Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Samson Before Delilah: Chapter 14

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

Chapter 13 ends in great hope and expectation:

And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
The Lord blessed Samson and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him and we start to sense that something great is about to happen, that God will use Samson in such a way that he has never used any of the other judges. He will be the greatest judge because he was called from the womb to be holy unto the Lord. He was set apart for service to God. He was raised with the knowledge of his calling. Or at least we assume that to be the case. And when we begin the next chapter, we do so with great expectation:
Judges 14:1 Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up and told his father and mother, "I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife."
First notice that he sees her, words associated with perception (seeing, knowing, understanding)are frequently used in this story. He sees her and wants her. What a let down! Here we have the judge of Israel, the man called from birth to be set apart and holy unto the Lord and we are told that he sees a woman and wants her. His concern is not for his calling or for Israel or for the will of the Father, it is for himself and what he wants. This reminds me of Eve:
Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
She saw, desired and took and so does Samson even though both were forbidden by the Lord. The Israelites weren't supposed to intermarry with the people of the land (though Philistines are not specifically named, that would include them as well):
Deuteronomy 7:3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons,
He is supposed to deliver the nation from the oppressors not marry them! How disappointed the reader is at this point because there is this sense of let down. Here we expected more and we were disappointed.

Another interesting point about this passage is that Samson's wife is never named and neither is his mom. No women in Samson's life is named until Delilah.

His mother and father know that it's wrong for him to intermarry:
But his father and mother said to him, "Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?" But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes."
A theme that runs throughout the end of the Book of Judges is that everyone does what is right in their own eyes:
Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
She was right in his eyes even though she was wrong according to the commandments of God. And we are left with a sense of disappointment that God's servant would be so disobedient to His word. But then the author let's us in on what is really going on here:
His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.
So, the Lord wanted Samson to engage the Philistines and this is how He choose to do it. We see the failure of God's servant to be obedient but God uses it for His plan. This information is followed by a bizarre incident in a vineyard, notice the language:
Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.
This is the first time we see this type of language for the activity of the Holy Spirit in the book of Judges. Samson is empowered to do something beyond normal human strength, he is able to tear a lion apart with his bare hands. Notice that the lion was in a vineyard (Nazarites are forbidden to eat the fruit of the vine). It is a strange episode. Samson kills a lion and then doesn't tell his parents, why did the author state this? What is the significance? Remember Samson's vow as a Nazarite:
Numbers 6:6-9 All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body. Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD. And if any man dies very suddenly beside him and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it.
Samson is made unclean by this act and would have to go through this cleansing ritual. He wants to get married, maybe he doesn't want to wait. Maybe he doesn't care about his vow.
After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.
Samson deliberately goes to look at the carcass of the lion, remember he's not supposed to be around dead bodies. Not only does he touch the carcass but he eats the honey from it. Block (the commentary I used for this study was written by Daniel I. Block) notes that it is so unusual for there to be bees instead of flies and maggots that it must have been of the Lord. The Lord may have been testing Samson.

And not only does Samson eat the honey but he gives it to his parents making them unclean as well. In this episode we clearly see the setting of the stage for Samson's teasing Delilah about his vow. Here we see a total disregard for his vow and for the commandments of the Lord.

In the rest of the chapter we see how God puts enmity between His people and their enemies. They might want to co-exist and intermarry but God will not let them be at peace with those who come in to steal their inheritance. He brought the Philistines in to disciple Israel, not to integrate them.

Samson poses a riddle to the Philistines and through duplicity they answer it and in so doing God sets in motion the actions that will take place in the next chapter.

After such a buildup we experience a sense of let down. Samson is not the deliverer that we were expecting. From the womb, he was to be holy unto the Lord and set apart for service to God. He did not meet this expectation but Jesus did. Jesus was holy and set apart to the Lord. He was obedient to His calling and to the word of the Lord. He didn't do what was right in His own eyes but came to do the will of the Father. Thanks be to God that He was obedient to God and His commandments since through His act of obedience, we are called righteous.

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  1. Anonymous said...
    This commentary is very off-track.

    Let's start with a generalization. You seem to approach the story with a starting presumption that Samson is a "sinner".

    You analysis totally ignores Judges 13:5 as a prophecy, or angelic announcement, not a hope.

    You are unaware that the Nazirite prohibition against contact with the dead only applies to dead people, not dead animals. (In any case, even this prohibition is never even mentionned with regard to Samson or his mother. His nazirite status is not the conventional one of Numbers Ch.6, which speaks of a voluntary vow that ends after a period of time.)

    You ignore the implication that if the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson before he tore the lion, that the verses are telling you that this is a good thing.

    Samson enters into this marriage agreement with the Philistene in a remarkably honorable way. Althought this does contravene intermarriage rules, his calm and methodical way of going about it should get bells ringing that somethiing is going on...

    I'm sorry for being so blunt. But your entire approach totally ignores 14:4 and is totally contradicted, from beginning to end, by 14:4, which is practically the central line in the entire story of Samson. And it seems to based on a Christian desire in Biblical Interpretation to see various Israelite heroes and leaders as sinners. I think you should reread the story and then rewrite your interpretation.

    (I am not absolving Samson of all wrongdoing. Clearly the fact that his eyes were gouged out reflects back on his use of his eyes earlier. But the rest of the story wtill remains.)
    michele said...
    It is really too bad that I'm going to take the time to respond to you and yet not know if you will even read my response. But I'm going to do this for the benefit of those who will read your comments and think that I have no response to your comments.

