God Raises up a Judge

You can read Judges 13-16 on


The life of Samson begins somewhere around 1100BC and is quite a remarkable story in the book of Judges and in the Bible as a whole. We are introduced to his parents first as a man and a woman who have not yet been able to have children. Samson is a miracle from birth, someone the Lord was raising up to deliver Israel from the rule of the Philistines just as someday Christ would come to earth to die for the sins of the world to deliver us. Samson was the closest person to Superman who ever lived but this Superman was given to the lust of his flesh and he all too often gave in to the worldly desires of his heart. The nation of Israel should’ve seen themselves in Samson. Samson had been started off on the right foot from the beginning. He had been given parents who loved him and the Lord and taught him what was right, if you compare his beginning to that of Jephthah the judge immediately before him in chapter 11 you see Samson had all the advantages in the family. Jephthah was the son of Gilead and a prostitute and eventually the legitimate sons of Jephthah drive him away when they are all adults. Hardly seems to be the beginning of a great leader. Just as Samson had been chosen to lead from the beginning, Israel was God’s chosen people but both the nation of Israel and Samson pursue after strange women and ultimately the disobedience is their downfall. God still used Samson mightily in spite of his failures and in the end when pride, lust and disobedience have caused him to be stripped of his strength he humbles himself and repents and is used for triumph over the Philistines at the end of his life.

Judges 13:1-24 (A Judge is Born)

In 13:1 we see once again that oft repeated phrase and Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and the Lord gave them up into the hands of the Philistines for forty years. Interestingly enough we see that Israel does not give the also oft repeated, and they cried out to God over their bondage. Israel had become so infatuated with their worship of baal that they didn’t desire a deliverer to rescue them from being under the pagan rule of the Philistines. They seem to have become completely content with servitude, if we flip over to Judges 15:11 we see farther along in our story their frustration with Samson at causing difficulties in his acting as a thorn in the nation of Philistia. Their comments of “Don’t you know the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” How could you Samson? Don’t you know we have easy lives right now as long as we don’t rock the boat? What are you doing to us? Their comments sound quite similar to the comments of their forefathers to Moses when they whine to him that it would’ve been better if you would’ve just left us in Egypt! Life was easier there, this is just too hard. Once you recognize this Israel and their lack of faith and trust in the almighty God who brought them out of Egypt, defeated Jericho and gave them victory in Canaan and had delivered them multiple times before in Judges, you cannot help but marvel at the graciousness of God towards them. This is a quote from commentator Dale Ralph Davis on this:

What does He do when He has a people who refuse to forsake Baal and have no desire to forsake Philistia? A people grown so used to bondage they don’t even have sense to call out for relief? At least here the very God who Judges them begins to work their deliverance anyway. That is grace, grace greater than all our sin, than all our stupidity, than all our density. Nor can any Christian fail to rejoice in such a gracious God. For if Yahweh’s help were given only when we prayed for it, only when we asked for it, only when we had sense enough to seek it, what paupers and orphans we would be.

In verses 2-5 of chapter 13 we are introduced to Manoah and his barren wife. The Angel of the Lord (this is the same Yahweh that appeared to Moses) appears to her and tells her that behold you are barren and have not born any children. Almost seems to be rubbing salt in the wound, but then the incredibly joyous words come but you will conceive and you will bear a son. He gives her instructions to be careful and to not drink strong drink or wine and to not touch anything that is unclean, again He reiterates that you will conceive and bear a son. No razor will come upon his head for the child will be a Nazirite (Nazirite vow Numbers 6:1-12) to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the Philistines.

Where else do we hear this familiar motif of a barren woman becoming a mother in scripture? Sarah anguished over childlessness (Gen. 11:30-21:1), Rebekah’s first 20 years of marriage were childless (Gen. 25:19-26), Rachel was barren and incredibly jealous of Leah until she at last bore Joseph (Gen. 29:31-30:24) and then in post-Sampson time we meet Hannah (1 Sam 1) and Elizabeth (Luke 1).

We don’t ever find out Manoah’s wife’s name, we simply know her as Manoah’s wife. How often does the Lord begin there? In complete human obscurity and hopelessness where there is no ability or energy to start deliverance, deliverance must be brought about by the power of God and His ability to do the impossible. God would bring salvation for His people out of nothing.

