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Bible: What Does Judges 13-16 Teach Us About Samson?
The Angel of the LORD and Manoah's Wife
Christ Appears to Samson's Parents
Another period of oppression—this time forty years under the Philistines—assails the children of Israel (v. 1).
[This chapter commences the Samson material (chapters 13-16)].
The pre-incarnate Christ (the Angel of Yahweh) makes another appearance, visiting a Danite woman without children and barren—Manoah's wife—and announces that she will have a son (vv. 2-3).
He instructs her to observe certain restrictions in her pre-natal diet (no wine or unclean food allowed), and to follow His directive concerning her son's hair (no trims, please!).
The son would be a Nazirite (one separated unto God) and a judge (vv. 4-5).
Manoah's wife reports her "sighting" of a "man of God" (she believes rightly that he is the Angel of the LORD) to her husband, and recounts His instructions regarding her boy's manner of life (vv. 6-7).
[She does insert what amounts to a maternal wish at the end of her statement: that he would be a Nazirite from birth to death].
Perhaps doubting his wife's word, Manoah prays for further instructions on how to rear the child (v. 8).
The Angel returns to his wife alone (v. 9), but she seeks out Manoah and brings him to the Lord (vv. 10-11).
Needing to know with certainty, the husband asks Him what to do (v. 12); the Angel graciously repeats what He had told Manoah’s wife (vv. 13-14).
The man offers the Angel hospitality (v. 15), but the Lord refuses, saying that Manoah should instead offer a sacrifice to the LORD (v. 16).
Because he does not know that he is talking with God, he asks Him His name (v. 17).
The LORD responds, in essence: "You cannot understand Who I am if I should tell you, so I will show you" (v. 18).
As the couple obediently offer the sacrifice, they watch the Angel ascend to heaven in its flame (vv. 19-20), thereby demonstrating His deity (vv. 21-22).
Although Manoah thinks that he and his wife would die immediately, for they had just seen God, his wife manifests keener spiritual insight.
She recognizes that He would not have accepted their sacrifice if He had meant to kill them (v. 23).
Soon thereafter, Manoah's wife conceives and bears Samson (v. 24).
Yahweh blesses him and begins to stir his spirit, perhaps while he is yet a very young man (v. 25).
[Manoah’s wife, though unnamed, demonstrates godliness and true spirituality; her husband, on the other hand, appears to be a spiritual dullard].
Samson and the Lion
As a young man, Samson asks his parents to arrange a marriage between him and a Philistine woman he had seen in Timnah (vv. 1-2).
Being righteous, separated Israelites, they try to dissuade him from such a decision, but their son is adamant (v. 3).
[Samson let his passion get in the way of spiritual judgment (if, in fact, he had any).
As a Nazirite, he did not adhere to his vow of separation too closely.
Very strong-willed, he also seems to have had the run of the house].
Even though his parents disapprove of this joining, they allow it, for Yahweh had purposed to use Samson's sin to punish the oppressive Philistines (v. 4).
In Timnah, while Manoah is supposedly bargaining with the Philistine girl's father over the bride-price, a Spirit-empowered Samson tears apart an attacking lion, limb from limb, with his bare hands (vv. 5-6a).
He tells no one (until later, see v. 17) what he had done (v. 6b), but rather matter-of-factly pays his future wife a visit (v. 7).
Sometime later, Samson returns to the scene of his victory, and finds bees and honey in the lion's carcass (v. 8).
Heedless of the law against unclean things (see Leviticus 11), he scrapes out some honey, eats it, and gives some to his unwitting parents (v. 9).
Later, at his wedding feast, Samson proposes a riddle to thirty of his Philistine pals about his encounter with the lion.
Believing that they could not guess it in seven days, he gambles to gain quite a wardrobe (vv. 10-13).
His riddle successfully stumps the Philistines for three days (v. 14).
However, on the seventh day the latter force Samson's wife to entice him, so that they might not lose the wager (v. 15).
[Apparently, she also sought the answer during the week (vv. 16-17a) and only resorted to harangue on the last day when her life stood in jeopardy (v. 17b)].
When they quote the correct answer to Samson, he deduces accurately that they had "plowed with his heifer" (v. 18).
In order to pay the debt, Samson angrily kills thirty other Philistines, takes their clothing, and gives it to the riddle-solvers (v. 19).
After this ordeal, his father-in-law gives Samson's wife to his best man (v. 20; cf. 15:2).
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His anger subsides, and Samson returns to Timnah from his father's house with a peace gift for his wife, having the desire to "visit" her (v. 1a).
However, it is already too late, for she now belongs to Samson's best man (vv. 1b-2a).
Her father offers him her younger sister instead, but this attempt to appease him fails miserably (v. 2b).
Samson therefore plans a unique, "blameless" revenge.
He catches three hundred foxes, binds them tail to tail, takes torches and attaches them, one between each pair of animals (vv. 3-4).
Then he releases them into the Philistine grain fields, torches lit, and they wreak terrible destruction not only on the grain, but also on vineyards and olive groves (v. 5).
When the Philistines learn that Samson had perpetrated these crimes, they subsequently incinerate his wife and father-in-law (v. 6).
