Judges 13-15: Character Faults
April 18, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Samson is perhaps the strangest of these judges, almost a crypto-superhero figure with enormous powers and odd/questionable behavior. It begins purely enough with this mother and father having a supernatural visit from an angel of the Lord, who announces that they are to have a child—in language that is familiar to the readers of the New Testament—and they are to bring him up as a Nazirite. He is to be specially dedicated to the LORD and set apart for him (Judges 13).
When Samson is old enough, however, he takes a liking for a Philistine woman, to take her as his wife (14:1-2). His parents understandably object, not only because the Philistines rule over them, but also because they would rather he married someone within the covenant, a part of the “circumcision” (14:3). Samson’s insights, and the author of Judges, let us know that this was from the LORD (14:4). This was God’s way of bringing to a clash the Israelites with the Philistines. It appears they had passively acquiesced to being ruled over by the Philistines (13:1) and needed a pretty strong wakeup call.
Samson, on the way to the Philistine woman, performs an enormous feat of strength with a lion (14:5-6). Returning to the carcass, he notices there was a swarm of bees inside and honey, which he took (14:8-9). Now he gives the Philistines a riddle (14:12-14). Such japes, rap-like trash talk, were part and parcel of Samson’s modus operandi. They could not guess the riddle, and so they badgered his wife-to-be to find out for them (14:15). Eventually her nagging pries the secret from Samson (14:16-17)—another pattern of Samson’s weakness with women that will recur with disastrous consequences—and they guess the riddle (14:18). Samson provides them with the prize through his own herculean efforts and then wanders off in a sulk (14:19).
When he comes back to find this father-in-law has given his wife-to-be to another man (14:20-15:3), he is incensed and through an extraordinary device (300 foxes with fire attached to their tails!) destroys their crops (15:4-5). They burn her and her father with fire, then attack Judah in return (15:6, 9). When the men of Judah ask why they are attacking them, they find out it is all Samson’s fault (15:10). Rather lamely, they seek to hand Samson over to the enemy—they say “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us?” exhibiting their lack of commitment to their calling to the land that God has given them (15:11). Samson agrees, as long as they agree not to kill him themselves (15:12-13), and when he is handed over, he attacks the Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey and kills a 1,000 of them (15:14-17).
Exhausted and thirsty, he asks God to open a spring of water for him, and God hears, indicating God is listening to this man who still called himself God’s “servant” (15:18-19).
Samson was certainly a mixed blessing. He was a judge for twenty years (15:20), and yet the weakness in his character became his downfall. Be careful to not only seek strength and power, but also self-control, discipline, and a heart set upon God above all. Samson is not the only strong leader among God’s people who has fallen due to a lack of discipline. Seek God in private, as well as in public, don’t rely on special gifts, but rely on God, and above all be faithful.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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