What is the significance of sending thunder and rain during wheat harvest? (1 Samuel 12:17) 13 Now, therefore, behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the Lord hath set a king over you. 14 If ye will fear the Lord, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the Lord your God: 15 But if ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers. 16 Now, therefore, stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call unto the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking you a king. 18 So Samuel called unto the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. 19 And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. 20 And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; 21 And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people. 23 Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: 24 Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. 25 But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.
1 Samuel 12:17
ESV - 17 Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.
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As I understand it, the wheat harvest season in Israel was not normally characterized by rain. Rain occurred during the planting season, as an aid to the growth of the crop. In fact (as the passage cited in the question indicates) the occurrence of rain (especially to the extent of being a thunderstorm) during the wheat harvest would have been so adverse and atypical that it would have been regarded (as both God and Samuel intended it to be in this case) as a clear sign of the involvement of God Himself in the event -- an unmistakable indication to the people in this instance of God's displeasure with the fact that Israel had rejected God's direct rule over them by demanding a king, so that they could misguidedly seem to themselves to be like all the other surrounding nations, rather than being content with their status as a people uniquely chosen and favored by God, and governed directly by Him.
In the best 1 volume Old Testament commentary of the Bible, I believe, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary I found this: 1Sa 12:17-25. He (God) Terrifies Them with Thunder in Harvest-time. 17-25. Is it not wheat harvest to-day?—That season in Palestine occurs at the end of June or beginning of July, when it seldom or never rains, and the sky is serene and cloudless. There could not, therefore, have been a stronger or more appropriate proof of a divine mission than the phenomenon of rain and thunder happening, without any prognostics of its approach, upon the prediction of a person professing himself to be a prophet of the Lord, and giving it as an attestation of his words being true. The people regarded it as a miraculous display of divine power, and, panic-struck, implored the prophet to pray for them. Promising to do so, he dispelled their fears. The conduct of Samuel, in this whole affair of the king's appointment, shows him to have been a great and good man who sank all private and personal considerations in disinterested zeal for his country's good and whose last words in public were to warn the people, and their king, of the danger of apostasy and disobedience to God. See Proverbs 26:1 (from John “Gill’s Exposition of the Bible”. New International Version “Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool.”
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