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In response to Solomon’s understanding of the gospel as to why and how the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever, the kindling fire of the LORD fills the Temple in v.1-3. The manifold offerings were accepted (v.4-6), the offering overflowing into the middle of the court before the Temple because the bronze altar was not sufficient! This is a beautiful time of worship, the type of overflowing love which the Father gives to us through His Son, hence the celebration of the Feast of Booths here between the 15th to the 22nd of the seventh month as described in Leviticus 23:
“33 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. 35 On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36 For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.” As I have explained here, the Feast of Booths is a feast which reminds us of Hebrews 11:8-10, of Abraham looking forward to the day of meeting the God the Father face to face, starting and ending the festivities with rest, foreshadowing the eternal Sabbath of New Creation. With this “rest” in mind, Solomon sends the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart (v.10) because of the LORD blessing the Israelites through David and Solomon, symbolic of his actual blessing through his only begotten Son Jesus.
Jesus then appears to Solomon in the evening (v.12), He responds verbally to Solomon’s pleading in chapter 6, essentially stating that He has chosen and consecrated the Temple that His name may be there forever, His eyes and His heart there for all time (v.16). Yet, again, v.17-22 is a reminder of the demise of Israel as the kings failed to walk with Christ – failing to receive the wisdom, the Spirit, whom Solomon asked for after he was anointed a second time as king. Yet, the caveat is still v.36-39 in chapter 6 – that even if Israel does become a proverb and a byword among all peoples (v.20-22), a reminder of those who forsake the LORD, He will still forgive so long as Christ is their King – for His steadfast love endures forever.
Now we turn to the daily life of the Israelite – and here we see Solomon assigning forced labour tasks to the Gentiles, the once-enemies of Israel; rather than destroying them, he extends his hand gracefully to keep them in the land although as bondservants of Solomon. Contrarily, the Israelite enjoys other positions of work (v.9), a sign again of the “work” in new creation. This “work” should be placed in the context of the various ministries and delegations in 1 Chronicles 27-29 under the ruling of David (v.14) – and the three annual feasts as described throughout Leviticus as reminders of the Trinity, from the Son (the Passover), to the Spirit (the Pentecost), and to the Father (Sukkot).
Here there is a seemingly strange interjection of Solomon’s visit to Ezion-geber and Eloth in the land of Edom, and together with Hiram, going to Ophir to obtain 450 talents of gold. Matthew Henry observes it thus:
“He did himself in person visit the sea-port towns of Eloth and Ezion-geber; for those that deal much in the world will find it their interest, as far as they can, to inspect their affairs themselves and to see with their own eyes, Canaan was a rich country, and yet must send to Ophir for gold; the Israelites were a wise and understanding people, and yet must be beholden to the king of Tyre for men that had knowledge of the seas. Yet Canaan was God’s peculiar land, and Israel God’s peculiar people. This teaches us that grace, and not gold, is the best riches, and acquaintance with God and his law, not with arts and sciences, the best knowledge.”
It is indeed true that the Temple is already filled with gold, to convey the majesty of the LORD’s presence through Israel; yet Israel is not rich with gold itself but with other natural resources (Numbers 13:27). Israel is therefore not a “self-sufficient” nation, but a nation which requires inheritance of resources from neighbouring nations, but not by becoming their allies or assimilating their practices (Deuteronomy 18) – but by preaching the gospel to them (Matthew 5:5) and teaching all to be meek before the LORD. This is adequately expressed in chapter 9, with the Queen of Sheba’s visit (carrying spices and gold) immediately juxtaposed to Solomon’s expeditions for these resources. One can presume that Solomon’s dedication to the LORD in the previous chapters, and his voyages to Ezion-geber, Eloth and Ophir have created the impression of a priest-king-evangelist, missional in his outlook and ensuring that other nations are, too, blessed by the gospel.
See my commentary on the Queen of Sheba’s visit here. Her contribution to Israel is described to have coincided with Hiram’s contribution – both bringing gold – one from Sheba, the other from Ophir (v.10) and rare elements for the Temple, Solomon’s house, and lyres and harps for the singers.
However, this is but the beginning of the famed “Golden Age” of Israel – and quite literally so. From v.13-28, we see a variety of gold and silver brought in from explorers, merchants, from the kings of Arabia and governors of the land – used for shields (v.14-16), for overlaying a great ivory throne (v.17-18), for the king’s drinking vessels (v.20) – and the resources kept coming (v.21; making silver as common as stone v.27). This grand depiction of the LORD’s material and spiritual blessing is summed in v.22-23 – “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind“. They came not to receive items from Solomon – but simply to learn of the LORD’s wisdom! Such was the glorious kingdom under the headship of a king who followed, sought, and met with Christ. Never was the gospel so gloriously communicated in Israel, not until the time of Christ’s first coming.
The victories of David continue in this prophetic account of the Book of Revelation, where the true David will remain at New Jerusalem (v.1) to orchestrate the judgment on the unbelieving nations. Joab’s victory over Rabbah is attributed to David’s grand victory over all the cities of the Ammonites (v.3) leading to the meek’s inheritance of the earth (Matthew 5:5) from the first act of David’s taking of the crown from the king’s head. So also the LORD’s victory over Satan allows us, as His humble servants to achieve countless victories in the true David’s name, redeeming all cities for His glory or otherwise partaking in the judgment against these idolatrous nations. Ultimately, our home is still found in New Jerusalem – the renewed city of peace (v.3).
And the mark of such miraculous string of victories is hallmarked by our victories over the giants, the descendants of the Nephilim / Rephaim (Genesis 6:4), as consistently recorded through the lives of faithful saints in Christ (Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 2:20-21; Joshua 11:21, 13:12, 15:14; 1 Samuel 17:4)? So also in v.4-8 of chapter 20, we see Sibbecai the Hushathite striking down Sippai; Elhanan son of Jair striking down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite; and Jonathan the son of Shimea, striking down the giant of Gath (Goliath’s home)? The key passage is v.8 – “These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants“. Such relieving humbleness is portrayed in its fullness when juxtaposing the looming strength and towering majesty of these pagan giants with the weak-willed Israelites (Numbers 13:33) whose strength comes simply from the victory of Christ over Satan alone.