The wife tells Manoah what happened and he prays with urgency to the Lord to please let the man of God come again to us to teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born. Does this remind you of an earlier passage in Judges? Direction had been given to Gideon but he asked for further signs from the Lord just to be sure this is really true. Similarly here Manoah’s wife had been given direction, God had chosen to send the Angel of the Lord to her with the information, Manoah did not need any further direction on what to do but the Lord’s response in verse 9 is pretty awesome.

And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of the Lord once again comes to the wife, she hurries and gets her husband and the angel of the Lord repeats His instructions to Manoah as well. After Manoah desires to prepare a young goat as food for Him. In verse 16 the angel of the Lord says that He will not eat the food but that they should offer the food as a burnt offering to the Lord, for it says that Manoah did not know Him to be the angel of the Lord. Manoah asked about His name saying so that when His words come true that they may honor Him. The angel of the Lord responds, why do you ask my name seeing that it is wonderful? Manoah offers the burnt offering and as Manoah and his wife are watching and the flame is going up toward heaven the angel of the Lord goes up in the flame of the altar. Manoah and his wife fall on the ground and Manoah knows that this had been the angel of the Lord (Yahweh). Manoah states that we shall surely die for we have seen God, his wife encourages him saying if the Lord had meant to kill us why did he accept the offering from us and why did he announce such things to us as these?

Samson is born and he grows as a young man and the Lord blesses him and the spirit of the Lord begins to stir in him.

Judges 14 (God uses Samson’s marriage as an occasion against the Philistines)

In the beginning of chapter 14 we see Samson going down to Timnah in Philistia. There was evidently not much for conflict between the Israelites and Philistines. The Israelites did not mind being underneath the rule of the Philistines as the city of Timnah was occupied by Philistines. Timnah was a city that sat four miles southwest of Zorah, it was a city on the border between Judah and Dan, and if you reference Judges 15:10 belonged to the tribe of Judah.

In verses 1-4 Samson, on his stroll to Timnah sees a daughter of the Philistines and he comes home and he says to his mom and dad hey go get her for me as my wife. Normally in Israel the parents decided whom their children would marry or at least had an important voice in the decision as to who their child would marry but Samson was being his strong-willed self and making this determination on his own. Can you hear the anguish in his father’s and mother’s voices as they plead with him, is there not a daughter from among your relatives or your people that you could marry? Must you marry this daughter of uncircumcised (pagan) Philistines? Verse four states however that his parents did not know that it was from the Lord for He was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. Also reiterating that at that time the Philistines ruled over Israel. Samson’s desire here was of a sinful nature but the Lord in His sovereignty was going to use Samson’s sinful desire for a bride from among a pagan people, because she was pleasing to his fleshly desires, as an occasion for judgment upon the Philistines.

Vs 5-6 there is an incident with a lion. A young lion comes rushing out of the brush roaring at Samson and the spirit of the Lord rushes upon him and he tears the lion apart as the scripture states one would tear a young goat. Why does this happen? What purpose could there be in this lion attack? Who else defeats a lion in scripture? David defeats a lion and a bear as a shepherd through the help of the Lord and because of this his faith is bolstered. He says to King Saul in 1 Samuel 17:34-37 that God had enabled him to kill a lion and a bear and because of this he knows that God will make this pagan Philistine (Goliath) as one of them and he will be victorious over it because of the Lord. Was God showing Samson what power he had to do amazing things for the Lord if he simply obeyed? I believe he was, if Samson recognized this a humble heart would’ve turned from the desire to marry this pagan woman but headstrong Samson continues on his way to be married.

Vs 8-9 We see Samson going past the carcass of the lion that he has slain and he hears some buzzing and goes to investigate. Hey there’s honey in the carcass and he scrapes it out with his hands and brings some to his parents to eat as well but he doesn’t tell them where he got this honey. Why doesn’t he tell him? Well he knew as part of his Nazirite vow he was not to eat anything unclean, some scholars argue that because the Numbers 6 passage references just a dead human body that Samson was not sinning and violating his vow by touching the dead body of the lion and other scholars argue that he is indeed in violation of his vow and sinning by touching the carcass. I believe that he was in violation of his vow and I also believe he recognized it and this is why he didn’t want to speak to his parents about where the honey came from. They were frustrated with his choice of a bride, imagine their dismay in finding out that he had violated his Nazirite vow as well.

