Judges 17-18: The House of God at Shiloh

Judges 17:  False Gospel

The False Tabernacle and the False Gospel

Commentators have postulated that chapters 17-18 are located in a chronology previous to that of the period of judges.  V.6 is indicative of the period, though strictly speaking the judges were not kings.  We must remember that the judges are placed firmly between the time when Israel was led entirely by the Angel of the LORD, when men like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were led also by His physical divine appearances alongside other mediators who typified the role of Christ in their lives; and the time when Israel finally received a rightful king like the surrounding nations – but neither these mediators nor judges nor kings are sufficient in themselves unless they brought the Israelites closer to Yahweh.

It is interesting to note the contrast between chapter 17 and the previous chapters of Judges.  The noted pattern is that of fall, redemption; and fall, redemption.  Here, we see a period where there are no judges.  There is no typified redeemer.  And what a chaotic period is must have been, because these Israelites in the latter chapters of Judges are no saints such that judges were not necessary, for they have not placed their faith in Christ.

1There was a man of(A) the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 2And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said,(B) “Blessed be my son by the LORD.” 3And he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, “I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make(C) a carved image and(D) a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” 4So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother(E) took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. 5And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made(F) an ephod and(G) household gods, and(H) ordained[a] one of his sons, who became his priest. 6(I) In those days there was no king in Israel.(J) Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

And so the chapter begins with a man called Micah – “who is like God?”  From the name itself, the Hebrew reader is led to falsely assume that this is a man who wishes to be led by God; and in some sense, this is true, through not for Christ-glorifying reasons.  This is a man who stole money from his mother, restored it out of fear of being cursed by her; this is a man who sought to create his own temple of God, sought to make his own tabernacle and equipment, sought to establish his own priest, so that he can give glory to the LORD.  However, this is also a man much like he who is described in Matthew 7:  21(Z) “Not everyone who(AA) says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will(AB) enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who(AC) does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22(AD) On that day(AE) many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not(AF) prophesy in your name, and cast out demons(AG) in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23(AH) And then will I declare to them, ‘I(AI) never knew you;(AJ) depart from me,(AK) you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew Henry reveals that in v.5, it is more fitting to describe Micah as having “a house of gods, a house of God, so the Septuagint, for so he thought it, as good as that at Shiloh, and better because his own, of his own inventing and at his own disposal; for people love to have their religion under their girdle, to manage it as they please. A house of error, so the Chaldee, for really it was so, a deviation from the way of truth and an inlet to all deceit. Idolatry is a great cheat, and one of the worst of errors. That which he aimed at in the progress of his idolatry, whether he designed it at first or no, was to mimic and rival both God’s oracles and his ordinances.

Indeed, let us look at what he has tried to accomplish.  Firstly, his production of teraphim, the images by which he might seek advice – these are his “oracles”, his own equivalent to the urim and thummim.  Secondly, the usage of his house as a temple of God, with a copy of the ephod for his appointed priest.  What ridicule this is, to create their own tabernacle, when Joshua 22 had so firmly taught that there is only one altar, the brazen altar of the true House of God.  Adam Clarke describes these things:

“Perhaps the whole of this case may be stated thus: Micah built a house of God-a chapel in imitation of the sanctuary; he made a graven image representing the ark, a molten image to represent the mercy-seat, teraphim to represent the cherubim above the mercy-seat, and an ephod in imitation of the sacerdotal garments; and he consecrated one of his sons to be priest. Thus gross idolatry was not the crime of Micah; he only set up in his own house an epitome of the Divine worship as performed at Shiloh.”

As much credit as Clarke would wish to give Micah, it would seem that he is closer to idolatry rather than setting this up as a mere epitome.  Why?  Because he is worshipping the gods; he is denying the centrality of the one tabernacle by setting up a rival tabernacle which is clearly more than a mere epitome by its extravagant detail and nature in comparison to the altar of witness in Joshua 22. Even the eastern tribes were given an immensely difficult time to explain their copy, the altar of witness, which was not used for offerings but merely had an imposing size: and here, so soon after the chronological events of Joshua 22, do we find another copy: this time, not of a mere altar, but of the entire works of the Levitical system.

What is especially poignant about this piece of history is its placement in the latter half of the book of Judges instead of the first few chapters.  I believe this has much to do with the silver and the tribe of Dan being a featured theme of chapter 16, where Samson, a judge of the tribe of Dan, was seduced by Delilah, who similarly received 1100 pieces of silver.  Here, the silver is the source of similar seduction, affecting the tribe of Dan as their attempt to conquer Laish, or Leshem (as recorded in Joshua 19), is fully accounted for in the next chapter.  Where the silver in chapter 16 is used to seduce Delilah, and that much of the Philistines had provided offerings to their god Dagon after the temporary victory over Samson, so also the silver here is not a true offering to the LORD.  Micah, and his mother, are tarnishing the LORD’s reputation, though they are calling upon His Holy Name.  In a re-iteration of the passage from Matthew 7, this is a pandemic: the pandemic of religion, of false pretension that true protection comes from such measly Spirit-less works.  Clarke’s analysis of the Hebrew gives some insight here:

“[The Hebrew word for “priest” in this chapter is] cohen, which the Targum translates chumera. The word cohen is the common name in Hebrew for a priest of the true God; but sometimes it is applied to idolatrous priests. When it is to be understood in the former sense, the Targum renders it cahen; when in the latter, it uses the word chumera, by which it always understands an idolatrous priest. But that this was not a case of idolatry, and that the true God was worshipped here, is evident from the word Jehovah being used, Judges 17:4, and oracular answers being given at this house, as we see from Judges 18:6.”

