Book of Judges Bible Study: Chapter Thirteen

Samson the Nazirite, and the Lure of the Philistines

 

By I Gordon

 

2 Cor 6:17-18 “Therefore come out from them and be separate,  says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”  “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

 

Introduction

 

Well, by now you probably know that this study is about Samson. The title kind of gave it away I guess. Oh Samson... Such an example, unfortunately, of what might have been. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. This study will concentrate on the last judge presented to us in the book of Judges. We will also look at the last enemy to raise its head against Israel during this period… namely, the Philistines. The study on Samson will be split into two parts. This study will look at his birth, the Nazirite vow, and the reason why full deliverance never comes to Israel during his reign as Judge. There are also aspects in the life of Samson which also remind us of the conditions in the end times. While this will be mentioned briefly in this study, it will be elaborated upon and completed in the next.

 

A few other comments are necessary before we begin. The Biblical revelation concerning the life of Samson can be quite disappointing really. Quite negative you might say, and I don’t think you were told the full story at Sunday school! Some people only like ‘positive’ messages, and if that is you, prepare to be disappointed. What I find interesting however, is that when God decides to write about His Judges, He spends more time on Samson than anyone else. Just possibly He wants us to learn something so that the errors of Samson are not repeated in the lives of other believers. We shall see. As we read these things however we should always bear in mind that Samson, despite his failures and weaknesses, was still God's chosen and anointed judge and as such he is mentioned in 'the hall of faith' in Hebrews 11. God still used him and there are certainly times of tremendous faith. But as you read the Biblical account as recorded in the book of judges you do start to wonder 'what might have been' if his weaknesses had not led to compromises with the enemies of Israel. Let's have a look. 

 

The announcement of a deliverer!

 

Judges 13:1-5 Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman, and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. “Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. “For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

 

So the seventh and last ‘cycle of sin’ begins as Israel again does what is evil in the site of the Lord, and for 40 years God’s people are subjected to the rule of the Philistines[1]. 40 years? That is the longest period that the enemy has ever dominated for in the entire book of Judges. And so it is that God says ‘enough’. The angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife and announces that she will give birth to a unique individual… a son who will be a Nazirite[2] from birth[3].

Now, the other main point that stands out in the passage before us is the prophecy concerning Samson that he will ‘begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.’ Since when did God’s chosen deliverers, His judges, only ‘begin to deliver Israel’? Did Othniel, Ehud, Gideon etc only begin to deliver? No way! Unfortunately, as we shall soon see, Samson would only partially deliver Israel because He couldn’t even fully deliver himself! And you cannot ever lead someone where you won’t go yourself.[4] But more on this later… Let’s just give attention to the hope Samson’s parents had before we completely burst his bubble!

 

Israel’s light has come???

 

Judges 13:24-25 Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

 

So ‘the woman’, Manoah’s unnamed wife, finally gives birth to her little boy. Can you imagine how they felt? They know they can’t have children, and then the Angel of the Lord comes to them and says she will give birth to a deliverer… and finally she gives birth to her son. She calls him ‘Samson’. The name means ‘like the sun’ or possibly ‘little sun’. Either way, you can imagine the hope these godly parents had that he would shine like the sun… that he would be a light bearer for Israel! Like another Nazirite centuries later, I’m sure that all around would have thought ‘what then will this child turn out to be? For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.’ (Luke 1:66)

 

What indeed? What would this child, whom the ‘Lord blessed’, become in later life?

 

The Slippery Slope Downhill…

 

Judges 14:1-3 Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. So he came back and told his father and mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” Then his father and his mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me.” However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord[5], for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.

 

So a grown up Samson finally goes down to Timnah, a Philistine controlled area. And what exactly does he do there…fight and begin the deliverance of Israel maybe? Well, no, not as such. He eyes up a Philistine woman whom He oh so wants! And so begins a sad tale where Samson goes down in more than just location. He goes down in morals, purity and separation unto God as a Nazirite. Concerning Samson, Charles Swindol wrote ‘…just as Superman was vulnerable to kryptonite, so Samson had a chink in his armour through which his greatness was sapped. He was king of the hill when it came to physical prowess, but when it came to women (sexuality), he was a pawn of his own passions.’ Now your kryptonite may not be Philistine women… you may be tempted by something else. But whatever it is, take extra care in that area and stay true to the scripture that says ‘put on the Lord Jesus, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts.’[6]

 

Samson’s alliances with the Philistines also speak to us of the Church as a whole in these last days. It seems that this last period in the book of Judges has parallels with the last days of Church history.[7] Do we not see compromise and alliances with the Philistine enemy in our day? There is no doubt that a one world government is on its way... even non-Christians can see this emerging. But be aware that with it comes a one-world religion. The alliances the church is making today with the Catholic Church and others are leading the way to a compromised, worldly, end time ‘religion’ which holds vague concepts of ‘God’ without the power of Jesus victory on the cross. ‘Tolerance’ is in, ‘truth’ is out (way gone!) It is an error of Philistine proportions.

