Why do “superheroes” have an “alter ego”? According to the Incredibles it’s to provide some measure of privacy or semblance of a normal life to balance the superhero life. But what if some normal person suddenly realizes they have “super human abilities”? Well, that might be what happened to Samson…
Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. (Judges 14:5-6 NASB)
So, the setting is a family walk to Timnah. The major event is a lion roaring toward him. But it wasn’t that big of a problem, obviously, because his parents didn’t even notice…and, he didn’t tell them about it. Samson has a “spiritual epiphany”, and simply tears the lion, like one might tear a goat…happens every day, right? Tearing a young goat, doesn’t everyone do that to young goats? How do you like your goat? Torn in two please…
This is the first piece of weirdness in this chapter which is full of literary weirdness. It’s as if the literary skill and flare shown so far in this book was simply dropped. It’s possible that there are several conflicting accounts of Samson the author has to work with, and he’s doing the best he can with what he has. If that’s true, and this is the same author with such literary skill and flare, he can’t be happy with how it turned out.
Two details here are worth noting for later. First, Samson’s parents are right there, and miss the entire event. Second, they’re at the “Vineyards of Timnah”, a place prominent enough to be mentioned as a reference point. Perhaps the lion rushed out of a row of vines, Samson ducks into the row, tears the lion, and then jumps back out into the road before his parents notice anything amiss…sure, why not? Would make a funny scene in a movie perhaps. Also notice that Samson leaves the body of the lion there in the vineyard. That will also be helpful later.
It seems the purpose of the trip was so his parent could meet the Philistine Timnite girl. And it was a short “day-trip”. Samson returns several days later…
When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. So he scraped the honey 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 scraped the honey out of the body of the lion. (Judges 14:8-9 NASB)
“Turned aside” is sort of a Hebrew literary marker. As is what the NASB translates as “behold”. The point to an important literary element, so, “behold a young lion roaring at him” and “behold a swarm of bees and honey in the body of the lion”, are important details. The bees and honey in the carcass is certainly weird. It seems a very unlikely place for bees to make a hive. Wouldn’t the decomposition of the body spoil the honey? But it didn’t. Something this unusual would draw attention, especially as it would be found by anyone working the vineyard, wouldn’t it?
It’s possible that the dead lion is just outside the vineyard, and, since bees and honey were found in it, it may be so dry there, the body didn’t decompose, but actually dehydrated. So, maybe no one smelled the corpse, or noticed it. That’s admittedly as thin as a torn young lion, but it’s still possible. Either way, we find out that no one knows of the honey-filled lion corpse except Samson.
Samson shares his honey with his parents, but doesn’t tell them where he got it. Who would? I’m sure “Dead Lion Honey” isn’t the best label to use for marketing purposes. So, no shock there. What is odd here is the secrecy of Samson. Why doesn’t he tell anyone what he does? Why not brag about it? Why not become known as the “lion terror” (see what I did there?)? I suspect that what he did took him by surprise, and he was struggling to get a handle on it.
If Samson was surprised, then perhaps he didn’t look like the pictures (like the one above). Maybe he looked like anyone else, just with longer hair and beard. It’s possible that Samson didn’t appear to be someone who could tear a lion, and that he did shocked him. The Spirit of Yahweh made him successful (which is literally what the word means, normally translated “came upon him mightily”). I suspect Samson knew it wasn’t him, and so remained silent. What if it never happened again? This “alter ego” was discovering he was actually a superhero.
What are we afraid to tackle because we think it’s too big or wild for us? Perhaps the lesson we can learn from Samson is to tear the lion roaring toward us. Take on the fearsome deadly thing, and let the Spirit of our Master provide the success we can’t provide ourselves. Would our families be stronger? Would our communities be safer? Would our churches be more vibrant? Have we been listening to the lions from indoors, afraid to get out there to tear it up? What if the Spirit of Yahweh doesn’t give us success? Then we go home early! Win-win!
What’s your view of God through your knothole this morning?