It is important to remember that 1 Samuel began not with the life of Saul, nor David – but it ultimately starts with Samuel as the typological priestly Christ. And who are his witnesses? He explains at the beginning of chapter 12v.3: “Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed.” It is as if these words were taken out of the mouth of Martin Luther at Diet of Worms when faced with the threat of excommunication, if not death, if he did not recant of his Christocentric writings. It is these words, which Samuel utters, which will become the bookends of 1 and 2 Samuel. It is these words which will become the pretext for the struggle for the throne which Saul accepts without faith, and David accepts knowing that the throne cannot be filled by himself unworthily but by the LORD and His LORD on his right hand (Psalm 110).
There is no true indication of chronology with regards to 1 Samuel 12 with respect to 1 Samuel 11 and 1 Samuel 13; if anything, (c.f. the opening chapters of Numbers which prioritise the order of the tribes around the tabernacle and the ordering of the festivals over and above the narrative chronology) it appears that this is Samuel’s farewell address near the end of his life which occurs after the events of 1 Samuel 13. What is the Spirit leading us to recognise? Whether there is chronological consistency or not, it is fitting for us to learn the fitting placement of chapter 12 before 13 where we move from Saul’s victory over the Ammonites to Saul’s fall in chapter 13, so that his fall is not something of a surprise for the Israelites or the reader: rather, it is something ominously prophesied by the LORD and his Anointed One. It is thus clear that Saul’s victorious fanfare in chapter 11 should never have been soberly accepted by the Israelites, nor the readers, for time and time again we recognise that Saul is not the anointed witness. There is someone else who was anointed long before he was.
Samuel therefore focuses on the inadequacies of this king to come by putting himself to be tested before the people. He says that he has obeyed their voice in all that was said to him, and have made a king but only according to their wishes (v.1). He reiterates the same accusations made against the king of Israel in the latter parts of chapter 8, and applies them to himself so to portray himself as blameless – did he take anyone’s ox or donkey (v.3)? Did he defraud anyone? Did he oppress anyone? From whose hands has he taken a bribe to blind his eyes with? Yet these are the very things which the king of Israel will rob them of – from Saul, to the chronicles of kings down the ages of Israel’s tragic history. So Samuel closes the testifying with a repeated and utterly important phrase: “The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand”. Indeed, He is witness (v.5). He is the witness of many – the witness against the rebellious Israelites; the witness of Samuel in sustaining his credibility; but above all, He is the witness of Samuel’s second LORD (v.7) who is his anointed – “I am going to confront you with evidence before the LORD as to all the righteous acts performed by the LORD for you and your fathers”.
As Jude had rightly proclaimed that it was Jesus (Jude 5), sent by the Father as the person of the Angel of the LORD who poses Himself as LORD, who took the Israelites out of Egypt – so also Samuel focuses on this momentous event which utterly changed Israel’s future from a nation of slaves to a nation of priesthood. He will make them holy (Leviticus 21:23), and it is important to see His work of salvation in Israel – “Do not be afraid” as Samuel pleas, because even when we have done all this evil, it is in His Son’s great name (v.22, Acts 9) that the LORD will not reject his people, “because the LORD was pleased to make you his own” (v.22b). The entire act of Yeshua, both of Christ and of salvation, is recounted from v.8 to 15, after reiterating the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their presence. The Father who sent Christ to redeem Israel from Egypt; the LORD’s Spirit who rushed upon the great men Jerub-Baal (contender with Baal: Judges 6), Barak (lightning: Judges 4), Jephthah (whom God sets free: Judges 11) and Samuel himself, each and every story recounting the acts of salvation which began with Christ as prototype, as the true image of the Father, and manifested on a microcosmic level in these famous judges. Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, is but one of a string of kings who decide to fight against Israel. The Israel who have withstood the onslaught of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor; the Philistines; the Moabites; the Baals; the Ashtoreths – not to mention the Egyptians! Time and time again Jesus Christ delivered them in Person and in Spirit, and their acts of disobedience have now extended to anointing a king not personally chosen by the LORD. By the mark of thunder and rain as typical of the global flood, the Israelites are given a warning of the taste of the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and yet their transgressions are wiped away by the LORD’s mercy interceded by Samuel as type of Christ, as well as the Anointed Witness who is the real reason why the Israelites became part of the elect in the first place.
“Be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart” (v.24) – indeed, that is the truth, that the Israelites are to be Christocentric in their worship (v.14): that they do not look to Saul or even David; that they do not look to Jerubbaal, Barak, Jephthah, or even Samuel, all of whom are but normal men called to extraordinary offices and vocations; but that these types all looked to the LORD who took their fathers out of Egypt. He is the Anointed Witness, the Commander and Great Seraph, who delivered them from the list of kings of the other nations emphasising the uselessness of kingship if not seen in light of Christ as true and only king. Yet, it is clear that v.25 is a prelude to Saul’s downfall (chapter 13 onwards), just as the entire chapter itself points to the king who does not worship Christ but aims to set himself up as Israel’s unappointed saviour.