 

Blessed with the Spirit’s strength, yet more compromise…

 

Judges 14:5-9 Then Samson went down to Timnah…and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a kid though he had nothing in his hand… When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion.

 

Wow! What amazing strength Samson had. Out comes the lion[8], roaring away and ready for the kill. Yet it is no match for a Samson supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit! A good type for our lives would you not agree? The Apostle Peter tells us that Satan goes around like a roaring lion, looking for those He could devour. But we too, like Samson, gain victory over the enemy through our faith in Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s empowering. No sooner had Samson performed this great feat of strength however, than He was breaking His Nazirite vow by examining and touching the dead body of the lion! Oh Samson! So little regard for the commands of the Lord. He ‘turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion’ the Bible says, and this curiosity with that which He wasn’t allowed to do, led to compromise. Curiosity concerning sin has a habit of doing that!

 

On finding honey within the carcass, Samson took some home for his parents, but made sure he didn’t tell them where he got it from. Not exactly surprising, as a guilty conscience often shuts our mouth from speaking the complete truth. The sweet honey may have given temporary satisfaction but was it really worth it Samson?[9]  

 

The downward slide gains momentum…

 

Judges 14:10-14 Now his father went down to see the woman. And Samson made a feast there, as was customary for bridegrooms.  When he appeared, he was given thirty companions. “Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.   If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.” “Tell us your riddle,” they said. “Let’s hear it.” He replied, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” For three days they could not give the answer.

 

So what started out as one Philistine companion, now leads to thirty! And as Samson eats and drinks (and possibly breaking his nazarite vow once again) at the feast to celebrate his soon coming marriage, it probably doesn’t even cross his mind that these same Philistines, his companions, are meant to be the ones whom Samson is delivering Israel from! Strange way of deliverance indeed as Samson slowly starts to become more like those from whom he was meant to deliver Israel. This should not surprise us as God’s word tells - ‘Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.’ (1 Cor 15:33). Learn from Samson and his mistakes.

 

Judges 14:15-20 On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to rob us?” Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” “I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people. Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Samson said to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.” …Burning with anger, he went up to his father’s house. And Samson’s wife was given to the friend who had attended him at his wedding.

 

What a wedding celebration that must have been! Only 7 days to go to the big day, the feast and guests are all prepared, the wife to be… well she cries the entire seven days leading up to the wedding! Earlier, having seen this Philistine and going by mere outward appearances, Samson had said ‘get her for me, for she looks good to me!’ Well how about now big guy? Does she still look good to you now? Of course you can’t blame Samson’s fiancé completely. Those nice gentle Philistine companions of Samson’s had just said to her ‘coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death.’ Nice guys these. So the Philistine fiancé wore old Samson down until he gives in and tells the answer to the riddle. Alliances with Philistines have a habit of wearing us down. This time it was just a riddle. Next time would be far more serious!

 

One last thing is to look at who gets the blame… a furious Samson tells them ‘if you had not ploughed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.’ Samson blames his companions and, indirectly, his, um, heifer. (He was obviously quite the sweet talker this Samson when it came to his wife to be!) Samuel Ridout in his ‘Lectures on the book of Judges’ brings out the real truth when he says ‘Ah, if only he had reversed it; “If I had not ploughed with your heifer…”. But he blames them…’ That is the truth. Samson was now paying the consequences for being in an alliance with the enemy that should never have been formed! Oh that we as individuals, and the church as a whole, would learn from this!

 

Conclusion 

 

Now you might think I have been a little hard on Samson. After all, he did make the ‘hall of faith’ in Hebrews chapter 11 didn’t he? Yep, he sure did. There are things later on in the life of Samson which he should be commended for. But unfortunately, we are always left with the ‘but what if’ question upon our mouths. A.B Simpson expressed it well when he wrote that Samson was:

 

‘A marvellous example of what God might have done with a thoroughly separated man, and yet what self-indulgence and sin can do to hinder the glorious promise and the gracious purpose of God.’ 

 

We will look again at the life of Samson in the next study. In that, we will look a little closer at some of the implications for the church as a whole of the Philistine alliances that are being made. For now however let us remember that something good can come out of Samson’s life. Like honey from the defeated dead lion, something sweet can come out Samson’s life if we learn from his mistakes and don’t duplicate them in our own.

