Poole on 1 Samuel 12:1-5: Samuel's Solemn Protestation

Verse 1:[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:[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 wit