Scripture reading – Judges 14-15
Although the Scriptures do not go into a detailed description of Samson’s physical appearance, he must have been a striking figure. Various artists have portrayed him as a hulk of a man, with bulging muscles, and longer hair that was a visible testimony of his Nazarite vow (13:5).
Judges 14 – A Woman, A Wedding, and A Riddle
Samson had made a short journey from his home “down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines” (14:1). As was the custom of his day, Samson returned home, and demanded of his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.”
The Philistines were an idolatrous people, and Samson’s parents rightfully objected to his desire to marry a Philistines woman. They asked their son, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren [that being the tribe of Dan], or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” (14:3) Nonetheless, Samson’s desire for the woman was undeterred, and he “said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well” (14:3).
Judges 14:4 gives us a testimony of the sovereignty, and providence of God, working through Samson’s desire, for we read: Samson’s “father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel” (14:4). The stage was set for Samson to find a cause of conflict with the Philistines, and the LORD meant to use the occasion to set his champion against the enemies of His people.
Samson’s physical strength is one of his enduring characteristics. On the way to meet his future bride, Samson slew a lion with his bare hands (14:5-9). His meeting with the woman confirmed his desire to make her his wife (14:7), and upon his return home, he found the dried carcass of the lion he had slain, filled with a swarm of bees, and honey which he did eat (14:8-9).
Samson’s wedding feast continued seven days, and he told a riddle to challenge his guests, and made a wager of “thirty sheets (under garments) and thirty change of garments” (probably fancy embroidered robes worn on special occasions, 14:12), if they should solve his riddle 14:13-14). When the seventh day of the feast came (14:14), the nefarious wedding guests threatened Samson’s wife, and her father if she failed to tell them the answer to the riddle (14:14-15). She wept, and pressed Samson to give her the answer. When he did, she betrayed him to the men who had threatened her, and gave them the answer (14:16-18). Samson was furious (14:16), and to fulfill his promise of new garments, he “slew thirty men” (14:19), and provided his guests with their robes.
Betrayed, Samson left his wife, and returned to his father’s house (14:19). In his absence, his wife’s father gave her to “his companion” [his best man] (14:20).
Judges 15 – Betrayed and Bound
When time passed, and his rage dissipated, Samson returned to his Philistine wife, only to learn she had been given to another man (15:1-2). Fearing Samson’s response, her father offered him his younger daughter, but Samson was determined he would have his revenge (15:3). He went out, captured three hundred foxes (scholars suggest jackals that inhabit that area to this day), bound their tails to one another, and placed a fiery torch between them (15:4). Fearing the fire, the foxes ran wild through the fields of the Philistines, burning their wheat, vineyards, and olive trees (15:5).
The Philistines responded, killing, and burning his wife, and her father (15:6). Threatening vengeance, Samson took in hand the jaw bone of a donkey, and slaughtered a great number of Philistines (15:7-8).
Mustering their army, the Philistines invaded Judah (15:10). When the men of Judah learned the cause for the invasion was to capture Samson, they raised up three thousand men. Those men made their way to Samson, and reproached him asking, “Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us?” (15:11) Samson, defended his actions, saying, “As they did unto me, so have I done unto them” (15:11). With the promise they would not harm him, Samson submitted to the men of Judah, who bound him with two new ropes, and brought him to the Philistines (15:12-13).
Bound, and led away by three thousand men, Samson came into the encampment of the Philistines, and they rejoiced, and scorned him (15:14). In that moment, “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. 15And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.” (15:14-15). The bodies of the Philistine soldiers were stacked in two heaps” (15:16).
Judges 15 concludes with the observation that Samson “judged in Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years” (15:20). He was not dead, but Judges 16 will give us the tragic history of the last days of his life.
The champion of Israel will follow the lust of his flesh, fall and come to ruin.
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith