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Samson: The Man Who Brought the House Down on Himself Part 3

Judges 14:5-15:20

When I was living in Spokane about 23 years ago, my brother and his family came to visit us for a few days. We lived next to some woods, so the two of us, armed with high-powered slingshots, decided to get on my Honda and go into the woods for a little target practice. We stopped the motorcycle in the middle of the woods and attempted to see who was "slingshot champion of the world." As we were shooting, the biggest, blackest, and bushiest skunk I had ever seen came over a hill about 50 yards in front of us. When my brother saw him he got excited and said, "Let's go get him!" Now, my first impression was to say, "You're crazy," but I wasn't about to let Roy know I was afraid, so with faked excitement I responded, "Yeah, let's go." Like a couple of idiots, off we ran with two slingshots and some rocks. (I know how David must have felt when he faced Goliath.)

 

We got within 10 yards of the skunk when he sauntered into this big hole; apparently it was his home. I breathed a big sigh of relief and said, "Well, I guess that's it." However, that was not what my brother wanted to hear; to my amazement he said, "Let's scare him out!" You have to understand my brother; he's the guy who brought home seven rattlesnakes when he was a kid and couldn't understand why Dad wouldn't let him keep them for pets. Well, we came within three feet of this big hole, when I noticed a lot of other little holes that looked like they might be back doors to the skunk's house. The thought went flashing through my mind, "What would happen if that skunk decided to take a trip out one of the back doors, or worse yet, decided to back up to one of the back doors?"

While I was nervously thinking these things, my brother picked up a large rock to throw down the hole. In a split second I entered into what can only be called acute worry. I began looking into the future and asking the question, "What if?" and just as quickly answering my own question. As a result, anxiety, worry, and fear gripped my whole body, and I began to shake. Then something unexpected happened. Just before my brother could throw the rock, a little pinecone fell off a branch above my head and landed by my foot. Now normally that wouldn't have bothered me, but because of the circumstances, that pinecone was like an atom bomb. I began to scream—loudly and uncontrollably—scaring my brother (because he thought I had seen something he hadn't). So we took off running, screaming and laughing through the woods, never looking back.


Why would I tell you that story? Besides the fact that it's one of my favorite stories, and I love to tell it, it has value by way of contrast to the person we want to talk about. Samson may have been the strongest man who has ever lived and was surely the strongest and bravest hunter ever. No falling pinecone or skunk would scare him. He reached into the hole in the ground and pulled the skunk out by the tail.

If you've ever seen the 1950s movie version of "Samson and Delilah," you'll probably agree it's rather cheesy, but a scene from it is illustrativeof Samson's strength, as he takes on the lion. (An admiring woman was added to the setting to spice it up a bit.) That scene would probably not be able to be filmed today for a number of reasons (animal cruelty laws, etc.), but it gives us a graphic reminder of Samson's strength.

Yet, as we have seen in our two previous studies, Samson with all his physical strength was a weak man because he never learned to control himself. Proverbs 16:32 could have been spoken directly to Samson: "He who rules his spirit {is better} than he who captures a city." (K.J.V) Or as the NIV puts it, "Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city." Although he was single-handedly capable of capturing a city or killing a lion, Samson did not rule his own desires and lusts. As a result, for all his strength, he was a weak man.

Last session in Judges 14, we observed the influence Samson's parents had on him, especially his mother, and we viewed the first record of his life as a man. We were not impressed with the way he chose his wife-to-be, and were saddened at the casual way he ignored the Scripture and the instruction and pleading of his parents. What is impressive, however, was the way God was about to intervene in Samson's rebellion and accomplish His purpose in spite of Samson's less than stellar performance. We pointed out that we didn't believe the writer was condoning Samson's rebellion, but just recording how God overruled in this situation for a good purpose.

Today we continue on in Judges 14. Here's the famous lion-killing scene in vv. 5-9, and where we see:

The Initial Consequences of Disobedience

5] Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. 6] The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. 7] Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. 8] Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion's carcass. In it was a swarm of bees and some honey, 9] which he scooped out with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion's carcass.

Do you see the early signs of his spiritual decline? Sometimes the initial steps of disobedience are small, but they soon take a person away from God's plan. With Samson, for example, it is now very obvious: the vows are treated lightly. It seems from this passage that he broke two of his vows. First, he went by himself into the vineyards of Timnah. It is difficult to avoid grapes in a vineyard. Second, he also violated his second vow by handling a dead body (which no Jew was to do), and ate food from the lion, which was unclean. Not only did Samson break his vows, he caused his mother to break her vow. Remember, she too was a Nazirite, and here she ate some of the honey from the unclean lion (see Judges 13:14b).

