Samson: Dealing with Fatal Flaws Part 2 of 3
by John Lowe
6. HE IGNORED HIS WEAKNESSES.
Now the time has come for the wedding. We pick up the story in verse 11 on day one of the seven-day wedding feast. Samson begins by offering a riddle to the 30 Philistine groomsmen. It was a kind of friendly battle of wits that was very common in those days. The riddle involved the honey that Samson took from the carcass of the lion. The riddle (which happens to be an excellent example of Hebrew poetry) went this way: “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”
Samson walked with a swagger and offered a wager along with the riddle. If they solved the riddle in 7 days, Samson would give them some new clothes. By the fourth day, the groomsmen were getting nervous so they approached Samson’s bride and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse in verse 15: “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death.” These are not nice people. You wouldn’t want these guys in your wedding party. In this case, “Coax” means, “to seduce a simple-minded person.” The Philistines would say the same thing to Delilah some 20 years later. Samson could be seduced because he was all hormones and no brain. Here’s the sad part: Samson’s weakness was apparent to everyone but him.
He never saw his weakness, refused to admit he had one and consequently never came to grips with it. In the end, it would prove his undoing. He eventually reveals the riddle’s answer on the seventh night. Remember this: It’s our refusal to deal with our weaknesses that most often gets us in trouble. Many of us are just like Samson—we’ll do anything to avoid dealing with the real issues in our lives. It’s easier and less painful (we think) to pretend that everything’s okay, even when deep inside we know it isn’t.
7. HE’D RATHER TAKE REVENGE THAN REPENT.
The groomsmen know the secret of the riddle and they come to Samson at the last moment with the answer. Since Samson has lost the bet, he has to find some clothes for the groomsmen. Verse 19 gives us his solution: In order to pay off his debt, Samson killed 30 Philistines. He had to touch their dead bodies in order to get the clothes off, and that was another clear violation of the Nazarite vow. But it doesn’t matter now.
Samson is angry because he has been publicly humiliated. His feelings of romance are now replaced with rage and revenge. Samson leaves his bride standing at the altar and chapter 14 ends with her father (who is understandably embarrassed) giving her in marriage to the best man. This sounds like something you’d see on the Jerry Springer show!
When we come to chapter 15, we see that Samson decides that he wants his wife back. A few months have passed and Samson takes a young goat as a gift for his bride. While we might bring chocolates or flowers, Samson gift-wraps a goat. That’s sure to win her heart. When he arrives, her father won’t let him see her because she’s now married to someone else. Samson is fuming and says in verse 3: “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines. I will really harm them.” Samson then caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail-to-tail in pairs. This is harder than it looks. You probably shouldn’t try this yourself.
Once he had the tails tied together, he fastened a torch to them and let them loose in the fields of the Philistines. This basically is on the level of a college fraternity prank. The foxes are scared to death and go ballistic. Verse 5 says they burned up the shocks (that’s the wheat that had already been cut); and they burned up the standing grain, the vineyards, and the olive groves. The Philistines only had three cash crops ¬ wheat, olives, and grapes.
Samson single-handedly destroys the economic base of the entire nation with the flaming foxes. But Samson is not finished yet. After they torch his wife and her family, he said to them in verse 7, “Since you acted like this, I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” Do you see the cycle of revenge? The Philistines do something and then Samson does something. And then they respond and Samson steps-up his response. And they do something again and Samson goes crazy. Each time it gets more serious, and bloodier. When you try to seek revenge for wrongs done to you, you set in motion an unending cycle of violence. The only way to get off the treadmill of terror is to not seek revenge but instead to offer forgiveness.
Verse 8 says, “He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them.” Later, his own people turn him over to the Philistines and then verse 15 tells us that he found “a fresh jawbone of a donkey . . .” and with it, he killed one thousand men. Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord in verse 18, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” This is the greatest prayer Samson ever prayed. He’s saying, “Lord I know that this victory did not come by my power.” It’s the one time where he really acknowledged God’s presence in his life. Samson’s great prayer comes after his greatest victory. His prayer is immediately answered and it reveals to us that Samson’s spirituality was present, although it was often overshadowed by his emotions.
Chapter 15 concludes on a high note: “Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.” If Samson’s story ended here, it would be a tale of triumph. He had learned that God was adequate to meet any need he had and so he ruled Israel and led them in prosperity and peace for two decades. He thought his fatal flaws of romance and revenge were dealt with. But his lust had not gone away; it had just been buried.
Chapter 16 opens with an ominous sign: “One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her.” Twenty years of victory…and in one night he fell. Samson’s mid-life crisis reminds us that the inclination to sin never dies of old age and our weaknesses never go away. Samson never really dealt with the problems that plagued him at the beginning.
Taking up with a prostitute is really a stupid move. There’s no chance that Samson can just arrive in this city and not be noticed. The Philistines hate him. They had a contract out on him. And now, he’s in their capital city. It’s almost as if he doesn’t care if he gets caught. Like some men in mid-life, he’s doing something that makes no sense at all. He’s where he shouldn’t be and he’s with someone he shouldn’t be with. And he doesn’t seem to care.
The word got out that Samson was in the city. The Philistines surround the house, thinking that he’ll come out in the morning and they can capture him. But Samson got up in the middle of the night and left. On his way out of town, verse 3 tells us that he ripped out the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron. Scholars tell us that this door would have weighed about 700 pounds. By carrying off the doors of the city gate, Samson was humiliating the Philistines once again.
Nearly all the ancient cities were surrounded by a thick wall, which meant the gate was the main entrance. The gate symbolized the safety and security of the city. And for Samson to take the city gate and to put it on his shoulders and to carry it away was his way of saying, “See, not only can you not catch me, I’m going to destroy the symbol of your security.” He carried the doors and put them on top of the hill, which faces Hebron in the land of Judah. That was where the people of God were.He put them up there as if to say, “I can do anything I want.”
But, Samson was really starting to slide south now. His problems of lust and revenge never really went away. And now, he’s feeling arrogant and invincible. This is a recipe for trouble.
He has enraged the Philistines by ripping off their city gate and he’s inflamed his old passion for illicit sex. Let’s look briefly at four mistakes that came from Samson hanging around with Delilah.
1. HE GOT INVOLVED WITH ANOTHER WRONG RELATIONSHIP.
In verse 4 we read that Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah. This is the third woman he got in trouble with. He was infatuated with the woman of Timnah. He was filled with lust for the harlot in Gaza. And now, with Delilah, we read that he loves her. But all three times, it was with Philistine women.