Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
Q. (Judges 16:1): Samson seems to have a thing for Philistine women. The Philistines were ruling, so maybe they wore beautiful clothes and nice perfume? They may have been more attractive than Israelite women? But, this was part of God’s plan for Samson?
A. I do not think that Samson’s lusting after Philistine women (for whatever reason) is something that God desired, but He did use it to bring down the rulers of the Philistines.
Q. (16:4-19): So, up until 16:21, Samson thought that Delilah was just playing a lover’s game? Surely, he didn’t realize that she was trying to trap him or he wouldn’t have played along. Samson really didn’t take heed to his parents warning about getting involved with a Philistine woman when he was courting his first wife. But, like it says, in 13:5, Samson will begin to deliver Israelites from Philistine rule. So, how do we know when to break societal rules — like not marrying the enemy — and know that it is God’s plan? Maybe they didn’t know it then and didn’t need to know it, but it’s important for readers now?
A. I think the implication of the story is that Samson got by for a long time on his immense strength, but he abused the privilege and violated his Nazirite vows. If you note the sequence of the story, he has touched the lion corpse, consumed alcohol at his wedding, and now in this story has his hair cut, which wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t reveal it — making it ultimately his fault. These were the exact things that the Nazirite vows said he couldn’t do (Numbers 6:1-8). Samson was clearly aware of what he was doing; he refers to himself as a Nazirite in 16:17, so he is taking for granted that the blessing of his strength will always be there. But, oops, he pays dearly for his pride and is forced into slave labor for the amusement of the Philistines. That doesn’t exactly ring true for me as a message of “sometimes its ok to violate what God has made perfectly clear.” It seems more like, “you reap what you sow,” which comes for scripture as well (Galatians 6:7).
I knew a minister in college that memorably told me that you never grow closer to God by sinning, and I think that it is good advice. This is not to say, as we see in this story, that God cannot redeem a man even as prideful as Samson, but who knows how God might have better used Samson if he had been more faithful and less self-serving.
O. (16:22): So we can see here that God is not done with Samson yet. His hair is growing back.
Q. (16:30): Why did Samson want to die with the Philistines? He did cross the Philistine/Israel line a lot. Did he feel like he just needed to go down with them? I wish we could known more about Samson. We don’t know much about his heart. We just know that he liked Philistine women and that got him into trouble. But in the end, God was victorious via Samson. Something great can come from suffering. This copies Christ’s death to some degree.
A. Samson’s death was redemptive to a degree. It certainly points to the idea that Samson turned to God when he had LITERALLY nothing left, but he did turn to Him. I don’t really know why Samson wanted to die with the Philistines. He certainly hated them, and I don’t think he, in any way, thought of himself as “like them,” he just was attracted to their women for some reason. I think it ultimately was his understanding that he was never going to get such an opportunity again to take out so many important Philistines at once, so he acted on it even though he understood it would cost him his life.
Q. (Judges 17-18): Is this a “stay-tuned” passage? Micah and his mother sound like they have heard parts of how to properly worship God, but they have obviously missed the bulk of God’s guidance. Micah steals, his mother says it’s OK sense he admitted it, and from that point on, the story is lacking God. I need some closure here.
A. Nope. No “stay tuned”, no other resolution, just some powerful irony, and a whole lot of not God. This passage — and the one for our reading tomorrow — is a epilogue on the story of Judges that is basically a late way of saying, “how did the Israelites reject God in the Promised Land?” This story is a powerful indictment of the way that some of the people strayed, and traded in God for false idols.
But for the sake of some closure, let’s do a little summary shall we? This silver idol that Micah sets up has its origins in his STEALING FROM HIS MOTHER. From here, rather than using this ill-gotten gain to provide for the poor or donate it to God, he MAKES a god of his own, and SETS UP A HOUSE OF WORSHIP for his idol. Then, he “ordains” his own son to be the priest of this idol. If you’re following, what Micah has done is setup a rival religion against God, right in the Promised Land. Then, he gets a corrupt Levite to run his little house or worship, and he thinks he is all set — that God will actually bless him for what he has done (17:12).
But then, oh irony. He has his idols, wealth, and his Levite stolen from him by a corrupt group from the tribe of Dan. Don’t miss this: Micah attempts to chase down and rescue his idols- these same “gods” that he likely turned to for protection. So not only do we have the almost karmic punishment of Micah having stolen from him what he stole from his mother, but now his own gods need “rescuing,” and in the end, he has nothing. On top of all of this, the religion and priest that he set up are now leading an entire tribe (Dan) away from God. Frankly, I think that this is exactly what the storyteller intended for us to understand about Micah and this corrupt tribe. The people were lawless: rejecting God and setting up gods for themselves, and living not by the Law of Moses, but rather by “might makes right.” And that, I think, is all the closure this story needs.