Friday, September 9, 2011

The Book of Judges - Samson Continues


Today we are back into our study on Samson.  We left off last time with him leaving his wife behind after her betrayal and returning to Israel with his family.  Some time has passed since then and now we pick things back up on chapter 15.
After a while, in the time of wheat harvest, it happened that Samson visited his wife with a young goat. And he said, "Let me go in to my wife, into [her] room." But her father would not permit him to go in. Her father said, "I really thought that you thoroughly hated her; therefore I gave her to your companion. [Is] not her younger sister better than she? Please, take her instead."   Judge 15:1-2 NKJV
Samson remembers his wife in Philistine and decides to pay her a visit.  He comes with a young goat for her father (today we usually just bring flowers or a candle) and asks to see his wife.  The father refuses Samson and informs him that he had given his wife away to one of Samson's "companions."  If you remember from last time, these companions were sort of assigned to be friends of Samson but ended up getting his wife to betray him to solve his riddle.  In other words, the father gave Samson's wife away to one of his enemies.  That would be a big deal today, but back then it was huge.  This was enough to start a war over, and that is exactly what we will see happening. 
And Samson said to them, "This time I shall be blameless regarding the Philistines if I harm them!" Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes; and he took torches, turned [the foxes] tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. When he had set the torches on fire, he let [the foxes] go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up both the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards [and] olive groves.   Judges 15:3-5 NKJV
We know Samson is temperamental and strong.  This time he feels quite justified in the revenge he is about to exact.  He takes some foxes and ties them in two's, tail to tail.  He puts a torch in between the two tails, lights the torches, and sends the foxes running into the wheat fields.  As we saw earlier, it was wheat harvest time and the fires caused by 150 pairs of foxes running haphazardly through the wheat fields would have decimated the wheat harvest. 
Then the Philistines said, "Who has done this?" And they answered, "Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion." So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. Samson said to them, "Since you would do a thing like this, I will surely take revenge on you, and after that I will cease."  Judges 15:6-7 NKJV
So the Philistines are unhappy with the destruction of their harvest and want to know who is responsible.  It is interesting they do not go after Samson, but choose to go after his father-in-law and wife.  Perhaps they remember what had happened the last time Samson went up against the Philistines.  They take and kill Samson's wife and father-in-law.  One of the few things worse than marrying your wife off to an enemy is killing her.  Samson again was enraged and our for his revenge.
So he attacked them hip and thigh with a great slaughter; then he went down and dwelt in the cleft of the rock of Etam.  Judges 15:8 NKJV
And revenge he had, killing many Philistines as he attacked them.  After he was done, he returned to Judah and was taking a break, resting after his slaughter. 
Now the Philistines went up, encamped in Judah, and deployed themselves against Lehi. And the men of Judah said, "Why have you come up against us?" So they answered, "We have come up to arrest Samson, to do to him as he has done to us." Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, "Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? What [is] this you have done to us?" And he said to them, "As they did to me, so I have done to them." But they said to him, "We have come down to arrest you, that we may deliver you into the hand of the Philistines." Then Samson said to them, "Swear to me that you will not kill me yourselves." So they spoke to him, saying, "No, but we will tie you securely and deliver you into their hand; but we will surely not kill you." And they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.   Judges 15:9-13 NKJV
The Philistines deployed their army to go and arrest Samson.  Judah, deciding not the face the Philistines and their wrath, decide to go and arrest Samson themselves.  They send three thousand men to go and arrest Samson.  That is a lot of people to arrest one man!  Judah is in no mood to stand up against their oppressors so they arrest Samson on their behalf.  Samson agrees to be arrested (yes even against three thousand men, he "allows" himself to be arrested) under the promise that they will not kill him.  They tie him and and bring him to the Philistines.
When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting against him. Then the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him; and the ropes that [were] on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it. Then Samson said: "With the jawbone of a donkey, Heaps upon heaps, With the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men!" And so it was, when he had finished speaking, that he threw the jawbone from his hand, and called that place Ramath Lehi.  Judges 15:14-17 NKJV
The Philistines saw their enemy bound and began to shout taunts at him.  Perhaps they still have not learned to not anger Samson.  God gave Samson great strength and he broke his ropes with ease.  He then finds a fresh jaw bone (because for a slaughter, you want your jawbone to be fresh) and kills one thousand men with it.  This one man, Samson, with nothing more than a makeshift weapon, a jawbone, slew one thousand armed men.  He was not a man to be messed with.  What three thousand men of Judah were scared to do, he did on his own.
Then he became very thirsty; so he cried out to the LORD and said, "You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?" So God split the hollow place that [is] in Lehi, and water came out, and he drank; and his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore he called its name En Hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day.  Judges 15:18-19 NKJV
Personally, I think that Samson is being a bit of a drama queen here.  He was very thirsty and basically asks God why He is going to allow him to die of thirst.  It was hot and he just killed 1000 men so I am sure he was very thirsty, but I think he was adding a bit of dramatics.  Either way, God provides him water and he drinks and is revived.
And he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.  Judges 15:20 NKJV
And over the next twenty years, he was judge over Israel.  Normally this would be the end of the story, but not in this case as we will see when we pick this up next time.

I think that if there is any take home message from today, it is that our actions can have great consequences.  While it was a big deal that Samson's father-in-law gave away Samson's wife, it was not something that should have resulted in the deaths of thousands.  That one act cost him his own life, the life of his daughter, the life of thousands of his countrymen, and ultimately much much more.  Sometimes we often think that the mistakes we make have limited consequences, but what we fail to realize is that those consequences can have consequences of their own and so on.  This can make something small into something monumental.  Sin can have great consequences on not just ourselves or even the direct victims of our sin, but it can also cause great harm to people not directly involved at all.  Sin is a wretched filthy thing that spreads its contamination far beyond our intended targets.  If we pursue righteousness and leave our sin behind, we will not have this problem.  For Samson's father-in-law, it cost the lives of many.  What will be the ultimate consequence of your sin?  When you stand before Jesus, would you rather be known for spreading the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus or for spreading the filth of your own sin to those around you?  That is a question we must consider whenever we ponder whether or not we will choose sin over righteousness.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.  Ephesians 4:29 NKJV

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