What should the lion have shown Samson? I believe the appearance of a lion was significant to Samson. Here he was going his own way, doing his own thing, and a lion appeared. It charged him, and Samson tore it apart "like a lamb." (They must have been stronger back in those days, because a lamb would be tough enough!) The obvious lesson and reminder for Samson is that he had adequate power to live in victory over all his problems and challenges! His desires and drives were not beyond his control. In the Spirit of God there was adequate authority and power to live in victory. No matter how deep-seated the sin, the Spirit of God could deliver. What a lesson for Samson!

The presence of a lion is significant in our lives as well. In 1 Peter 5:8 we read of a roaring lion (Satan) that seeks to devour us. We should understand, as Samson should have, that greater is He that is within us, than he that is in the world. Satan is a roaring, toothless lion to the Christian who yields him or herself to the Spirit of God.We can have victory. I John 2:13b—"I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God lives in you and you have overcome the evil one."

Mark it down: in Christ, maturing saints submitted to God can have complete victory. The cross has already dealt with the lion in our lives. He is no longer a threat in Christ. We have everything we need to stand against his pressures and temptations. In Christ, it makes no difference how deep-seated or long-term our bad habits or weaknesses, there is adequate power to subdue them.

Back to Judges 14. I want you to notice Samson's response: an attitude of apathy or disregard for the provisions and commands of God. It is very apparent in v. 8—"Some time later, when he went back to marry her, [that is, the Philistine woman he wanted even though it was against the explicit command of Scripture], he turned aside to look at the lion's carcass. In it was a swarm of bees and some honey," This is a very dangerous sign. A casual attitude and disregard for the commands of God sponsors certain effects: I see three here: curiosity, compromise, and seeking company.

curiosity: regarding the pleasures of sin

Because Samson was treating God's commands lightly, "He turned aside to look at the lion's carcass." Samson knew he was not to go near, not to touch anything that was dead, yet there was curiosity over his road kill. (Sounds pretty sick, doesn't it?) Lest we be hypocritical, we should remind ourselves how typical this is of a person today who treats the commands of God lightly. When we lessen our commitment, we begin to say, "I wonder what would happen if I went ahead and did commit this sin? It wouldn't really bother me that much." Watch out! When we begin to say this, it's the beginning step toward a disregard for the principles/commands and even the promises of Scripture. If curiosity of sin is not quenched, the second step is:

compromise: the compromising of our own values

v. 8—"In it was a swarm of bees and some honey, 9a] which he scooped out with his hands and ate as he went along." He deliberately sinned, breaking his vow that prohibited him from touching and eating anything unclean. Numbers 6:6-8 says (speaking of the Nazirite vow):

"Throughout the period of his separation to the LORD he must not go near a dead body. 7] Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head. 8] Throughout the period of his separation he is consecrated to the LORD. 9] If someone dies suddenly in his presence, thus defiling the hair he has dedicated, he must shave his head on the day of his cleansing--the seventh day. 11] The priest is to offer...a sin offering and...a burnt offering to make atonement for him because he sinned by being in the presence of the dead body."

Was there any immediate negative effect? Did his hand fall off? No. He didn't initially feel any effect. In fact, he got a prize for his disobedience: the honey was sweet! This is a graphic picture of the subtlety of sin. There is usually initial pleasure, because sin is designed by our enemy so we will be enticed into making another compromise.

Let me point out something here: the reason we know Samson sinned is because the Bible explicitly calls it sin. A lot of people are running around today who see compromise in everything they, or others, do. There are others who have no concept of compromise. Both are wrong. I suggest the legalists spend time in Galatians, and the people with excessive freedom spend time in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. With that in mind, notice how curiosity leads to compromise, which often leads to the next step:

company is sought

Sin loves company. v. 9b—"When he joined his parents, he game them some [honey], and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion's carcass." Why didn't he tell? What was wrong with this? Wasn't he being generous? No! If his mom was still a Nazirite, which she was before Samson's birth, then he caused her to break her vow, too. Even if she wasn't a Nazirite anymore, the law said a Jew was unclean when he touched a dead body, or ate food taken out of the carcass of a dead body! No matter what, according to the Old Testament they were unclean, thanks to Samson.

