A JUDGE? REALLY?
Lord, never allow me to lose sight of my calling.
Read JUDGES 14
14 Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 2 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.”
3 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.” 4 (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.)
5 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. 6 The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her.
8 Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. 9 He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass.
10 Now his father went down to see the woman. And there Samson held a feast, as was customary for young men. 11 When the people saw him, they chose thirty men to be his companions.
12 “Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. 13 If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.”
“Tell us your riddle,” they said. “Let’s hear it.”
14 He replied,
“Out of the eater, something to eat;
out of the strong, something sweet.”
For three days they could not give the answer.
15 On the fourth[a] day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?”
16 Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.”
“I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” 17 She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people.
18 Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him,
“What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?”
Samson said to them,
“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
you would not have solved my riddle.”
19 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. 20 And Samson’s wife was given to one of his companions who had attended him at the feast.
- Judges 14:15 Some Septuagint manuscripts and Syriac; Hebrew seventh
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘God is working His purpose out, / as year succeeds to year’ (Arthur Campbell Ainger, 1841–1919).
Lyle’s Golden Syrup is an amber-colored light treacle first produced in 1881. On each tin is a line from verse 14 (KJV): ‘Out of the strong came forth sweetness.’ From time to time, someone who uses this product for cooking, or who pours it on pancakes or porridge, is nauseated to discover that the picture accompanying the text on the tin is not a sleeping lion as they supposed, but the carcass of a lion covered in bees, as in this chapter. The revulsion felt by the Golden Syrup eater is matched by many Bible readers, who are horrified by the behavior in this chapter of Samson, whose birth had promised so much.
In many ways Samson is the embodiment of the nation of Israel at this time: both are indifferent to their calling. As a Nazarite, Samson should be set apart for God, but he contravenes his Nazarite vow by touching the lion’s carcass and presumably by drinking alcohol at the seven-day feast (Num 6:2–8) Similarly, Israel has lost sight of her calling and is on another circuit around the spiral of unfaithfulness, this time not even groaning or crying out to the Lord in the face of foreign oppression (Contrast with Judg 2:18; 3:9,15; 4:3; 6:6,7; 10:10,12)
Verse 4 is important but puzzling. I do not think it means that, unlike his parents, Samson is aware that his impending conflict with the Philistines is under divine direction. Samson shows no awareness of God or willingness to do His will. Like his fellow-Israelites, Samson has no desire to ‘confront’ the Philistines – he is probably not the only one who wants to intermarry with them! So the Lord acts out of pure grace, not in response to the prayers of his people and using not a worthy person but Samson, whose flaws are as serious as they are obvious.
How do you (honestly!) feel about the notion that God can use an ungodly person? Can you think of such people in history or on the world stage today?
Lord, remind us continually that our present day Philistines are to be won to the Lord, not patted on the back and pacified.