However, in spite of such intentions, David fell to Satan’s temptations by counting the LORD’s blessing as David’s own. Such is a sin which Christ took lengths to avoid, by consistently referring to compliance with the Father’s will (c.f. John 5) and not His own. Yet, David’s act contradicts Christ’s character of perichoretic love within the Trinity. Instead, David’s decision to heed Satan and number the armies implies that such impressive numbers of men are cause for David’s pride, though such numbers are only made possible in the LORD’s hand. Note Joab’s expression of bewilderment which reveals the true status of these numbers of Israel – they are (v.3) men whom the LORD has added to David’s people. Why then should David require a census and be a cause of guilt for Israel? Joab’s abhorrence is but a foreshadow of the LORD’s displeasure (v.7), hence his decision to not count Levi or Benjamin in the census. Adam Clarke’s commentary sheds light on the exclusion of the two tribes:
“The rabbins give the following reason for this: Joab, seeing that this would bring down destruction upon the people, purposed to save two tribes. Should David ask, Why have you not numbered the Levites? Joab purposed to say, Because the Levites are not reckoned among the children of Israel. Should he ask, Why have you not numbered Benjamin? he would answer, Benjamin has been already sufficiently punished, on account of the treatment of the woman at Gibeah: if, therefore, this tribe were to be again punished, who would remain?“
Indeed, the exclusion of Levi is recorded in Numbers 1:47-54; and the exclusion of Benjamin in accordance to what happened in Judges 19-20. The LORD has indeed greatly multiplied the number of Israel from 603,550 warring men to 1,570,000 men who drew the sword in Israel and Judah – over twice the number from the day of entering Canaan to the height of David’s reign. Gad’s choices to David were essentially decided by the LORD, with David humbling himself (v.13) and placing himself entirely at the LORD’s great mercy, understanding that it is better to be at the mercy of the LORD than that of man. Adam Clarke continues:
“Thus the Targum: “And the WORD of the LORD sent the angel of death against Jerusalem to destroy it; and he beheld the ashes of the binding of Isaac at the foot of the altar, and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, which he made in the Mount of Worship; and the house of the upper sanctuary, where are the souls of the righteous, and the image of Jacob fixed on the throne of glory; and he turned in his WORD from the evil which he designed to do unto them; and he said to the destroying angel, Cease; take Abishai their chief from among them, and cease from smiting the rest of the people. And the angel which was sent from the presence of the Lord stood at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
So we re-tread the events of 2 Samuel 24, with David sacrificing himself as the scapegoat from the people (v.17) for it was his command to number the people, with the Angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Jesus, staying His hand upon the Father’s command. Yet, it is here that we see fuller dialogues between Jesus and Gad, Gad and David, and David and Ornan – all surrounding the altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (v.18). The king bought Ornan’s symbolic threshing-floor at a price, as David remarkably noted that “…I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing” – a welcome reminder of Christ’s command to bear our cross in our walk with Him (Luke 14:27). David’s decision to sacrifice at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, which Adam Clarke remarked as Moriah, the place of Abraham’s potential sacrifice of Isaac and thus the place of Christ’s crucifixion, is a more fitting place of sacrifice in light of David’s decision to stand on behalf of Israel to propitiate the LORD’s wrath (1 Chronicles 22:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1). David is to either hide under the propitiatory sacrifice at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, or receive the sword of the angel of the LORD (v.30) outside of the future site of the temple (1 Chronicles 22:1) and Christ’s work on the cross.
Chapter 22 describes David’s preparation of the materials for Solomon’s fulfillment of the temple, a shadow of the temple which Christ will build – this is most notably distinguished by the prophecy which David recounted to Solomon (v.8-10) and the prophecy the LORD stated to David through Nathan in 1 Chronicles 17:
“10 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. 11 When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.”
Compared with 1 Chronicles 22:8-10, the word having been given to David directly:
“8 But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. 9 Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.”
The distinctions are that (1) Solomon is a man of peace and of rest (v.9) compared to David, who is a man with blood on his hands (v.8); and (2), more importantly, v.10 – that it is the LORD who will be building a house for us, rather us for him. The throne which Solomon thus sits on is not established by his own hands; rather, this temple is also a shadow, with Solomon being a more appropriate shadow and type of Christ than David, for the day Christ is given the throne is a day of peace (i.e. “Jerusalem”) rather than that of bloodshed and war. It is on the day the temple is complete that the Levites no longer are required to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service (Chapter 13 v.26), a picture of the rest which Abraham looked forward to (Hebrews 11:8-10) when he no longer had to carry his tent when the heavenly city has been designed and built by God. Thus, the work of the Levites has evolved to that of care taking and worship at the temple, in the days of Solomon’s rest. Although such days were short, they were indeed the glory and golden days of Israel, modeled closely after the eternal days which we enjoy as co-heirs of Christ in new creation.
2 Samuel 24: Costly grace
As if the end of chapter 23 does not already indicate and maximize the sin of David as the shadow-king of Israel by referring to Uriah as among one of David’s thirty mighty men (murdered by David’s lustful adultery and scheming), once again David’s weakness is the subject of chapter 24.
2Sa 24:1-25 Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” (2) So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.” (3) But Joab said to the king, “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?” (4) But the king’s word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army went out from the presence of the king to number the people of Israel. (5) They crossed the Jordan and began from Aroer, and from the city that is in the middle of the valley, toward Gad and on to Jazer. (6) Then they came to Gilead, and to Kadesh in the land of the Hittites; and they came to Dan, and from Dan they went around to Sidon, (7) and came to the fortress of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites; and they went out to the Negeb of Judah at Beersheba. (8) So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. (9) And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king: in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000.
v.4 – “presence of the King”; began from Aroer to Gad to Jazer to Gilead to Kadesh (land of Hittites) to Dan to Sidon to Tyre to Hivites / Canaanites to Negeb of Judah at Beersheba. Why, again, is the “anger of the LORD kindled against Israel” (v.1) (chapter 21:15-20)? There is no explanation in the narrative, but it is apparent that Israel has succumbed to disobeying the LORD. Let us turn to 1 Chronicles which explains how this has happened:
1Ch 21:1-7 Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel… (5) And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword. (6) But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab. (7) But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel.
Note how Satan is the one who stood against Israel; but it is the LORD’s anger which was kindled against the visible church. Neither narrative explains exactly what had caused Satan to be permitted to stand against Israel (c.f. Job 1-2) but one thing is clear. This chapter is a fitting end to the two books of Samuel: while Samuel began with the unexpected election of this young priest over the House of Eli, we move quickly to the unexpected election of the young shepherd David over the House of Saul, and now we move once again to the House of Araunah the Jebusite (v.16) over the House of David. In each instance, we see how God has narrowed down the elected offspring through whom the Christ would come; from the form of priesthood and kingship firstly rejected and then typologically portrayed by its replaced shadow, as a witness to the true fulfillment of the priesthood and kingship by the Angelic Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5-7).
Under this overarching and underlining agenda of the 2 books, it is important that Satan stood against Israel, and that God permitted Satan to do so. Though it is not explicitly explained as to why Satan stood against Israel, what is displayed is the act of sin which David commits by numbering the visible church as incited by Satan. In this act of listening to the enemy, David has identified himself as a type of Christ and not the promised King Himself. It is therefore important to see man’s struggle with Satan since the books of Genesis to 2 Samuel, for no man has struggled successfully against Satan and crushed him definitively. Even David and his mighty men only defeated Satan’s children, be it the great Egyptian, the remnant of the Rephaim, the Goliath, amongst other fear-inducing enemies – but The Enemy could only be bound (Matthew 12:29) by The One Chosen to crush him truly at his head (Genesis 3:15). The victories of David are but shadows of Christ’s victory against the Satan; but they are at most shadows. David is not the Christ Himself, for David must also rely on Christ as His Second LORD and Mediator (Psalm 2; 110 ; c.f. his Christ-centered in chapter 22).
