it you.
[I speak of myself, הִנְנִ֣י עֲנ֣וּ בִי֩] Behold, I; that is, I am present, that is to say, I am ready to render an account of my administration, etc. (Vatablus). Answer ye unto (or against [Septuagint]) me (Montanus); witness unto or against me (Jonathan, Syriac, Pagnine). עָנָה signifies, not only to speak, but also to bear witness, as in Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 19:16; Job 16:8 (Mendoza). Accuse me, if ye are able (Vatablus).
Witness against me; I here present myself before the Lord, and before your king, being ready to give an account of all my administrations, and to make satisfaction for any injuries that I have done. And this protestation Samuel makes of his integrity, not out of ostentation or vain-glory; but partly, for his own just vindication, that the people might not hereafter, for the defence of their own irregularities, reproach his government; partly, that being publicly acquitted from all faults in his government, he might more freely and boldly reprove the sins of the people, and particularly that sin of theirs in desiring a king, when they had so little reason for it, and they had so just a governor, from whom they might have promised themselves an effectual redress of his sons’ maladministration, if they had acquainted him therewith; and partly, that by his example he might tacitly admonish Saul of his duty, and prevent his misunderstanding of what he had formerly said, 1 Samuel 8:11 etc., and mistake that for the rule of his just power, which was only a prediction of his evil practices.
[Whether an ox…I have received, אֶת־שׁוֹר֩׀ מִ֙י לָקַ֜חְתִּי] The ox of whom I have taken (Septuagint, Montanus) [similarly all interpreters]. Have I made use of violence against anyone for a bull? (Arabic). Have I taken for my use, or need? And have I taken? that is, have I carried away by force from one unwilling? (Drusius). He demonstrates that the three goods, of fortune, reputation, and life, were never violated by him. The goods of fortune he comprehends under the ox and ass; which two animals were especially serviceable among the Hebrews (Mendoza).
[If I have falsely accused anyone] Concerning the word עָשַׁק we treated on Leviticus 6:2 (Malvenda). Whom by false accusation have I deprived of goods? (Vatablus). Whom have I defrauded in his goods? (Munster). עָשַׁק pertains to goods; רָצַץ [which follows], to the body (Drusius). Some translate it, to oppress, or to inflict violence (certain interpreters in Malvenda). עָשַׁק signifies both to inflict violence, and to make a false accusation (Mendoza).
[If I have oppressed anyone, אֶת־מִ֣י רַצּ֔וֹתִי] Whom have I crushed? (Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus), vexed? (Syriac), molested? (Arabic), smitten? (Munster, Tigurinus), in body (Munster). To whom have I done violence? (Jonathan in Munster). Whom have I beaten, or taken care to see beaten? that is, whom have I injured, in goods, or in body? (Vatablus). The Septuagint: ἢ τίνα ἐξεπίεσα, or whom have I pressed? Jonathan: אַנְסִית, have I compelled one unwilling to anything: whence אֲנוּסִים, those compelled/coerced. Thus they call those Jews that, having been coerced, received Christian rites (Drusius). Others: whom have I pleased (thus Cajetan); that is, have I violated judgment to please anyone? They derive this from רָצָה, to be pleased with (Malvenda).
Whom have I oppressed? whom have I wronged, either by fraud and false accusation, or by might and violence?
[If I have received a gift from the hand of anyone, כֹפֶר] Ἐξίλασμα, that is, a means of appeasing, or propitiation (Septuagint); a gift or bribe (Arabic, Drusius, English, Dutch, Strigelius); a price (Pagnine, Munster), redemption, or price of redemption (Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius), so that I might protect him from justice, or dissemble in a dishonest cause (Munster). Others: a covering, so that it might signify bribery, whereby the eyes of the Judge, as if inadvertent and covered, are blinded, Proverbs 6:35; Amos 5:12. It signifies at the same time the price whereby the life of man is redeemed, as in Exodus 21:30; 30:12. Whence Samuel here denies that he as judge redeemed by price the life of a man worthy of death; which is taught in Numbers 35:31 (Malvenda). An expiatory gift (Tigurinus). Mammon of falsehood (Chaldean). Not only does Samuel not require denied gifts, but he also spurns those brought (Mendoza).
