Judges 15

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter fifteen takes place “sometime later,” but it does not state how long. It must have been long enough that the woman’s father thought Samson was not coming back, which is why he married her to another man. When Samson did return and discovered that his marriage had ended, he was furious (Judges 15:1-8). Evidently, Samson may have had some remorse or second thoughts about killing those first men, but that was gone this time. Whatever he planned to do, he felt completely justified in doing it. The entire region would suffer his revenge. Catching 150 pairs of jackals, he tied torches to their tails and set them loose in the Philistine wheat harvest, totally destroying that year’s crop. He also burned their “vineyards and olive groves.” He intended to starve them. When the Philistines discovered who had done this, they followed through with their initial threat to kill his wife and her family, meaning that nothing she did to protect herself accomplished anything. Acting in revenge again, Samson killed the men who had killed his wife, then he lived in a cave. He honestly thought that he was done fighting.

When the men of Judah discovered that Samson was living in their territory, they voluntarily acted to turn him over to the Philistines in order to save themselves from harm (Judges 15:9-13). There is a sad irony in the fact that the Israelites would rather have gotten rid of God’s deliverer than face further potential backlash from their enemies. Approaching Samson they told him their plan. Surprisingly, Samson agreed to be handed over as long as the Jews did not kill him themselves; they promised they would not. When the Philistines saw him, they shouted and rushed to seize him, but God’s Spirit empowered him again (Judges 15:14-17). He snapped the ropes binding him, grabbed a fresh jawbone of a dead donkey (violating his vow again), and killed 1,000 of them, throwing them into a pile. Proving himself a wordsmith again, he taunted their death by naming the place “Jawbone Hill.”

Finally, we see the first instance of Samson’s recognition of God (Judges 15:18-20). The battle had left him parched, and he begged God for water, which he provided miraculously. An important note is that Samson had come to recognize that God was empowering him for these battles, and he openly acknowledged that here.

Judges 14

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter fourteen reveals that Samson had at least three great weaknesses: women/sex, instant gratification, and anger. The chapter opens with Samson seeing a beautiful woman and demanding that his father arranges a marriage, even though she was a Philistine (Judges 14:1-4). Although his father resisted, Samson insisted that he should be allowed to marry her. Possibly he argued that, since it was not against his Nazirite vow and not against the Mosaic Law, he would not be in violation of anything. The writer notes that God allowed this and would use it to begin Samson’s war with Philistia.

When Manoah finally relented, Samson went to Timnah to meet with his wife-to-be (Judges 14:5-6). On the way, he was attacked by a young lion, but he easily overpowered it – our first indication of how God intended to use him. Later, passing that way again, he noticed bees making honey in the carcass and took some (Judges 14:7-9). This is the first record of his breaking the Nazirite vow – touching a dead animal. Additionally, he gave some to his parents to eat, causing them to be defiled as well, but he did not tell them where he got it.

The writer’s description of Samson intentionally shows him to be no better than anyone else in Israel at this time – she was “the right one in his eyes” (cf. Judges 17:6; 21:25). During the wedding feast (which most certainly involved beer and wine, against his Nazirite vow), Samson showed his penchant for showing off. In this case, he offered a riddle to the thirty men in his wedding party (Judges 14:10-20). If they could answer, he would give them thirty sets of clothes; if not, they would pay him the same. Threatening to burn her and her family, the men persuaded Samson’s wife to get the answer for them, so she nagged him until he finally told her. Receiving the answer, they went back to Samson and demanded their reward. Naturally, he knew what had happened, so he went to Ashkelon and killed thirty men to fulfill his bargain. In a moment of self-discipline, he then returned to his father’s home to cool down before seeing his wife again. Unbeknownst to him, she had been married off to his best man.

Judges 13

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter thirteen begins the famous story of Samson, who served for twenty years. Samson is the only judge whose story is recorded from birth to death. After forty years of Philistine oppression, God visited an infertile woman from the tribe of Dan and promised her a son to deliver Israel (Judges 13:1-7). The boy was to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God, even from his conception, meaning that even his mother had to remain ceremonially clean during her pregnancy (Numbers 6:1-8). When the woman told her husband, Manoah, about the news, he prayed that he would be able to hear it as well and get further information (Judges 13:8-14). God allowed the messenger to return, but no new information was necessary. They were to follow what he had told the woman originally.

Not knowing he was the angel of the Lord, Manoah asked if the man would stay for a meal (Judges 13:15-23). The messenger refused but encouraged the couple to present an offering to God. Wishing to honor this “prophet” when the baby was born, Manoah asked him his name. However, the name of God is incomprehensible, so he declined to give it. 1 As the offering burned, the messenger ascended to heaven in the flame. Realizing who they had been talking with, Manoah became afraid for his life, until his wife encouraged him, noting that they could easily have been killed and that the baby was promised to be born, which he was.

Notes:

  1. This story offers several reasons to understand the angel of the LORD in the Old Testament to be the pre-incarnate Son of God.