Even Joab, the man who was not mentioned among the David’s mighty men, this schemer and murderer found David’s decree abhorrent (v.6). For how can David puff up his pride in counting the visible church when the LORD has left a true holy remnant in Christ? Such is the reason why Levi and Benjamin are not counted amongst the census – according to the Hebrew of these two tribes’ names, the Levites who are joined to the priesthood are not to be joined to this unholy census, just as the Benjaminites, the children of the right hand should not be equally included. Yet, it is the Benjaminites and the Levites who are among those who receive the most ominous prophecies of Jacob in Genesis 49. Where do they actually stand? Are they really the joy of Christ’s childbirth, or are they truly riddled with warfare and ravenous wolves? It is perhaps likely that focus on the lack of inclusion of these two tribes is to highlight the seeming confusion of the silver lining between the unseen and seen Church – very much the subject of this chapter.
It is then clear in v.10 that David’s heart struck him (or, more viciously, killed him – nakah נכה) after he had numbered the people – that the Holy Spirit grieved (Isaiah 63:10 / Ephesians 4:30), and quite right that he accepted how he had sinned greatly and pursued the LORD to take away David’s iniquity. David did not, nor through a priest, sacrifice an innocent animal according to the Levitical laws for his sin. He knew very well that these animals could not take away people’s sins (Psalm 51; Hebrews 9:23) – only the LORD could take away the iniquity (Mark 2:7).
(10) But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” (11) And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, (12) “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.'” (13) So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” (14) Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”
So in verses 10-14 we see the LORD presenting three choices to David – all of whom will be done to David by the LORD Himself: three years of famine, three months of persecution, or three days of pestilence (v.13). Though in the first two options we see the LORD withholding his provision (be that provision of natural resources in the famine; or his protection from external or internal strife), it is only in the third option that the LORD is directly and positively inflicting pestilence on Israel. David would rather “ fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but… not fall into the hand of man”.
How interesting it is that David still sees the LORD’s mercy in the midst of these three options which will afflict the nation as a result of David’s failed mediation as the righteous king of Israel. David saw ahead that the LORD’s mercy in the three days; but he did not see any comparative benefits from the other two choices which will result in a combination of the LORD’s and men’s wrath. Only in the third choice will we see sin personalized as between the church and the LORD (Psalm 51:4), the breaking of the covenant affecting first and foremost that God-man relationship.
(15) So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men. (16) And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (17) Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.” (18) And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
What is interesting is that the LORD’s pestilence has spread from “Dan to Beersheba”, the same geographic spread of people from David’s census in v.2; and it is akin to the pestilence elsewhere in Scripture, be it in the days of Noah by the global flood (Genesis 7); in the days of Abraham by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24); in the days of Moses by the ten plagues (Exodus 8-12); and this is but another way of sifting the spiritual Israelite from the visible Israelite, the symbolic sweep over the same people who had been counted part of David’s church in the earlier verses of this chapter.
Yet, we must not forget the imagery of what is shown here – and this is the very crux of the consolidated message and thrust of the two books of Samuel. The Angel of the LORD by the threshing floor (quote) of Jerusalem – this place is symbolic not only because it is the Hebrew for the “city of peace”, but that commentators have recognized this place as Moriah, the place where the Christ would be crucified and where Abraham had foresaw that the LORD would provide a lamb for the burnt offering (Genesis 22; 2 Chronicles 3:1):
“This place is supposed to be Mount Moriah: on which, according to the rabbins, Cain and Abel offered their sacrifices; where Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac, and where the temple of Solomon was afterwards built.” – Adam Clarke
(19) So David went up at Gad’s word, as the LORD commanded. (20) And when Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. And Araunah went out and paid homage to the king with his face to the ground. (21) And Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be averted from the people.” (22) Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. (23) All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.” (24) But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. (25) And David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.
And thus the chapter ends not on David’s victory; not on Israel’s faithfulness; but rather quite an opposite note. The plague, caused by David, and inflicted upon Israel (upon whom the perfect rounded number of 70,000 were taken away from the visible church), could only be propitiated by the burnt offerings and peace offerings given on Moriah on the third day of the pestilence. What a grand gospel picture that has been underlying 1 and 2 Samuel’s message! It isn’t men who inflicted our Christ on the cross; it isn’t Satan who induces the wrath and punishment on David for he is but a tool of the Father in tempting David to sin; it is, in actuality, the Father in heaven who inflicts this wrath on the Son!
It is on this second altar, far away from the legitimized altar of the tabernacle but instead is placed on the exact location of Christ’s crucifixion, that we see the light of the world – the Son of God – break into the dim pestilence and wrath of the Father which would have otherwise continued to wipe out the visible church. Yet, the Father had planned for the Angel to have mercy upon arriving at Jebus (the ancient Jerusalem) for this is where election is displayed for the world to see – the alpha and omega of election in Jesus Christ to be risen on the third day on the cross at Moriah.
The brazen altar which Moses made was at Gibeon (1Ch_21:29), and there all the sacrifices of Israel were offered; but David was so terrified at the sight of the sword of the angel that he could not go thither, 1Ch_21:30. The business required haste, when the plague was begun. Aaron must go quickly, nay, he must run, to make atonement, Num_16:46, Num_16:47. And the case here was no less urgent; so that David had not time to go to Gibeon: nor durst he leave the angel with his sword drawn over Jerusalem, lest the fatal stroke should be given before he came back. And therefore God, in tenderness to him, bade him build an altar in that place, dispensing with his own law concerning one altar because of the present distress, and accepting the sacrifices offered on this new altar, which was not set up in opposition to that, but in concurrence with it. The symbols of unity were not so much insisted on as unity itself. Nay, when the present distress was over (as it should seem), David, as long as he lived, sacrificed there, though the altar at Gibeon was still kept up; for God had owned the sacrifices that were here offered and had testified his acceptance of them, 1Ch_21:28. On those administrations in which we have experienced the tokens of God’s presence, and have found that he is with us of a truth, it is good to continue our attendance. “Here God had graciously met me, and therefore I will still expect to meet with him.” – Matthew Henry
And standing by this cross is not easy. It is not cheap. It is in fact very expensive – Luke 14:27.
“Cheap grace is not the king of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in “Cost of Discipleship”
It is important to remember that 1 Samuel began not with the life of Saul, nor David – but it ultimately starts with Samuel as the typological priestly Christ. And who are his witnesses? He explains at the beginning of chapter 12v.3: “Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed.” It is as if these words were taken out of the mouth of Martin Luther at Diet of Worms when faced with the threat of excommunication, if not death, if he did not recant of his Christocentric writings. It is these words, which Samuel utters, which will become the bookends of 1 and 2 Samuel. It is these words which will become the pretext for the struggle for the throne which Saul accepts without faith, and David accepts knowing that the throne cannot be filled by himself unworthily but by the LORD and His LORD on his right hand (Psalm 110).