[And I will despise it this day] I will esteem the loss of that as without any difficulty; I will willingly be without that thing, and will restore it to you (Menochius). [But the Hebrew has it thus: וְאַעְלִ֥ים עֵינַ֖י בּ֑וֹ.] And I should hide my eyes in it (Montanus), or from it (Pagnine). And I averted my eyes in judgment from it (Jonathan). From whose hand I should receive a gift, and my eye be fastened on him (Syriac). Or, and my eyes should turn aside to that (Arabic). And I hid my eyes in it (Osiander, Mariana, Malvenda), or concerning it (Munster); that is, and I dissembled in an righteous cause (Munster). Or more correctly, if that gift blinded me, so that I was not able to discern the just and the right (Malvenda). That I should blind my eyes by that; or, that I should hide my eyes from that, or for that (English). That I should close my eyes to it (Tigurinus, similarly Castalio). And I suffered darkness to be spread over my eyes (Strigelius). That I should remove my eyes because of that (Junius and Tremellius), that is, that I, corrupted by gifts, should turn myself from inquiring into injury (Junius, Piscator). And I should cover my eyes because of him; that is, in his business, cause, and judgment; that is, by concealing that I see his sin: that is, whom I should spare because of gifts. Others: and I should cover my eyes against myself; that is, for so long as he testifies against me; that is, that I should not see that (Vatablus). Others: and I should cover my eyes in it, that is, that I should be covered with shame because of that (certain interpreters in Malvenda). I translate it, Indeed, I hid my eyes from that gift (Drusius). (The future/imperfect is put in the place of the past, says Rabbi Isaiah.) Thus in David, וָאֲחַלְּצָה, indeed, I have rescued mine enemies without cause. Joseph Kimchi, if it were shameful to speak openly, I was hiding my eyes that I should not observe that (Drusius). The Septuagint translates it otherwise: ἐκ χειρὸς τίνος εἴληφα ἐξίλασμα καὶ ὑπόδημα, ἀποκρίθητε κατ᾽ ἐμοῦ, from whose hand have I received an appeasement, or a shoe (that is to say, or an altogether mean gift [Mendoza]), answer ye against me. They read נַעֲלַיִם/shoes in the place of אַעֲלִים, I cover; thence, עֱנוּ בִּי, answer ye against me, in the place of עֵינַ֖י בּ֑וֹ, mine eyes in it (Buxtorf’s Vindication 4:265). Jerome translates it, and I will despise. For one that despises a thing, hides his eyes from it (Drusius).
[And I will restore it to you] Hebrew: and I restored to you, in a large sense; that is to say, I will not delay, but will restore here immediately; consider it restored to you already (Mendoza). This Hebraism frequently occurs, which others resolve it, that I might restore (Malvenda). It is also able to be translated in this way, and I will respond to you, that is, being prepared to render an account of my deeds (Malvenda). Retiring from magistracy, he voluntarily submits himself to censure, which he was not bound to bear; and he challenges his accusers with the confidence of a good conscience (Grotius). Moreover, from this passage the modesty of Samuel is gathered. 1. Inasmuch as he commends himself only in the matter of justice; not, as he was able, concerning other virtues. 2. He does not say what good things he had done, but what evil things he had shunned. Samuel did not commend himself for ostentation, but compelled by necessity, and for these reasons: 1. So that he might teach Saul by his example (Mendoza out of Chrysostom, Lapide, Martyr). He know that admonition is necessary for a King, and that Kings are impatient of admonition (Mendoza). Samuel had made mention of what he said concerning the Royal Right. Lest Saul should think it lawful for himself, he places his life before him as an example of legitimate and moderate magistracy (Martyr). 2. So that he might more freely reprove the sins of the people. For, he is not suited to complain of the faults of others, who is infested with his own (Mendoza). Being about to reprove them, perhaps he was concerned that the people, being exasperated with him, would false feign something; therefore, he now calls for a public and full testimony of his integrity (Sanchez). 3. This accusation of the people, who deposed him from the principate, was hidden (Estius, similarly Mendoza). 4. He was willing himself to be subject to Saul as King, and to furnish an example of obedience (Mendoza). Now, with the kingdom not yet constituted, he did not justify himself; lest he appear to grasp after the kingdom, or to desire to be continued in the judicature (Estius, similarly Martyr).
Any bribe; Hebrew, price of redemption, given to redeem an unjust and lost cause or person from that righteous sentence which they deserved. To blind mine eyes therewith; that I should not discern what was right and just, or dissemble it, as if I did not see it. Or, that I should hide or cover mine eyes (that is, wilfully wink at the plain truth) for it, that is, for the bribe; or, for him, that is, for his sake. I will restore it you, or, and I will cover mine eyes for him, that is, I will take shame to myself, and cover my face as one ashamed to look upon him.
Verse 4: And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand.
Verse 5: And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, (John 18:38; Acts 23:9; 24:16, 20) that ye have not found ought (Ex. 22:4) in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.
The Lord is witness against you, to wit, if you shall at any time hereafter reproach my government or memory. Or rather, against you, that I gave you no cause to be weary of God’s government of you by judges, or to desire a change of the government; and thereby the blame of it wholly rests upon yourselves. But this was only insinuated, and therefore the people did not fully understand his drift in it. Ye have not found ought, that is, any thing which I have gotten by bribery or oppression.