This would therefore shed light on Micah’s knowledge of the illegitimacy of his own temple of God, as he desperately sought the help of a true Levite, rather than a false priest which he had no authority to anoint or ordain in consecration to the LORD.

7Now there was a young man of(K) Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. 8And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to(L) the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. 9And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” 10And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me(M) a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. 11And the Levite(N) was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12And Micah(O) ordained the Levite, and the young man(P) became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 13Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”

Like Balaam who was a hired prophet, Jonathan (the Levite, who is yet to be named until the end of chapter 18) is a hired Levite.  This Levite is a man who broke many of the ordinances of being part of this privileged and holy tribe – for he worked for money, rather than for the LORD.  He was in the position to rebuke Micah, especially given the incident of the eastern altar of witness; instead, he was “content to dwell with the man”, Micah.  To Micah, Jonathan was both a son and a father; a son, for he was presumably younger than Micah; a father, for he is the one who will enable Micah’s prosperity (v.13).  Micah’s delusion runs deep – the LORD will only give him prosperity if he has Christ, if he has the living object of faith, rather than mere shadows.  One can consume as much communion, have as many baptisms as one wishes – but only Christ can give one true food and living water.  His delusion is at a height as high as his arrogance, as he presumes to consecrate even this Levite (v.12).  The ESV footnote indicates the difficulty of the translation of v.12, which Clarke also investigates:

vayemalle eth yad, he filled his hands [as noted in the ESV footnote], i.e., he gave him an offering to present before the Lord, that he might be accepted by him. He appointed him to be priest; God was to accept and consecrate him; and for this purpose he filled his hand; i.e., furnished him with the proper offering which he was to present on his inauguration.”
Thus we see a man, terribly fearful of the LORD, attempting to do all the right things to gain His reward though forgetting that these rituals are mere shadows; and despite being shadows, it is important to distinguish that the rituals still have a set procedure in order to display the gospel of Christ, rather than a gospel of Satanic works.  Even the priest is not properly ordained, as the Hebrew reveals: he is not given the anointing of oil, the representation of the giving of the Spirit; in which case, how can the priest do any work for God?  How is he ‘wholly consecrated’ if he was to freely serve different masters?  A simple offering is a huge insult in denying the presence of the Spirit in the priest’s work.

In the following two cases, Micah has failed – by trying to please the gods, he did not find assurance in the prophesied Anointed One; in trying to please the gods, he re-invented his own rituals and failed to grasp what the more Spirit-led Israelites saw: the Son of God who must be sacrificed before the true Temple of God and bring his blood into the Holy of Holies.  Micah’s pitiful rendition of the tabernacle provides none of that truth.  It is entirely empty of the gospel and empty of the involvement of the Trinity whether symbolic or not.

Judges 18:  The Unitarian God

Samson and Delilah; Dan and the Idols

1(Q) In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days(R) the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them. 2So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe,(S) from Zorah and from Eshtaol,(T) to spy out the land and to explore it. And they said to them, “Go and explore the land.” And they came(U) to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. 3When they were by the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. And they turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” 4And he said to them, “This is how Micah dealt with me:(V) he has hired me, and I have become his priest.” 5And they said to him,(W) “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” 6And the priest said to them,(X) “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the LORD.”

As if echoing Judges 13, instead of one man Samson, we find five able men from Zorah and from Eschtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it.  Samson had dwelled in the camp of Dan between those two places, and yet this one man Samson, being led by the Spirit, is far more capable than these men.

V.6 is the answer to their inquiry – and indeed it does come to fruition.  However, it would appear that their methods are contrary to what was commanded of them in the “art of Christian warfare”.  As the inquiry stems not from the tabernacle, not from speaking to Yahweh nor from standing before His shekinah presence, but merely from the priest himself (since the attention on the actual tabernacle at Shiloh is deliberately left till the last verse of this chapter).  As Matthew Henry queried, “Should he be enquired of by them? Eze. 14:3. They seem to have had a greater opinion of Micah’s teraphim than of God’s urim; for they had passed by Shiloh, and, for aught that appears, had not enquired there of God’s high priest, but Micah’s shabby Levite shall be an oracle to them. He betakes himself to his usual method of consulting his teraphim; and, whether he himself believed it or no, he humoured the thing so well that he made them believe he had an answer from God encouraging them to go on, and assuring them of good success (v. 6): “Go in peace, you shall be safe, and may be easy, for before the Lord is your way,’’ that is, “he approves it’’ (as the Lord is said to know the way of the righteous with acceptation), “and therefore he will make it prosperous, his eye will be upon you for good, he will direct your way, and preserve your going out and coming in.’’ Note, Our great care should be that our way be such as God approves, and, if it be so, we may go in peace. If God care for us, on him let us cast our care, and be satisfied that we cannot miss our way if he go before us.”  Indeed, but the Danites have not received true peace, because the LORD is not before them nor is He visibly with Micah or the Levite.  Thus, the Danites go to spy on Laish (or otherwise named as Leshem):

