Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bible Commentary - Judges 14

In this chapter, Samson marries a Philistine; and other escapades.

In the last chapter, we learned about Samson's great destiny, how he is to bring about Israel's deliverance, the LORD's blessing upon his life.  In this chapter... we learn how it all comes crashing down.

This chapter starts off on (what is to me) a grim note; Samson desires to marry a Philistine.  We should already know this is a problem because it runs completely contrary to the biblical command against intermarrying with the tribes of Canaan (Deut 7:3).  Samson's own parents discourage him from marrying a Philistine, but he insists and they reluctantly go along with it.  This is a pretty serious issue already, because of what it says in Deut 7:4, that marrying with the Philistines would lead the Israelites into sin.  Samson is supposed to save his people, but he's falling into the same sins that led them into bondage in the first place.

The next part of this chapter is little better.  Samson demonstrates his fantastic gifting by tearing a lion to pieces with his bare hands.  This is remarkable by any standard, and it shows us how much Samson is capable of.  Although it says that Samson went down with his parents, he must have been alone when he fought the lion because his parents are unaware of what he did.  When he goes back and sees the lion, he finds there is honey within the lion.  This is also pretty miraculous, because bees do not normally transport honey to animal carcasses.  It's not unreasonable for bees to be near the lion (because many kinds of wasps eat meat), but it is unreasonable that the bees would bring their honey to the lion.

But that's not the important part here.  The important part is that Exodus 22:31 commands the Israelites against eating the flesh of torn animals.  That prohibition would clearly expand to eating the honey from the lion, because the lion's flesh would be intermingled with the honey.  This is the second commandment Samson has broken in the span of 9 verses.  Even worse, he also feeds it to his parents.  It's hard to describe how abominable it is that Samson would not only make himself unclean, but he then feeds this same unclean food to his parents without telling them where he got it.  Verse 9 says that "he did not tell them" where he got the honey, because if they knew they wouldn't have eaten it.  The author of this chapter is implying that it would have been unkosher, and that's why Samson was concealing it.

Given that his parents seem relatively pious, Samson would have almost definitely known that eating the honey would violate his ceremonial purity.  But this is a man who is intentionally marrying a Philistine.

We don't really know why Samson is breaking the covenant.  That's not part of this story.  But I can already say that Israel is unlikely to be saved by Samson.  What God has shown over and over, through Moses and Gideon and others is that he doesn't want to bring deliverance through the strongest or wisest of men, but through the faithful.  Samson is strong, but he is not faithful, and it's going to cost him sooner or later.  It is not bad that Samson is strong (nor is it bad that any man be strong or wise or rich or powerful), but if he doesn't combine that strength with faithfulness, humility and righteousness, then the LORD will not act through him.

The last part of this chapter is also pretty weird, with the men of Timnah threatening Samson's wife to get the answer to the riddle, and in the end Samson doesn't even marry her, as she is "given to his companion".  I don't exactly understand how that happened; she must have departed with the 30 men while Samson was off killing their countrymen to pay off the wager?  For whatever reason, it seems that she did not go with Samson after their marriage feast.

The other thing that kinda confused me is verse 4, which says that marrying the Philistine woman was "of the LORD", since it was indeed contrary to the Law.  What I guess this means is that the LORD was intending to use this event to his advantage, but not that the LORD desired for Samson to marry a Philistine.  The LORD wanted to deliver the Israelites, and that's why he raised up Samson.  But if Samson wasn't going to work along with the LORD (like Moses), then he would work with the LORD in a more difficult way.  I guess this is analogous to Pharaoh, whose "heart was hardened" by the LORD.  Pharaoh did not choose or desire to work with the LORD to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, so the LORD used Pharaoh against his will.  In the same sense that it was "of the LORD" for Pharaoh to harden his heart, it is also "of the LORD" that Samson would marry a Philistine.  I don't think the LORD creates or desires these situations, but he does take advantage of them when they come up.  That's my opinion anyway.

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