The Philistines are oppressing Israel again, while God prepares another judge and deliverer.
Chapter 13 (KJB)
1 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. 2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. 3 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. 4 Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: 5 For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
God is speaking to the mother who will bear Samson. He is instructing her to be like a Nazarite in certain ways during the time of her pregnancy. A Nazarite is a person who is set apart for God’s purposes. The conditions that are a sign of the Nazarite vow are described in the book of Numbers.
I will summarize key points about the Nazarite vow, because the message today has a lot to do with being set apart for God’s purposes and God’s glory. As New covenant Christians, we are to be set apart differently than those who made Nazarite vows, but God still desires his children to step back from the world of Satan to serve Him.
- The Purpose of the Nazarite vow was to set apart a person for God’s purposes and service.
- The Nazarite vow could be made by both men and women.
- The Nazarite vow was usually made for a specified period of time.
- Those who made the vow were to refrain from consuming any part of the fruit of the vine or from using anything made from grapes.
- Those who made the vow were not to cut the hair of their head during the time of the vow.
- Those who made the vow were to not touch a dead body not even the body of a close relative who might die during the time of the vow. Additionally, “And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it.” (Numbers 6:9 KJB) He shall then make sacrifices and begin the days of the vow over again from the beginning.
- When the time of the vow was completed, specific offerings were to be brought to the Lord, and the person was to shave his or her head and place the hair in the fire under the sacrificial offering.
24 And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
I want to point out that God blessed Samson as he grew up, and the spirit of the Lord moved him at times. It appears that the Spirit of the Lord may not have been a constant companion, but moved him to do certain things at certain times. These events are noted in the text when it says that the Spirit moved him. In other words, the Spirit was not responsible for all of his actions.
1 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. 3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. 4 But his 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.
Here we note that God wanted Samson to marry a Philistine woman for God’s purposes.
Judges 14 (KJB)
5 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. 6 And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. 7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. 8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. 9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.
We see a series of events in the life of Samson, which cover a wide range of conditions. Some actions are inspired by the Holy Spirit and others are violations of the Law of Moses. Some actions are about service to God while others are clearly about his succumbing to the power of the flesh. Some events reveal his violent anger and revenge, while others describe God’s just reactions to evil. There is a lot in the life of Samson that may not be appealing to us. Nevertheless, I believe the events of his life can help us examine our own lives so that we can move closer to God.
I personally find the description of Samson removing honey from the rotting carcass of a lion and eating it to be disgusting. Each of us may have strong emotional reactions to Samson and his actions. You may not be bothered by the lion and the honey, but may be disturbed by other events. These emotional reactions are important. They may point to places in our soul where God wishes to work. The actions of Samson may prick a sensitive area that may need to be opened to God’s transformation. I believe that Samson’s life can and should move us out of our comfort zone and should give us new opportunities to prayerfully lay our brokenness and our sinful judgments at the feet of God. If you find yourself judging the content of Samson’s life, as I initially found myself doing when I first started studying these chapters, then please ask God to show you the source of the judgmental reactions. There are dark roots of judgment and bitterness that God wants to remove from us. He may be using the life of Samson to reveal what has been hidden from us so that He can sanctify us for His greater service. Please don’t resist the work of the Holy Spirit if this is happening to you.
When I first read about the honey and the lion, I immediately began to search for a scripture to show that Samson, as a Jew, shouldn’t have touch the carcass of an unclean animal and he certainly should not have eaten from it. Of course such a scripture does exist in Leviticus 11:27-28. Other scriptures could be sited to confirm additional sins, but it is not my desire to construct a list of sins.
Even though Samson had superhuman strength, he was a sinner just like us. He did things that were not consistent with God’s law. Even so, God did not forsake him, because he had been set apart for God’s special purpose. He was to deliver his people from the Philistines and to judge Israel, which he did for twenty years.
Today, God continues to set apart people for His purposes. We are not called to make a Nazarite vow for a time, and to then cut our hair and return to our old ways. God wishes to set us apart for the rest of our lives. Sometimes we may feel like our lives as Christians are going nowhere and we have not been set apart for anything, but this is not true. Satan loves to mess with the minds of Christians and to convince us that God has plans for everyone else, but not for us. Being set apart by God for God does not mean we will instantly become holy. It simply means that God is continually calling us to the next place of usefulness in His Kingdom. As we will see in the life of Samson, he was an imperfect servant in many ways, just as we are imperfect in many ways. As we work our way through the events in Samson’s life, I invite you to examine yourself and invite the Holy Spirit to show you the points of weakness in your life, which may be preventing you from reaching greater levels of usefulness in the Body of Christ.