7Then the five men departed and came to(Y) Laish and saw the people who were there, how they lived in security, after the manner of the Sidonians,(Z) quiet and unsuspecting, lacking[b] nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth, and how(AA) they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. 8And when they came to their brothers at(AB) Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you report?” 9They said,(AC) “Arise, and let us go up against them, for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good.(AD) And will you do nothing?(AE) Do not be slow to go, to enter in and possess the land. 10As soon as you go, you will come to an(AF) unsuspecting people. The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands,(AG) a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”

It is interesting how these five men compared the people of Laish with the Sidonians, both peoples part of cities ill-governed and ill-guarded.  The translation of v.7 may be better read as them seeing “the people that [were] therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and [there was] no magistrate in the land, that might put [them] to shame in [any] thing“.  This is quite a different translation from the positive display of Laish in the words of the Danite spies, when in fact they are speaking of the sloth, carelessness, and laxness in terms of being ready for war.  Did these men not know that the Danites are coming to conquer them?  Or that they are in the middle of a war between tribes, nations and faiths?  This is an idle city, which had no dealing with others surrounding it (or specifically, no dealing with Syria, the Hebrew word being aram as Clarke postulates; the confusion between adam [man] and aram [Syria] is easy to make, though the message of the chapter maintains the same); and it lived too far away from receiving support from others – ironically displaying the same truth as Micah, who turned to idolatry by creating a convenient temple of worship when he should have gone straight to Shiloh, however far he geographically might have been, to Jesus Christ.

So while Laish is an inward-looking idle city who could have sought proper support from fellow Canaanite brethren, Micah could have been truly shielded from the LORD’s wrath if he sought refuge in the true tabernacle as opposed to his own.  While Laish is a city of sloth, possessing much wealth, “quiet and unsuspecting”, careless – so also Micah, a slothful man who possessed enough wealth to hire a Levite and lived a careless life for failing to observe carefully the true ordinances and revelations of God despite being a god-fearer.

11So 600 men of the tribe of Dan,(AH) armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, 12and went up and encamped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. On this account that place is called(AI) Mahaneh-dan[c] to this day; behold, it is west of(AJ) Kiriath-jearim. 13And they passed on from there to(AK) the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah. 14Then the five men who had gone to scout out the country of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that(AL) in these houses there are an ephod, household gods, a carved image, and a metal image? Now therefore consider what you will do.” 15And they turned aside there and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and(AM) asked him about his welfare. 16Now the 600 men of the Danites,(AN) armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17And(AO) the five men who had gone to scout out the land went up and entered and took(AP) the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the 600 men armed with weapons of war. 18And when these went into Micah’s house and took(AQ) the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19And they said to him, “Keep quiet;(AR) put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us(AS) a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” 20And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.

These Danites are such a contrast in comparison to Samson.  Samson rarely resorted to weapons of war, and these Danites are fully armed even at the gate near Micah’s abode.  These fully armed men, though fearsome, are still a small number compared to the Israelite armies and warfare between the books of Numbers and Joshua.  They had camped at near Kiriath-Jearim, the city of woods, where the place is renamed Mahaneh-dan which is where Samson had grown up in the Spirit prior to his mission against the Philistines (c.f. Judges 13:25), displaying the chronology of these events are prior to Samson.  However, where Samson grew in Spirit, these Danites did not bear the Spirit nor the wisdom – especially in failing to discern between seeking the advice from the true priests at Shiloh, and rather receive deluded advice from a hired, young Levite, whose heart was set on present worldly riches and glory (v.20).  Although Jonathan had treated Micah as his own father, and that he had acted as a spiritual father to Micah, he would rather relinquish such intimate relations for a greater reputation, even though the Levitical tribe as a whole is dignified in its holy service.

The delusion of Jonathan, Dan, and Micah

It appears then that Jonathan, enticed by silver; and the Danites, who were dim and lawless; are a strong contrast with the period of the judges, when especially juxtaposed to the comparatively Spirit-led and lawful Samson, who in turn was led by truly God-fearing parents.  Thus, the microcosm of the heresy of Micah, extends to the macrocosm of the heresy of the tribe of Dan within the nation Israel.  This is a false gospel – to preach that Christ the priest would only represent one tribe, one pitiful 600-member clan of the entire Israel, when He is part of the non-exclusivist Trinitarian community for the whole church, the whole of Israel!  What can these gods in v.20 do, but cause more destruction?  How can they forcefully move these gods as to go before them, as in v.6 of this chapter, when the living Angel of the Father moves upon His sending and own volition?

