Samson is one of the leaders of Israel that we remember – after all, he was the strong man of the Bible. He was a man called by God before birth to lead Israel and to lead a rather austere life. But even though he was called by God the life he lived was far from what God wanted.
“Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, ‘I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.’ His father and mother replied, ‘Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?’ But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.’” (Judges 14:1-3 NIV)
There are many aspects of this first view of Samson that are should be disturbing. His parents were correct: why was he wanting a wife from the Philistines? God did not want his chosen people to intermarry with those who worshipped pagan gods – he knew that they would be led to follow the same false gods. Yet here was Samson, seeing an attractive young Philistine woman, and he wanted her. Yet there was a little more than meets the eye to what was going through Samson.
“(His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)” (Judges 14:4)
What Samson was wanting was wrong but God would use Samson – and possibly Samson’s weakness for women – to cause a confrontation with the Philistines, who had at that time subjugated Israel. Samson was the one God was going to use to begin the long process of defeating the Philistines.
His parents did arrange the marriage, but that was not the end of the story. At what was basically his bachelor party he told a riddle based on something that had happened to him: “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet” (Judges 14:14). He had killed a lion (the strong) and later found a bee hive in carcass and helped himself to the honey (something sweet). The reward for whoever could give him the answer was thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing – and if they couldn’t they would give him the same.
The men tried for days to figure out the riddle to no avail. Finally they threatened his future wife if she didn’t discover the answer and tell them. She sobbed and pressed Samson through the entire seven days of the feast for the answer, which he finally gave her. She promptly told the solution to the men, who in turn brought the answer to Samson: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Samson was aware of how they had figured out the answer.
“Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he returned to his father’s home. And Samson’s wife was given to one of his companions who had attended him at the feast.” (Judges 14:19-20)
God was able to use a man who really wasn’t interested in following him. He used his rage to stir up further conflict between the complacent Israelites and the Philistines. This eventually led to war with the Philistines which lasted for a long time; it was David who finally defeated them. Despite Samson, God was able to bring a victory against the enemy of his people. Despite what Samson was doing that was wrong, God was able to use the good that he did for his glory.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
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Readings for next week: Judges 10-17