Judges 13-15

Sunday Evening Bible Study

November 25, 2001


As we begin to look at the life of Samson, there are some things to keep in mind.  First, God considered him one of the heroes of faith –

(Heb 11:32 KJV)  And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

Samson, like Jephthah, is an odd mix of heroism and tragedy, weakness and strength.  He was a man who liked to tell riddles, but he himself was a riddle.  We like to have all our heroes be people of consistency and character, but Samson was neither of these.

Warren Wiersbe writes about Samson,

Bold before men, Samson was weak before women and couldn’t resist telling them his secrets. Empowered by the Spirit of God, he yielded his body to the appetites of the flesh. Called to declare war on the Philistines, he fraternized with the enemy and even tried to marry a Philistine woman. He fought the Lord’s battles by day and disobeyed the Lord’s commandments by night. Given the name Samson, which means “sunny,” he ended up in the darkness, blinded by the very enemy he was supposed to conquer.

Spurgeon said, “His whole life is a series of miracles and follies.”

Judges 13

:1 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.

This now becomes the longest period of domination by a foreign power.

Back in chapter 10, we saw that as a result of Israel’s idolatry, God sold the nation into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites.  In Judges 11-12, we saw how God raised up Jephthah to deal with the Ammonites.  Now we’re going to see what God did to help with the Philistines.

(Judg 10:6-7 KJV)  And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him. {7} And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.

:2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah

Zorahsee map

Danites – this family was of the tribe of Dan.

ManoahManowach – “rest”

:3 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman

the angel of the LORD – The word “angel” doesn’t necessarily mean a created being along the lines of what we typically call “angels”. The word means “messenger” or “representative”, and this means the phrase might be translated “the messenger of Yahweh”.

This is a special personage unique to the Old Testament.

He appeared to Hagar (Gen. 16), Abraham (Gen. 22), Moses (Ex. 3), Balaam (Num. 22), Gideon (Judg. 6), David (2Sam. 24:16), Elijah (1Ki. 19:7; 2Ki. 1:3), in the time of Hezekiah (2Ki. 19:35), and the prophet Zechariah (Zec. 1:11).
We believe this is the appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. This is a “preincarnate theophany”, or, an appearance of God in the Old Testament before the time that Jesus took on human flesh in the womb of a young girl named Mary.
(Psa 34:7 KJV) The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

:3  Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.


God is in the fertility business

This seems to be one of His specialties, allowing women to conceive who have had problems doing so.
Sarah, Hannah (Samuel’s mom), Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mom)
In those days, it was devastating for a woman to be unable to conceive. A woman’s whole sense of identity was ruined by the inability to conceive.
Yet even in today’s “modern” society, a woman can be devastated when she is unable to conceive.
I do not want to build up false hopes for a woman and give the impression that all you need to do is pray and God will allow you to get pregnant. But I do want to suggest that you pray. God may answer your prayer by saying “no” or, “not yet”, but be sure that you don’t find yourself in the category of not receiving because you didn’t ask.

:4 Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:


God uses dedicated adults

Part of Samson’s preparation for his calling came before he was even conceived or born. Part of what was built into Samson was the commitment of a mother who was willing to make sacrifices for her child.
When God Created Mom's by Erma Bombeck
When the good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of overtime, when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” And the Lord said, “Have you read the spec on this one? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic; have 180 moveable parts, all replaceable; run on black coffee and leftovers; have a lap that disappears when she stands up; a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair; and six pair of hands.” The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands...no way.” “It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord. “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.” “That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel. The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, “What are you kids doing in there?” when she already knows. Another here, in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t, but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say, “I understand and I love you,” without so much as uttering a word.” “Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve gently, “Rest for now. Tomorrow...” “I can’t,” said the Lord. “I’m so close to creating something close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick, can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower.” The angel circled the model of the mother very slowly. “She’s too soft,” she sighed. “But tough!” said the Lord excitedly. “You cannot imagine what the mother can do or endure.” “Can she think?” “Not only think, but she can reason and compromise,” said the Creator. Finally the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told you, you were trying to put too much into this model.” “It’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.” “What’s it for?” “It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness and pride.” “You’re a genius,” said the angel.

:5  for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb

Nazaritenaziyr – consecrated or devoted one, Nazarite

This is a person who has taken the “vow of the Nazarite”.

(Num 6:2-8 KJV) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: {3} He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. {4} All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. {5} All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. {6} All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. {7} He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head. {8} All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD.

The idea of a Nazarite was that of a person who has dedicated himself to God. Samson’s strength didn’t come from the length of his hair, it came from his commitment to God.

