According to Hebrews 11:32, Samson was a man of faith. But he wasn’t always a faithful man. He wasn’t faithful to his parents’ teaching, his Nazirite vow, or the laws of the Lord. It didn’t take long for Samson to lose almost everything the Lord had given him, except his great strength; and he finally lost that as well.
He lost his respect for his parents (vv. 1-4). The Lord had given Samson a godly heritage, and he had been raised to honor the Lord; but when Samson fell in love, he wouldn’t listen to his parents when they warned him. Samson had wandered four miles into enemy territory where he was captivated by a Philistine woman and decided to marry her. This, of course, was contrary to God’s Law (Ex. 34:12-16; Deut. 7:1-3; and see 2 Cor. 6:14-18).
Samson was living by sight and not by faith. He was controlled by “the lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:16) rather than by the Law of the Lord. The important thing to Samson was not pleasing the Lord, or even pleasing his parents, but pleasing himself (Judges 14:3, 7; see 2 Cor. 5:14-15).
When God isn’t permitted to rule in our lives, He overrules and works out His will in spite of our decisions. Of course, we’re the losers for rebelling against Him; but God will accomplish His purposes either with us or in spite of us (Es. 4:10-14). Samson should have been going to a war instead of to a wedding, but God used this event to give Samson occasion to attack the enemy. Because of this event, Samson killed thirty men (Judg. 14:19), burned up the enemy crops (15:1-5), slaughtered a great number of Philistines (vv. 7-8), and slew 1,000 men (v. 15). Samson hadn’t planned these things, but God worked them out just the same.
He lost his Nazirite separation (vv. 5-9). When Samson and his parents went down to Timnah to make arrangements for the marriage, it appears that Samson left the main road (and his parents) and went on a detour into the vineyards; and there a lion attacked him. A vineyard was a dangerous place for a man who was not supposed to have anything to do with grapes (Num. 6:1-4). Did God send the lion as a warning to Samson that he was walking on the wrong path? The Holy Spirit gave Samson power to defeat the enemy, but Samson persisted on his path of disobedience into enemy territory and an unlawful wedding.
Some weeks later, when Samson returned to claim his bride, he once again turned aside into the vineyard, this time to look at his trophy and perhaps gloat over his victory. His sin began with “the lust of the flesh” and “the lust of the eyes,” and now it included “the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). When Samson ate the honey from the lion’s carcass, he was defiled by a dead body; and that part of his Nazirite dedication was destroyed. In fact, two thirds of his vow was now gone; for he had defiled himself by going into the vineyard and by eating food from a dead body.
He lost control of his tongue (vv. 10-18). Since Samson hadn’t brought any men with him to serve as “friends of the bridegroom” (Matt. 9:15, NKJV), the Philistines rounded up thirty men to do the job for him. These men may also have served as guards for the Philistines; for Samson’s reputation had preceded him, and they were never sure what he would do next. Since the atmosphere must have been tense at the beginning of the feast, Samson sought to liven things up by posing a riddle. Sad to say, he constructed the riddle out of the experience of his sin! He didn’t take seriously the fact that he had violated his Nazirite vows. It’s bad enough to disobey God, but when you make a joke out of it, you’ve sunk to new depths of spiritual insensitivity.
It would have been an expensive thing for the thirty guests to supply Samson with sixty garments, so they were desperate to learn the answer to the riddle. Their only recourse was to enlist the help of Samson’s wife. Thus they threatened to kill her and burn down her father’s house if she didn’t supply the answer before the week was up. Samson resolutely refused to tell her; but on the seventh day, he relented. Since the marriage was to be consummated on the seventh day, perhaps that had something to do with it. First the Philistine woman enticed him (Judg. 14:1), then she controlled him (v. 17), and then she betrayed him (v. 17), which is the way the world always treats the compromising believer. Samson could kill lions and break ropes, but he couldn’t overcome the power of a woman’s tears.
We wonder how his wife felt being compared to a heifer? The proverb simply means, “You couldn’t have done what you did if you hadn’t broken the rules,” because heifers weren’t used for plowing. Since the guests had played foul, technically Samson could have refused to pay the prize; but he generously agreed to keep his promise. Perhaps he found out that his wife’s life had been threatened and he didn’t want to put her and her family into jeopardy again.
Those who can’t control their tongue can’t control their bodies (James 3:2); and in Samson’s case, the consequences of this lack of discipline were disastrous.
*Life Application : Samson impulsively used the special gift God gave him for selfish purposes. Today, God distributes abilities and skills throughout the church (1Corinthians 12:1ff). The apostle Paul states that these gifts are to be used “that the body of Christ may be built up;” that is, to build up the church (Ephesians 4:12). To use these abilities for selfish purposes is to rob the church and fellow believers of strength. As you use the gifts God has given you, be sure you are helping others, not just yourself.
Samson lost his temper (vv. 19-20). He went twenty miles away to Ashkelon so the news of the slaughter wouldn’t get back to Timnah too soon. His joke about the lion and the honey ceased to be a joke, for it led to the death of thirty men whose garments Samson confiscated. Samson was so angry that he didn’t even consummate the marriage but went back to Zorah and stayed with his parents. While he was away from Timnah, his wife was given to his best man. The Lord used this turn of events to motivate Samson to decide to fight the Philistines instead of entertaining them.
If Samson had won his way and married a Philistine woman, that relationship would have crippled the work God had called him to do. Believers today who enter into unholy alliances are sinning and hindering the work of the Lord too (2 Cor. 6:14-18). If Samson had sought God’s leading, the Lord would have directed him. Instead, Samson went his own way, and the Lord had to overrule his selfish decisions.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you” (Ps. 32:8-9, NKVJ). If we’re looking by faith into the face of the Lord, He can guide us with His eye, the way parents guide their children. But if we turn our backs on Him, he has to treat us like animals and harness us. Samson was either impetuously rushing ahead like the horse or stubbornly holding back like the mule, and God had to deal with him. Next time we’ll look at chapter 15.
We can be strong with God’s help.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament
Life Application Bible Notes