Thursday, 1 November 2012

The E100 Bible Reading Challenge: The Judges: Samson Defeats The Philistines (29)


Judges 13:1-16:31

The Birth of Samson

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren, having borne no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.’ Then the woman came and told her husband, ‘A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like that of an angel of God, most awe-inspiring; I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not tell me his name; but he said to me, “You shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.” 

Then Manoah entreated the Lord, and said, ‘O Lord, I pray, let the man of God whom you sent come to us again and teach us what we are to do concerning the boy who will be born.’ God listened to Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, ‘The man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.’ Manoah got up and followed his wife, and came to the man and said to him, ‘Are you the man who spoke to this woman?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ Then Manoah said, ‘Now when your words come true, what is to be the boy’s rule of life; what is he to do?’ The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, ‘Let the woman give heed to all that I said to her. She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine. She is not to drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. She is to observe everything that I commanded her.’

Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, ‘Allow us to detain you, and prepare a kid for you.’ The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, ‘If you detain me, I will not eat your food; but if you want to prepare a burnt-offering, then offer it to the Lord.’ (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord.) Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, ‘What is your name, so that we may honour you when your words come true?’ But the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is too wonderful.’

So Manoah took the kid with the grain-offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to him who works wonders. When the flame went up towards heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground. The angel of the Lord did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, ‘We shall surely die, for we have seen God.’ But his wife said to him, ‘If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt-offering and a grain-offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.’

The woman bore a son, and named him Samson. The boy grew, and the Lord blessed him. The spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Samson’s Marriage

Once Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw a Philistine woman. Then he came up, and told his father and mother, ‘I saw a Philistine woman at Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.’ But his father and mother said to him, ‘Is there not a woman among your kin, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?’ But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me, because she pleases me.’ His father and mother did not know that this was from the Lord; for he was seeking a pretext to act against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah. When he came to the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion roared at him. The spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as one might tear apart a kid. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she pleased Samson. After a while he returned to marry her, and he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey.He scraped it out into his hands, and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion.

His father went down to the woman, and Samson made a feast there as the young men were accustomed to do. When the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. Samson said to them, ‘Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can explain it to me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty festal garments. But if you cannot explain it to me, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty festal garments.’ So they said to him, ‘Ask your riddle; let us hear it.’ He said to them,
‘Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.’
But for three days they could not explain the riddle.

On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, ‘Coax your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?’ So Samson’s wife wept before him, saying, ‘You hate me; you do not really love me. You have asked a riddle of my people, but you have not explained it to me.’ He said to her, ‘Look, I have not told my father or my mother. Why should I tell you?’ She wept before him for the seven days that their feast lasted; and because she nagged him, on the seventh day he told her. Then she explained the riddle to her people. The men of the town said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,
‘What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?’
And he said to them,
‘If you had not ploughed with my heifer,
you would not have found out my riddle.’ 
Then the spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he went down to Ashkelon. He killed thirty men of the town, took their spoil, and gave the festal garments to those who had explained the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house. And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man.

Samson Defeats the Philistines

After a while, at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife, bringing along a kid. He said, ‘I want to go into my wife’s room.’ But her father would not allow him to go in. Her father said, ‘I was sure that you had rejected her; so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister prettier than she? Why not take her instead?’Samson said to them, ‘This time, when I do mischief to the Philistines, I will be without blame.’ So Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took some torches; and he turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. When he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves. Then the Philistines asked, ‘Who has done this?’ And they said, ‘Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken Samson’s wife and given her to his companion.’ So the Philistines came up, and burned her and her father. Samson said to them, ‘If this is what you do, I swear I will not stop until I have taken revenge on you.’ He struck them down hip and thigh with great slaughter; and he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah, and made a raid on Lehi. The men of Judah said, ‘Why have you come up against us?’ They said, ‘We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.’ Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and they said to Samson, ‘Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then have you done to us?’ He replied, ‘As they did to me, so I have done to them.’ They said to him, ‘We have come down to bind you, so that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.’ Samson answered them, ‘Swear to me that you yourselves will not attack me.’ They said to him, ‘No, we will only bind you and give you into their hands; we will not kill you.’ So they bound him with two new ropes, and brought him up from the rock.

When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him; and the spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. Then he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached down and took it, and with it he killed a thousand men. And Samson said,
‘With the jawbone of a donkey,
   heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
   I have slain a thousand men.’ 
When he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and that place was called Ramath-lehi.

By then he was very thirsty, and he called on the Lord, saying, ‘You have granted this great victory by the hand of your servant. Am I now to die of thirst, and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?’ So God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came from it. When he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore it was named En-hakkore, which is at Lehi to this day. And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines for twenty years.

Samson and Delilah

Once Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went in to her. The Gazites were told, ‘Samson has come here.’ So they encircled the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They kept quiet all night, thinking, ‘Let us wait until the light of the morning; then we will kill him.’ But Samson lay only until midnight. Then at midnight he rose up, took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.

After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. The lords of the Philistines came to her and said to her, ‘Coax him, and find out what makes his strength so great, and how we may overpower him, so that we may bind him in order to subdue him; and we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.’ So Delilah said to Samson, ‘Please tell me what makes your strength so great, and how you could be bound, so that one could subdue you.’Samson said to her, ‘If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that are not dried out, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else.’Then the lords of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not dried out, and she bound him with them. While men were lying in wait in an inner chamber, she said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ But he snapped the bowstrings, as a strand of fibre snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.

Then Delilah said to Samson, ‘You have mocked me and told me lies; please tell me how you could be bound.’ He said to her, ‘If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else.’ So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, and said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ (The men lying in wait were in an inner chamber.) But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.

Then Delilah said to Samson, ‘Until now you have mocked me and told me lies; tell me how you could be bound.’ He said to her, ‘If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and make it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else.’ So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web,and made them tight with the pin. Then she said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.

Then she said to him, ‘How can you say, “I love you”, when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me three times now and have not told me what makes your strength so great.’ Finally, after she had nagged him with her words day after day, and pestered him, he was tired to death. So he told her his whole secret, and said to her, ‘A razor has never come upon my head; for I have been a nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, then my strength would leave me; I would become weak, and be like anyone else.’

When Delilah realized that he had told her his whole secret, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, ‘This time come up, for he has told his whole secret to me.’ Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hands. She let him fall asleep on her lap; and she called a man, and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. He began to weaken, and his strength left him.Then she said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ When he awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him. So the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles; and he ground at the mill in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

Samson’s Death

Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon, and to rejoice; for they said, ‘Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.’ When the people saw him, they praised their god; for they said, ‘Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.’ And when their hearts were merry, they said, ‘Call Samson, and let him entertain us.’ So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. They made him stand between the pillars; and Samson said to the attendant who held him by the hand, ‘Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, so that I may lean against them.’ Now the house was full of men and women; all the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about three thousand men and women, who looked on while Samson performed.

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, ‘Lord God, remember me and strengthen me only this once, O God, so that with this one act of revenge I may pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.’ And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. Then Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ He strained with all his might; and the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed during his life. Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had judged Israel for twenty years.

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Ladies Man

KEY THOUGHT
Self control is essential to having healthy relationships.

OVERVIEW
Samson had a fatal flaw: he had no self-control. This trait expressed itself in two ways. lust and anger. His thoughtless pursuit of women produced a string of broken relationships and violence. But the real tragedy of Samson’s life is that deep down he knew he had been running from God (16.17). The greatest victory in Samson’s life was that in his brokenness, he finally turned back to God (16.28).

CHALLENGE
SELF CONTROL STARTS BY PUTTING GOD IN CONTROL.