    You are way off if you think that Samson was not a sinner and that wasn't the implication of this story. My interpretation follows the standard interpretation of this passage. The entire book of Judges sets the stage for my interpretation. Judges is made up of cycles of judges that progressively get worse and finally find their nadir in Samson (that is why he is the last judge). Out of all the judges, he is the only one that doesn't deliverer Israel from their bondage to their enemies. That's telling.

    As to your point about the Holy Spirit coming upon him and that being a "good thing," just because the Holy Spirit came upon him and enabled him to kill the lion doesn't imply that he is still unclean from touching it. And as to your point that he is touching a dead animal instead of a human, I would refer to Lev. 11 and the understanding that it is the dead in general that is referred to in Numbers 6:6. I would also state that maybe I overstated this part(I don't think so but I grant the possibility :-) but the part about eating honey from a corpse is considered unclean (Lev.11:24-25; 39).

    Why in the world would you think it's honorable for Samson to intermarry? And if it were so honorable, why would his parents be opposed to it. Why would this be considered an honorable marriage when God is trying to stir up enmity between the Israelites and the Philistines? God doesn't want Israel to marry the pagans in the land -- there are so many passages against this and I've already given one in my post. I suggest you go read Ezra 9 to get a better sense of that.

    And I look at Judges 13:5 as God telling his parents that Samson is a Narite and that he has to be raised in that way from birth which is unusual because the passage clearly states this is a vow made by someone who wants to do it. Here we see God saying that Samson would be one. My interpretation misses none of that sense when I mention what the hope of the reader is.

    And as to 14:4, my interpretation is very much tied into the fact that God has this plan in motion to bring about enmity between Israel and the Philistines. Your way of looking at the marriage misses that point entirely. God uses Samson to stir up problems between Israel and the Philistines. He uses Samson weaknesses to do it -- God does use evil for God while not being the author of evil:

    Acts 2:22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know- 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men."

    As you can see, I have a different way of looking at this passage then you do. I'm off your track but maybe I'm not off the Bible's track :-). My interpretation fits with the rest of the book of Judges and I stand by it.
    Anonymous said...
    Thank you for replying. I discovered your site accidentally. You are two links away from the site I was looking at.

    From your reply, I see that our approaches to studying bible are so far apart that there is not enough common ground to limit ourselves to discussing Samson alone. We would require pages and pages of discussion on which we would agree with none of the premises. I'm glad to see that you see that the Book of Judges has a central theme. I have a very different idea of what that theme is.

    Regarding impurity, I will only mention a fact that there were many types of impurity listed in Leviticus and Numbers. Carrion is one type of impurity. Human corpses are another type altogether, and it is only this type that the Nazirite was forbidden to come near. Even if the English does not convey this distinction, the Hebrew certainly does.

    Also, I don't think it was honorable for Samson to intermarry. My point was that he went about it in an honorable fashion, and that this sheds light on his motives and plan (14:4), which was not that he found a pretty "shiksa" and wanted to sleep with her. (I apologize for the crassness.)

    As to Samson's failure to deliver the Israelites, that itself was clearly foretold by the angel in ch.13, that he would only begin to deliver Israel... It was a task that would be finished by the monarchy.

    In this light, which is obvious to me, I don't see Samson's accomplishment as creating emnity. I see his accomplishment as weakening the Philistenes' resolve and morale. He accomplshed this in two ways: By his "wild-and crazy" guerilla tactics during his lifetime, enabled by his plan to insinuate himself into Philistene society. That's the point of the first wife, the feast, giving away the riddle etc.

    And the second way was what he accomplished with his death.

    Take care,
    michele said...
    I was wondering if you might be Jewish. If so, I would certainly agree that our approach would be completely different :-).

    I do think you and I are looking at God's plan completely differently because I'm seeing this passage in light of chapter 2 and 3 and I don't think that you are.
    Moonshadow said...
    I admit that I've skimmed this discussion but I agree with yehupitz on this point:

    You seem to approach the story with a starting presumption that Samson is a "sinner".

    This is a recurring conflict that I have with your customary approach to biblical personages, both Old and New, save Jesus Himself and, eh, maybe the Apostle Paul.

    Other than that, your replies to yehupitz are very solid and thoughtful.

    If you don't already have the Jewish Study Bible, you might pick up a copy. In it, Eli and Samuel are also included among the judges, albeit in 1 Samuel.

    Their introduction to the book of Judges reads in part, "The book's main theme is the inefficacy of the judges, who could only save and affect their people for a limited time; then the people would relapse, would be punished, and would cry to the LORD to save them again. This recurrent theme of sin, punishment, and rescue gives the book a cyclical structure."
    michele said...
    Maybe I do that because it is a reoccuring them of the Bible. Hmmm?
    michele said...
    And to add also, you've never been in a study with me for Joseph and Abraham because their stories aren't focused on their failures.
    Moonshadow said...
    you've never been in a study with me for Joseph and Abraham

    That's true. And your Ecclesiastes study was surprisingly upbeat as well, if I recall correctly. I mean, you even thought that Solomon believed in life after death. What could be more optimistic than that.

    I just remember the reaction ... or lack thereof ... that I got in the Judges study when I blurted out that Samson's carrying of the doors and gateposts up to Hebron (Judges 16:3) reminded me of Jesus carrying the cross up to Calvary.

    Granted, you weren't present but I was discouraged from seeing in Samson any resemblance to Our Lord. However, I agree with yehupitz that Samson's death accomplished much, as did Christ's.
    michele said...
    They weren't adhering to my study then because I wouldn't have a problem seeing pictures of Christ in the OT. In fact the judge is a type of Christ. He is a deliverer who "saves" Israel. Samson avenged himself on the people who afflicted him but he didn't save anyone.

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