Open your Bible to the 14th chapter of the book of Judges. Judges, chapter 14.
This is our 11th lesson in this book. And this week we’re going to be continuing – and actually finishing! – what we started last week. Last week we talked about three minor judges and then the parents of our last major judge. Do you remember the names of the parents?
Well, there was the father whose name was Manoah. We never catch his wife’s name.
And you recall that these parents got some really exciting news. The wife was barren. But she was going to have a son. And he was to be a Nazirite from the womb. No grapes. No alcohol. No unclean things. No cutting his hair. And all this until he died while beginning to deliver Israel from the Philistines.
We were astonished and amazed! What kind of child would this be? What kind of judge, deliverer, savior, was Israel in for? So, let’s get a taste of what this final major judge is like. Chapter 14, verse 1.
KJV Judges 14:1 ¶ And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. 3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. 4 ¶ But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
Notice the concept of “sight” throughout Samson’s story. He sees a Philistine woman and that causes him to want to marry her. After his parents protest he shoots back a defense of his request – “she pleaseth me well” in the King James. In the Hebrew it’s literally “she’s straight in my eyes” – or “she’s right in my eyes”… Hey… that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The concept of something being right in one’s own eyes. Yeah, actually that’s what Israel was doing in the days of the judges – whatever was straight or right in their own eyes. And Samson was no exception.
And, now, I’ll just admit that I’m a bit confused by verse 4. How could marrying a Philistine be “of the Lord”? It seems like that would be totally against the Lord’s will. And it was. So, how is Samson marrying a Philistine in any way “of the Lord”? Well, it has to do with the fact that someone is seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Either Samson or the Lord himself is seeking an occasion against the occupying Philistines. It’s probably referring to the Lord. So the idea is that Samson’s marrying a Philistine is the one way that God can finally get him to start delivering Israel from their enemies. That’s a sad commentary on Samson’s dedication to the Lord’s will for his life.
And, by the way, this is no proof text for justifying marrying a lost person or kind-of evangelistic dating or whatever bizarre ideas someone might come up with. Again, the book of Judges is no place to find justification for engaging in practices that are forbidden elsewhere in Scripture.
OK, so Samson has feasted his eyes on this Philistine girl and he’s gotten his parents to buy into the idea. Let’s see what happens next. Verse 5.
5 ¶ Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. [Not his parents. Just him. Note that.] 6 And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him [The lion] as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. [So, Samson kept it a secret.] 7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. [Or, again literally, “she looked straight or right in his eyes.”] 8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: [So, he comes back to that old dead lion.] and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. 9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.
So, Samson is showing a disregard of his Nazarite status. He killed the lion with his hands. And that might be fine, though I believe that the animal would have become unclean once Samson killed it. But the worst part is that Samson comes back later and scrapes some honey out of the rotting carcasse of the lion. That was certainly unclean.
And remember where he met that lion – at the vineyards of Timnath. Now, I’d like to believe that Samson was just walking past the vineyards. But really, I do wonder if maybe he was popping some grapes into his mouth. If he was, he would have again been neglecting his Nazirite status.
So, what we’re seeing so far from this once-promising deliverer isn’t so impressive. A lack of concern for God’s will and a great desire to pursue his own will.
Alright, well, it’s time for Samson to get married to his pagan bride. Verse 10.
10 ¶ So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do. 11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: 13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it. 14 And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.
As I’ve studied Samson, I’ve been amused at his expressions. He’s pretty creative. We’ll see more of that later. But here he develops this riddle. “Out of the eating one came something to eat. Out of the strong one came something sweet.” That’s pretty clever. And apparently Samson intends to exploit the Philistines through this riddle. But if this is his grand plan to kill Philistines and deliver Israel, it’s pretty far short of what’s needed. I mean, taking clothes from the Philistines isn’t going to accomplish anything – except to earn Samson some extra clothes. And sadly I think he would have been happy if that’s all he got out of the deal. But God wouldn’t have been. And actually, neither would the Philistines.
15 ¶ And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? 16 And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? 17 And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. 18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle. 19 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house. 20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.
We see here a fatal flaw of Samson’s – as if we needed another one. But did you see how he caved to the pressure his new Canaanite wife exerted on him? The man who can kill a roaring lion with his bare hands can’t fend off the nagging of his pagan wife. So we see in Samson a general inability to resist. Perhaps it’s a lack of self-control and resolve. He goes after whatever looks right in his eyes. He’s physically strong. But he just won’t resist when he should.
So that’s one thing we see in this scene. We also see his creativity again. He’s poetic in his language. He uses imagery. Although it’s not very flattering to his new wife with the comment about the heifer.
And it’s in this scene where we finally see Samson delivering Israel. Well, sort of. I mean, he kills 30 Philistines. So that’s good. But he only does it because he lost the riddle contest. And he stops at 30. This man had almost endless physical power from God himself. What potential! Why stop at 30? Get rid of them all – end their oppression of God’s people once for all! But Samson doesn’t deliver Israel any more than his selfish desires lead him to do.