James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.Judges 13:1-16:31
SAMSON THE NAZARITE
The close of chapter 12 furnishes the history of three other civil judges, and then we reach that of another warrior as picturesque as Gideon or Jephthah. Sampson’s life is so full of inconsistencies and mysteries from the divine standpoint, that again we can only await the explanations until we shall know as we are known.
THE PROMISED SON (Judges 13)
Here is another theophany, for “the angel of the Lord” is none other than Jehovah Jesus.
The beginning of this captivity to the Philistines is recorded in Jdg 10:6, apparently, when the historian digresses to speak of the probably simultaneous captivity to the Ammonites on the east and here returns to the south again.
Zorah (Jdg 13:2) was in the tribe of Dan on the border of Judah, and hence approximate to the Philistine country. For the law of the Nazarite, compare Numbers 6. Manoah and his wife were of faith and piety remarkable for these times, as illustrated in the former’s prayer (Jdg 13:8). Verse 16 identifies the angel with Jehovah. The word “secret” (Jdg 13:18) is, in the Revised Version, “wonderful,” and harmonizes with the name of Christ given in Isaiah 9:6. “Wondrously” (Jdg 13:19) is the same word.
The angel’s words (Jdg 13:16) are similar to those of our Lord in Matthew 19:17, and spoken for the same reason, viz: to instruct Manoah that the viands must be offered, not to a human prophet or an ordinary angel, but to the Lord Himself.
While both husband and wife had faith, the latter seemed to possess the better spiritual understanding, as judged by verses 22-23. She was able to draw a logical inference, and her words offer a suggestive
Text for a Gospel Sermon
Jdg 13:23 suggests “God’s Love Proven by His Work.” His manifestation in the flesh of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice and resurrection from the dead, and His revelations in the written Word, to follow the outline of verse 23, are all evidences of His purpose to eternally save them that believe.
SWEET FROM THE STRONG (Judges 14)
The key to this chapter: Jehovah by retributive proceedings, was about to destroy the Philistine power, and the means he chose was not an army but the miraculous prowess of this single-handed champion. In such circumstances the provocation to hostilities could only spring out of a private quarrel, and this marriage seems to have been suggested to Samson as the way to bring it about. See verse 4 as authority for this line of thought.
In the East parents negotiated the marriages of their sons, and the Israelites were not commanded against intermarrying with the Philistines as they were not of the accursed nations.
It may not be that Samson loved this woman so much, as that he found her well-suited for his purpose, which may explain the last clause of verse 3.
Observe that it was by the Spirit of the Lord, i.e., through superhuman courage and strength, he was enabled to slay the lion (v. 6), an incidental circumstance by which with others of the kind, he was gradually trained to trust in God for greater and more public work.
The bees are clean creatures, and time enough must have elapsed for the sun and birds of prey to have put the lion’s carcass in fit condition for their use (Jdg 14:8-9). The thirty companions (Jdg 14:11) were to honor Samson, and yet the outcome shows that they were there with ulterior motives also. “Sheets” (Jdg 14:12) means linen garments. “If ye had not plowed with my heifer” (Jdg 14:18) means if ye had not used my wife to deceive me. There must have been some reason why Samson went to Ashkelon (Jdg 14:19), and it is thought the men of that city were particularly hostile to Israel. Jdg 14:20, compared with the first two verses of the next chapter, indicates base treachery to Samson, which might well arouse just resentment.
THE HILL OF THE JAWBONE (Judges 15)
Samson now feels that he has a reason for revenge (Jdg 15:3), which (with assistance perhaps) he executes in Jdg 15:4-5. The margin of the Revised Version translates “foxes” as jackals, a cross between a wolf and a fox, which prowl in packs. Two of these were tied together, tail by tail, a slow fire brand being fastened between each pair. The brand lighted, they were started down the hillside into cornfields, and, of course, nothing could stop them as they ran widely here and there.
The remainder of the chapter calls for little explanation, except to say that the slaughter accomplished by the jawbone of the ass must have been, like the breaking of the cords that bound Samson, a supernatural act.
THE PILLARS OF THE TEMPLE (Judges 16)
The event at Gaza is discreditable to Samson both on account of his sinful conduct and the careless exposure of his life to his enemies, but God is still pleased to continue His power toward him (Jdg 16:3).
The event with Delilah is equally discreditable and he pays the penalty for it (Jdg 16:21). Of course Samson’s strength did not lie in his hair, but in God (Jdg 16:17), and in the consecration of his life to Him as symbolized by the growth of his hair. He broke his Nazarite vow by cutting it and in that sense cut himself off from God. The loss of spiritual power to the Christian is always accompanied by grinding in the prison-house of sin.
But how merciful God was to Samson that on his repentance, as evidenced in the growth of his hair again, He should have vouchsafed power to Him once more, albeit it was to use him further as an executioner (Jdg 16:22-30). It is important to bear this latter point in mind, to relieve Samson of the charge of suicide. He put forth his strength against the pillars of the temple in the exercise of his office as a public magistrate, and his death was that of a martyr to his country’s cause. His prayer was doubtless a silent one, but the fact that God revealed it and caused it to be recorded is an evidence that it was heard and approved.
As we dwell on the biographies of these judges, so reprehensible, and yet so used of God, we see the great distinction between a holy life and simply power for service. There are Christians seeking the latter who appear indifferent to the former, but for the individual in eternity it is the former that counts and not the latter. God may use any man, but it is only the holy man who seeks to do His will who pleases Him. Let our ambition be not to do great things so much as to be acceptable to Christ when He comes (2 Corinthians 5:9). Samson, Like Jephthah, is honored for his faith in God (Hebrews 11:32), and it was great, but he could never be honored for anything else.
1. Name the three judges referred to in the close of Judges 12.
2. Define the law of the Nazarite. Judges
3. Quote Isaiah 9:6.
4. Quote Matthew 19:17 and explain it.
5. Quote Jdg 13:23 and expound it, giving topics and divisions.
6. State the key to chapter 14.
7. What is the meaning of “sheets” in Jdg 14:12?
8. Describe the burning of the Philistine cornfields.
9. Where lay Samson’s strength?
10. Was Samson a suicide?
11. Which is preferable, and why, power for service or a holy life?
12. Quote 2 Corinthians 5:9.