Part of the vow involved things that they would abstain from, such as wine and anything made from grapes.
I think this was partly practical, the idea that a dedicated person doesn’t need to have their mind muddled with the effects of alcohol.
Part of it was a reminder, when other people were eating their grape jelly on toast, the Nazarite would be reminded that they were dedicated to the Lord.
Part of the vow involved an outward sign that their hair would not be cut.
People could tell from the length of your hair that there was something different about you.
Because of the life of Samson, we often think that this was a lifelong vow. It wasn’t. It could be for just a small period of time, at the end of which you would cut your hair and go through a ritual signifying that your time of special dedication to the Lord was over.
It might be similar to a person who goes on a short term mission trip. For the few weeks that they are away from home, they are especially “dedicated” to the Lord. When they come home they are not necessarily less dedicated to the Lord, but they simply are no longer on the same mission field.

There have been other famous Nazarites than Samson.

John the Baptist – a lifelong Nazarite
LUK 1:15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb.
Samuel – a lifelong Nazarite
1SA 1:11 And she made a vow and said, "O \Lord\ of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thy maidservant and remember me, and not forget Thy maidservant, but wilt give Thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to the \Lord\ all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head."
1SA 1:27-28 "For this boy I prayed, and the \Lord\ has given me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 "So I have also dedicated him to the \Lord\; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the \Lord.\" And he worshiped the \Lord\ there.
Paul – he seems to have taken a Nazarite vow for a limited period of time
ACT 18:18 And Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow.


God uses dedicated children

Samson would be a Nazarite from before the time that he was born.
From time to time when I listen to other Calvary Chapel pastors who have been saved out of horrible lifestyles, I begin to wonder if God could ever use me.
I wasn’t a rebellious teenager.  I didn’t do drugs.  I wasn’t sexually promiscuous. I didn’t have a drinking problem. I didn’t ride a motorcycle.

Instead, I was a good kid who got good grades and who was raised going to church.

In actuality, there are other Calvary Pastors that God has used that had similar lives growing up.  One of them is named Chuck Smith.  Another is Jon Courson.  When I think on this, I actually begin to think that maybe, just maybe, God could use me as well.

And EVEN MORE important is the truth that it is not a waste of our time that we should endeavor to raise our children in the Lord.

The truth is, it is very vital to the Lord that we do.

:5  he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines

A suggestion has been made that the time of Samson overlaps some of the time of Samuel.  Both may have operated during this forty year period in which the Philistines ruled over the Israelites.

When we are told in chapter 15,

(Judg 15:20 KJV)  And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
It means that Samson’s time of judging Israel came during those forty years when the Philistines ruled Israel.  This may have been between 1095 BC and 1055 BC.

The Philistine rule wouldn’t be broken until the battle at Mizpeh (1Sam. 7), at the time of Samuel.

Samson began the deliverance from the Philistines, but the final victory would need the work of Samuel (1Sam. 7) and David (2Sam. 5:17-25).

:6  his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible

terribleyare’ – to fear, revere, be afraid; (Niphal) to be fearful, be dreadful, be feared; to cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe; to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe

:8 Then Manoah entreated the LORD, and said … teach us …


Pray to be a good parent

I like this about Manoah. He wants to be a good parent. He wants to do what God wants him to do.  I think praying to be a good parent is a good thing.  Parenting is tough.
1.     Being a parent is like being pecked to death by a duck.
2.     Raising teenagers is a lot like nailing Jell-O to a tree
3.     Your life's "Golden Age" is the period in your life when your kids are too old to require a babysitter and too young to take the car.
4.     Shouting at your children to get cooperation is about the same as steering your car using the horn...same results.
5.     A home's temperature is best maintained by warm hearts, not cold words or hot heads.
6.     "The Joy of Motherhood": What a woman experiences after she puts the last tyke to bed.
7.     Cleaning house with the children at home is a lot like snow blowing during a blizzard.
8.     Any child can tell you that the sole purpose of a middle name is so that he or she can tell when they are REALLY in trouble.
9.     Practice what you preach even covers never letting them see you snag those Ding Dongs for breakfast.
10. The only true child experts are those that do not yet have any of their own.

:9  the angel of God came again unto the woman

I find it interesting that in both occurrences, the angel appears first to the wife, not the husband.

:13 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware.


Do what God has already said.

It’s possible that Manoah simply didn’t trust his wife. Perhaps he just wanted to hear for himself. I can understand that.
Perhaps he wanted to be sure that there wasn’t something else to be done besides what was said to his wife.
Either way, God had already given all the instructions they would need to Manoah’s wife. There was no need for anything more to be said.
Sometimes we get into a trap of always looking for some “new” thing. But often God simply wants us to do what He’s already told us.

