September 23, 2018
"Samson tears a lion."
Samson appears as the twelfth judge in the Book of Judges and likely the twelfth in chronological order. The account begins in chapter thirteen with Israel delivered into the hands of the Philistines for forty years as penalty for their evil. The chronology follows in that the other judges defeat their respective antagonists but the conflict with Philistia will continue into David's monarchy.
FYI - The five cities of Philistia are: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath.
- Samson is a Danite (Tribe of Dan) from Zorah. Zorah was initially a Judahite town but later given to Dan. Samson's father was named Manoah.
- Samson's mother is not named, but she is listed as sterile until a divine intervention.
Judges 13:3-5 3. The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, "You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. 4. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, 5. because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines."
A barren woman conceiving a child is common in the bible. Think of Abraham's wife Sarah, Isaac's wife Rebekah, Samuel's mother Hannah, or Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. All women sharing this experience.
Nazirite = someone dedicated to God's service.
This could be for a limited time. Also spelled Nazarite.
Nazarene = someone from Nazareth. Lifetime appointment.
- Samson was born and grew up with the Lord's blessing and as a young man, the Spirit of the Lord began to work in him. Samson went to Timnah and picked out a Philistine woman to marry despite his parent's objection since the Israelites were not to intermarry with Canaanites. The bible clearly states that Samson's insistence in the marriage to a Philistine woman is the work of the Lord and he was in fact, looking for trouble.
- On the way to meet the girl's family, a lion attacks Samson and his parents. The "Spirit of the Lord" comes upon Samson and he tears the lion apart with his bare hands WITHOUT his mother or father knowing! Later, on another trip, Samson stops to look at the lion's carcass and notices that bees have built a hive. Samson eats some honey and takes some to his parents but never tells them where it's from.
I have read commentaries on the whole honey affair, stating that Samson somehow violated his Nazirite status by touching the dead cat. The bible doesn't say he touched the lion, only that he ate some honey. I believe this incident is given simply to explain the riddle he presents to his wedding party and nothing more. It IS likely Samson would have violated his Nazirite vow at his wedding feast by drinking wine but considering how much sinful activity is transpiring in the Book of Judges it's clear God is being patient.
- Samson is given thirty companions to attend him at his bridegroom's feast. He offers a riddle, "Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet." If the party can answer the riddle, Samson will supply them with thirty sets of clothing, if they can't, they will have to give Samson thirty sets.
- After failing the riddle for three days, the groomsmen violently threaten the wife and her father compelling her to obtain the answer from Samson. She cries about it for seven days before Samson relents and gives her the answer which she then gives to the wedding party. When they "solve" the riddle, "The Spirit of the Lord" comes upon Samson and he goes to Ashkelon (a Philistine town, 30 miles away), "strikes down" thirty men and strips them of their belongings and then gives the clothes to the mob. Samson goes back to his fathers house for a while leaving his new wife behind with her father.
- Some time passes before Samson goes to visit his wife and he finds that her father, thinking she is abandoned, has given her to a friend, probably one of the groomsmen. In his anger, Samson catches 300 foxes (some versions say Jackels), ties their tails together by pairs and sets a lit torch on each pair causing the frantic animals to burn the Philistine crops and grapevines and olive trees. The Philistines respond by murdering Samson's wife and father-in-law.
- The Philistines, looking for Samson, set up camp in Judah. Judah, in an effort to appease the Philistines who were currently ruling over them, sent three thousand men to retrieve Samson. Samson allowed the Judahites to tie him up with new ropes and lead him to the Philistines, but as they were approaching him, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power" and the ropes dropped off and Samson picked up a fresh jawbone of a donkey and killed a thousand men.
- They name the place Ramath Lehi which means "Jawbone Hill". God supernaturally provided water to Samson when Samson called out to God regarding his thirst. "Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it."
- Later on, Samson traveled to Gaza, a Philistine seaport and went in to spend the night with a prostitute. Rumor of his presence spread in Gaza and the people formed a plan to wait for him at the city gate until dawn and then kill him there. Samson got up in the middle of the night and tore the city gates and two posts loose, hoisted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faced Hebron.
- Some time after Gaza Gate, Samson fell in love with a Philistine woman named Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines came to her and made a deal that if she could determine the source of Samson's strength so that they could subdue him, each ruler (there were five of them, Judges 3:3) would give her eleven hundred shekels of silver (about 28 pounds each.) She agrees and begins to press Samson for the secret of his strength.
