Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Samson before Deliah: Chapter 15

Samson Before Delilah Discussion Questions
Samson Before Delilah: Context
Samson Before Delilah: Chapter 13
Samson Before Deliah: Chapter 14

After I posted my last commentary on Samson, someone anonymously commented that I was off-track in my analysis since I presupposed that Samson was a sinner. Since I believe that the entire book of Judges should be viewed in the light of 2:1-3:2, that would not be surprising. Samson, like Israel, did not understand that he was called to be separate from the nations around him. He was set apart and dedicated to the Lord as a holy instrument of God just as Israel was to by a holy nation, a royal priesthood who were called by God to be His people and to keep themselves separate from the nations around them. They were not to intermarry and yet here we see Samson doing just that. And we him breaking his vow and the commandments of God by eating the honey from the carcass and not telling his parents about it.

The author wrote these things for a reason, they have a purpose and it is our job to discover what that purpose is. Why would the author tell us about the lion and the honey? Maybe the author included this information because it’s part of the riddle but what about Samson’s parents? What reason would he have to keep it secret? Why does the author specifically state that Samson didn’t tell his parents? I believe he deliberately did not tell his parents because he didn’t want them to know that he had defiled himself by eating honey from a carcass and he allowed them to defile themselves as well. I believe this demonstrates a lack of concern for his vow and as we look at the rest of the story of Samson we will see further proof of this assertion.

Chapter 15 begins some time after Samson left his wife and returned home with his parents. He had left his wife in anger and had taken the garments from others to pay off his debt to those who had answered his riddle and his wife had been given to another man. And now after some time had past, he returns to his wife with a peace offering, sort of like how a man brings his wife flowers or chocolate to make up with her.

But Samson finds that his wife has remarried and he is not interested in his father-in-law’s offer of his other daughter as a substitute for her. He decides to take revenge against the Philistines by setting their grain on fire. When they discovered that he did this, they burned his wife and father-in-law with fire. Samson vows revenge once and then after that he promises to stop and then he strikes them and goes to hiding.


Of course the reader realizes that once there is a violent retaliation it escalates because violence leads to more violence. There is no stopping because the situation quickly escalates out of control. Samson had no control over the reaction of the Philistines to what he did and once they enacted revenge against him, then he will take revenge against them and this is exactly how the story of Samson plays out. It is part of the context of the Samson and Delilah story, the Philistines revenge against Samson and Samson’s revenge against the Philistines. We could not understand the story completely without understanding why the Philistines want the secret of Samson’s strength.

Think about this for a moment, Samson’s whole problem started because he was angry that they had cheated in guessing his riddle. All of this over a riddle. All kinds of things could be said here about losing your temper but my focus isn’t on the lessons we can learn (the Holy Spirit will do the convicting) my point here is that we see something about Samson in all of this, something that looks familiar to us because we fall into it as well, it is letting his angry get control of him and falling into sin. And more importantly, we see as a subtext that God uses it to further His plan.

In Samson’s actions we begin to see God’s plan unfold. Samson is beginning to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines. How? This was another issue for my commenter, Samson is a deliverer and there is nothing about God’s plan that said that it involved enmity between Israel and Philistines. Samson was only to begin to deliver Israel, the angel never said that he would deliver Israel, that would happen doing the time of the monarchy. In response I ask, how does Samson begin to deliver Israel? What does he do to start the process of salvation? We will look at this issue next week. For now, let’s continue to look at this from the aspect that God’s plan is to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines, so how do we view what follows.

The Philistines go to Judah and raid one of their cities and the people respond by asking the Philistines why they have come against them. This implies that Judah had not done anything against the Philistines. They were living in peace until Samson came and stirred things up. The Philistines tell them that they had come “to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.”

And how did Judah respond? Did they fight against these Philistines in protection of their fellow Israelite? No, they helped:
Judges 15:11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, "Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?" And he said to them, "As they did to me, so have I done to them."
“Did you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us?” Here we see that they have accepted the rule of the Philistines and didn’t want Samson upsetting that rule so they are ready to turn him over to the Philistines because they are suffering on account of Samson’s actions. Samson’s actions appear to be putting a strain on the relationship between Israel and the Philistines.

Samson’s response demonstrates that, for him this is all about what they did to him and how he got them back for it. There is nothing noble or righteous about his actions. They are completely self-centered. Why not mention the fact that Judah shouldn’t be accepting the rule of the Philistines? Why not mention that the uncircumcised are living in the land promised to Israel, God’s covenant people? This is Israel’s deliverer and his actions are centered on himself, not Israel.

They bind him and turn him over to the Philistines but God rushes upon him and he is able to slaughter them with the fresh jawbone of a donkey. Here again we see a reference to the carcass of a dead animal, why? Maybe because it demonstrates his strength, since a fresh jawbone wouldn’t have hardened yet or maybe it’s because it is part of a wider theme running though this story and through the book of Judges.

Samson triumphs over his enemy and sings a song of praise, to himself, not God. Then he thirsts and cries out to the Lord for water. This is the first time he calls out to God for anything:
Judges 15:18 And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the LORD and said, "You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?"
There are a number of interesting things about this verse. First, Samson sounds a lot like Israel in the desert after God brought them out of Egypt, demanding water from God:
Exodus 17:1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?" 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?"
Secondly, notice that he does acknowledge that God delivered him from the hands of his enemies that he does acknowledge that he is a servant of the Lord. But who was saved? Samson, not Israel.

And thirdly, since when is he concerned with being around the uncircumcised, this has never been a problem before. He has put himself in fellowship with them and continues to do so even after this.

God graciously and silently answered his request and miraculously gave him water.

Then we read this:
Judges 15:20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
Throughout the book of Judges there is a pattern that is followed after the judge delivers Israel from their enemy:
Judges 3:11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
Here we see that the land doesn’t have rest because it is still defiled by the enemy of the Lord. Because Samson judged Israel “in the days of the Philistines” he didn’t deliver them from the hand of their enemies the way the other judges did in previous chapters. They were still under the rule of the Philistines and the author leaves us wondering how Samson judged if Israel was under the rule of their oppressors.
“Samson’s actions are all guerrilla tactics. All his achievements are personal, and all are provoked by his own [mis]behavior. Unlike the other deliverers, he never seeks to rid Israel of foreign oppressors, and he never calls out the Israelite troops.” (Block, pg. 441)
Samson is a self-centered servant. He is a reflection of Israel.

But God sent a far greater Servant of the Lord who came to save His people. He was bound and brought before His enemies and yet He did not fight back, or enact revenge, but went as a sheep to the slaughter and asked God to forgive his oppressors for their act.

Christ is a far greater servant of the Lord who completely vanquished our enemy and set us free from sin and death and one who has brought us from the dominion of this world into his kingdom. We don’t have to live under the hand of our oppressors since we now live under the freedom of His rule.

Praise be to God that His Servant cared more for the Father and His people then His own needs. Praise be to God that Christ food was to do the will of the Father, who sent Him.

Next week we will be looking at the story of Samson and Delilah and we will see how reading the story from the beginning and understanding it in the context of the history of Israel up to this point helps us to understand the story better and helps us to understand the details of the story.

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2 Comments:

  1. Anonymous said...
    Great post ! I never noticed that Samson spoke of the Philistines pejoratively.

    That said, I think that Samson might also be listed in the Hall of Faith, in Hebrews. This is also something to think about.
    michele said...
    Thanks! And yeah, I plan to bring that up at the end. Why would the author of Hebrews mention so man of the judges? Especially when judges is about the sins of Israel. That's an interesting question, don't you think? You'll have to come back next week to read my response :-).

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