:15 we shall have made ready a kid for thee.

Manoah is simply practicing hospitality.  He doesn’t realize who this stranger is.  He simply wants to offer a meal to the visitor.

:18 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?

secretpil’iy – wonderful, incomprehensible, extraordinary. A very closely related word is found in:

(Isa 9:6 KJV) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

This is another hint at who this person is.  It is Jesus.

:19  the angel did wonderously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.

did wonderouslypala’ – to be marvellous, be wonderful, be surpassing, be extraordinary, separate by distinguishing action; this is the root word that is translated “secret” in verse 18.

:20  the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar

Pretty startling stuff!

:22 And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.

Manoah realizes how serious this all was.  He thinks that he will be put to death for what he’s seen.

:23 But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering …

Pretty logical.  Why would the Lord kill this family when He was the one who initiated all the contacts?  Makes sense.


Pay attention to your wife.

It seems to me that Manoah’s wife was the one in tune with the things of God. She was the one that the angel first appeared to. And now she is the voice of reason regarding the fact that God has blessed their family and wasn’t planning on destroying them.
Guys, I think that sometimes we have trouble receiving from our wives. I understand that. Sometimes the Lord shows my wife something and frankly I wonder why He didn’t show it to me. I think I act like Manoah did, “I want to hear this myself!”
But I think it would be wise for me to learn to be quicker to recognize when God is using my wife.

:24 And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson

SamsonShimshown – “like the sun”

:25 And the spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

camp of Dan – or, “Mahaneh-dan”, see map

Zorahsee map

Eshtaolsee map

(Judg 13:25 NLT)  the Spirit of the LORD began to take hold of him.

(Judg 13:25 NIV)  and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him


There’s a place to start

Sometimes we see God using certain people in a marvelous way and we begin to think that God could never do that in us.
But everyone has a place they start at.
When we see the Spirit of God work in Samson to do mighty deeds of strength, the Spirit had already been at work in his life.
Be faithful and let God work in your life where you are.

Judges 14

:1 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.

Timnathsee map

:3  Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.

she pleaseth me well – two words used here – yashar – to be right, be straight, be level, be upright, be just, be lawful, be smooth; ‘ayin – eye

she’s right in my eye

JFB:  literally, "she is right in mine eyes"; not by her beautiful countenance or handsome figure, but right or fit for his purpose.

In that culture, it was up to the parents to arrange the marriage.  Samson sees a woman he likes and he asks his parents to arrange a marriage.

John Wesley wrote,

Children ought not to marry, nor to move toward it without the advice and consent of their parents.
Interesting idea.

Technically, the Israelites were allowed to marry Philistines.  They were not part of the seven nations of which the Israelites were forbidden to marry.

(Deu 7:1-3 KJV)  When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; {2} And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them: {3} Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

Yet on the other hand, Samson is breaking one of the principles of Scripture –

(2 Cor 6:14 KJV)  Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

:4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

How was this of the Lord?

Is it that God has directly led Samson to marry this Philistine woman?  I don’t think so.

I think this is more of an instance where God has used a human frailty or sin and turned it to good.


God is at work

Frankly, there will be other people around Samson who are going to have a difficult time seeing that God is using him.  The tribe of Judah will want to arrest Samson and turn him over to the Philistines.
Yet God used Samson.
I think that sometimes God works in ways that we have difficulty accepting.
Back in the late sixties and early seventies, God used a church that allowed hippies to come in with their long hair, bear feet, and sit on the floor.
Sometimes God works in ways outside our “box” that we are comfortable with.

:5  came to the vineyards of Timnath

A vineyard ought to be a place that a Nazarite ought to walk around, not to.

(Num 6:3 KJV)  He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.

:5  behold, a young lion roared against him.

This wasn’t a baby lion cub or some old toothless scraggly lion.  This was a lion in its prime, a very dangerous beast.

:6 And the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand

nothing in his hand – Samson was not carrying any weapons.

Note the presence of the Holy Spirit in Samson’s life.

We’re going to see that Samson is a man with some huge flaws.


The Holy Spirit works through imperfect people

He may work through people you or I don’t approve of.
He may work through us.

:7 she pleased Samson well.

pleasedyashar – to be right, be straight, be level, be upright, be just, be lawful, be smooth

:8  And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion

It has been suggested that this might have been a year later.  Betrothal periods were often for a year.  The rotting carcase of a lion wouldn’t have attracted bees, it would have made them go away.  It is thought that all that has been left of the lion is just the skeleton, and this is what the bees built their hive in.

:9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat

Samson is eating honey that came from the dead lion’s carcase.