There is no true indication of chronology with regards to 1 Samuel 12 with respect to 1 Samuel 11 and 1 Samuel 13; if anything, (c.f. the opening chapters of Numbers which prioritise the order of the tribes around the tabernacle and the ordering of the festivals over and above the narrative chronology) it appears that this is Samuel’s farewell address near the end of his life which occurs after the events of 1 Samuel 13. What is the Spirit leading us to recognise? Whether there is chronological consistency or not, it is fitting for us to learn the fitting placement of chapter 12 before 13 where we move from Saul’s victory over the Ammonites to Saul’s fall in chapter 13, so that his fall is not something of a surprise for the Israelites or the reader: rather, it is something ominously prophesied by the LORD and his Anointed One. It is thus clear that Saul’s victorious fanfare in chapter 11 should never have been soberly accepted by the Israelites, nor the readers, for time and time again we recognise that Saul is not the anointed witness. There is someone else who was anointed long before he was.
Samuel therefore focuses on the inadequacies of this king to come by putting himself to be tested before the people. He says that he has obeyed their voice in all that was said to him, and have made a king but only according to their wishes (v.1). He reiterates the same accusations made against the king of Israel in the latter parts of chapter 8, and applies them to himself so to portray himself as blameless – did he take anyone’s ox or donkey (v.3)? Did he defraud anyone? Did he oppress anyone? From whose hands has he taken a bribe to blind his eyes with? Yet these are the very things which the king of Israel will rob them of – from Saul, to the chronicles of kings down the ages of Israel’s tragic history. So Samuel closes the testifying with a repeated and utterly important phrase: “The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand”. Indeed, He is witness (v.5). He is the witness of many – the witness against the rebellious Israelites; the witness of Samuel in sustaining his credibility; but above all, He is the witness of Samuel’s second LORD (v.7) who is his anointed – “I am going to confront you with evidence before the LORD as to all the righteous acts performed by the LORD for you and your fathers”.
As Jude had rightly proclaimed that it was Jesus (Jude 5), sent by the Father as the person of the Angel of the LORD who poses Himself as LORD, who took the Israelites out of Egypt – so also Samuel focuses on this momentous event which utterly changed Israel’s future from a nation of slaves to a nation of priesthood. He will make them holy (Leviticus 21:23), and it is important to see His work of salvation in Israel – “Do not be afraid” as Samuel pleas, because even when we have done all this evil, it is in His Son’s great name (v.22, Acts 9) that the LORD will not reject his people, “because the LORD was pleased to make you his own” (v.22b). The entire act of Yeshua, both of Christ and of salvation, is recounted from v.8 to 15, after reiterating the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their presence. The Father who sent Christ to redeem Israel from Egypt; the LORD’s Spirit who rushed upon the great men Jerub-Baal (contender with Baal: Judges 6), Barak (lightning: Judges 4), Jephthah (whom God sets free: Judges 11) and Samuel himself, each and every story recounting the acts of salvation which began with Christ as prototype, as the true image of the Father, and manifested on a microcosmic level in these famous judges. Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, is but one of a string of kings who decide to fight against Israel. The Israel who have withstood the onslaught of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor; the Philistines; the Moabites; the Baals; the Ashtoreths – not to mention the Egyptians! Time and time again Jesus Christ delivered them in Person and in Spirit, and their acts of disobedience have now extended to anointing a king not personally chosen by the LORD. By the mark of thunder and rain as typical of the global flood, the Israelites are given a warning of the taste of the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and yet their transgressions are wiped away by the LORD’s mercy interceded by Samuel as type of Christ, as well as the Anointed Witness who is the real reason why the Israelites became part of the elect in the first place.
“Be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart” (v.24) – indeed, that is the truth, that the Israelites are to be Christocentric in their worship (v.14): that they do not look to Saul or even David; that they do not look to Jerubbaal, Barak, Jephthah, or even Samuel, all of whom are but normal men called to extraordinary offices and vocations; but that these types all looked to the LORD who took their fathers out of Egypt. He is the Anointed Witness, the Commander and Great Seraph, who delivered them from the list of kings of the other nations emphasising the uselessness of kingship if not seen in light of Christ as true and only king. Yet, it is clear that v.25 is a prelude to Saul’s downfall (chapter 13 onwards), just as the entire chapter itself points to the king who does not worship Christ but aims to set himself up as Israel’s unappointed saviour.
1 Samuel 1 and 2 have been building towards the bigger picture of Eli’s eviction from the House of God. Eli’s rebuke of his sons were actions done out of religiosity; they were not done out of a conviction of loving Christ Jesus. The LORD had already accused him of this sin in chapter 2v.29 where Eli has scorned God’s sacrifice, further elaborated in chapter 3v.13 – “And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them [my emphasis].”
And this contrast is visible – the youthful and innocent Samuel who had been worshipping and praising the LORD consistently in the previous two chapters is now the reception of God’s word. v.1 explained that the word of the LORD was rare in those days, the word of the LORD coming traditionally true frequent vision (חזון chazon) – a word commonly associated with prophetic dream-like visions (Prov 29:18; Isaiah 1:1, 29:7; Jer 14:14, 23:15; Lam 2:9; Eze 7:29, 13:16; Daniel 8:1, 9:24, 10:14, 11:14; Hosea 12:10; Obadiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 2:2-2:3). Yet, what Samuel is to experience is beyond a prophetic vision.
It is upon the third time that Eli recognises how Samuel, who has been worshipping the LORD, has not yet received direct revelation from him. Eli is the High Priest; yet even the LORD chose not to speak to him directly. Instead, He chose to speak through Samuel as an intercessor to shame Eli. In the same way that the Gentiles are used to shame the Israelites, so also Eli needed to accept that this is good in the LORD’s eyes (v.18). Yet, Eli’s hard-heart has prevented him from serving the LORD effectively; in fact, his actions extend to that of blasphemy: failing to restrain his sons who had been prostituting themselves and even now, no more direct revelation from God. In chapter two, a “man of God” came to Eli (v.27). Who this man is not as relevant as the fact that the High Priest did not receive revelation; and now, it is through a Christophany, through Jesus Christ who came and stood before Samuel (chapter 3v.10). v.7 should not throw us off by any means – the word for “know” in Hebrew encompasses a vaster meaning than that of simply to know a friend in the English language; rather, this “know” involves physical perception, involves sight. This would be faithful to the previous chapters, where it would be more accurate to say that Samuel worshipped the LORD through his service in the tabernacle; through his reading of the Scriptures; but had not yet seen Christ, the visible LORD, and not yet receive direct revelation from him. Yet, here, the LORD appeared before Samuel; and once again, He appeared at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD (v.21).
