About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 15

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Samson's Vengeance On The Philistines (ch. 15:1 -  20)    


We talked about this earlier, but eh question arises again here in verse 1, "did Samson actually get married to the Philistine girl he liked, or did he run out on her during the wedding ceremony"?  This question is asked because here in verse 1 Samson calls this girl "his wife". 


Verse 1 says that "later on", that is, some time after the wedding feast, Samson took a "goat" and went to visit his "wife".  There are at least two possibilities here.  One is that same Hebrew word that is translated as "wife" can also be translated as "woman".   So which is it here?  Is it "wife" or "woman".  Even if the Hebrew text says "his woman", I think that would imply "his wife".  Some say Samson went to visit a woman, who, just happened to be the woman he wanted to marry but didn't.  Others say that this woman was his wife, and that he was married in one degree or another to this woman. 


I use the term "one degree or another" because in some cultures back then there was a type of marriage where the wife would actually stay living with her parents and the husband who did a lot of travelling for one reason or another would just come and visit, and normally bring a gift, which in this case would have been the goat. This might well be a possibility.  I am not sure if Samson was married to this woman or not, and I don't think we can conclusively really say.  Maybe Samson went through the vows but after he left, the father was so upset he just gave her daughter to another man.  The last chapter does say he gave her to another man.  Still, I lean towards Samson splitting before he was legally married according to that culture.


Concerning the goat, a gift would be brought to someone as a means of reconciliation.  Some suggest that this goat wasn't a gift from a live alone husband to his live with parents wife, but was a gift to the girls father, a means of reconciliation.


The wheat harvest mentioned here would be late May or early June.


Samson's intent to visit his wife was to "visit her in her room", as stated in verse 1.  Clearly, Samson wanted to have sex with this woman.  The problem was that the girls father wanted no such thing.


In verse 2 we see that this girls father interpreted Samson's behaviour as he left the wedding as being hatred towards his daughter.  That might suggest that the wedding vows didn't proceed or the father would have considered Samson and his daughter as legally married.  Whatever the case, because the father said this, he gave his daughter to another man, which, might well be a reason to think Samson was never married to this girl.  What probably made things worse for Samson, the man that the father gave the girl to was actually Samson's friend. 


It seems from the very beginning, Samson was infatuated with this young girl. 


The father offered a younger daughter for Samson instead of the one Samson wanted.  The father went as far to say that she was more attractive than the daughter that Samson wanted.  The question is this.  Was the father offering this younger daughter to Samson in marriage or simply for a night of sex?  I'm not sure we can really say because either way, such things took place in those days and in those cultures.


In verses 3 to 4 we see Samson's response to the girls father and it wasn't a happy one.  We see the anger of Samson that seems was always brewing.  He went out, and as the NIV puts it, caught 300 foxes.  Some scholars feel these were really jackals and not foxes since jackals gather in groups that would make it easy for Samson to gather.  Foxes are loners.


Samson tied the tales of these foxes so he had 150 pairs of foxes. He set their tales on fire and let them go.  The burning foxes set the grain fields on fire, along with the vineyards and the olive groves of the Philistines.  It is clear that Samson not only had a anger problem and but was very devious.  His anger was demonstrated in very creative and dubious ways. 


This makes you wonder why God would choose such a man to do His will.  The fact of the matter is that God has to work with fallen and deranged humanity.  This is one reason why God had to send Jesus.  Only Jesus could do what man could never do, even with the Holy Spirit enabling them.  That being said, we know why God chose Samson.  Because he was an angry man, God used his anger towards the Philistines to get them angry with Israel. The Philistines anger and subsequent attack on Israelis was God's judgment on Israel that was intended to lead them to repentance and a return to their God.      


We see in verse 6 the response to Samson's rage.  The Philistines burned the girl Samson wanted and her father.  The text calls the girl "Samson's wife".  Again, we can't say for sure if she was a legal wife, a semi-legal wife, or no wife at all. 


We should note Judges 14:15 in relation to verse 6 here.  In Judges 14:15 the Philistines told the girl that Samson liked that if she did not get the answer to the riddle they would kill her and her father's household.  And now they do what they promised.   


In verses 7 and 8 Samson responds.  He kills many of those who killed the girl and her father.  Some often question all the violence we see in the Bible, especially the Old Testament.  We need to remember that the Bible is all about God's dealing with a fallen and depraved humanity.  The Bible clearly shows us how depraved we really are, whether we want to believe it or not.  Even the New Testament doesn't withhold things that are attributed to our fallen nature among the disciples and even the apostles.  For example, Paul, in the book of Galatians, points out the hypocrisy of Peter.


I believe that the very nature of Samson was violent.  Still, God uses anyone He so chooses to use to accomplish His purpose, and Samson was clearly one of these men.  Part of the purpose of God that Samson was used for was to judge Israel by having the Philistines attack them.  To accomplish this purpose, God used Samson, a violent man who had an apparent compulsion for revenge.  This judgment was supposed to bring Israel back to God.


In verses 9 and 10 we note that because of what Samson did to the Philistines, the Philistines went up to Judah to capture Samson in response.  The men of Judah could not figure out why the Philistine army was in Judah until they learned that the Philistines wanted Samson. 


Verse 11 tells us the three thousand men went to find Samson.  They question him why he did what he did to the Philistines.  His answer was simple.  He took revenge.  Both sides were escalating the conflict with their need for revenge.


In verse 11 we note that Israel was subject to the Philistines and the men questioning Samson could not understand why Samson was making those over them angry.  On the surface as we have seen, it was all a matter of revenge on Samson's part.  But beneath the surface, it was a matter of God's judgment on Israel .  God was simply using the violent nature of Samson to accomplish His will.


The men questioning Samson wanted to tie him up and hand him over to the Philistines.  It was better that the Philistines kill one man in Samson instead of waging all out war against Israel .


Verses 13 to 16 show Samson's strength.  Being tied up, he ripped open the ropes when the Philistines came to get him.  He killed a donkey and with the donkey's jaw bone he slew many Philistines.  Again, God used the violent nature of Samson.  That being said, the text states that "the Spirit of the Lord came on Samson".  The strength Samson demonstrated was from the Lord, not just from Samson and his long hair.


In verse 16 the text states Samson saying, "with a donkey's jawbone I've made donkeys out of them", "them" referring to the Philistines.  There is some textual difficulties here.  The above translation is from the NIV, but due to the fact that they Hebrew word for "donkey" and the Hebrew word for "heap" are very similar, some translated Samson's words this way.  "With a donkey's jawbone I have made heaps out of the Philistines".  This means that Samson simply piled the dead Philistines into a number of piles, a number of heaps.


In verses 17 to the end of the chapter we note that after this great demonstration of power on Samson's part he was thirsty.  He called out to the Lord, and what he says, at least in my thinking, didn't sound real thankful.  I interpret his words to say, "okay Lord, you gave me the strength to kill all these Philistines.  Are you now going to take away my strength with this great thirst and let the Philistines kill me"?  However Samson meant this, the Lord did answer his petition.  Water came from a spring under the ground.


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