[And they answered, Witness (thus the Septuagint, Jonathan), וַיֹּ֖אמֶר עֵֽד׃] And he (understanding, Israel [Munster]) said, witness (Pagnine, Montanus, Munster); and the people said, He is witness (Junius and Tremellius, similarly Tigurinus), the former is witness (Dutch, English). And he said, one on behalf of all. Or they said, understanding, all with one voice (Vatablus). In the Masorah, there are twelve examples in the book of וַיֹּאמֶר, and he said, being written, but וַיֹּאמְרוּ, and they said, being read. And he said, understanding, all Israel, or each of the Israelites (Drusius). They say, He is witness (Syriac); they said, God is witness of this matter (Arabic). And they answered, They shall certainly be witnesses, namely, God and His Christ (Strigelius). Let the Lord be witness of thine innocence (Osiander). Others refer it to the בַּת קוֹל, Bath Kol, daughter of the voice, a voice sent down from heaven; so that God also, who knows the secrets of the heart, might subscribe the protestation of Samuel (Munster). All Israel said at the same time, Witness; therefore, he used וַיֹּאמֶר, and he said, in the singular number. But our Doctors said that a voice went forth which would say, WITNESS (Kimchi in Drusius).
They answered; Hebrew, he answered, that is, the whole people, who are here spoken of as one person, because they answered thus with one consent.
 Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל֙ אֶל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הִנֵּה֙ שָׁמַ֣עְתִּי בְקֹֽלְכֶ֔ם לְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־אֲמַרְתֶּ֖ם לִ֑י וָאַמְלִ֥יךְ עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם מֶֽלֶךְ׃  Hebrew: וְעַתָּ֞ה הִנֵּ֥ה הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ׀ מִתְהַלֵּ֣ךְ לִפְנֵיכֶ֗ם וַאֲנִי֙ זָקַ֣נְתִּי וָשַׂ֔בְתִּי וּבָנַ֖י הִנָּ֣ם אִתְּכֶ֑ם וַאֲנִי֙ הִתְהַלַּ֣כְתִּי לִפְנֵיכֶ֔ם מִנְּעֻרַ֖י עַד־הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃  See 1 Samuel 8:1-5.  Genesis 5:24: “And Enoch walked with God (וַיִּתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ חֲנ֖וֹךְ אֶת־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים): and he wasnot; for God took him.”  Hebrew: הִנְנִ֣י עֲנ֣וּ בִי֩ נֶ֙גֶד יְהוָ֜ה וְנֶ֣גֶד מְשִׁיח֗וֹ אֶת־שׁוֹר֩׀ מִ֙י לָקַ֜חְתִּי וַחֲמ֧וֹר מִ֣י לָקַ֗חְתִּי וְאֶת־מִ֤י עָשַׁ֙קְתִּי֙ אֶת־מִ֣י רַצּ֔וֹתִי וּמִיַּד־מִי֙ לָקַ֣חְתִּי כֹ֔פֶר וְאַעְלִ֥ים עֵינַ֖י בּ֑וֹ וְאָשִׁ֖יב לָכֶֽם׃  Ecclesiasticus 46:19: “And before his long sleep he made protestations in the sight of the Lord and his anointed, I have not taken any man's goods, so much as a shoe: and no man did accuse him.”  Hebrew: כֹפֶר.  Hebrew: וְאַעְלִ֥ים עֵינַ֖י בּ֑וֹ.  Exodus 20:16: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor (לֹֽא־תַעֲנֶ֥ה בְרֵעֲךָ֖ עֵ֥ד שָֽׁקֶר׃).”  Deuteronomy 19:16: “If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong (לַעֲנ֥וֹת בּ֖וֹ סָרָֽה׃)…”  Job 16:8: “And thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me: and my leanness rising up in me beareth witness to my face (בְּפָנַ֥י יַעֲנֶֽה׃).”  1 Samuel 12:3b: “…whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded (וְאֶת־מִ֤י עָשַׁ֙קְתִּי֙; si quempiam calumniatus sum, if I have falsely accused anyone, in the Vulgate)? whom have I oppressed (אֶת־מִ֣י רַצּ֔וֹתִי)? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.”  Leviticus 6:2: “If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived (עָשַׁק, hath oppressed) his neighbour…”  Proverbs 6:35: “He will not regard any ransom (כָל־כֹּפֶר); neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.”  Amos 5:12: “For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe (לֹ֣קְחֵי כֹ֔פֶר), and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.”  Exodus 21:30: “If there be laid on him a price (כֹּפֶר), then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.”  Exodus 30:12: “When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom (כֹּפֶר) for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.”  Numbers 35:31: “Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction (כֹפֶר) for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.”  Psalm 7:4.  Hebrew: וְאָשִׁ֖יב לָכֶֽם׃.  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ לֹ֥א עֲשַׁקְתָּ֖נוּ וְלֹ֣א רַצּוֹתָ֑נוּ וְלֹֽא־לָקַ֥חְתָּ מִיַּד־אִ֖ישׁ מְאֽוּמָה׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר אֲלֵיהֶ֜ם עֵ֧ד יְהוָ֣ה בָּכֶ֗ם וְעֵ֤ד מְשִׁיחוֹ֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה כִּ֣י לֹ֧א מְצָאתֶ֛ם בְּיָדִ֖י מְא֑וּמָה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר עֵֽד׃