Samson’s Choices

Samson has had some very violent experiences when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him.  It seems that Yahweh’s purpose is to begin to break the hold of the Philistines from on His people.  But Samson isn’t necessarily a willing participant.  Samson, when left to his own choices, seems to first choose a prank, before choosing killing people.

Samson then said to them, “This time I shall be blameless in regard to the Philistines when I do them harm.”  Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails.  When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves.  Then the Philistines said, “Who did this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his companion.” So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. (Judges 15:3-6 NASB)

It’s possible that Samson’s prank went further than he intended, yet, with 300 foxes, it’s hard to imagine a different outcome.  That he was able to catch 300 foxes is impressive, and the results are what we might expect; the entire harvest, plus the groves and vines.  Essentially, Samson impoverished Timnah.

The response of the Philistines is interesting.  They don’t preserve their own, but seem to take Samson’s side.  It’s the Philistine family punished, not Samson for going overboard.  And yet, Samson views this as punishment on him, they’ve killed his…almost wife.  It wasn’t like he was likely to gain her back, not after she was given to another.  He still takes this punishment very personally.

Samson said to them, “Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you, but after that I will quit.”  He struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter; and he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam. (Judges 15:7-8 NASB)

This is a difficult passage to translate, and, therefore, understand.  Partly because of an idiom, and partly because of the grammar.  But Samson’s self-exile to a cave seems to help choose among options.

The grammar has to do with “if” statements and what he means by “after I will stop”.  The idiom is that Samson struck them “leg on thigh a great stroke”.  The idiom is typically translated interpreting the idiom to mean “ruthlessly” or something like that.

The grammatical interpretations show less interpretation, and more literal choices.  The “if” statements are translated as “since”, which is normal for Semitic language useage.  But, what did Samson mean, “…and after I will stop”?  Some translations render it, “…I won’t stop until…” but the most literal translation option is to put it at the end.  I think it reveals something of the reluctance of Samson to kill.  I don’t think he wants to kill, but between the Spirit of Yahweh and the Philistine behavior, he feels compelled to kill.

Samson’s choices are destruction of property first, and then vengeance only after his ex-wife is killed.  After his vengeance, he self-exiles to a cave.  This is the action of one showing remorse for his actions, not someone proud to be killing the “lords and oppressors of his people”.  But it seems it is not the plan of Yahweh that Samson hide.  The human weapon of Yahweh isn’t finished yet.

One of the lessons I learn when I think through Samson this way, is that my Master may have plans for me very different than I imagine for myself.  And these plans may even run contrary to my personality and desires.  I’m not wild about that idea, but what if my Master chooses that option for me?  To what extent will I limit my obedience?  Will I only do what I consider beneficial for myself, or to be more in line with my character and desires?  Will I only obey when it works for me?

I’m not sure to what extent Samson had a choice in some of his actions.  In both the foxes and the revenge, he seems to work without divine inspiration.  But that’s coming in this chapter.  So, what if the weapon of Yahweh is Samson’s character?  If so, Samson doesn’t seem to like that part of himself.  He’s proud of his cleverness, but not his ability to take lives.  I don’t think that, if killing is part of his character, it’s the part he wants to be known for.  But, thousands of years later, it’s often the only thing we remember about him, that and his weakness for women.

So, what design could my Master have for me that might run contrary to how I want to see myself?  What will I do when I see Him use me for things I’d rather not do?  What will He do with me that will change how others see me, and how will I view that?  I suspect we will see that Samson isn’t particularly happy with how Yahweh uses him.

That’s my view through the knothole today.  What do you see of our Master through yours?