This brings me to the important words which Christ shared during his time as incarnate Jesus of Nazareth:
Mat 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
And so, the Father revealed Himself to Samuel by the word; not by mere vision though that is already infrequent, but an even greater and better glory of physical perception, of physical sight, of seeing the appearance of the LORD Christ Himself. He who is the Visible, walking, standing, speaking Word. Yet, all of this is not simply to see the awe of Samuel as the chosen prophet, because this truth has been indicated from chapter 1 onwards. It is clear that, as Samuel continued to grow, he would hold an important role as a prophet and witness to David the typological Son; and only a prophet who would not let any of his words fall to the ground would be able to discern who the true coming King is – to discern between Saul and David. It is at Shiloh, where Elkanah and Hannah (and not Peninnah, nor Hophni, nor Phinehas) praised Him exceedingly – and it is here that the LORD appears once again to confirm Samuel’s prophethood. Yet, what is truly emphasised is the failure of the high priestly line through Eli. Something which would tingle the two ears of everyone who hears (v.12-14):
“On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
This is almost a direct parallel to Jeremiah’s prophecy in chapter 19 (v.3, but the rest of the chapter retains the poignancy and pain of the subject matter):
“You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle.”
Indeed – what will shake people to the core is the fact that the chosen priesthood, both Eli and Israel, seen as priesthood and light to the nations (Exodus 19:6), is rejected by the One who chose them. However, the only chosen One, the only Elect One, the only Predestined One, is not any individual. Rather – it is Christ himself (Isaiah 42:1), and only those who cling onto Christ will also be chosen like Him; those who cling onto Christ will also be righteous like Him, because His self-election, His righteousness, His mysteries are all revealed and given to us from the Father through the Son, who makes the Father known to us. In this way, we shame those who call themselves Christians but have never received revelation, love, truth from the Father; for these are the people who say “Lord Lord” but He has never known them. Instead, they worship a figment of their creation; they look upon a God who is not living, whom they continually spit upon for they do not surrender themselves to the Word by Whom we know the Father and know that He has become sin who knew no sin. So Israel even made election a religiosity of itself; but we are truly elect in Him because of His Son, in the line of Melchizedek shaming the physical but spiritually uncircumcised line of Levi and Israel.
Judges 13: Christ the Nazirite
The miraculous birth of the Messiah, the Nazirite
1And the people of Israel again(A) did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD gave them(B) into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
2There was a certain man of(C) Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah.(D) And his wife was barren and had no children. 3(E) And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4Therefore be careful(F) and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son.(G) No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be(H) a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall(I) begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6Then the woman came and told her husband,(J) “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome.(K) I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7but he said to me,(L) ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.'”
Numbers 6 explained the prophetic connection between the Nazirite vow and Jesus, the spiritual Nazirite. What is interesting about Numbers 6 is the connection between the shaving of the Nazirite’s hair and the eventual shaving of Samson’s hair in Judges 16:
(Numbers 6): 13“And this is the law for the Nazirite,(K) when the time of his separation has been completed: he shall be brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting, 14and he shall bring his gift to the LORD, one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish(L) as a sin offering, and one ram without blemish(M) as a peace offering, 15and a basket of unleavened bread,(N) loaves of fine flour mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and their(O) grain offering and their(P) drink offerings. 16And the priest shall bring them before the LORD and offer(Q) his sin offering and his burnt offering, 17and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of peace offering to the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread. The priest shall offer also its grain offering and its drink offering. 18And the Nazirite(R) shall shave his consecrated head at the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire that is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. 19And the priest shall take the(S) shoulder of the ram, when it is boiled, and one unleavened loaf out of the basket and one unleavened wafer, and(T) shall put them on the hands of the Nazirite, after he has shaved the hair of his consecration, 20and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD.(U) They are a holy portion for the priest, together with the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed. And after that the Nazirite may drink wine.
We should perceive thus, that this Samson is undoubtedly another type of Christ – this time portraying a deeper picture of the Christ who was chosen, before His incarnation, by the Father to complete the work of incarnation, complete and positive obedience on earth until his death, resurrection and ascension. In the cutting of Samson’s hair we see the bondage which he endured (further explored when we come to chapter 16), but we shall see that his life prior to and after the shaving of his head is akin to the life of the Christ, living a life of obedience on earth and drinking wine in anticipation of new creation – a picture more strongly shown after his resurrection (just as a Nazirite is to enjoy wine only after the end of his holy consecration to the LORD). We shall not mistake the reasons for the synchronisation of the end of the Nazirite’s vow to enjoin the shaving of the head and the offering of the sin and burnt offering, as if the shaving of the head is seen simultaneously as a sacrificial offering pointing to Christ – and so the shaving of Samson’s head (after being bound by his enemies, like Christ) is also an image of Christ’s death on the cross; and the growth of his hair akin to the imminent re-birth of Christ.
However, at this stage we are merely arriving at the birth of Samson, who is the son of Manoah aptly named as rest. For it is true that Samson, like Christ, advocated true Sabbath-rest by his victory over the Philistines; and this importance is coupled with the obedience of the mother in conceiving this child despite being barren, akin to the impossibilities of child-birth in women like Sarah and Rachel to emphasise the impossibility of the virgin birth through Mary.
What is important for us to notice is v.5 – that Samson is to begin to save the Philistines – but not entirely. This careful language is also noticeable in Genesis 22 when Abraham observed that the sacrificial lamb has not yet been offered at Moriah (until Christ’s death on the cross at Moriah, Jerusalem). This is to emphasise that, like Isaac who was made to re-enact the death of Christ on the cross by carrying wood to Moriah as the sacrificial lamb on the 3rd day, so also Samson is seen to be a type of the Christ who truly completed the work of salvation typified by his victorious defeat of the Philistines in the next four chapters.
And much like the instance of Mary’s receipt of revelation from an angel of God, here we see Christ himself revealing to Manoah’s wife that she will conceive a child who is already consecrated to the LORD (v.6); a child of rest, a child named Samson – who is like the sun, the sun of righteousness!
8Then Manoah prayed to the LORD and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” 9And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. But Manoah her husband was not with her. 10So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” 11And Manoah arose and went after 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.” 12And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true,(M) what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” 13And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine,(N) neither let her drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded her let her observe.”