This might be considered breaking the Law.

(Lev 11:27 KJV) And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you: whoso toucheth their carcase shall be unclean until the even.
A lion was an unclean animal. Samson was technically not supposed to be eating something that had been touching a lion, let alone the honey that was produced in the animal’s carcase.

In addition, as a Nazarite, Samson isn’t supposed to touch dead things –

(Num 6:6 KJV)  All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.

:10 Samson made there a feast

A wedding feast lasted seven days.

feastmishteh – feast, drink, banquet; the word means “drinking party”.

Not the kind of thing a Nazarite ought to be doing.

:12  I will now put forth a riddle unto you

riddlechiydah – riddle, difficult question, parable, enigmatic saying or question, perplexing saying or question

This was a common way that people entertained each other by the telling of stories and riddles.  It was common to offer a reward to someone who solved the riddle.

:12  I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments:

thirty sheets …

(Judg 14:12 NLT) I will give you thirty plain linen robes and thirty fancy robes.

Clothes were of much greater value to people then than they are to us in the United States today. Most people might have only one or two changes of clothes.

:14 Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness

 (Judg 14:14 NIV) He replied, "Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet."

:15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson's wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so?

(Judg 14:15 NLT) On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, "Get the answer to the riddle from your husband, or we will burn down your father's house with you in it. Did you invite us to this party just to make us poor?"

How’s this for a group of friends? “Help us or we’ll burn your house down!”

:17  she wept before him the seven days,

Samson could handle a lion, but he couldn’t handle a woman’s tears.

:17  it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him

In a way, this is a foreshadowing of what is ahead for Samson.

:18  If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

plowed with my heifer – not a very kind thing to say about your wife. 

Actually, heifers weren’t used for plowing.  In other words, the saying means this – “You couldn’t have done what you did if you hadn’t broken the rules”.

It’s plausible that Samson could have claimed that they cheated and then gotten out of his agreement.  But he holds to his promise.

:19 And the spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil

Ashkelonsee map

Samson keeps his wager with the Philistines to give them thirty changes of clothes. But he gets the clothes by killing thirty Philistines.  Note that the Spirit of the Lord was on him when he did this.

:19  And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father's house.

In his anger, Samson leaves his Philistine wife and goes to spend some time with his parents. Apparently he had not yet consummated the marriage.

:20 But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.

companion … friend – Samson’s wife was given to his best man at the wedding.

Judges 15

:1 in the time of wheat harvest

Late April or early May

:3 Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines

Samson has a reason to do some damage to the Philistines.  He feels like he has been given a line by his father-in-law.

:4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands

firebrandslappiyd – torch

It would have taken Samson some time and planning to pull this off.

:5 And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines

The foxes would be going nuts not only because their tails were tied together, but because there was a torch following them. As they would run wild, they would be catching the wheat between their tails and setting it all on fire. Very clever.

:7  Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.

(Judg 15:7 NIV)  Samson said to them, "Since you've acted like this, I won't stop until I get my revenge on you."

:8 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.

hip and thigh – this is what the Hebrew says literally, but it’s a way of saying that Samson attacked the Philistines mercilessly or  viciously.

Etamsee map

:9 Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.

went up – the Philistines leave the plain and go up into the hills to look for Samson.

Lehisee map

:11 Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam

Etamsee map

:11 Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us?


Be careful what you settle for

The men of Judah couldn’t see that Samson was starting to deliver Israel from the Philistines.
They knew they were enslaved to the Philistines, and they had figured that was as good as life would get.
They didn’t want anyone rocking their boat.
In the past, God would bring deliverance from their enemies when Israel would cry out to God for help.  But you kind of get the idea that the people weren’t ready to cry to God for help.

:11 And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.

Samson has only been treating them the way they had treated him.

:16 With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.

Just as Samson was clever with his riddles, he now composes a rhyme.  It’s based on the similarity between the sounds of the Hebrew words hamor (“donkey”) and homer (“heap”).

James Moffatt renders it: “With the jawbone of an ass I have piled them in a mass. With the jawbone of an ass I have assailed assailants.”

Samson is making clear that the victory wasn’t because of the superiority of his weapons

:17 called that place Ramathlehi.

RamathlehiRamath Lechiy – “height of a jawbone”; or, “Jawbone Hill” (NLT)

:18 And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?


Samson has won a great victory over the Philistines, yet he is still only human.

:19 But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw

jaw[email protected] – jaw, cheek; this is the name of the place, Lehi.

:19  wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.

Enhakkore‘Eyn haq-Qowre’ – “spring of One calling”

:20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

His ministry occurred during the forty years that the Philistines ruled over Israel.