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Scripture reading – Judges 14-15

The Scriptures do not describe Samson’s physical appearance; however, he must have been striking. Nevertheless, various artists have portrayed him as a hulk of a man with bulging muscles and longer hair, a visible testimony of his Nazarite vow (13:5).

The final verses of Judges 13 indicated that Samson was conscious of the presence and blessing of the LORD upon him. Indeed, it was recorded that “the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol” (13:25). No doubt it was the suffering of his brethren under the oppression of Philistine rule that stirred indignation within Samson.

Judges 14 – A Woman, A Wedding, and A Riddle

Samson’s Desire for a Philistine Woman (Judges 14:1-4)

Samson made a brief 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” (14:2).

Because the Philistines were idolatrous, Samson’s parents rightfully objected to his desire to marry a Philistine woman. So, they asked their son, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren [i.e., 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 displayed God’s sovereignty and providence, which worked through Samson’s untoward desire. We read that 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). Thus, the stage was set for Samson to find a cause with the Philistines and one the LORD used to set his champion to oppose the enemies of His people.

Samson’s Physical Strength and Exploits (Judges 14:5-9)

As Samson traveled to meet his future bride, a “young lion roared against him,” and with the “Spirit of the LORD…upon him,” he slew the lion using only his bare hands (14:5-9).

In Timnath, Samson met with the Philistine woman he craved to marry and confirmed his desire to make her his wife (14:7). As he journeyed home, he found the dried carcass of the lion he had slain and discovered it was filled with a swarm of bees and honey which he did eat (14:8-9).

Samson’s Wedding Feast and a Riddle for His Guest (Judges 14:10-14)

Samson’s father agreed for the Philistine woman to marry his son (14:10). After that, a seven-day wedding feast was held to consummate the marriage (14:10). During the feast, Samson challenged his guests with a riddle. He made a wager of “thirty sheets (undergarments) and thirty change of garments” (probably fancy embroidered robes worn on special occasions, 14:12) if they solved his riddle 14:13-14). On the seventh day of the feast (14:14), the wicked wedding guests threatened Samson’s wife and her father if she failed to tell them the answer to his riddle (14:14-15).

The Betrayal of Samson’s Wife (Judges 14:16-20)

Samson’s wife wept and pressed him to give her the answer to the riddle. When he did, she betrayed him to the men threatening her and gave them the answer (14:16-18). Having learned he was betrayed, 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. The victim of treachery, Samson left his wife and returned to his father’s house (14:19). Yet, 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 and learned 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 to have his revenge (15:3).

Solomon’s Revenge (Judges 15:4-5)

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). Afraid of the fire, the foxes ran wild through the fields of the Philistines, burning their wheat, vineyards, and olive trees (15:5).

The Barbarity and Fury of the Philistines (Judges 15:6-8)

The Philistines responded to Samson’s revenge and killed and burned his wife and her father (15:6). Threatening vengeance, Samson took the jawbone of a donkey and slaughtered many Philistines (15:7-8).

The Reproach of Samson’s Countrymen, the Men of Judah (Judges 15:9-17)

The Philistines then responded by rallying their warriors and invaded Judah (15:10). When the men of Judah learned the provocation of the Philistine invasion was to capture Samson, they raised three thousand men. Those men made their way to Samson and reproached him. They asked, “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 and said, “As they did unto me, so have I done unto them” (15:11). Then, with a promise that they would not harm him, Samson surrendered 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 of Judah, Samson came into the encampment of the Philistines. Then his enemies rejoiced and scorned him (15:14). At 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).

Closing thoughts:

Judges 15 concluded with the observation that Samson “judged in Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years” (15:20). Our following study will take up the tragic history of the last days of Samson’s life (Judges 16).

Tragically, we will see that the champion of Israel will follow the lust of his flesh, fall and come to ruin. Yet he fulfilled the Word of the Lord concerning his life’s purpose, in that his death brought a greater deliverance for Israel than his life (Judges 13:5; 16:30).

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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