 

 



[1]  You may remember from an earlier study that the name Philistine means ‘wallow self’. I mentioned at that time that they speak as a type of the extremes of our selfish carnal nature. In this study however, we see them now in possession and control of the Promised Land. Here the picture is not just of an individual’s carnal nature, but how that nature expresses itself through religion – namely, a carnal, worldly religion. This is the Philistine enemy that faces the Church in these last days.

 

[2] Just a quick comment or two about Nazirites… Read all about it in Number 6. Mostly it was a vow which somebody made for a limited time – usually 30 days. Samson, however, was to be a Nazirite all his life. The name Nazirite means ‘separate’ or ‘set apart’. Three main commands are given – 1) They could not drink or eat fruit from the vine. (No wine, grapes etc.) 2) Could not go near a dead body, or defile themselves by touching anything ‘unclean’. 3) Could not cut their hair all their days. Now while there is no command concerning Nazirites in the New Testament, all of these things can be applied to the believer today. God is still looking for those that are truly His to use. The wine or fruit of the vine is used as a type in scripture of human joy… worldly pleasures and pursuits. Our joy should come from knowing the Lord. Not touching a dead body or things unclean, speak of improper associations or relationships with those spiritually dead. That is why 2 Cor 6:17 is quoted in the context of not being bound together with unbelievers. Finally, long hair seems to speak of God’s strength in our weakness. This was certainly the case with Samson in that the cutting of his hair equates with losing his strength from God.

 

[3] It is interesting that there are only three people mentioned in scripture who were Nazirites their entire life – Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. I say interesting because they were all born to women who were barren – Manoah’s wife, Hannah, and Elizabeth. It just goes to show I guess that God is a God who gives life to the dead, and makes the barren, fruitful. Is that not awesome? We all have times of apparent ‘hopelessness’ like these woman, but God brings sense out of chaos, and creates something out of nothing. Trust Him.

 

[4] The other point to consider is that Israel didn’t really want to be delivered! Strange but true! It seems that Israel got quite comfortable being subjected to the Philistines (even after 40 years!) and don’t even call out to God for deliverance! A phenomenon strangely repeated by believers today. More on this later.  

 

[5] While the scripture does say that ‘it was of the Lord’ we should not ever think that this was God’s desire for Samson. God’s will is never in contradiction to His word and the Bible clearly commanded Israel not to take woman from the nations as their wives. (Deut 7:3-4) God would use this unholy alliance for His own good but I cannot help but think of how God could have used Samson had his heart truly been toward the Lord. No compromising alliances were needed with Othniel, Gideon or any of the other Judges and one wasn’t required here either!

 

[6] If only Samson had abided by this, his life would have been a totally different story. ‘Put on the Lord Jesus’ is spoken of first. Everything stems from here. If we were just trying to not fulfill the lusts of our flesh in our own strength we would end right up in Romans 7 – where the good you want to do, you do not do, but the evil you don’t want to do! Using the flesh to defeat the flesh! No, walk close to the Lord and ask Him to live through you. This is always first. But also do the second… don’t put yourself into situations where you know you will be tempted! Don’t trust yourself! A patient once said to his doctor that he had broken his arm in three places. To which the doctor replied, ‘well then, I’d stay out of them places.’ Good advice. Check out what Solomon thought concerning temptation – Read Proverbs 5:1-8. He says ‘do not go near the door of her house.’ In other words, take the long way home if you have to but give her a wide berth! 

 

[7] It is not a type as such… just a parallel. As the book of Judges progresses we see more and more of the truth expressed in the last verse of the book coming into play – ‘In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’ We are even starting to see this in Samson’s life, and He was God’s deliverer! Does this not remind us of the last Church age mentioned in Revelation – Laodicea, which means ‘the peoples opinions’ or ‘the peoples rule.’ And do we not see this increasing when we look at the western church as a whole today? Jesus isn’t being enthroned as King and even his people (professed) are starting to ‘do what is right in their own eyes.’  

 

[8]  Samson might have done well to ask himself why he was having this fight with the lion in the first place. Just maybe he should have taken it as a sign that going down after his Philistine woman was putting him in dodgy territory! The same could be possible for us. Not always, as Satan loves to attack those who are of the greatest use to the Lord… but clearly, a definite maybe!

 

[9] Like the honey, sin can be temporarily satisfying. The Bible doesn’t speak of the ‘passing pleasure of sin’ without reason (Heb 11:25). But it also speaks of the ‘hardening’ and ‘deceitfulness’ of sin (Heb 3:13). Thus it promises much, but in the end only leaves emptiness. Learn from Samson, and don’t let your curiosity lead to compromise.