Why did he do this? We don't know for sure, but typically sinners love to include the innocent in their sin—vv. 10-15; Prov. 1:8-14; 1 Cor. 15:33. Including the innocent may help to justify their sin and may give them a perverse pleasure. Here's a good example from Proverbs 1:

Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. 9] They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. 10] My son, if sinners entice you, (here an innocent boy is being enticed) do not give in to them. 11] If they say, "Come along with us; let's lie in wait for someone's blood, let's waylay some harmless soul; 12] let's swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; 13] we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; 14] throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse"--15] my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths."

Sinners love to include the innocent in their sin, and the result is that bad company corrupts the one with good morals. "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'" (1 Cor. 15:33).

The lessons are obvious from this passage. We need to be careful about our curiosity over sin, and not compromise what God has explicitly called us to do. Otherwise, we'll not only sin ourselves, but probably include others in our company.


It's amazing to me that God continued to use Samson as a judge, in spite of the imperfections in his life. (It's an encouragement for my own life.) From this point on, beginning in v. 10, we see some of the events leading up to Samson's wedding: 10] Now his father went down to see the woman. And Samson made a feast there, as was customary for bridegrooms. 11] When he appeared, he was given thirty companions.

Apparently Samson was a little short on clothes, so he devised a plan to get a wardrobe. He gave his companions a riddle. Here's an old fashioned riddle contest, kind of like an Old Testament lottery. The rules and prizes are found in vv. 12-13."'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. 13a] If you can't tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.'" The clothes Samson described were the epitome of Middle Eastern fashion and very expensive.

The riddle is in vv. 13b-14. "'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." I want you to notice that Samson was focusing on his sin/the breaking of his vow, e.g., the eating of the honey and the touching of something dead—a violation of the Nazirite vow. It seems that it dominated his thinking, and became the essence of his riddle.

Well, the Philistines didn't come up with the answer. In desperation they then exercised the following tactics in vv. 15-17. "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?' 16] 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?' 17] 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."

The tactics the Philistines chose were designed for Samson's weakness. He could overcome lions; he could overcome Philistines; but he was weak when it came to Philistine women. I asked myself, "Why was he so weak with the women?" Let me speculate, but I think it's real close: he was weak in so many areas for two reasons.

First, he wasn't taught self-control.

He didn't need just parent control; he needed self-control. Titus 2:6 says, "...encourage the young men to be self-controlled." Self-control is not something that comes naturally. It has to be modeled, taught and encouraged. Everything from the old nature wants to be free to pursue any sensual pleasure, but the Scripture is calling for self-control. All of Israel was out of control, doing what was right in their own eyes, and Samson was reflecting the norm rather than being the model his nation needed. Samson was primarily out of control sexually, but sex is only one of the areas in which self-discipline was lacking in Samson's day and in ours as well.

Where people are concerned, there are as many different problem areas as there are individuals, and if we fail to discipline certain vulnerable areas in our lives, we too will lose spiritual focus and power. Paul's great desire was to discipline his body so that he would be mastered by nothing, apart from the Lord Jesus. Almost anything can begin to take His place, from sexual desires to our interest in sports, to our love for music. Things which may be beautiful and good in their place can cause great damage when the dams of self-discipline are broken down.

Samson never achieved what he could have, because he did not live a disciplined life; and the same is certainly true of us. Donald Gray Barnhouse tells about a friend who raised strawberry plants and once sent him a shipment of a thousand plants. Barnhouse gave them to a farmer, who was working his land on shares. About the beginning of June, Barnhouse was delighted to look at the patch and see thousands of blossoms; his mouth watered in anticipation. The next day, around noon, he asked the farmer what he had been doing that morning. The farmer replied, "I have been picking the blossoms off the strawberry plants." Barnhouse just about had a heart attack.

Then the farmer said, "If you have strawberries the first year, the strength goes into the berries, making the plants weak, and they will never produce much in the future. But if you let the strength go into the plants the first year, you will have magnificent berries." I am afraid to use illustrations like that, because often someone misses the point and says, "Well, now I know what was wrong with my strawberries." I will not vouch for the horticulture, but the spiritual application is very true. God takes nothing good from my life that He will not give back either in a more perfect form, or for which He will provide a greater substitute. There is nothing wrong with the strawberries, but for the sake of something better, there is a time to do without them.

Self-discipline is not denying our drives and desires; it is submitting them to the will and timing of God (not repression or expression, but substitution). Samson's mistake was not in being attracted to that woman, but in failing to submit his sexual drives to the Lord's control. God's purpose is to produce rich fruit in my life, and that comes as I refuse to walk in the flesh, and, instead, put myself under the control of His Spirit. In His time, there is a wonderfully satisfying harvest. Samson, therefore, needed to be taught and to practice self-control.

