The Book of JUDGES
James J. Barker
SAMSON Part 1
- We come now to Samson, the last of the judges. Oftentimes, Samuel is referred to as the last of the judges, but Samson is the last judge mentioned in the Book of Judges. We are introduced to Samuel in the book of I Samuel.
- The book of Judges, the book of Ruth, and the early chapters of I Samuel all cover the same time period. It was a time of declension and apostasy.
- “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
- Judges 13 begins with a familiar refrain – “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them…”
- This time the Israelites were delivered into the hands of the Philistines (13:1). The Philistines are first referred to way back in Genesis 21 but they do not appear to be a major threat to the Israelites till the time of the Judges.
- From the time of the judges, and throughout the time of King Saul and King David, the Philistines were a constant menace. That is why Judges 13:5 says Samson “shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
- Samson began the job but could not finish the job. Complete deliverance was not promised because the Israelites were not willing to repent. King David finally put an end to the Philistine harassment in II Samuel 5.
- The Philistines were known as “sea people,” great mariners who settled along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea from Joppa down to the south of Gaza.
- The word “Palestine” is a Greek word derived from “Philistine.” Scholars believe the Philistines originally emigrated from Greece and Crete.
- The Philistines were a non-Semitic people and are often referred to in the Bible as “the uncircumcised.” You may recall what young David said about Goliath, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (I Samuel 17:26).
- The Philistines were intensely religious and their principal deity was Dagon (cf. I Sam. 5:1-5). They also worshipped many other idols, including Ashteroth and Baal-zebub.
- The Philistines had a league of five strong cities: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. Samson was born in Zorah, a city that was part of the tribe of Dan (Judges 13:2). Zorah was very close to the Philistine border and Samson made frequent trips across the border in order to satisfy the lusts of the flesh (cf. 14:1; 16:1).
- Samson is an enigma. He is mentioned as a man of faith in Hebrews 11:32, yet he is one of the most carnal men in the Bible.
- Judges 13:24 says, “The LORD blessed him,” but Samson was double-minded and unstable. James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” This describes Samson.
- Before men Samson was the strongest of men, but before women he was weak and could not resist them.
- Samson was empowered by the Spirit of God, but he constantly yielded his body to the lusts of the flesh.
- Back in 1939, Winston Churchill described the actions of the Russians as, “a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma.” He could have been describing the life of Samson.
- Samson is the most famous and the most prominent of all the judges. Since his story covers four chapters (Judges 13-16), we will spend a few weeks looking at his unusual life.
- Judges 13:1 refers to the longest period of oppression that God sent to Israel in those days – forty years. Judges 15:20 says that Samson “judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.”
- This means that Samson fought the Philistines for half of their oppression. As we study the life of Samson we will see that he did not lead big military campaigns against the Philistines. It seems that his strategy was primarily to vex and annoy the Philistines and to keep them from running the Israelites out of their land (cf. Judges 15:3-8, 14-16).
- In past messages, we have noted the usual cycle in the book of Judges – rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration (cf. 10:6-16).
- However, there is no evidence here in the book of Judges that the Israelites ever repented during this period of Philistine oppression. It appears that it was not until the days of Samuel that they repented (cf. I Samuel 7:3-8).
- In fact, rather than get right with God, it seems that the Israelites were getting used to the Philistines and even embraced their heathen religion (cf. I Sam. 7:3, 4; Judges 15:9-13).
- There is a lesson here for us. Churches are getting more and more worldly as Philistine influences get more and more accepted. Soon most Christians are content with things the way they are, and few Christians are willing to do anything about it.
SAMSON’S PARENTS (JUDGES 13:2)
- Like Abraham’s wife Sarah, and Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth, Manoah’s wife was barren (13:2).
- But God in His grace and mercy sent an angel to her to tell her that she would conceive (13:3).
- Like John the Baptist, Samson would be a Nazarite (not a “Nazarene”) from his mother’s womb (13:5, 7).
- The word “Nazarite” comes from a Hebrew word that means, “to separate.” Nazarites were supposed to be separated from the world and separated unto God. They were to abstain from wine and strong drink and were not allowed to touch dead bodies. As a mark of being set apart from other men they were not to cut their hair (13:4-7).
- The laws governing the Nazarites were given in Numbers 6.
- Samson was not a very good Nazarite. Nazarites were to be separated from the world, but Samson was very worldly. Nazarites were not to touch dead bodies but Samson took honey out of the carcass of a lion (14:9).
- Not only was Samson to maintain a separated Nazarite lifestyle, but his parents were to be separated as well. Manoah’s wife had to be careful what she ate and drank because her diet could defile her unborn son (13:4, 5). She couldn’t even eat grapes or raisins or drink grape juice (13:13, 14). Some pregnant mothers drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and even do drugs. Then their babies are born sickly.
THE PRE-INCARNATE CHRIST
- When Manoah asked the angel of the LORD his name, the angel said his name was “secret” (13:18), meaning “Wonderful” (cf. Isaiah 9:6).
- Oftentimes the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ appeared in the OT as “the angel of the LORD.”
- This same “angel of the LORD” revealed Himself to Moses in a flame of fire out of a bush (Exodus 3:1-3). We know this was the pre-incarnate Christ (Ex. 3:4-7, 11, 13, 14, etc.).
- Interestingly, “the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame” before Samson’s parents (Judges 13:20).
- At first, Samson’s parents thought that this angel of the LORD was some sort of unusual prophet sent from God (13:6-8).
- But after His miraculous departure, Samson’s parents realized that they had seen God (13:22).
- Manoah thought he was going to die (13:22). This is the same way Gideon reacted (cf. 6:22, 23).
- Manoah’s wife had a reasonable and sensible response (13:23-25). If the LORD were going to kill them, He would not have received their sacrifice, neither would He have told them He was going to give them a son to deliver them from the Philistines.