Vs 10-20 The wedding feast has been prepared and thirty Philistine companions have been brought to him to have a party with. Samson in all his self confidence and cleverness decides to give a riddle to them, and if they can solve the riddle within the seven days of the feast they will get thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes but if you can’t figure it out you owe me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes. The men agree to it, I’m sure thinking somewhat what could this Israelite come up with that we couldn’t figure out? So he gives them the riddle, out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet. After three days they can’t figure anything out so they go to Samson’s bride and threaten to burn her and her father’s house with fire if she doesn’t find out the answer for them. So Samson’s new bride comes weeping to him, you only hate me, you do not love me, you have put a riddle to my people and not told me the answer. She nagged him and cried for the rest of the feast until he gave in on the seventh day and tells her the answer. The men come and give the answer and Samson, frustrated as he is, makes reference that if you wouldn’t have plowed with my heifer you wouldn’t have figured this out. He goes and kills thirty men of Ashkelon and gives their clothes to his companions to settle up his debt and then storms off home and his bride is given to his best man. Chapter 14 highlights Samson’s strength in the Lord as the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him as he tears a lion apart and then also as he kills thirty men of Ashkelon, but then we also see quite clearly the weakness Samson had for pagan women and the lust of his flesh which would eventually be his downfall.

Chapter 15 (Samson becomes a real thorn in the side of the Philistines)

We see at the beginning of chapter 15 Samson has cooled off and decides he’s going to go see his wife, so he shows up on the doorstep of his father in laws house with a goat and states I will go into my wife, his father in law responds no you won’t, I thought you despised her so I gave her to your best man, but hey her younger sister is more beautiful than her. Why don’t you take her instead? Samson storms away and declares this time I shall be innocent in regard to the Philistines when I do them harm, he goes and catches 300 foxes and ties their tails together and puts a torch between each pair of tails and sets them free amongst the wheat fields of the Philistines in Timnah as well the grain that had been harvested as well as the olive orchards. Ironically these men had threatened to burn his wife and her father’s house earlier and now Samson comes and burns their fields. The men of Timnah respond by burning Samson’s wife and her father. Samson comes and avenges them by smiting the Philistine men, verse 8 states hip and thigh with a great blow he struck them and then he heads down to the cleft of the rock of Etam.

In verse 9 we see the Philistine men in retaliation coming and making a raid against Judah. The men of Judah ask why have you come up against us? The Philistines respond that they have come for Samson to do to him what he has done to us. So 3000 men of Judah go down to Samson and the exchange that takes place is quite sad really.

Judges 15:11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.”

Samson don’t you get it the Philistines rule over us and we’re quite content with that! Why are you rocking the boat? You’re causing discomfort to us! What should’ve been the response of these 3000 men? Hallelujah, almighty God has sent us a deliverer! Samson, we’re with you! What should we do? How are we going to defeat the Philistines? Tell us what you need us to do. No instead these men were incredibly weak who would rather stay subservient to a pagan people than go claim and have complete dominion over their God-given inheritance. This exchange is one that is incredibly sad and disappointing. The Jews would later in history do the same thing to the Savior of the world shouting crucify him, crucify him! God had sent a deliverer for his people in Samson and they missed it just as the Jews would miss who Jesus was, the Savior of the world.

Samson is bound and delivered over to the Philistines, the Spirit of the Lord once again rushes upon him and his bonds are described have become like flax burned and they melt off his hands and he finds a fresh jawbone of a donkey nearby and with it he slays 1000 men. There is such humor in the Lord’s salvation of his people, everytime the Philistines seem to win the Lord uses Samson for things to become disastrous for them. In chapter 14 they solve the riddle but then lose thirty fellow citizens, there seems to be peace in Timnah until Samson sends 300 foxes loose, they’ve got the Israelites doing their bidding by binding Samson up and delivering him over to them until he is giving them a whooping with the jaw of a donkey. This should’ve put smiles on the Israelites faces, they should’ve joined Samson but instead they cowered in a corner and would not join in obedience to God.