21So they turned and departed, putting the little ones and the livestock and(AT) the goods in front of them. 22When they had gone a distance from the home of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house were called out, and they overtook the people of Dan. 23And they shouted to the people of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you come with such a company?” 24And he said,(AU) “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?'” 25And the people of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household.” 26Then the people of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home.

V.24 reveals that Micah is fully aware that the gods are made by his own hands, and yet he would approach the 600-strong men to retrieve them.  The burly Danites, so selfishly keeping the gods and the priest to themselves, should provide some revelation to Micah who had been doing the same at the beginning of the chapter.  The true tabernacle at Shiloh simply cannot be horded; it cannot be given to one family, let alone one clan or tribe.  To keep “God” as if He is inanimate, as if He needs protection, is to deny his very livelihood and utter superiority over our feeble hands.  Yet, this is the attitude of those who wish to protect such relics, such idolatrous worship, is as described by Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 19:

14Hezekiah received(V) the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. 15And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel,(W) enthroned above the cherubim,(X) you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16(Y) Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear;(Z) open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent(AA) to mock the living God. 17Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods,(AB) but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand,(AC) that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that(AD) you, O LORD, are God alone.”

27But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people(AV) quiet and unsuspecting, and(AW) struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. 28And there was no deliverer because it was(AX) far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to(AY) Beth-rehob. Then they rebuilt the city and lived in it. 29And they named the city(AZ) Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but(BA) the name of the city was Laish at the first. 30And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom,(BB) son of Moses,[d](BC) and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day(BD) of the captivity of the land. 31So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made,(BE) as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.

And such is the result of not having the LORD go before them – that they should attack a “quiet and unsuspecting” city like Laish; a city which did not launch any apparent attacks on the Danites – a defenceless city.  Yet, the blood-lust of the Danites as they had been travelling around ready to attack with their armed weaponry, as opposed to being ready to provide acts of grace which was commanded of them (c.f. Deuteronomy 10-12), is the driving force of this campaign.  In the words of Matthew Henry, ” the measure of the iniquity of the Canaanites was full, [and] that of the Danites was but beginning to fill.”  It is a campaign of oppression; of brow-beating; of idolatry – with no parties in these two chapters truly inquiring of the LORD, though we see His name used carelessly, no-one bothering to truly go to Shiloh as the true tabernacle stands there, unused.  Laish, though made into a somewhat innocent victim of the massacre, is not without guilt – for they, like the clan of Dan and like Micah, are also idle and lonely men.

The theme of these chapters manifests the truth of the false, Unitarian God where we see no fellowship and guidance of the spiritual church.  The fact that there is no deliverer for Laish is also echoing the cities of refuge placed around Canaan so that one would have immediate help – and though the context is not applicable to this particular instance, the principle behind it is the same: that the unity of the church of Christ should mean that we are mutual intercessors, calling upon that one Redeemer.  Laish had fallen into a false sense of security, and it has no church, no brother, no other nation, to turn to who can lead it to the one true God in times of the worst spiritual warfare.  Thus, by the end of Judges 18, Laish, Dan, and Micah are all victims of self-delusions.

The Tabernacle

And so chapter 18 ends on two notes which emphasises on these delusions – that the false temple and the heretical Levite are both contrasted to the silent tabernacle at Shiloh.  To find out by the end of this historical event that the Levite is called Jonathan (sarcastically meaning “the gift of Jehovah”), who descends from Moses, the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3).  Some translations render it to be Manasseh, instead of Moses, but the ESV and Adam Clarke both seem to be in agreement:

“Who this Manasseh was, none can tell; nor does the reading appear to be genuine. He could not be Manasseh the son of Joseph, for he had no son called Gershom nor could it be Manasseh king of Israel, for he lived eight hundred years afterwards.

Instead of Manasseh, the word should be read Mosheh, MOSES, as it is found in some MSS., in the Vulgate, and in the concessions of the most intelligent Jews. The Jews, as R. D. Kimchi acknowledges, have suspended the letter: nun, over the word thus,

-which, by the addition of the points, they have changed into MANASSEH, because they think it would be a great reproach to their legislator to have had a grandson who was an idolater. That Gershom the son of Moses is here intended, is very probable. See the arguments urged by Dr. Kennicott, Dissertation I., p. 55, and see the Var. Lect. of De Rossi on this place.”