Obviously, their murder devastates him; however, after the shock of this turn of events abates, he vengefully slaughters a great number of his enemies.
To escape reprisal, the strong man then hides himself in a mountain cleft (vv. 7-8).
Seeking to capture and execute Samson for this latest felony, a Philistine army deploys itself near Judah and demands that the Judeans hand him over.
Implied in the order is the threat that the ruling Philistines would massacre Israel if the leaders did not comply (vv. 9-10).
A large contingent from Judah censures Samson for exacting revenge and bringing potential disaster on their heads (v. 11).
Once he acknowledges that they will not kill him, Samson allows the Judeans to bind him with two new ropes (vv. 12-13).
The Philistines, seeing Samson in restraints, rush upon him, thinking him easy prey.
God strengthens him, however, and he easily breaks the bonds (v. 14).
Using the jawbone of a donkey, Samson kills one thousand more of his enemies, and then composes a little song about his deed (vv. 15-16).
His exploit and ditty completed, he throws the jawbone away, and designates the spot "Jawbone Height" (v. 17).
Yahweh performs yet another miracle on behalf of his victorious judge, providing water for him as an answer to prayer (v. 18).
He splits a "hollow place" in Lehi (Spring of the Caller), and water gushes forth (v. 19).
In all, Samson judged Israel for twenty years (v. 20).
Samson and Delilah
Samson succumbs to his passions again, this time with a prostitute in Gaza (v. 1).
When the Gazites discover that he is spending the night in their town, they make plans to ambush the strong man the next morning (v. 2).
But Samson, aware of their plot, leaves early (i.e., at midnight) and carries the city's gateposts to the top of a hill facing Hebron (v. 3).
[He did not kill anyone but caused the Gazites serious inconvenience, because they would have to retrieve their gateposts and doors.
The text does not say that Samson walked to Hebron; only that he took the posts to a mountain facing Hebron].
Having ended his “one-night stand,” Samson feels ready for another affair with another Philistine woman, the infamous Delilah (vv. 4-20).
Many Philistine rulers promise the woman from Sorek rich payment if she would discover for them not only Samson’s source of strength, but also the way to control him (vv. 4-5).
[Apparently, Samson's outward appearance was normal, i.e., his physique gave no indication of his extraordinary strength].
An odd series of encounters between Samson and Delilah follows.
The woman attempts to discover his secret with methods that are not at all subtle; she does not even hide from him the Philistines' desire to afflict him (v. 6).
[Perhaps, as God's anointed, Samson felt invincible; therefore, he was not afraid of anyone.
Or he may not have believed that she would really sell him into their hands.
Or maybe she pretended to be on his side, saying, "This is a way to provoke or even kill your enemies!"
In this way, she coaxed him into giving her what she wanted].
The narrative proceeds in a certain sequence:
(1) Delilah: "Tell me the secret" (vv. 6, 10, 13,17);
(2) Samson lies to her three times, but the third falsehood comes close to the truth (vv. 7, 11,13);
(3) She binds him with what Samson says will weaken him, then cries, "The Philistines are upon you!" (vv. 8-9, 12a, 14a); and
(4) Samson easily looses himself (vv. 9, 12b, 14b).
Then Delilah uses the same ploy that worked earlier in Samson's life: she tries pestering him to "death" (vv. 15-16; cf. 14:16, 17).
[This tactic is an extended version of #1 above].
Samson falls for it again. Being unable to endure her harangue, he finally reveals the truth about his Nazirite vow (v. 17).
[This admission, of course, lines up with #2 above].
Delilah now recalls the Philistine rulers (who had apparently lost faith in her, for she had to send for them; they no longer lay in wait) [v. 18].
She commands a barber to shave Samson's head; when he is bald, she torments him and calls on the Philistines as before (vv. 19-20a; see #3 above).
Hearing her alarm, the aroused Samson thinks to loose himself again as easily as ever. But the LORD's strength has departed from him (v. 20b).
[Samson’s long hair did not give him his great strength; the latter was a gift from God, who honored his vow.
His long hair only symbolized his continued faithfulness to that vow; a shorn head indicates, on the other hand, that he had betrayed his dedication to the LORD].
As the result of his vow-breaking, Samson endures great humiliation among his enemies, having his eyes plucked out and being forced to “grind” in prison (v. 21).
Time goes on, and naturally his hair begins to grow back; God graciously continues to seek his restoration (v. 22).
Then arrives a day of celebration among the Philistines—a day to praise their god Dagon for delivering Samson their enemy into their hands (vv. 23-24).
To make the party complete, they bring the Israelite out of his prison to "perform" for them (v. 25).
As these three thousand lords look upon and mock the pitiful, blind man standing between the pillars of Dagon's temple (vv. 25b-27),
Samson prays for strength to wreak vengeance on his enemies one last time (v. 28).
God grants him his desire, for the strong man pushes the supporting pillars out of place.
The temple collapses, killing Samson and everyone inside (vv. 29-30).
Later, Samson's relatives retrieve his body and bury him in his father's tomb (v. 31).
© 2013 glynch1