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Judges 13-15 Listen
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.
6 Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name:
7 But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.
8 Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.
9 And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her.
10 And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day.
11 And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am.
12 And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?
13 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware.
14 She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.
15 And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee.
16 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD.
17 And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour?
18 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?
19 So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.
20 For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.
21 But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD.
22 And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.
23 But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.
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.
Israel deviated again! They were dominated by the Philistines 40 years. I'm not certain how significant this is, but notice that this passage doesn't even say they cried out to the Lord as it does on previous occasions in 3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:6; 10:10. Perhaps their spiritual state at this point was lower than ever before. Then came Samson. His mission statement is clearly stated to his mother in verse 5, "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." According to Numbers 6:1-12 (see notes), the Nazarite vow was voluntarily taken for a limited time, but Samsons was lifelong. It was placed upon him by his parents from before his birth in obedience to "the angel of the Lord." As a matter of fact, the Nazarite restrictions applied to his mother while she was carrying him because the angel had told her that Samson "shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death" (verse 7). During the vow, one's hair is not to be cut. Samson, likewise, was to never cut his hair...ever.
You will recall that Sarah, Hagar and Rachel had similar messengers. Regarding the identity of the "angel of the Lord," many believe that this is always a reference to God incarnate, Jesus himself. This position, while not held by all scholars, has significant merit. On this occasion, verses 16-22 are particularly enlightening on this issue as we see the verbal exchange between Manoah (Samson's father) and "the angel of the Lord." Manoah and his wife are convinced they have seen God himself in verse 22. I'm inclined to take their word for it; they are eyewitnesses whose exact responses were chosen to be included in God's Word. So, here's the bottom line on Samson: He was chosen by God himself to be a Nazarite from before his birth until his death. Samson's stomping ground was between Zorah and Eshtaol, two cities only two miles apart located in Dan's region approximately 20 miles due west of Jerusalem.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In adulthood, we get a picture of Samson that seems less than noble for someone who has been dedicated to the Lord. Remember his mission in life is to deliver Israel from the oppressive hand of the Philistines. However, when Samson is ready to marry, he does not want a Hebrew woman; he wants a Philistine woman. Despite their disappointment, his parents make the arrangements and put on a feast for Samson and his new bride.
Verse 4 is quite interesting here. Though Samson does not seem to be cooperating with God in embracing his life's mission of delivering Israel from the oppression of the Philistines, we are told in verse 4 that God intends to use this marriage to a Philistine woman to provoke the proper outcome. That's an interesting scenario that highlights God's sovereignty. Even though Samson seems to be running away from God's mission for him, this very act of rebellion will serve to initiate a war between Samson and the Philistines which will end in the accomplishment of God's purpose. As a matter of fact, a Nazarite was not to touch a dead body according to the specifications of the vow in Numbers 6:1-12 (see notes). However, the dead-lion-episode of these opening verses of chapter 14 demonstrate that Samson did not comply with the restrictions of the vow.
The wedding feast was thrown for the betrothed husband and wife. Samson has 30 groomsmen, compliments of the Philistines. Perhaps they were selected by the bride's family to offer some protection. During the feast, Samson makes a wager with his groomsmen based upon an episode he had on the way of killing a lion and days later scraping honey from the lion's dead carcass and eating it - yuck! By the way, he didn't tell his parents about the honey episode because a Nazarite was to have nothing to do with dead...anything. After the Philistine mafia (so to speak) threatens to burn Samson's wife's family's house down if they lose the wager, they get the answer told to them by Samson's new bride and subsequently win the bet against Samson.
She did have a tough time getting the answer from Samson; it required her to cry for the entire seven days of the wedding celebration to get him to break down and give her the answer. The time frame does not exactly flow clearly with the story here. Apparently she began asking Samson for the answer at the beginning of the seven days and cried everyday about his refusal to provide it until day seven when she is threatened by the Philistines, is subsequently given the answer by Samson and forthrightly provides it to the Philistines. Samson knows he's been double crossed. I like his acknowledgement of that in verse 18 when he says, "If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle." What an interesting figure of speech.
Losing this expensive bet doesn't seem to be a problem for Samson. He simply goes down to the Mediterranean coastal city of Ashkelon (approximately 3 miles above modern-day Gaza Strip), one of the five key Philistine centers; he slays 30 men and takes their clothing with which he pays off the bet. Aggravated with the whole thing, Samson heads back home with his folks, and Samson's wife's parents give his new wife to his best man. Incidentally, she was not theirs to give without a release from Samson. While her seven days of crying may have prevented the consummation of the marriage, still, she belonged to Samson. The fact that he had walked away did not change this reality.
One might be troubled by verse 19 when it says, "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." That may be seen as a simple ruthless act of robbery. However, remember that the domination of the Philistines over Israel was the reason God raised Samson up as a judge over Israel. While Samson was not embracing his calling from God, this double cross by the Philistines prompted Samson to do what he was called to do in the first place. Therefore, it was the "Spirit of the LORD" that prompted Samson to wage war on the Philistines beginning with these 30 well-dressed, unfortunate Philistine men.
1 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.
5 And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.
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.
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, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.
12 And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves.
13 And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.
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.
16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
17 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi.
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.
20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
Well, Samson decides to go back to his abandoned Philistine (betrothed) wife and reclaim her. One big problem, though - he didn't know her dad had given her to another man (an act which he did not have the right to do). Her dad tries to substitute the younger sister, but Samson is fumed. He pretty much holds all the Philistines responsible and comes up with his own weapon of mass destruction - fiery foxes with their tails tied together. They destroy the local Philistine economy. The Philistines, bad people themselves, get vengeance - killing Samson's wife and father by burning them to death.
Quickly the feud with the Philistines assumes national proportions as Samson seeks to avenge the death of his wife. Though he intended to stop when he got even (verse 7), neither side ceased seeking revenge until Samson and thousands of Philistines were dead, but not yet. Incidentally, how about that Tribe of Judah - great friends, huh! They were pacifists who wanted peace at any cost to their own personal freedom. They literally turn over one of their own (Samson) simply to maintain peace with the dominating Philistines. God has other plans as Samson breaks free and picks up an unlikely weapon (the jawbone of a donkey) to slay 1,000 Philistines. Why such a peculiar weapon? According to I Samuel 13:19-22 (see notes), the Philistines made a habit of banishing the weapons of their conquered people and controlled the blacksmith trade. Hey, use what you can get your hands on!
Now the stage is set; Samson began by turning his back on his mission of delivering his people from dominance by the Philistines, but the "Spirit of the Lord" had prompted him to action. Now his relationship with the Philistines is as it should have been from the beginning - HOSTILE!
Let's face it - God had to provoke Samson to do the right thing regarding his mission in life - deliverance of Israel from the cruel regime of the Philistines. Hey! Whatever it takes. Notice Judges 15:20, "And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years." We'll see the conclusion of Samson's God-given appointment in Judges 16 (see notes). It's important to note, however, that Samson embraced his position as judge over Israel (for 20 years) as a result of the provocative actions that led up to Judges 14:19. The sovereign hand of God is seen throughout the life of Samson.