Judges 14:1-2 Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.
Samson was a man of many flaws, and one of his worst was a weakness for Philistine women. Intermarriage was forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 7:3-4), but that didn’t bother Samson at all. Even though she was an enemy of God’s people, and his parents objected, and God had forbidden it, Samson was determined to marry her. He wanted what he wanted, and would not be deterred. God’s people can be willful at times.
An honest believer put it this way: I know the badness of my heart. There are times when I am more than willing to cross the Almighty. Never mind that Jesus bled and died for me, has forgiven my sins, and promised me a home in heaven. There are times when I want to do what I want to do, and I go ahead and do it. This kind of behavior is never advisable, but it underscores the depth of our depravity, and our need for God’s grace.
Judges 14:4 His parents did not know that this was from the Lord.
This is a troubling statement that cannot be fully explained. It implies that God was partly responsible for the evil in Samson’s heart. But how could God be responsible for the evil in Samson’s heart, without being the source or cause of evil? This problem appears in other places as well.
After Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, God promoted him to second in command over Egypt. Then Joseph said to his brothers, You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good (Genesis 50:20). God intended their wicked act to bring about a greater good—but he still intended their wicked act. This seems to be a problem.
Even more profoundly, God used the wickedest act ever (killing the Messiah) to bring about the greatest good ever (salvation for the world). This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:23), said Peter. We do not know how God can ordain evil without being the source or cause of evil. But we do know that God is in charge of everything, and that he overrules evil to bring about a greater good. This is what he would do through Samson.
Judges 14:5 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother.
Samson and his parents were on their way to meet the bride-to-be, and make arrangements for the wedding. They were separated along the way, and a young lion came roaring toward Samson. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat (Judges 14:6).
This is one of three times The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon [Samson] (Judges 14:6, 14:19 and 15:14). Some of his exploits are so remarkable they defy human explanation. But when we understand that they were done by the power of the Spirit, they become more plausible, since nothing is too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:17).
Judges 14:8-9 Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along.
This was Samson’s wedding day, and on his way he found some honey in the carcass of the lion he killed earlier. The wedding feast went on for seven days, and to entertain his new Philistine friends, Samson proposed a riddle. Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet (Judges 14:14).
If they could solve his riddle, Samson would give them each a new set of clothes. If not, they were each to give him a new set of clothes. Since clothing was expensive, Samson’s friends persuaded his new wife to get the answer for them. Samson explained the riddle to her, and she informed his companions. Suddenly, Samson was in debt.
In order to pay his debt, Samson went to another town, where he killed thirty Philistine men and stole their clothes. But he was so angry at his wife for betraying him, that he went back to his home to live with his parents.
Samson is not a good role model for anyone. But in God’s providence, he was disrupting the good relationship between the Philistines and the Israelites. The Israelites were commanded by God to take over the Promised Land, and drive out the inhabitants (Deuteronomy 7:2). Instead, they settled down in the land and were being governed by the inhabitants (Judges 15:11). This arrangement was so agreeable that God’s plan to have a chosen people was in jeopardy.
By committing acts of violence against the Philistines, Samson was keeping Israel from being absorbed by them. In that case, all the promises God made to his people (Genesis 12:1-3) would have been defeated. God always keeps his promises, and was using Samson to preserve the nation of Israel.
Reflection and Review
Why are God’s people so wicked at times?
How was Samson able to perform remarkable acts of strength?
Why was it important for Israel to remain distinct from the Philistines?