What is of especial importance here is that the Angel first appeared to the woman, and then from the woman to the man. The same has occurred in respect of the angel in Luke 1:26-38, and it is assumed that the angel appears to Joseph on a separate second occasion as mentioned in Matthew 1:18-25. Just as Mary was frustrated and confused by her sudden conception of a baby because she was still a virgin, this is distinguished from Manoah’s wife who was equally surprised though for the reason of being barren. In both cases, the men are trusting in the LORD, specifically in v.12 as we see Manoah use the word ‘when’ (it would appear that Joseph struggled with Mary’s virgin pregnancy initially but overcame it just as Manoah received further confirmation from the Angel). Unlike the pregnancies of the wives of earlier patriarchs in the Pentateuch, one significant importance regarding the birth of Samson is, as aforementioned, the pre-destined prophecy concerning his future: that he shall begin to save Israel from the Philistines, and that he is a Nazirite. Note the immediate prophecy prior to Christ’s birth:
“Greetings,(BC) O favored one,(BD) the Lord is with you!”[c] 29But(BE) she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for(BF) you have found favor with God. 31And behold,(BG) you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and(BH) you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of(BI) the Most High. And the Lord God(BJ) will give to him the throne of(BK) his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob(BL) forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” – Luke 1:28b-32
There is much similarity between the two – the consecration of Christ and Samson; the duty of Christ and Samson; the miraculous birth of Christ and Samson; the future as a result of Christ and Samson – the former greater than the latter, but the latter typifying as a shadow to the former.
Furthermore, v.14 has one additional command compared to v.4 – “[do not] eat of anything that comes from the vine”. The vine is commonly associated to vineyards, the growing place for wine and the ‘blood of the grapes’ (Genesis 49:11), a shadow to Christ’s blood which he did not institute as a sacrament in the form of wine in Communion until his work on the cross is fulfilled. As if it is not clear enough that Manoah’s wife is to abstain from this ‘blood’ which should not be prematurely consumed (at least not until the Nazirite has completed his/her vow), so the Angel here emphasises the vine in correlation to the child’s “manner of life, and mission” (v.12).
15Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you and(O) prepare a young goat for you.” 16And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) 17And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD,(P) “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18And the angel of the LORD said to him,(Q) “Why do you ask my name, seeing(R) it is wonderful?” 19So(S) Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works[a] wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching,(T) and they fell on their faces to the ground.
The Angel fulfilling His own prophecy
The translation of v.18 is better explained in the ESV than the KJV, where the latter speaks of the name being a ‘secret’, but the former speaks of the name being wonderful (akin to the Hebrew used in Isaiah 9:6 – the “Wonderful” Counsellor, Jesus Christ). This also connects the character of Christ and the Angel, who not only calls Himself the name of the prophesied Messiah but also provides Himself amongst the offering to the LORD, the second LORD – the Father – in v.16. And so, we see a direct picture of Christ, the Sent One, aligning Himself with the offering so that He truly offered and sacrificed Himself to the LORD, the Father in heaven, inside the flame by which the LORD answers (1 Kings 19:24). And thus, in the picture of the sacrifice, we see both the type of incarnate work upon the altar and the Son himself acting out what He would later do on the cross.
There should be no confusion that the Angel is not a mere ‘angel’ – but that He is the visible LORD:
21The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife.(U) Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. 22And Manoah said to his wife,(V) “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” 23But 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.” 24And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson.(W) And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25(X) And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between(Y) Zorah and Eshtaol.
v.23 is dripping with penal substitutionary truth – if not for the offering, the LORD would have very probably been pleased to kill both Manoah and his wife:
“It is not likely that God, who has preserved thee so long, borne with thee so long, and fed and supported thee all thy life long, girding thee when thou knewest him not, is less willing to save and provide for thee and thine now than he was when, probably, thou trustedst less in him. He who freely gave his Son to redeem thee, can never be indifferent to thy welfare; and if he give thee power to pray to and trust in him, is it at all likely that he is now seeking an occasion against thee, in order to destroy thee? Add to this the very light that shows thee thy wretchedness, ingratitude, and disobedience, is in itself a proof that he is waiting to be gracious to thee; and the penitential pangs thou feelest, and thy bitter regret for thy unfaithfulness, argue that the light and fire are of God’s own kindling, and are sent to direct and refine, not to drive thee out of the way and destroy thee. Nor would he have told thee such things of his love, mercy, and kindness, and unwillingness to destroy sinners, as he has told thee in his sacred word, if he had been determined not to extend his mercy to thee.” – Adam Clarke
This is why the portrayal of the Son’s sacrifice is given prior to the naming of Samson, who is like the sun (commonly associated to the sun of righteousness, the Son) as narrated immediately after the revelation of the Angel, who is also the LORD, sacrificing Himself to the LORD in heaven amongst the offerings as a type of Samson’s work and ministry on earth which are also types of Christ’s incarnate work and ministry on earth. So the growth of the young man also draws direct parallel to the growth of Christ in Luke 2:52, the wisdom in Christ as a result of the anointing of the Spirit in both men in their physical and spiritual maturation. While Samson grew in these blessings in the camps of Dan his hometown, so also Christ grew in wisdom in his hometown, Nazareth.
Judges 14: God and Israel
1(Z) Samson went down to(AA) Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah.(AB) Now get her for me as my wife.” 3But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters(AC) of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the(AD) uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”
4His father and mother did not know that it was(AE) from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.(AF) At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.
Where chapter 13 seemed to end on a high note of aspiration for Samson, just as the first few chapters of the gospels are definitive of the remaining parts of Jesus’ life, chapter 14 is nothing short of peculiar. At the place of restraint, Timnah, Samson is without restraint when he asked his parents for a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines. Here, it is easy to assume that Samson is under the influence of the Satanic influence which drove Samson to marry non-Christians, which in turn led him to idolatry; but we need to remember the context and the narration. Samson is under the influence of the Holy Spirit, being a type of Christ, a Nazirite devoted to the service of the LORD. Between Samson and the LORD, he is driven to marry this Philistine because of His prompting; this fellowship between Samson and Yahweh is something which even his parents do not understand. So also Christ’s fellowship with the Father is of such confusion to Mary and Joseph at times. The narrator, for fear that we assume too much into the text, immediately qualifies this apparently illegitimate marriage with v.4 – “His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD”. Neither would we, if we were to omit v.4:
“Samson, under the extraordinary guidance of Providence, seeks an occasion of quarrelling with the Philistines, by joining in affinity with them – a strange method, but the truth is Samson was himself a riddle, a paradox of a man, did that which was really great and good, by that which was seemingly weak and evil, because he was designed not to be a pattern to us (who must walk by rule, not by example), but a type of him who, though he knew no sin, was made sin for us, and appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh, that he might condemn and destroy sin in the flesh, Rom_8:3…
…As the negotiation of Samson’s marriage was a common case, we may observe…That is was weakly and foolishly done of him to set his affections upon a daughter of the Philistines; the thing appeared very improper. Shall one that is not only an Israelite, but a Nazarite, devoted to the Lord, covet to become one with a worshipper of Dagon? Shall one marked for a patriot of his country match among those that are its sworn enemies? He saw this woman (Jdg_14:1), and she pleased him well, Jdg_14:3. It does not appear that he had any reason to think her wise or virtuous, or in any way likely to be a help-meet for him; but he saw something in her face that was very agreeable to his fancy, and therefore nothing will serve but she must be his wife. He that in the choice of a wife is guided only by his eye, and governed by his fancy, must afterwards thank himself if he find a Philistine in his arms…
…God had forbidden the people of Israel to marry with the devoted nations, one of which the Philistines were, Deu_7:3…If there had not been a special reason for it, it certainly would have been improper in him to insist upon his choice, and in them to agree to it at last.” – Matthew Henry
Knowing especially that this is a man devoted to God’s mission, it is important to compare Samson who married a Philistine woman, and Christ whose mind was set on marrying the Bride – the Church. Why did Samson marry? Much like the parables which he provided throughout much of his life as Christ also did, Samson himself was also a parable testifying to Christ. Matthew Henry states that he is a type of him who was made sin for us – and perhaps in this way, Samson married himself to sin throughout his life. Sin, which is (by type) external to him, but by his own volition married himself to sin – the church.