Jonathan is anything but meek; he has failed to give glory to his ancestor, and unlike Moses’ meekness which led him to constantly ask direction from the Angel and from the Father, there is no clarity as to who it is that Jonathan seeks direction from.  That, I believe, is the crux of these two chapters – the aimlessness of the parties as they are led by their own desires, their own lusts:  Jonathan’s reputation beyond the glory of being a Levite; the Danites’ hope to secure their own physical land; Micah’s obsession with pleasing the LORD; Laish’s false sense of security – all of which can be entirely satisfied at the “house of God [which] was at Shiloh”.  This is the house where the Levite finds his true pride; this is the life of the Levite who needs no physical land as he looks to new creation; this is the life of the Levite, that he is no hired pawn, but that all should gather at the House of God rather than create their own religion; this is the house of the Levite where all can find eternal refuge from future harm.

Judges 17-18: The House of God at Shiloh

Judges 15-16: The Sun of Righteousness

Judges 15:  The Omen

Firstfruits at the Rock of Etam

1After some days, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife with(A) a young goat. And he said, “I will go in to my wife in the chamber.” But her father would not allow him to go in. 2And her father said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her,(B) so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.” 3And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be innocent in regard to the Philistines, when I do them harm.” 4So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards. 6Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife(C) and given her to his companion.” And the Philistines came up and(D) burned her and her father with fire. 7And Samson said to them, “If this is what you do, I swear I will be avenged on you, and after that I will quit.” 8And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow, and he went down and stayed in the(E) cleft of the rock of Etam.

From Judges 15 onwards we finally receive further revelation on how our Christ would suffer on our behalf.  His first wife has been like Israel, whoring herself to the neighbouring nations, and so he temporarily gave her up to discipline her; and in-so-doing, he also managed to destroy the neighbouring nations so that he would eventually redeem Israel once more.

Here, the chapter begins with something similar – at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson went to visit the wife whom he had left alone after some days.  He did not leave her for a long time, and yet her father would not allow him to go in.  Why not?  He is still her husband!  Even though the apple of Jacob’s eye was Rachel, Leah is still his wife, though Jacob’s marriage to Leah was effected against his will and thus the context is not entirely parallel to the current situation.

In the same way, during the Shavuot, the Pentecost – a time of the first fruit of wheat harvest – we are given the Spirit to spread the gospel and gather those (especially the Israelites) who have been ousted from the physical land of Canaan (Romans 11) back into the loving arms of the loyal and faithful husband.  As such, it is only adding to insult when the Timnite father decided to impose his values onto Samson the Nazirite, who would rather love his wife than to marry the sister of his first love (Leviticus 18:18).

It is thus fitting that when Christ is refused by Israel’s relatives to allow a warm embrace, Christ is entitled to wreck the harvest of the enemies whilst it is a time of harvest of the souls of men.  The Shavuot should be a time of rejoicing as the Spirit is given to others, and here we see Samson, tying 150 pairs of foxes (or jackals as according to the Hebrew  שועלים  shualim) together with a firebrand per couple, a frenzied attack through the use of an animal which symbolises the ruin of vineyards (Song of Songs 2:15), causing frustration by occupying the mountains of Judea (Lamentations 5:18), and used as allegories to false prophets (Ezekiel 13:4):

“We never find Samson, in any of his exploits, making use of any person whatsoever, either servant or soldier, therefore, in this project, he chose to make use of foxes as his incendiaries. They had injured Samson by their subtlety and malice, and now Samson returns the injury by subtle foxes and mischievous fire-brands. By the meanness and weakness of the animals he employed, he designed to put contempt upon the enemies he fought against. This stratagem is often alluded to to show how the church’s adversaries, that are of different interests and designs among themselves, that look and draw contrary ways in other things, yet have often united in a fire-brand, some cursed project or other, to waste the church of God, and particularly to kindle the fire of division in it.”Matthew Henry

This imagery is potent, a reversal of the fortunes of the seemingly all powerful Philistines, the rulers of the lands.  Samson is fearless, and the fire which he uses to destroy his enemy with the jackals and foxes as a type of the fire used to cause confusion and destruction as recorded in 2 Peter 2.  Instead of directing it at the church however, it is now directed at the enemy.  The fire is a mere first fruit of the true judgment, as the phrase “smote them hip and thigh with a great stroke” in fact indicates a great slaughter.  Samson did not merely lame them, but it seemed to be a phrase indicating an attack of desperation (c.f. Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke), as Samson did not make use of any person save himself – he who is a type of the One Who trod the winepress alone, stamping on the enemy with anger alongside the foxes which destroy their vineyards (Isaiah 63:1-6):

1Who is this who comes from(A) Edom,
in crimsoned garments from(B) Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.”

2Why is your(C) apparel red,
and your garments like his(D) who treads in the winepress?

3(E) “I have trodden the winepress alone,
(F) and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood[a] spattered on my garments,
and stained all my apparel.
4(G) For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption[b] had come.
5I looked, but(H) there was no one to help;
I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
so my own arm brought me salvation,
and my wrath upheld me.
6I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
(I) I made them drunk in my wrath,
and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”

Afterwards, Samson stayed in the cleft of the rock of Etam, “which is a strong rock of the tribe of Judah” (Josephus, Antiquities Book V Chapter VIII).  So Samson hid in the Rock of Judah, in Christ, for true refuge – knowing that Christ is the one who brings true vengeance, and not Samson himself who is merely a shadow and must taste the heavy responsibilities of Messiah-hood in the Spirit.

9Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah and(F) made a raid on(G) Lehi. 10And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” They said, “We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.” 11Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that(H) the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” 12And they said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not attack me yourselves.” 13They said to him, “No; we will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you.” So they bound him with two(I) new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

From v.9-13, we see almost a direct prophecy of our LORD Christ being bound by the Pharisees, by the Sanhedrin, by the particular group of murderous Jews who looked not to Christ but to themselves.  Israel, in these short verses are no different from the Israel during the Roman period.  “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us?”  Indeed, the same query is asked of Christ when Herod, Pontius Pilate, and numerous other governors’, officials’, and Caesars’ titles are thrown at the true King of the Jews.  Thus, the willingness of Samson to be bound is like that of Isaac when his elderly father should have no strength to do so; and also like that of Christ, who has displayed his abilities to evade the crucifixion until His appointed time.  Samson had the Spirit, and could easily destroy all 3000 men of Judah – and instead, he imitated our Christ here, as the lonely outcast Nazirite.  V.13 is ironic – “we will surely not kill you” – even though Pontius Pilate knew better that the blood is indeed on the hands of the Israelites when Christ was crucified (Matthew 27:24).   In the words of Matthew Henry:

“Thus a whole band of men was sent to seize our Lord Jesus, that blessed Samson, though a tenth part would have served now that his hour had come, and ten times as many would have done nothing if he had not yielded… Blamed him for what he had done against the Philistines, as if he had done them a great injury. Such ungrateful returns have those often received that have done the best service imaginable to their country. Thus our Lord Jesus did many good works, and for these they were ready to stone him… They begged of him that he would suffer them to bind him, and deliver him up to the Philistines. Cowardly unthankful wretches! Fond of their fetters and in love with servitude! Thus the Jews delivered up our Saviour, under pretence of a fear lest the Romans should come and take away their place and nation. With what a sordid servile spirit do they argue, Knowest thou not that the Philistines rule over us? And whose fault was that? They knew they had no right to rule over them, nor would they have been sold into their hands if they had not first sold themselves to work wickedness.

And so Samson is akin to the One Who was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, meek and humble.

14When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him.(J) Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it,(K) and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16And Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”

17As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place(L) was called Ramath-lehi.[a]

Upon Samson’s arrival in the hands of the Philistines, he is once more led by the Spirit’s initiation Who gave him freedom from the bonds and cords.  Samson has not yet been labelled as a ‘sinner’ – in fact, all his pursuits from Judges 13 to 15 have been by the guidance of the Holy Spirit for he is a faithful Nazirite.  Thus, the typology of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is withheld, though we see glimpses of the truth of the One who was bound to the enemy in death so to ensure the death of the enemy alone.  Matthew Henry describes the Spirit’s loosing of the cords as similar to the loosing of the “bands of death, and its cords, the grave-clothes, [fell] from his hands without being loosed”.

Much like the picture of the deceptive foxes used to humiliate the Philistines, God is not short of analogies and imageries as he inspires Samson to take the bone of an ass, a despicable and humble animal, to work Spirit-led wonders on the rulers of the land.  This place is thus called “Ramath-lehi” – the lifting up of the jaw-bone.  Indeed, this place is symbolic of the lifting up of the humiliated Christ so that his enemies are equally humiliated; the King who trod the wine-press, the lifeblood splattered onto the garments of the Saviour.

18And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the LORD and said,(M) “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19And God split open the hollow place that is(N) at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank,(O) his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore;[b] it is at Lehi to this day. 20And he judged Israel(P) in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

Samson is thus continually protected because of his unceasing reliance on Jesus Christ.  V.18-20 shows a very literal reliance on He who gives the living water of life (John 7:38; Revelation 7:17).  So also when Melchizedek provided Abraham with bread and wine to emulate communion, we see here a drinking of the water of the Spirit after the immense victory during the time of wheat harvest, twice performed through the humble means of the judge of Israel.  Like Christ on the cross who thirsted, He received His eventual refreshment by the sustainment of the Spirit through the three days in the deep and drank continually from the spring.  It is fitly named En-hakkore, the spring of him who called – because Christ is the one who called to the Father after committing His spirit to Him, and by drinking of the Spirit He managed to revive and shed his grave-clothes and previous bonds.

In spite of his victories, there is a looming omen behind these events – the building up of Samson’s enemies as the actions and typologies which Samson represents increasingly emulates that of Christ.  However, up to chapter 15, Samson is still seen as the powerful unyielding Nazirite who is used by Yahweh to conjoin himself to his enemies as a picture of Christ conjoining himself to Satan to destroy him.  The omen comes to a climax in Judges 16 to which we now turn.

Judges 16 – Christ nailing Satan to the cross

Delilah, the third woman

In this chapter we see the climax of the omen unravel – the story of Samson and Delilah.

