Poole on 1 Samuel 12:9-13: A History of the Lord's Mercies, Part 2

Verse 9:[1] And when they (Judg. 3:7) forgat the LORD their God, (Judg. 4:2) he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of (Judg. 10:7; 13:1) the Philistines, and into the hand of the king (Judg. 3:12) of Moab, and they fought against them.

[Who were forgetful of the Lord, etc.] As God’s remembering signifies His blessings; so the forgetfulness of men denotes their most grievous sins, as it is evident from Isaiah 17:10; Jeremiah 3:21; Ezekiel 22:12. This is ταπείνωσις, or λιτότης, that is, lowness of style, or understatement, in which more is contained in the sense than in the words. Thus in Job 27:14, they shall not be satisfied with bread, that is, they shall perish with hunger; in Psalm 109:16, it is said of cruel Judas, …he remembered not to show mercy. Note here the prudence of Samuel in reproving: 1. Inasmuch as from the reproof of the ancients he softens the souls of those younger and present more freely to hear reproof. 2. Inasmuch as he shows that that ingratitude was quite longstanding, and to such an extent worse; and hence there is to be a more efficacious assault to extirpate it from their souls, before it grows stronger. 3. He makes use of the gentlest possible word to express the most frightful outrage, they have forgotten, etc. (Mendoza).

They forgat the Lord, that is, they revolted from him, as it is explained, verse 10, and carried themselves as ungratefully and unworthily towards God, as if they had wholly forgotten his great and innumerable favours, and their infinite obligations to him. Forgetting of God is oft put for all manner of wickedness, whereof indeed that is the true cause. See Isaiah 17:10; Jeremiah 3:21; Ezekiel 22:12. This he saith, partly to answer all objection, That the reason why they desired a king was, because in the time of the judges they were at great uncertainties, and ofttimes 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 of God; so that it was not the fault of that kind of government, but their transgressing the rules of it; and partly to mind them that this their ungrateful carriage towards God was no new or strange thing, but an hereditary and inveterate disease, that so they might more easily believe their own guilt herein, and be more deeply humbled, both for their own and for their parents’ sins. They fought against them, to wit, with success, and subdued them.

Verse 10:[2] And they cried unto the LORD, and said, (Judg. 10:10) We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, (Judg. 2:13) and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now (Judg. 10:15, 16) deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.

[Afterwards they cried out] Whence the utility of affliction is evident. Statius:[3] …only the happy are strangers to altars[4] (Drusius).

[And they said (thus the Septuagint and Jonathan in Drusius)] In the writing it is וַיֹּאמֶר, and he said; in the reading it is וַיֹּאמְרוּ, and they said. It is one of those twelve places, of which above out of the Masorah.[5] The Hebrews, when they speak of a people, sometimes make use of the singular number, sometimes of the plural (Drusius).

[We have forsaken the Lord (the worship of the Lord [Chaldean]) and have served Baalim, etc.] Either he divides a twofold sin, that is, desertion of divine worship, and idolatry; as if by degrees they were sliding from lesser sins unto greater sins: or he speaks of the sin of idolatry, through those two deformities common to all sins, turning from God, and turning toward the creature (Mendoza).