- The answers Samson gives Delilah are clearly designed to mess with her: To be tied with seven fresh thongs, or to be tied with new ropes (this had been tried), or weaving his hair into fabric on the loom. Each tried and each failed. Then one day, she played the "You don't love me" card (just as his wife had done with the riddle.) Samson was dead tired and he told her of his being a Nazirite and "No razor has ever been used on my head" and if it was, he'd lose his strength. Delilah sent word to the Philistine rulers, and after putting Samson to sleep on her lap she called in a man to shave his braids.
- Delilah wakes Samson as the Philistines approach him, but the "Lord had left him." The Philistines seized Samson, gouged out his eyes and took him to Gaza where they bound him with bronze shackles and "set him to grinding in the prison."
- His hair grows back. No one notices.
- ALL of the rulers of Philistia and a great many others were gathered for a celebration to the Philistine god Dagon in thanks for delivering Samson. Spirits were high, so they brought Samson out to "perform" for them. There were three thousand on the roof of the temple. Samson asks his guides to lead him to the main pillars holding up the temple so he could lean against them.
- Samson prays.
- The prayer is granted. Samson is blind, but the Lord grants him his strength. He lays one hand on one pillar and the other on another pillar and gives a great push. That day Samson killed more Philistines in his dying act than while he was alive.
The Nazirite vow had been broken. The hair is not a talisman nor was it the secret to Samson's strength. God was under no obligation to grant Samson's request for one final push. Samson's prayer was answered simply because Samson had aligned his will with God's. Prayer has always and will always work like that.
- Judges 16:31 says his father and brothers went down to get him and buried him in his father's tomb between Zorah and Eshtaol. He judged Israel for twenty years.
Before anyone asks, The bible doesn't address the fact that Samson had brothers. They could have come from a different mother, or I like to think the divine intervention jump started the woman's ovaries.
The Judges in Judges
Listed in order they appear in Judges - Bold indicates major judges.
- Othniel - Caleb's nephew, a Judahite. Defeats Aram Naharaim.
- Ehud - Tribe of Benjamin. Defeats Moab.
- Shamgar - Minor Judge who killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad (it's a stick).
Mentioned in Judges 3:31 he was a contemporary of Deborah.
The name is not Hebrew and he is likely not an Israelite. "
Son of Anath" may have indicated he was a warrior;
Anath was Baal's sister, a goddess of war, or that Shamgar was from Beth Anath.
- Deborah - Tribe of Ephraim. Defeats Canaan.
- Gideon - Defeats Midian
- Tola - Tribe of Issachar. He lead Israel after the time of Abimelech for 23 years. Judges 10:1-2.
- Jair - Jair followed Tola. He was from Gilead and so was likely from the Tribe of Manasseh. He had thirty sons who rode thirty donkeys and they controlled thirty towns in Gilead. You can read this in Judges 10:3-5, but I just wanted to type "thirty sons, thirty donkeys, thirty towns..."
- Jephthah - Tribe of Manasseh. Defeats Ammon.
- Ibzan - Likely from the tribe of Zebulun due to his origin. There are two towns called Bethlehem in the bible. Ibzan is from the other one. (It's interesting to research; Google, "Bethlehem of Galilee" to research. It's actually closer to Nazareth than Bethlehem South (Judah) and there are some historians that believe Jesus is from this one. Just a thought.) Ibzan led Israel for seven years. Judges 12:8-10.
- Elon - Also a Zebulunite. Judged Israel for ten years. Judges 12:11-12.
- Abdon - Was buried in Ephraim so, Ephraimite? Judges 12:13-15. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy donkeys. Gideon had seventy sons. Abdon judged Israel for eight years.
- Samson - Tribe of Dan. Begins the defeat of Philistia.
The Israelites, led by Joshua, realized some remarkable victories in the conquest of Canaan. You can read of the tribal land allotments in the book of Joshua, chapters thirteen through twenty-one. After Joshua's death however, the Israelites quickly fell away from God and started suffering defeat. The first chapter of Judges relates some of these failings prompting God to use the Canaanites to scourge the Israelites.
- Judges 1:19 - [Judah] were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.
- Judges 1:21 - The Benjamites, however failed to dislodge the Jebusites who were living in Jerusalem.
- Judges 1:27-28 - 27. But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28. When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.
- Judges 1:29 - Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them.
- Judges 1:30 - Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor.
- Judges 1:31-32 - 31. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, 32. and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land.
- Judges 1:33 - Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them.
- Judges 1:34-35 - 34. The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. 35. And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor.
God addresses these failings in Judges 2:1-4.
Judges 2:1-4 1. The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, 2. and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3. Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you." 4. When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5. and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD .