Judges—Jehovah Delivers His Unworthy People (4)

Rev. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.

We come now to the ninth judge, Samson. The Lord delivered Israel into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1). The angel appears unto the wife of Manoah, of the city of Zorah from the tribe of Dan, and announces that though she is barren, she will conceive and bear a son. He is to be a Nazarite unto God from the womb; hence she is to drink neither wine nor strong drink, nor eat anything unclean. When this son is born, no razor must come on his head. He will deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines (Judges 13:2-5). She informs her husband of this visit and he entreats the Lord to send the messenger once again to give them details on how this son must be raised. The angel returned when Manoah was away, so she hastened to call him. Manoah asked him about his message, and he confirmed it for him. He offered to fix a meal for him, but he refused to eat or to identify himself. When Manoah offered a meat offering to Jehovah upon the rock, the angel ascended in the fire. It was then that they knew he was an angel, and fear of death come upon Manoah. The wife suggests that the Lord received their offering and brought good news to them, that they would therefore not die. She conceived a son, Samson. He grew under the blessing of God, and the Spirit of the Lord began to move him in the camp of Dan (Judges 13:6-25). 

Samson became acquainted with a woman of Timnath, a daughter of the Philistines. He asked his parents to arrange for their marriage. They were disappointed that he hadn't chosen a woman of Israel, for they knew not that Jehovah was behind all this to seek occasion against the Philistines. As they went down to Timnath to arrange the marriage, a lion roared against them. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson and he secretly killed it. 

When they went down for the wedding, Samson took honey out of the carcass of the lion and they ate of it (Judges 14:1-9). At the wedding feast, Samson presented a riddle to the 30 Philistines who were given to him for his companions. "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." They had seven days to answer. If they failed, they would give Samson 30 sheets and changes of garments; and if they succeeded, Samson would give the same to them. 

On the seventh day, these Philistines threatened Samson's wife to give them the answer or they would burn her and her father's house with fire. She pleaded with Samson that he ought to tell the answer to his new wife. She wept and carried on so that finally on the seventh day he told .her. She gave the answer to the Philistines: honey out of the lion. He immediately discerned that they had gotten it from his wife. "Ye have plowed with my heifer." To get the 30 sheets and changes of garments, Samson, after the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, slew 30 men of Ashkelon and went home with his parents without his wife who was given to his companion (Judges 14:10-20). 

Later, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson decided he wanted to visit his wife. He learned that she was the wife of another. Her father offered her sister to Samson. This made him angry and he caught 300 foxes and tied a fire-brand between their tails and burned all the harvest of the Philistines. They in turn burnt the woman and her father with fire (Jugdes 15:1-6). Samson was enraged and he killed a large number of Philistines and went to dwell on top of the rock Etam (Judges 15:7, 8). 

The Philistines came with an army against Judah, in Lehi. The men of Judah were afraid they would suffer on account of Samson. So they sent 3000 men to the rock Etam to bind him and turn him over to the Philistines. Samson agreed that if they would only bind him and not kill him he would consent (Judges 15:9-13). When they came to Lehi, the Spirit of the Lord strengthened Samson and he broke the two new cords like flax burnt with fire, and he took the jawbone of an ass and killed a thousand Philistines. Samson was thirsty, and the Lord miraculously provided water for him. He judged Israel 20 years (Judges 15:14-20). 

When Samson went to Gaza to visit a harlot, the men of the city lay in wait for to kill him in the morning. At midnight Samson arose and carried the gates with the two posts to the top of a hill at Hebron (Judges 16:1-3). He then set his affection upon Delilah in the valley of Sorek. The lords of the Philistines were able to get her to cooperate with them to find the source of his strength. He first told her if she would bind him with seven green withs he would be helpless. With the lords of the Philistines secretly hidden in the chamber, she did this and cried, the Philistines are upon thee Samson. He broke the withs like a thread of tow in the flame (Judges 16:4-9). Then he said, use new ropes. The results were the same (Judges 16:10-12). This was followed by the suggestion that she weave his hair with the web. He ran off with the pin of the beam and web (Judges 16:13, 14). 

At last he told her that if she cut his hair, he would be weak, since he was a Nazarite unto the Lord. With the lords of the Philistines present, and while he slept, she had his hair cut. This time he could not escape. They took him and put out his eyes and brought him to Gaza (Judges 16:15-21). After awhile the hair began to grow, and when the lords of the Philistines gathered for a feast to Dagon, their idol god, to give him praise for delivering Samson into their hand, they called for Samson to make sport of him. He asked the young boy leading him, to help him feel the pillars which supported the entire structure. While he prayed to God for strength to avenge himself of the Philistines for his two eyes, he took hold of the pillars and with all his might pulled the house down upon all the people. More people were killed at his death than his entire life. His family came to bury him between Zorah and Eshtaol, the burying place of Manoah, his father (Judges 16:22-31). 

3. We have yet to outline the third main division in the book, the two incidences which demonstrate the terrible evil that existed during this period (Judges 17:1-21:25). 

A man by the name of Micah, from mount Ephraim, had stolen 1100 shekels of silver from his mother. When he admitted this to her and returned the stolen property, his mother said she had intended that the silver be used to make a graven image. She then gave 200 shekels to the founder to make such an image, which was placed in the house of Micah, who had already a number of such images. He consecrated his son to function as priest (Judges 17:1-6). Soon a traveler from Bethlehem-Judah came along and befriended Micah. Since he was a Levite and was looking for a place to stay, Micah suggested that for 10 shekels of silver a year, a suit of apparel, and food, he stay and function as a priest in his house. Micah thought that since he was a Levite, the Lord would bless his house (Judges 17:7-13). 

At this same time, five strong men of Dan left Zorah and Eshtaol and searched out the land to determine where they could securely live. In their travel they came to the house of Micah and recognized the Levite who functioned as his priest. They asked him to inquire of God whether they would prosper in their search. The answer he brought was that they would indeed succeed (Judges 18:1-6). These men then traveled to Laish and took note of the careless way the people lived. There was no king and no law enforcement. When they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol they told the people there to prepare to move to Laish for that was a good land and God would give that to them (Judges 18:7-10). An army of 600 men went first and came to the house of Micah. The five men that had visited here previously knew exactly where the graven images were placed. So they secretly entered and stole them. When they were about to leave, the Levite heard them and asked them what was going on. They suggested that he come with them and he could be priest over an entire tribe, rather than over one house. This sounded good to him and he left with the 600 men. When they were some way off, Micah heard of it and pursued .after them. He asked in an angry voice why they took his images and his priest. They warned him not to speak roughly, or they could kill him. He realized he was outnumbered and returned home. The army of 600 went and captured Laish and sent for their families and changed the name of the city Laish to Dan. Here they set up the graven images of Micah and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, and his sons were priests (Judges 18:11-31). 

The second incident of spiritual poverty involved another Levite. He had married a concubine out of Bethlehem-judah and lived with her at Mount Ephraim. She committed whoredom and returned to her father's house. He went after her with his servant and a couple of asses laden with goods. He spoke kindly to her and she invited him to stay. This turned into a five-day feast of eating and drinking with her father. Toward evening of the fifth day he insisted on leaving. They traveled as far as Jerusalem and the servant suggested they put up for the night. The master insisted they travel to Gibeah or Ramah, a city in which the children of Israel dwelt. Later that night they arrived in Gibeah and sat in the street; but no one would take them in (Judges 19:1-15). Finally an old man came in from the field, asked their whereabouts, and took them into his house and provided for their needs (Judges 19:16-21). After they were eating and drinking, there was pounding on the door, the men of the city wanted to do to the traveler what the men of Sodom wanted to do with the angels. The old man denied them, do not so wickedly. He offered them his daughter and the concubine of the traveler. They accepted the concubine and abused her all night so that by morning she stumbled to the door and fell down dead. The Levite placed her body upon the ass and went to his house. There he divided her body into twelve pieces and sent it throughout the coasts of Israel (Judges 19:22-30). In response, 400,000 footmen that drew swords came. The Levite told them his story. They decided they would avenge this deed by sending a select army to Benjamin to kill the men of Belial at Gibeah. Instead, Benjamin raised an army of 26,000 men along with 600 from Gibeah. From them 700 were able to sling stones at an hairbreadth and not miss (Judges 20:1-17).