Sunday, September 26, 2010

Judges series - Judges 15 - Vengence on the Philistines

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note/What we have learnt/can learn".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Samson's Vengeance on the Philistines

1 Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, "I'm going to my wife's room." But her father would not let him go in. 2 "I was so sure you thoroughly hated her," he said, "that I gave her to your friend. Isn't her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead." [Samson, now, came back for his bride. But his supposedly father-in-law gave his bride to one of Samson’s male companion on the pretext that Samson must have hated his bride too much to take her hand. Samson was asked to take the younger sister instead.]
3 Samson said to them, "This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them." 4 So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, 5 lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves. [Samson was not about to accept that; he became mad with the Philistines. Samson had the reason for being mad, firstly, the 30 men companions assigned to him during the marriage ritual threatened his bride’s family with death threat (burn to death, {Judges 14:15}), and secondly, one of the 30 men took his bride as wife. He caught 300 foxes, had them tied tail to tail in pairs, fixed a torch on each pair of tails, and set the foxes out to burn up all the harvest of the Philistines in the area.]
6 When the Philistines asked, "Who did this?" they were told, "Samson, the Timnite's son-in-law, because his wife was given to his friend." So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. 7 Samson said to them, "Since you've acted like this, I won't stop until I get my revenge on you." 8 He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam. [The town folk, Philistines, were the ones who gave him (Samson) the 30 men companions who cheated on his riddle, and one of the men (the friend referred to, here, I believed, was not Samson’s friend who came with him from his own hometown, rather it was someone assigned to him in the bride’s town) took his bride. Because of what the foxes, released by Samson, did, now, the folks (Philistines) burnt his bride family. Samson wanted revenge, attacked and slaughtered many of the Philistines before retreating to a cave at Etam.]
9 The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi. 10 The men of Judah asked, "Why have you come to fight us?"
"We have come to take Samson prisoner," they answered, "to do to him as he did to us." 11 Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, "Don't you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?"
He answered, "I merely did to them what they did to me."
[The Philistines, who ruled over the Israelites, took an army and went up to Judah demanding for Samson. The men of Judah had no choice but to go to the cave to find Samson. The latter explained that the Philistines did him wrong first, he merely took revenge.]
12 They said to him, "We've come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines."
Samson said, "Swear to me that you won't kill me yourselves."
13 "Agreed," they answered. "We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you." So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock.
[Samson agreed to be tied up and be handed over to the Philistines, but he made the men of Judah swear not to kill him. With that, Samson was led away to be handed over to the Philistines.]
14 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. 15 Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. 16 Then Samson said,"With a donkey's jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I have killed a thousand men." 17 When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi. [When Samson was led up to a place called Lehi (meaning jawbone!), the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power and he broke free from his rope binding, and he killed a thousand Philistines men with a jawbone of a donkey he found there. That, I believe, made him the judge who slain the most enemy men with a club. Shamgar, the judge in Judges 3, only managed 600 Philistines.]
18 Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD, "You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?" 19 Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. 20 Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines. [As a further proof that it was God working through Samson, God opened up the hollow place in Lehi to let out water for Samson to drink when Samson won but was very thirsty from the fight. Samson led Israel for 20 years during that time of Philistine oppression.]

What we should have learnt:

1. While we should be prepared to be a fool for Jesus, it is not necessarily that we should allow ourselves to be made a fool of. We see here, Samson, as an Israelite, had come to an enemy town to marry, and then even as he had fulfilled his end of the bargain (concerning the riddle), he was told his wife was taken over by one of his male companions from the town. Obviously, here, the Philistines thought that they could just trample upon a child of God, an Israelite. When the honor or the name of God is being mocked, we, as one with God, should not just let things be, especially if we sense a “prompting” from the Spirit. We see here, Samson was not about to accept such mockery.

2. While revenge should not be on our mind, unless, prompted by the Spirit, we should still consider acting in honor. Here, obviously, the Philistines of the town ganged up to dishonor Samson, and in the process, dishonor the God of Israel, Samson had to act, and he sent into the fields of the Philistines, 150 pairs of foxes, each pair tied at the tails and was fixed with a lighted torch. The harvest of the enemy got burned up.
We also read that Samson, despite the wrong they did to him, Samson still acted in honor, to avenge the death of his wife and father-in-law. While I am not asking people to go take revenge, we have to understand that in those days, at that time and setting (including being under the oppression of the Philistines), if Samson had not done anything, the murderers would go free, and the name of God would have been mocked.

3. Snare of a wicked one has a way of overtaking the wicked himself. Great servants of God, like King David, believed in that; for example, we read this in Ps 35:8 (by David) –

may ruin overtake them by surprise—
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.

We read here that Samson’s wife and father-in-law went along with town’s Philistines, to dishonor Samson, and God. They ended up being burned by the very people they plotted evil with. Do not join hands with the wicked ones, for you may just well be counted with them, and suffer the same fate as them. We read this in Proverbs 4:14 –

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.

4. Be courageous does not mean no fear. Being courageous is to do the right thing despite fear. All of us have fear. Moses was fearful at the time he was called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He said he could not articulate well to negotiate with Pharaoh of Egypt, for example. Joshua who took over the leadership from Moses, to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land was repeatedly being told to be courageous, meaning, do the right thing despite fear. Samson had his fear; we read here he attacked and killed, and then he went into hiding in a cave.

We then read that despite fear, Samson also chose to do the right thing, be willing to be handed over to the Philistines instead of implicating the rest of his countrymen, causing needless bloodshed to his people.

5. A man of God is sensitive to the Holy Spirit. We read that when Samson came to a place called Lehi (meaning jawbone), sensing the Holy Spirit coming upon him (in Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit was not ordinarily indwelling a man; at the appropriate time, the Spirit would come upon the man), he went into action, broke loose the rope binding him, grabbed a jawbone of a donkey, and killed 1,000 Philistines with the bone!

6. Those sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and with God’s favor, will do great exploits for God. Samson obviously had the favor of God on his life, even his birth was heralded by the Lord himself, coming as an angel of the Lord. Favor of God is critical but sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, I believe, is equally important, so that we do not miss out on the exact timing of God. Samson became the man and judge recorded in the Bible to have slain the most enemy men with a club.

7. Those who fought for God’s honor can expect to be refreshed by the LORD. It is my belief that the Philistines, in doing what they were doing to Samson, were insinuating Jehovah was nothing. I draw us to the parallel in the story of Elijah. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, brought honor to God (name of God was brought low due to King Ahab’s queen, Jezebel). After the mighty victory which God rendered to Elijah, including the killing of 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah was tired, and threatened death by queen Jezebel, Elijah prayed this (from 1 Kings 19:4): "I have had enough, LORD. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." Samson said almost the same thing (from verse 18): “Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” In both cases, God refreshed His men who had served to bring honor to his Name. Elijah was provided food and drink; and here, Samson was given what he needed, water to drink, a spring (En Hakkore – spring of him who called) birthed forth, to bring the water. Just like Elijah (perhaps, one day I would do a deeper study of parallels of Samson and Elijah), Samson’s strength returned and he revived.

Anthony Chia – Lord, thank you for opening my eyes to the richness of your Word. May you continue to teach me your ways. Lord, help me to be humble even as you reveal much to me. Amen.

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