Oftentimes people characterise Samson as the man easily seduced in this historic parable, and Delilah as that definitive Babylonian whore.  That caricature may be true in respect of Delilah, but certainly not the entire message preached.  Matthew Henry sees this final scene as Samson being as the “little sun set under a cloud, and yet, just in the setting, darted forth one such strong and glorious beam as made him even then a type of Christ, conquering by death”.  Indeed, without seeing Christ revealed in these pages, we have lost the essence of the build up so far – all the rich allusions to the third day, to the coming death, resurrection and ascension of Samson.  These themes will be entirely explored here, where in previous chapters we have seen mere shadows and fragments.

1Samson went to(Q) Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. 2The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they(R) surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” 3But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.

With respect to the prostitute, this event is almost entirely dismissed by the narrative, as if we should entirely ignore her.  Instead, the focus once more is on Samson against the non-Israelites – this time the Gazites.  Yet, even Samson escaped death here, from the city Gaza renowned for its titular description: a city that is fortified and strong, ironically could not even fortify nor display its strength in the face of Samson.  Furthermore, the focus then shifts to Samson carrying the gate of the city and the two posts – a sign of the strength of the city (Genesis 22:17; 24:60), being entirely undermined by the monstrous strength of Samson entirely due to the Spirit.  And to where does Samson carry the ‘gate’ of the city?  To Hebron, the first deposit of Canaan received and bought by Abraham and his wife Sarah (Genesis 23).  This is a sign of the new land we have yet to inherit, and what we see is the burden with which Samson is to carry to walk up that holy hill as Christ did on his ascension (Psalm 24:3).

It is difficult to comment on the reason why he went into the prostitute, but it would seem that Samson’s common problem is the lust of his eyes.  Yet, in the lust of his eyes, God managed to make a parable out of him representing that of Christ crucified.  This is perhaps why not much more of the narrative is devoted to this second woman of Samson’s life, despite his staunch refusal to marry his wife’s sister.  As imperfect a type of Christ Samson is, God still managed to work miracles and wonders through him, enabling all those who would later receive this story to see how God would put His Son through the same trials, though the Son would have the fullness of the Spirit to fight against such sexual lusts representative of spiritual adultery.

Furthermore, though the narrative does not mention it, I believe the narrator inserted the second woman as a tool in building up to the third and last woman whom Samson would be involved with, to express the theology of the number three even further.  This number has come up before (when the riddle of the young lion was not solved after three days), and will feature again throughout this chapter.

4After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5And(S) the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her,(T) “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to(U) humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” 6So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could(V) subdue you.”

It is in the Valley of Sorek, the red crimson valley, that we meet the Babylonian whore Delilah, the feeble one.  How ironic it is that she looks so feeble in the face of the Sun, in the face of Samson, and it is here that Samson will spill his blood in this valley.  Delilah, like Judas, is bribed; and unlike Christ who was given the fullness of the Spirit, Samson’s submission to Delilah is to satisfy the lust of his eyes though the typology of Christ’s incarnate work is still effected.  In the same situation, we know Christ would choose in wisdom what Samson did, though Christ would do it in the beginning with the knowledge of the salvific work through his enjoining to the whore of Babylon; but Samson may not have come to such a knowledge of the prophetic work of Christ’s salvation through him being enjoined to Delilah until after his eyes are gouged out.

7Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried,(W) then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 8Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9Now she had men lying in ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings, as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.

10Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have mocked me and told me lies. Please tell me how you might be bound.” 11And he said to her, “If they bind me with(X) new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 12So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And the men lying in ambush were in an inner chamber. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.

13Then Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me how you might be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 14So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web.[c] And she made them tight with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.

What is interesting is that, in three times, Samson is playing with the possibility of him being tied down by this Satanic enemy.  We can find much parallel to Christ, who had also taunted Satan with the number of times in which He could have been maimed, could have been slain in the midst of his ministry on earth.  Here, Samson provides to Delilah:

Samson’s suggestions Samson’s actions
Seven fresh bowstrings not dried (v.7) Snapped as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire (v.9)
New ropes that have not been used (v.11) Snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread (v.12)
Weave seven locks of Samson’s head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin (v.13) Pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web (v.14)

It is straightforward to see that he overcame each with ease – however, with the last we see something peculiar.  Why would the binding of his hair make his less strong?  It would seem that with each suggestion, it is getting closer and closer to the heart of the issue – his hair which must not be shaved.  The truth behind the events is to display simply that Samson cannot be bound.  He who cannot be bound must be bound only by his own volition – as is the case here after three times, indicating the death of Samson, the death of the type of Christ to come soon.