Chapter 16 (Disobedience brings a loss of strength, in humility and repentance strength is restored)

Chapter 16 opens with Samson once again pursuing fleshly desires by traveling to Gaza to visit a prostitute. The men of Gaza are told and they set an ambush for Samson at the gate of the city. Samson picks up the gates, posts and all, and carries them forty miles to the top of the hill in front of Hebron. Scholars estimate the weight would have been four to ten tons depending on the thickness of the gates. What a feat! At this point if you’re a Philistine you’d think you’d just stay away from this guy.

We then begin the narrative of Samson’s ultimate undoing. It is a repetition of a sinful pattern in Samson’s life. His inability to control the desires of his flesh and his pursuit of strange women. Samson’s life reminds us of the importance of these verses in Proverbs 5:3-6

    For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
        and her speech is smoother than oil,
    4but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
        sharp as a two-edged sword.
    5Her feet go down to death;
        her steps follow the path to Sheol;
    6she does not ponder the path of life;
        her ways wander, and she does not know it.

Chapter 16:4 states that after this he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. The Lords of the Philistines come to her and ask her to seduce him and find out what the secret of his strength is. They each promised to give her 1100 pieces of silver if she was successful, this would be approximately 140 lbs in weight. In the US silver is just under $275 a lb right now so quite the fortune for a woman in this time. The Bible does not specifically say that Delilah was a Philistine woman but the location of Sorek and her communication with the Philistine leaders seems to imply that she was most likely a Philistine.

Samson has accomplished great things for the Lord to this point, we have seen great victories wrought by him through the Spirit of the Lord. However Samson instead of his faith being encouraged, and more humility building in him at the fact that God had chosen him to perform such mighty acts he seemed to have become increasingly arrogant the farther we move through this story. His willingness like a little child to continue to step closer and closer to the fire, to see how close they can get without being burned was growing by the minute. He had become arrogant in his strength, he seemed to have the attitude that nothing could slow him down, nothing could defeat him. In his strength he had become incredibly weak because he had forgotten the source of his great strength and he was about to pay dearly for it.

Delilah approaches him and you can picture her sweetly, flirtatiously saying to Samson, “Oh Samson you’re so strong, please tell me the source of that strength and how you could be subdued”. Evidently she didn’t think P90X workouts probably were enough to produce that strength. Red flags should’ve been going off in Samson’s mind at this point. What’s this woman up to? As Joseph fled Potiphar’s wife Samson should’ve got up and ran from her presence, but instead his inability to resist sin causes him to stay and he gives her a story that if he’s bound with seven new bowstrings he will be as weak as any other man. She binds him and wakes him up yelling Samson the Philistines are upon you! Samson snaps the bowstrings like they’re not even there. Delilah is upset with him, you mock me! You tell me lies! Samson gives her another story to keep her quiet. Bind me with fresh new ropes that have never been used and I will be as weak as any other man. She does this and again he breaks the ropes as she yells that the Philistines are upon him. Again she is upset telling him that you are mocking me and telling me lies! Samson once again gives another story, weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom and fasten it with a pin and I will be weak as any other man. Again she does this and again she tells him the Philistines are upon you and again Samson breaks free as if nothing is there. She is exasperated with him, telling him you do not love me! How could you Samson? Again Samson has the chance to leave he could have fled while he had the chance but he chose to stay and the scripture says that she vexed him day after day until his soul was vexed unto death. He was playing with fire but was so blinded by his pursuit of sin and his confidence and pride in his strength that he eventually surrendered the truth as to his strength and told her that a razor had never come upon his head and that if it did he would be as weak as any other man. She cuts his hair and again says the Philistines are upon you, he awakes again thinking I’m sure all will be fine but he awakes to find the Lord has departed from him and his strength has left him. The Philistines take him and gouge out his eyes and he is bound with bronze shackles and he is forced to grind at the mill but the scripture says the hair of his head began to once again grow. Also in the midst of his humiliation his heart begins to change and a spirit of humility begins inside of him.