Only in this sense can we truly see the embodied truth of what Christ has done for us: that He should take us in hand for marriage, destroying all the idols in our hearts (all the idolatrous Philistines attached to his wife) – even the wife herself if she was unfaithful. So also, like Nadab and Abihu; like those who partake of communion but who are non-believers, are pronouncing the judgment of Christ upon themselves until the day they take of it as believers and understand the gospel truth which they have received blindly prior to conversion (1 Corinthians 11:27). This is a possible message which Samson is portraying as he continues to marry worthless brides, marriages through which Samson’s character dominates and in turn purges the wives’ families of their corruption – a picture of Christ’s positive infectious healing by the Spirit through being married to us, the whore and prostitute of Hosea 3:3. He took on sin, in the Spirit; and the idols in the church are destroyed, akin to the actions of Jerubbaal, so Israel would be loyal and no longer remain as whore. So Samson is made a parable of Yahweh and Israel – Yahweh who made a marriage covenant with Israel, even though Israel is just like the Philistine bride and Delilah.
5Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring. 6(AG) Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson’s eyes.
In continuation of Samson being the type of Christ, here we find him facing a young ferocious lion in a vineyard of Timnah. What I find interesting is the imagery of the episode – the destruction of a fierce opposition in what is a place of harvest, harvesting red wine and grapes indicative of the blood of Christ. This is important to place alongside Samson who has been reliant on Yahweh by the Spirit, and so this serves as an important message alongside the pictures of Adam and Christ in the garden of Eden and the garden of Gethsemane respectively; where the former failed to proverbially tear the serpent, Satan, in pieces, here we see Samson, the better type of Christ, engaging directly and tearing this satanic force. However, this is not complete without the blood of Christ, hence the associated imageries of gardens and vineyards, respectively inferring the tree on which Christ died and the blood which Christ spilt to achieve both his own death and the death of the serpent nailed to the cross:
“Christ engaged the roaring lion, and conquered him in the beginning of his public work (Mat_4:1, etc.), and afterwards spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them in himself, as some read it, not by any instrument. He was exalted in his own strength. That which added much to the glory of Samson’s triumph over the lion was that when he had done this great exploit he did not boast of it, did not so much as tell his father nor mother that which many a one would soon have published through the whole country. Modesty and humility make up the brightest crown of great performances.” – Matthew Henry
And like Christ whose matters meant more between Himself and His Father, so also here Samson refraining from mentioning the matter to his earthly parents as a sign that Christ’s strength in his incarnation is mysterious from the perspective of human capabilities.
Of further interest is v.7 – the juxtaposition of Samson destroying the lion, perhaps in the eyes of the woman who was pleasing in his eyes, rather than telling the event to his father and mother. Who is this woman? Why is she there? Is it possible that she and the lion are aligned together? It is most likely that she is the same woman mentioned in the earlier part of the chapter, for her representation of the Philistines is to shape the entire mission of Samson’s life. Whatever the assumptions, it is most probable that the destruction of the lion is a prophecy of the destruction of this woman’s heritage for she was also in the vineyard, witnessing this man who is clearly anointed by the Spirit. Where the young lion was destroyed on the cross and all believers cleansed by His blood, so the woman of Babylon would also be destroyed on the Day of Resurrection (Revelation 17:3-7). Though the woman of Babylon is pleasing and beautiful even in the eyes of John, Samson here is typifying Christ in approaching this woman who stood by the ferocious beast which attacked him.
8After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. 9He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.
Honey is commonly associated with the Promised Land (Exodus 3:8), but why is this coming from the carcass of the lion? This is possibly implying the connection between the death of the young lion as the death of Jesus, the lion of Judah (Hosea 5:14; Revelation 5:5), providing fruits of new life from the death of another – an allusion to the new life we receive through the death of the Lamb. This theme is further explored through the parable which Samson gives to the thirty companions at the wedding feast:
10His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. 11As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12And Samson said to them,(AH) “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within(AI) the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty(AJ) changes of clothes, 13but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Put your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14And he said to them,
“Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet.”
And in three days they could not solve the riddle.
Samson’s First Marriage Feast
There is something strangely proverbial about Samson’s words, and they would fit nicely into the book of Proverbs. This “eater”, though referring directly to the young lion, would also allude to the spiritual symbolism behind it – Satan. Glen Scrivener looks at this in his post “Eat Dirt Man-Eater!” parallel between Satan the “eater”, and Christ crushing this man eater:
“Satan is the dust-eater (Genesis 3:14) whilst man is dust (Genesis 3:19); he is the man-eater (1 Peter 5:8), yet Christ will join man to crush the man-eater (Genesis 3:15); Christ does this by being Man eaten (John 6:51), yet only in this way does He swallow His enemies (1 Corinthians 15:54). Those who do not eat (with) Christ get eaten (Revelation 19:18), yet those who eat Christ join Him in crushing the man-eater (Romans 16:20). In this way, Christ humbles Himself in order to be exalted (Luke 14:11), meanwhile Satan, who exalted himself, will be humbled (Ezekiel 28:11-19). Eating dust is the lot of the defeated enemy (Psalm 72:9), and Satan will eat dirt all the days of his life (Micah 7:17; Revelation 20:10). So eat dirt man eater! There’s one Man you couldn’t swallow. He’s swallowed you. Our food will be the Man eaten. And you will eat dirt forever.”
Through this theology of ‘eating’, we see a direct comparison of Christ and Satan – which helps to clarify the parable of the young lion, out of which we receive such new creation blessings. That is because in ‘eating’ – we receive two truths – the simultaneous truth of Christ and Satan’s death, yet in Christ’s death springs victory as Satan remains under mediated judgment. That is why the death of the enemy will result in blessings for us; the death of the lion of Judah leading to that death of the enemy. This is broadly understood by Matthew Henry as well:
“This riddle is applicable to many of the methods of divine providence and grace. When God, by an over-ruling providence, brings good out of evil to his church and people, – when that which threatened their ruin turns to their advantage, – when their enemies are made serviceable to them, and the wrath of men turns to God’s praise, – then comes meat out of the eater and sweetness out of the strong. See Phi_1:12. 2. His water was more considerable to him than to them, because he was one against thirty partners. It was not a wager laid upon God’s providence, or upon the chance of a die or a card, but upon their ingenuity, and amounted to no more than an honorary recompence of wit and a disgrace upon stupidity.”
v.14 in particular alludes once more to the theology of the ‘third day’ – that even on the third day they do not see this truth, the narrator pointing out to the theme of the third day being a day of new life, a day of resurrection, a day of the land being formed as in the third day of creation. These companions are not enlightened; they do not understand how life can come from death – and so they have rejected the Spirit in understanding the light of the parable, and resorted to Satanic means to achieve this answer.