15And she said to him,(Y) “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16And(Z) when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17And he told her all his heart, and said to her,(AA) “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”

The Death

Like Christ, Samson chose to reveal these truths to the Satan, the enemy – and on this the enemy acted.  His holiness in entirety is symbolically represented by his hair, his life.  As in Jeremiah 7:29, the hair is used as an analogy of life; to cut it and to throw it away is akin to forsaking life.  So here, we see a parable of Christ’s death – in the cutting of the hair of Samson, we finally see a full and consequential picture of Samson hair being cut.  Here, we see the Nazirite truly bearing sin; truly cut off from God.  Indeed, as Christ yearned, “My God My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).  And so, through the various imageries of Samson binding himself to several non-Israelite women, his binding to the third woman; revealing the truth of his weakness after the third time; are all a collective imagery of Christ binding himself to the sinner’s punishment of the cross.  Samson cannot be a more fitting judge to portray this truth, for three times he enjoined himself to a prostitute, a Gentile, a temptress – all different facets of the character of Satan: who is The Prostitute, The Spiritual Gentile, The Tempter.  And all three times, God has displayed his victory over the enemies through the prophetic enjoining of Christ to the enemy.

Satan has longed to peer deep into this mystery of salvation, and this truth was revealed to him just as Samson has revealed this truth, revealed ‘all his heart’, to Delilah as well:

Eze 28:1-3  The word of the LORD came to me:  (2)  “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god–  (3)  you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you…

So also in 1 Peter 1:12, this is the same salvific plan which the angels longed look at.  This is not a ‘secret’ kept from them, just as it is not a secret kept from Lucifer when he was a morning star himself.  Regardless, Lucifer still went forward to crucify this Christ – such stupidity, such nonsense, such absolute arrogance.

18When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought(AB) the money in their hands. 19She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began(AC) to torment him, and his strength left him. 20And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that(AD) the LORD had left him. 21And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles.(AE) And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

So Samson is made to go into a sleep that induced his spiritual death – a death-like sleep.  It is here that his strength left him, as he left his life on the cross.  The LORD had left him.  And he now finally endures the torture which he had been teasing, truly bound without escape just as Christ was truly bound in the shackles of the pit, the prison, until rising again on the third day.  The hair, though cut, is but temporary – for it will grow again, and so also Samson will be refreshed just as he was when he drank from En-hakkore.  This putting out of his eyes, is so that he would see not with his physical sight, his lust – but that he would truly be anointed by the Spirit and complete the life-long mission of the defeat of the Philistines when his hair grows back and live by faith.

The Resurrection

23Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to(AF) Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24And when the people saw him,(AG) they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.”[d] 25And(AH) when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and(AI) on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.

Let us look at Adam Clarke’s understanding of Dagon’s physical traits:

Unto Dagon their god – Diodorus Siculus describes their god thus:

Το μεν προσωπον εχει γυναικος, το δ’ αλλο σωμα παν ιχθους;

“It had the head of a woman, but all the rest of the body resembled a fish.””

What a monstrous and hideous god – to make the woman the head, and to have the body a fish which is symbolic of leaderless men (Habbakuk 1:14).  So it is only fitting to have so many men and women reach their deserved climax through the ‘resurrection’ of Samson, that while he still seem humiliated he was in fact the powerful Anointed One whom the LORD had never really left.

Of course, the entire story is not without its irony embodied in v.24 – “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us”.  Indeed, that is what Satan wants to believe – that his enemy, Christ, is given into the hands of the fallen ones.  However, the true living Yahweh had planned this long before any Philistines have been killed through the anointed one, Samson, in chapter 13.

28Then Samson called to the LORD and said, “O Lord GOD,(AJ) please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. 31Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him(AK) between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.

Adam Clarke vehemently denies the typology of Samson to Christ, but I think it to be too assumptive to deny Christ’s direct involvement in the election of Samson as a grand picture of God’s enjoining to Israel, the prostitute, to work the salvation of all nations; of God’s enjoining to the church, the prostitute, to sanctify her, wash her, and bless others through her (Ephesians 5:22-33).  Yet, this sanctification must come from the death and re-birth of the church, for one must be born-again just as Christ must die first before being born anew.  Yet, Satan is to die and remain dead – and not live again (c.f. Genesis 3:15).  As much parallel as there is in Samson’s life to Hercules, with Clarke believes that the latter fable is inspired by the former history, the focus of the story is once again not on Samson per se.  It is on the greater mystery of God’s victory through the death and resurrection of the anointed one, who has supernatural strength – the implication of the God-man Christ undergoing the same trials as prophesied in detail in Isaiah.  In the words of Matthew Henry:

“Christ was plainly typified. He pulled down the devil’s kingdom, as Samson did Dagon’s temple; and, when he died, he obtained the most glorious victory over the powers of darkness. Then when his arms were stretched out upon the cross, as Samson’s to the two pillars, he gave a fatal shake to the gates of hell, and, through death, destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14, 15), and herein exceeded Samson, that he not only died with the Philistines, but rose again to triumph over them.”

So, Samson typified that true morning sun of righteousness, and as such has been one of the more graphic and important typologies of Christ in the Old Testament.

Judges 15-16: The Sun of Righteousness

Judges 13-14: The Nazirite and His Father

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.

Judges 13-14: The Nazirite and His Father