The Philistines bring him out during a feast at the temple for Dagon for they said our god has given our enemy into our hands, and they brought Samson between the pillars of the temple to entertain them in their feast and merriment. Samson prays a prayer that comes most definitely from a humble repentant heart. Verse 28 “Oh Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, Oh God that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes. Samson grasped the two middle pillars and he leaned his weight against them and Samson said let me die with the Philistines and then he bowed with all his strength and the house fell upon the Lords and upon all who were in it. The dead whom he killed in his death were more than he killed throughout his life.

Samson was not the person God used to give complete deliverance to his people from the Philistines but he was the one God chose to begin the deliverance of his people from the Philistines until King David ultimately subdues them in II Samuel 8:1. In his death Samson dealt a great blow to Philistia in the deaths of much of their leadership at this time.

Application for us today

  1. We can still be used in spite of our sin. Every hero in the Bible, the stories of their lives are filled with their failures. Abraham has the faith to offer his son as a sacrifice but fails in faith and lies to foreign kings that his wife is his sister in order to save himself. David commits murder and adultery but yet is called a man after God’s own heart. Jacob is full of treachery and deceit but yet is used by God as a patriarch of the nation of Israel. In the story of Samson we see his many failings but yet in Hebrews 11:32 we see him included in the hall of faith. What matters is repentance, all these men repented of their sin and humbled themselves before God. Grace that is how we must be as well, walk humbly and be quick to confess and repent of sin. I know there is temptation to judge Samson for being foolish but Grace if there were chapters in the Bible covering your life what would that look like? I think about it like that and I am ashamed of any judgment in my heart I would not desire for my failings to be displayed for all to see. Praise God that Jesus bore all my sin upon the cross. Take courage, Grace, you can and will be used by God if you are walking humbly desiring to serve.

  2. Grace, we must be killing sin in our lives. As the song “It’s a Slow Fade” says; It’s a slow fade, When you give yourself away, It’s a slow fade, When black and white have turned to grey, And thoughts invade, choices made, A price will be paid, When you give yourself away, People never crumble in a day. Sin slowly erodes that which is good in our lives as we allow it to slowly creep in. Those 3000 men who would not stand with Samson did not become that way overnight. It was years of giving themselves and their fathers giving themselves to sin to get to that point that they were weaklings not willing to take up the God given task of completely conquering Canaan, and vanquishing all the pagan peoples in order that their children might be protected from evil. Samson kept allowing himself to be more entangled by the pleasure and entanglement of sin and it became his downfall. Fight sin Grace, strive to be obedient and to walk uprightly.

  3. Samson was an example of the coming Savior of the world Jesus Christ. The parallels between his miraculous birth and his task of rescuing and delivering his people and in death he delivers a great blow to the enemies of the Lord. However he should also be a reminder to us that we do not follow after man but we follow after the one true and perfect Savior Jesus Christ. Every man who came before Jesus failed at some point, Samson was the strongest who ever lived, Solomon the wisest but they both fail utterly displaying the need for Jesus to come be our perfect spotless sacrifice. Do not allow the failings of man to discourage you, we follow after Christ. My dad was a pastor and when I was eight years old we had a business meeting after church and some people in the church accused my dad of being a tyrant and a dictator and I could see the hurt in my dad’s eyes when this was said. I was hurt and angry, as he was saying good night to me I just said dad why are we here? These people don’t want us, they don’t like us. I’ll never forget my father’s response, “Mark we do not follow after people, we follow after Jesus Christ, and He has called us to minister here and we must love this flock we’ve been given even when it hurts. Grace men will let you down but remember, we follow Jesus not men. The pain of those hurts is not an excuse to not do what we are called to do as obedience to God. Don’t let past hurt keep you from serving, don’t let past hurt keep you from joining your church, don’t let past hurt keep you from being fully obedient to the Lord and His calling on your life. Keep your eyes fully fixed on Jesus and the task He has given us. Love your neighbors, share the gospel, sacrifice your time to meet with someone and disciple them in God’s Word so that they and you may grow.

Grace, we serve an amazing, all-powerful, loving, great God. Leave here today worshiping and praising Him for who He is and what He has done for each and everyone of us.