Holy Spirit, Spirit of Wisdom, You inspire me with the words I should speak. I praise Your name.
Read Judges 14:1–20
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 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.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD” (Isa. 55:8).
Samson is the least attractive and most perplexing of the judges. We don’t need to engage in character assassination; he does that himself. Riding roughshod over his Nazirite vow and showing total disregard for his own people by demanding to marry a Philistine, he treats his parents with rude arrogance. He personifies the “right in my own eyes” philosophy of his time (1–4; 17:6; 21:35). His subsequent tempestuous, even brutal, behavior towards his wife and friends does nothing to commend him. Surely God made a mistake in choosing Samson. He’d certainly never pass ministerial selection today!
Judges does not let us reach that verdict. It disturbs our nice, respectable, predetermined thoughts as to how God can work. Unknown to everyone in the story, God has chosen to work through this strange individual in this strange way, for the liberation of Israel. Samson’s questionable marriage “was from the LORD” (4), who used it to provoke a conflict with the Philistines, Israel’s latest enemy, so that he could deliver Israel from their oppression. “The Spirit of the LORD came on him in power,” strengthening him to tear the lion to bits (5,6). Again, “The Spirit of the LORD came on him in power” when, after all the emotional manipulation and persistent niggling of Samson’s wife’s friends for the answer to his riddle, he slaughtered thirty of them and had his wife taken from him (19,20).
What can we make of this? Only that sometimes “God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform” (William Cowper, 1731–1800). There’s more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. Israel’s salvation requires judgment on her enemies, even if that judgment is fearsomely meted out. God really does think differently—on a higher plane—than us (Isa. 55:9).
To what extent do you suffer from having a predictable God who only ever works “nicely”?
Lord, I am not always tracking Your ways with me and in the world. I trust Your wisdom and look to You in faith.