15On the fourth[b] day they said to Samson’s wife,(AK) “Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is,(AL) lest we burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?” 16And Samson’s wife wept over him and said,(AM) “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told my father nor my mother, and shall I tell you?” 17She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because(AN) she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people.
God’s first bride – Israel, on the Seventh Day, the Day of Resurrection and Judgment
There to seems to be a contention in v.15 with regards to whether it was the fourth day or the seventh day as in the original Hebrew (which uses ‘seventh day’, as opposed to some LXX or Syriac manuscripts which use ‘fourth day’ – noted in the ESV footnote). It would seem that ESV opted for ‘fourth day’ because of their failure to understand the truth within three days, thus making it their ‘fourth’ day when the 30 companions approached Samson’s wife for interrogation.
However, seventh day, as in Exodus 20:10 can very much point us towards the Sabbath. Matthew Henry similarly muses that the fourth day on which the men have asked is in fact the ‘seventh day’, meaning the Sabbath. Note also in chapter 14 v.10 that Samson went down there because of the preparation of the feast, but the text does not directly tell us whether or not the feast has already begun. It would seem more likely that the seven days of the feast began after the Sabbath, which makes the presentation of Samson’s riddle as three days before the beginning of the actual feast. Given the necessity to rest on the Sabbath, it would make more sense for the preparation to be prior to the Sabbath, enabling Samson the devoted Nazirite to rest on the Sabbath, then begin his wedding feast of seven days. Only in this manner can we allow the wife of Samson to weep all seven days of the feast; otherwise, she can only possibly weep for three more days if the men approached her on the fourth day of the feast, as opposed to the fourth day since Samson posed them the riddle.
18And the men of the city 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 plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.”
So, the events from v.10-18 span over a period of ten to eleven days – the week inclusive, and the three days prior to the week of the wedding feast. For seven days these men blackmailed Samson’s wife, taunted her when she should be enjoying her wedding feast. This wife, despite knowing Samson’s amazing strength upon killing the young lion, did not confide in her husband. Instead, she would rather side with the Philistines and remain allegiant to them than to her new head. Equally, in our marriage to Christ we should be entirely devoted to Him as He was devoted to His Father as visibly seen in His incarnate life as the spiritual Nazirite. On the day of the Wedding Feast, there shall be nothing to hold us back – no threat, no more sting of death – and yet Samson’s wife is here a representation of Lot’s wife, she who looked back onto her life pre-conversion. As if this is not clearly presented in the chapter, the particular phrase of “ploughing with my heifer” amplifies this as understood by Adam Clarke:
“If ye had not ploughed with my heifer – If my wife had not been unfaithful to my bed, she would not have been unfaithful to my secret; and, you being her paramours, your interest was more precious to her than that of her husband. She has betrayed me through her attachment to you. Calmet has properly remarked, in quoting the Septuagint, that to plough with one’s heifer, or to plough in another man’s ground, are delicate turns of expression used both by the Greeks and Latins, as well as the Hebrews, to point out a wife’s infidelities.”
Despite the taunts made from the thirty men, Samson’s statement is an expression of total loyalty of the Church to Christ; that if the Church was to whore herself however slightly to receive acceptance from other men, other lords and Baalim, then Christ would consider that as being unfaithful in his bed – in the shape of spiritual adultery. It was meant to be a secret between husband and wife, just as all mysteries of God are revealed between Christ and the Church; yet, for the Church to reveal this mysterious truth to another does not mean that the man outside the Church is also Samson’s wife. Quite the contrary – the men achieved such truths to deceive, just like the false prophets of 2 Peter 2. They also have the word of truth, yet their revelations are not direct and are thus not like the bride, wearing the proper wedding attire to be afforded this trust and revelation between man and wife. Yet, this deception came through the wife first, for she is also temporarily rejected by the end of this chapter for bridging Noah’s ark to the waters of judgment.
It is here that we can find some connection between the rejection of Samson’s wife with that of Christ’s rejection of physical Israel. Though Samson’s first wife is not an Israelite, the picture here is that of a marriage to an unworthy nation so characteristic of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel, as if Yahweh was literally marrying a non-believer. Such is the offer of salvation, that He loved Israel before Israel loved Him. Yet, through the temporary rejection of Israel in the Babylonian and Assyrian captivities, we see God destroying both Babylon and Assyria, condemning their actions for ‘ploughing with God’s heifer [Israel]’. Both Israel and the enemies are punished, but the former is still close to God’s breast as the latter are eternally condemned. This will be further explored when Samson returns to his wife, just as God has not forgotten Israel to this day (Romans 11).
It would therefore seem that the second seventh day on which Samson finally received the answer is also a day of judgment for these men; so also on the spiritual second seventh day, the Second Coming of Christ, the sun will rise for the believers but the sun will proverbially fall for the unbelievers as they receive the fiery judgment of hell. We enter into the marital communion, such spiritual intimacy, because of our object of faith – the Word of God. Yet, these men tried to subvert the riddle, never intended to be understood by them, by speaking words falsely gained. Men who are still blind and deaf (c.f. Isaiah 6:9, especially in the face of parables which are not to be understood by unbelievers) may speak all kinds of words but their hearts are still uncircumcised. As Jesus said in Matthew 13:
11He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
” ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a] 16But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
It is thus fitting for such judgment to ensue on the thirty men immediately after they have failed to answer the parable in truly the same way as the bride. And thus what they have, the thirty pieces of clothing, “will be taken from him” (Matthew 13:12), on the Day of Judgment:
19(AO) And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and he went down to(AP) Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house. 20And Samson’s wife was given to(AQ) his companion,(AR) who had been his best man.
Here is thus a picture of the Son judging men, in hot righteous anger upon His return to the Father’s house, an implication that the marriage is not complete. To echo Glen Scrivener’s earlier words – “Christ does this by being Man eaten (John 6:51), yet only in this way does He swallow His enemies (1 Corinthians 15:54).” Samson is temporarily joined to this wife, so that God would, through him, swallow His enemies. This action is clearly endorsed by Yahweh, as intimated by the Spirit in v.19; and it is only right for Samson to return to his father because he is not officially cleaved yet. This cleaving of the Son from the Father, the thumb rule of marriage to the Church (Genesis 2:24), will not occur until Judges 16; just as the Son was not truly married to physical Israel, and in her temporary rejection we see a temporary destruction of the enemies in and around Canaan. The true marriage is yet to come, and the true “death and resurrection” of Samson yet to be displayed.