Chapter 13- God gets mad at the Israelites again, and allows the Philistines to dominate them for 40 years. Manoah and his unnamed wife are unable to have children, but an angel visits them and says they will have a son. The mother must abstain from wine and unclean foods, and never cut the son’s hair, because he is to be raised as a Nazirite “from the womb.” Manoah and his wife offer a sacrifice to the Lord, and the angel jumped into the flame and ascended to heaven as a sign that he was really from God. Manoah and wifey name the son Samson.
So, I was vaguely familiar with the story of Samson, but the details are far stranger than I remembered.
In case you don’t remember what a Nazirite is, allow me briefly recap Numbers chapter 6. It’s a person who makes a vow to God, then during the time of that vow they can’t drink wine, touch dead bodies (even family) or shave their heads. Whenever they stop being a Nazirite, they should shave their head and have the priest burn their hair along with a sin offering.
So, that explains why Samson is famous for having long hair. It’s part of his vows as this special monk-type man. Also, that explains why the mother can’t drink any wine. I was almost impressed that the Bible might actually be offering some valid health advice during pregnancy (although the proscription against drinking the occasional glass of wine during pregnancy isn’t something people completely agree upon these days) but it turns out it was just a restriction placed on the mother for ceremonial reasons.
I have a problem with the mother being forced to follow certain restrictions based on the future actions of her child (be clean so he will be clean), as well as a child being forced to take a vow as a Nazirite before he is even born. It seems to me that a vow to undertake special actions to serve God and set yourself apart should be choices made by the individual that will have to live with said vow. Not that the Bible seems to worry a whole lot about consent.
It also bugs me that the mother isn’t named. She’s the one who gives birth to this biblical hero, and who has to live with extra restrictions so that he will be “special,” and the Bible can’t even be bothered to name her? Humph.
Chapter 14- Samson wants to take a wife from among the Philistine women. His parents are opposed to this, but it turns out to be part of God’s plan for striking down the Philistines. On his way to chat with his potential wife, a lion attacks Samson, and he rips it apart with his bare hands. On another trip to actually collect his wife, he finds that the lion carcass has a bee’s nest in it, and he eats some of the honey. At the marriage feast, Samson makes a bet that the people can’t guess his riddle. When they can’t figure it out and are upset that they’re about to lose the stuff they bet, they ask Samson’s wife to help them out. She has to beg Samson to tell her the answer, and he finally does. Then she gives the people the answer, which makes Samson really mad at her, and he leaves her behind. After he leaves, she gets given to someone else as a wife.
Yeah, so, God was “seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines” (verse 4) as if God needs a reason to do anything. Why does he have to drag these two humans into His godly business and create a crappy marriage to justify doing what He was going to do anyway? Also, just like with Rahab, we see that God’s plans sometimes rely on His people doing the exact opposite of what He commanded. With Rahab, they were supposed to kill everyone, but didn’t. With Samson, they weren’t supposed to take foreign wives, but he did. How is anyone supposed to know what the will of God actually is if it is sometimes exactly what He said not to do?
As for this killing a lion business… Nazirites weren’t allowed to sully themselves with unclean animals or corpses. There wasn’t even an exception made for when your parents pass away! So why is it okay that Samson killed a lion with his bare hands, then ate honey out of it’s carcass?
Samson’s riddle goes like this: “Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet.” (14) As if the people had a chance of figuring that out. I think Samson made the riddle bet rather deceitfully, making up a riddle based on something that happened to him that he never told anyone about.
He’s not happy about his wife giving the people the answer, and so here’s how he deals with it: “‘If you had not plowed with my heifer, You would not have solved my riddle!’ Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men, took their apparel, and gave the changes of clothing to those who had explained the riddle. So his anger was aroused, and he went back up to his father’s house. And Samson’s wife was given to his companion who had been his best man.” (18-20)
He.just.called.his.wife.a.cow. Then he killed 30 people who weren’t involved at all in the riddle incident (again going against the Nazirite vow of not touching dead bodies), and his deceiving cow of a wife/property gets given to someone else. I hate the Bible.
Chapter 15- Later, Samson goes back to his wife, only to discover she’s been given away. He’s angry, and uses torches tied to foxes to burn down the Philistine’s crops. This makes the Philistines angry, so they burn Samson’s ex-wife and her father. Everyone is all kinds of angry now, and a big fight breaks out. Samson kills 1000 men with the jaw bone of a donkey. After this slaughter, he is thirsty, so God makes water appear for him.
In this lovely chapter we have animal abuse (he tied torches to foxes!) and murder! Yum.
Knowing what I know of the rest of the Samson story- he ultimately looses his strength when his hair gets cut off, since long hair is part of the Nazirite vow. So why doesn’t he lose his strength when he kills all these people? Dead bodies are a no-no as well for a Nazirite.