1 Sam 12:16-19: Divine Omnipotence Or Covenant Curse? -- By: Tremper Longman III
WTJ 45:1 (Spr 1983) p. 168
1 Sam 12:16-19:
Divine Omnipotence Or Covenant Curse?
1 Sam 12:16–19 records a final show of divine displeasure with the Israelites for requesting a human king “like the nations” (1 Sam 8:5). Though Saul had ascended the throne by this time, Yahweh sends a sign of his powerful and fearful presence to the people in the form of a violent rainstorm during the season of wheat harvest. The reason given for this manifestation is “your great evil” which the people committed, that is, their desire for a king (1 Sam 12:17).
Commentators are united in their interpretation of the significance of this divine sign. The statement of the most recent commentator, P. Kyle McCarter, may be taken as typical:
The allusion to the wheat harvest marks the season as early summer when rain rarely fell…. Thus the thunderstorm here sent by Yahweh at Samuel’s behest cannot be misinterpreted by the people as a natural occurrence; it is so extraordinary as to be unambiguously supernatural in origin. The point of the incident is not so much that Yahweh thunders at the people to express his displeasure (though this is an important element) as that he exhibits his willingness to respond to Samuel, his prophet.1
The significance of the sign is found in the fact that Yahweh is making it rain in a season which usually does not experience it, namely the time of the wheat harvest. In other words, the people quake at the appearance of this unusual rain because it clearly demonstrates that the God whom they have offended is in control of the weather and is omnipotent.
But does this interpretation, which is given by scholars of the past2
WTJ 45:1 (Spr 1983) p. 169
and present,3 explain the passage adequately in the light of its context, both broad and narrow?
It is our contention that the rainstorm theophany of 1 Sam 12:16–19 is not only a sign of Yahweh’s omnipotence, but a manifestation of the covenant curse both to illustrate God’s displeasure with the people’s covenant-breaking request for a king and also to motivate the people to keep the covenant sanctions which Samuel had just delivered to them (vv 14–15). This interpretation is supported by looking at the context and the text itself.
The context of our pericope is...
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