Chapter 14 (KJB)
10 So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do. 11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: 13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it. 14 And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.
- Could anyone other than Samson have solved this riddle?
- Was this a fair riddle?
- Did Samson solicit a fair bet?
- Was he trying to take advantage of the Philistines or even provoke a conflict?
Chapter 14 (KJB)
15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? 16 And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? 17 And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people.
- Was it right for the Philistines to threaten Samson’s wife?
- Was it right for Samson’s wife to manipulate her husband and get him to reveal the solution to the riddle?
- Should she have confided in her husband and told him about the death threat?
- Did her choices and behavior show respect for her husband?
Judges 14 (KJB)
18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle. 19 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house. 20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.
We first understand that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson when he had been tricked and deceived. He fulfilled the bet by killing other Philistines for the sake of their clothing. He broke the Nazarite vow by stripping the clothing from dead bodies that he should not have touched so that he could give the clothing to the Philistines who gave the correct answer to his riddle. Afterward, in anger, he left his wife and went back to his parent’s home.
- Should Samson have left in an angry huff?
- Should he have left his wife behind?
- Should he have taken his wife with him?
- How could he have responded to his wife out of love?
But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. 2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her. 3 And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure. 4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.
The text does not say that Samson’s action taken with the foxes was done under the direction of the Spirit.
- Was this an act of personal vengeance?
- Was this an overreaction to the action of his father-in-law who gave Samson’s wife to another man?
- What is the New Testament teaching about acts of revenge?
Judges 15 (KJB)
6 Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire. 7 And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease. 8 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.
So the Philistines took vengeance against Samson by killing his wife and her father. Then Samson smote the Philistines in reaction. Samson did make note that this was going to be the end of the matter. He was ready to say it was now over. But the Philistines did not share that point of view.
Chapter 15 (KJB)
9 Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi. 10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us. 11 Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam,
The Jews went out to capture Samson and to turn him over to the Philistines to prevent further conflict with them. They convinced Samson to go voluntarily, which he did as long as they pledged not to harm him themselves.
14 And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and 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. 15 And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson again and he smote the Philistines.
Judges 15 (KJB)
18 And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? 19 But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.
It is interesting to note that the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Version translate verse 19 without mentioning the source of the water.
Judges 15 (ESV)
19 And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it…
God performed a miracle in response to Samson’s prayer. He brought forth water to satisfy Samson’s thirst.
20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
After Samson fulfilled God’s purpose against the Philistines, he then judged Israel for twenty years.
Chapter 16 (KJB)
16:1 Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her. 2 And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him. 3 And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.
At first, the image of Samson plucking up the gates of the city and hauling them away may seem humorous, but he used his God given strength to destroy something belonging to others. His enemies gathered to kill him at a time when he was engaged in sin.
- How do you react to Samson visiting a prostitute after serving the Lord for 20 years?
- How do you react to Samson using his super human strength to pluck up the gates of the city and carry them away given the circumstances?
4 And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.
Even though Samson had judged Israel for twenty years, and his experience with Philistine love relationships was not positive, he involves himself in another relationship with a Philistine woman. The ESV uses the word “seduce” rather than “entice” when speaking about the instructions given to Delilah. She is trying to use her feminine charms to learn the secret that the Philistines long to know.
The text does not indicate that Samson and Delilah were married.
- Should Delilah have complied with the demands of the Philistine lords?
- What do you think about her manipulation and deception of Samson?
- What do you think about Samson’s lying to Delilah and staying with her when it was clear that she was attempting to entrap him?
Judges 16 (KJB)
6 And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee. 7 And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now there were men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber. And she said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire. So his strength was not known.
One might wonder why Samson goes back to spend another night with Delilah after the obvious attempt to betray him.
Chapter 16 (KJB)
10 And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound.
Now Delilah plays the victim. She claims being abused by Samson’s lying. We have to wonder about Samson’s intelligence.
- Was he just playing a game with Delilah for physical delights?
- Did he trust in his great strength so much that he no longer evaluated the risks associated with his choices?
Judges 16 (KJB)
11 And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak,
And once again, Delilah does exactly what Samson instructs, and once again, she responds to a lie. I continue to wonder about Samson’s sleeping pattern. Did he really sleep through the process of being tied up? It is hard to imagine a person sleeping so soundly.
Judges 16 (KJB)
13 And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound. And he said unto her, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web.
Once again the seduction failed to get the desired results. So, she will now claim that Samson doesn’t really love her. If he did, then he would tell the truth. She now starts the process of emotional torment to wear him down. This time her strategy works perfectly.