Second, either he wasn't taught, or he ignored the lessons on wisdom from his dad.

It's possible to be the world's greatest parents, yet have children who struggle in the sexual/sensual areas of their life. I believe parents can really help in the process if they will find creative, age-appropriate, and consistent ways to teach their children. (See Proverbs 1-9.) Every dad should teach, or take his children through, the book of Proverbs. If you're a single mom, do the same thing; or see to it that a trusted man will do it. The book gives wisdom, and paints verbal pictures that are very graphic, making a great impression. I'll never forget how Proverbs 7 pierced my heart the first time I read it as a teenager.

Back to our story. What was the result of this riddle contest? The Philistines won."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'" (Judges 14:18). Besides the fact that it certainly isn't nice to call your wife a heifer, I wonder what the result on Samson's life would have been if he had not been yoked with this Philistine woman. He had no right to her because she was a part of an unbelieving nation, yet God—because of his mercy—allowed Samson a way out. Remember, it wasn't because God condoned the marriage. Notice what happens.

The prize is given. "Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he went up to his father's house. 20] And Samson's wife was given to the friend who had attended him at his wedding.vv. 19-20.

Do you see what the Lord did for Samson? He bailed him out. The Lord intervened on his behalf, but Samson also paid a price: his wife was given to another. Have you ever had a similar experience? As I said earlier, I can think of times when I was determined to go my own way, but God supernaturally intervened in such a way that I could not go in that direction. Because of His love, God will do that for us, but not always. At some point He steps back, as He eventually did with Samson.

Hardly in the honeymoon mood, Samson stormed away to his father's house. Left behind, his wife was then given to one of his companions. Sometime later, the harvest moon began a tidal pull on Samson's heart and mind. Before he knew it, he was at the door to his wife's room with flowers in hand. (Actually it was a goat, but that doesn't translate too romantically into our culture.) Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. Enter the father-in-law to stand at his daughter's door to stop Samson. He said, "I'm going to my wife's room." But her father would not let him go in. 2] "I was so sure you thoroughly hated her," he said, "that I gave her to your friend. Isn't her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead."

With thoughts turning quickly from romance to revenge, Samson's rages rushed to fill the suddenly vacated emotion. Samson said to them, "This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them." 4] So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, 5] lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves. One act of revenge begat another, as the Philistines retaliated by burning Samson's wife and her father.

v. 6--"When the Philistines asked, 'Who did this?' they were told, 'Samson, the Timnite's son-in-law, because his wife was given to his friend.' So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death." In turn, Samson struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter.Samson said to them, "Since you've acted like this, I won't stop until I get my revenge on you." 8] He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam.

Bound by ropes, Samson was given over to the Philistines by his fearful countrymen.

vv. 11-13—Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, "Don't you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?" He answered, "I merely did to them what they did to me." 12] They said to him, "We've come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines." Samson said, "Swear to me that you won't kill me yourselves." 13] "Agreed," they answered. "We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you."

So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock, and here we see the Spirit of God win. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, and he slew a thousand of his captors with the jawbone of a donkey.

vv. 14-19—As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. 15] Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. 16] Then Samson said, "With a donkey's jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I have killed a thousand men." 17] When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi. 18] Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD, "You have given your servant his great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?" 19] Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi.

Verse 20 closes with these words, 20] Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

If the story had just ended there, it would have been a story of triumph and victory, because Samson learned some important lessons.

  1. He learned that God was adequate to meet any need he had. That's obvious.

  2. He also learned that the Spirit of God could be in him, a well of water, satisfying his every desire and giving him the capacity to slay the enemies in his life.

As a result, Samson was able to judge Israel for 20 years. Apparently these were days of prosperity and peace for Israel, and the Philistines were held in check. Had Samson learned his lessons well, the end of his story would not have been so tragic. He didn't give his life fully to the control of the Spirit, however, so he was unable to fully deliver Israel.

Application

  1. What have you learned as you have watched Samson so far?

  2. Have you been foolishly chasing skunks or inappropriate relationships?

  3. Are you seeing the prize of forbidden honey yet? If not, you will, if you continue to flirt with that which is deadly and destructive.

  4. Have you seen the grace of God working in your life in spite of making some serious compromises with your values and morals? There are limits to His bailing us out. Logical consequences of resistance to God's way will finally be seen. Why not discipline the curiosity with sin, stop the compromise, and begin turning from the company that is destroying you?

On to Part 4!