Chapter 16 (KJB)
15 And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth. 16 And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; 17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man. 18 And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand. 19 And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. 20 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. 21 But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.
The story does not end here. There is one final chapter of revenge against the Philistines. Samson prays for one last opportunity to use superhuman strength to destroy the Philistines.
Judges 16 (KJB)
22 Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven. 23 Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us. 25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. 26 And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. 27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. 28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. 29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
As I reflect on the death of Samson I find myself reflecting on the power of sexual sin. The scriptures do not tell us about the twenty years during which Samson was judge over Israel. The narrative jumps twenty years from Samson’s victory over the Philistines in chapter 15 where he killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass, to the beginning of chapter 16 where he is visiting a prostitute. We then see him with Delilah who is using her feminine charms for evil intent, which results in his being blinded and imprisoned by the Philistines. Samson’s decline into sin and his eventual death follows a pattern described by James.
James 1 (ESV)
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
I believe true Christians will desire to be used by God for His purposes. We may not always want to be fully set apart from the world of Satan, but such setting apart is necessary. Being set apart does not mean that we must live in isolation from the world of sin, but we must closely guard the doors and windows of our lives to keep Satan outside. In the case of Samson, it appears that he chose to open the door to sin after twenty years of judging Israel, and the consequences were disastrous. As brothers and sisters in a holy family of God we have a responsibility to warn one another when we see sin crouching at the door of others. Things might have turned out differently for Samson if he had been warned about his error when he visited the prostitute.
Today, being set apart for God can take many forms. Sometimes it means doing all that you can do to clean up your heart and mind from the filth of the world. We can make choices and set limits to prevent ourselves from being exposed to the temptations that Satan tries to bring into the life of every Christian. We make ourselves more holy by not exposing ourselves to the things that would make us less holy. Jesus offers the perfect instruction on this point.
Matthew 5 (KJB)
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
In other words get rid of the sources of temptation and sin. If sin comes into your life through TV, then get rid of it. If sin comes through pornographic websites, then install an internet filter. If you cannot resist drunkenness, then don’t bring alcohol into your home or go to places where it is served. If you cannot focus your mind on the reading and studying of scripture, then pray to be shown the sin in your life that is distracting you, and then repent.
2 Timothy 2 (ESV)
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
Sometimes it is not sin that is an obstacle to being set apart for use by God. It can be that we have attitudes and false beliefs that keep us stuck in empty corners of life. If this is your situation and you want to become more useful in God’s Kingdom, then pray to be pruned and broken by God. Sometimes our willingness to let go of physical comforts and emotional or mental familiarity will do much to move us off of dead-end roads. God has a different plan for each of us. We are all not going to be positioned on the super highways of ministry. Some of us will be given assignments on quiet residential streets where the traffic is light but love is deep. Nevertheless, God will use us wherever He puts us. The best prayer that I can think of regarding being set apart for service in God’s Kingdom is:
My life belongs to you.
Make me useful and pleasing for your purposes.
Break me, crush me, and prune away anything that is not pleasing to you.
James 1 (ESV)
21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Sometimes God sets people apart through circumstances of life. He can permit illness, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, the loss of prized possessions, or the removal of wealth. When this happens, life turns upside-down and our trust must be refocused. God requires us to shift our trust away from things and people, and to fully depend upon Him. Sometimes we need to fast and pray as a way to prepare ourselves to be willing to let go of the past and to accept the new. Sometimes God’s interests are only with the new and he wishes us to let go of the past. Sometimes He requires the letting go of a few things, and sometimes He needs to pull out the rug from under our feet and lay us out flat before the proper level of willingness is obtained. These transitions go more smoothly when we are prepared to submit to God’s plans.
Acts 13 (ESV)
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Being set apart should not lead us to the kind of sin and death that Samson experienced. Being set apart is ultimately intended to connect us more completely to Christ Jesus. Being set apart from preoccupation with worldly pursuits puts us in the position of coming into right relationship with Jesus. It helps us understand and appreciate that our orientation to life on this Earth must be grounded in Jesus. Our sustenance must come from God. He is the only one who can be the source of eternal life, peace, and joy. It is Jesus who has set us apart through His blood and it is Jesus who replaced the Nazarite vow with an eternal commitment to abide in Him.
John 15 (ESV)
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
I pray that each of us will invite God to set us apart in new ways,
and make fruitful use of the life that He has given us.
Let us accept the fact that our lives belong to Him,
and pray that He will help us let go of self-imposed restrictions.