SAMSON: MAN IN HIS SPIRIT: PART IV
Gideon had left the people hanging between God, Baal and his Ephod. The next two judges, Tola from the tribe of Issachar and Jair from the tribe of Manasseh let things slide into the direction of Baal. Immorality and idolatry became bad enough so that the people began to repent, broke up idols and cried out to the God of their fathers. They turned to Jephthah, of the tribe of Manasseh for help. Jephthah was known for his ability to lead and also his ability to handle the sword. He was an outcast and his half-brothers banished him to live in exile. The elders called him back and pledged that they would not turn him over to his half-brothers. Jephthah tried to settle peacefully with the Edomites, Ammonites and Moabites, but to no avail. It was at that point that, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah.” And he began to move his army to face the Ammonites. The task to defeat the Ammonites appeared overwhelming. And Jephthah made a vow, which he should not have made. God already had disarmed his enemies, and all Jephthah had to do was thrust in the promise of God. Instead Jephthah vowed: “If thou wilt give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes forth from the door of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer him up for a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31).
The incomprehensible pagan practice of human sacrifice, which had infiltrated Yahwism, took its toll. The first to come out of Jephthah’s house was his only daughter. To keep his vow, Jephthah sacrificed his only daughter as a burnt offering to God. At the time, it was tragic that there was no one who stood up and declared that the true God had outlawed the Molech human sacrifice in the days of Moses. “You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:21). And in more detail, the Lord said to Moses:
Say to the people of Israel, any man of the people of Israel, or of any strangers that sojourn in Israel, who give any of his children to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. I myself will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, defiling my sanctuary and profaning my holy name. And if the people of the land do at all hide their eyes from that man, when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his family, and I will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in playing the harlot after Molech (Leviticus 20:1-5).
According to the Law of Moses, instead of approving his daughter’s sacrifice, the people should have stopped Jephthah. And then, the people should have stoned him. The attitude of the people indicated how far the people had drifted from the God of their fathers. The God who called Abraham, and when He tested his loyalty to give up Isaac, God did not let Abraham sacrifice his son, but God provided a ram, for the sacrifice. The Lord’s angel called out, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld you’re your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22:12). God was not just testing Abraham’s faith, but God was showing him that human sacrifice was not acceptable to the Creator. It was not the Spirit of God that inspired to sacrifice children, but it was the evil spirit of Molech. King Saul’s vow not to eat before he subdued his enemies was another instance that was against the God of his fathers. His son Jonathan ate, without knowing of is father’s pledge. And when things did not go well with the war, Saul wanted to sacrifice his son, but his soldiers stopped Saul from that madness (I Samuel 14). In the days of the kings of Israel, the fertility gods of Chemosh and Molech were deeply rooted in Canaan. Solomon never abandoned his mother Bathsheba’s heritage. “Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods” (I Kings 11:7-8). King Josiah and Hilkiah, the high priest, tried to restore Yahwehism. And they did destroy the altar of Molech in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, where sons and daughters were sacrificed. Pharaoh Neco killed Josiah in a war and the reform fell apart (II Kings 22-23). Human sacrifices still were made when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took possession of Judah. Yahweh’s message to Jeremiah was:
They have turned to me their back and not their face; and though I have taught them persistently they have not listened to receive instruction. They set up their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it. They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin” (Jeremiah 32:33-35).
How could a people be so mistaken in their attempt to please God? And how could a people believe what they were doing was of the Spirit of the Supreme God?
The third man in “The Book of Judges” that the historian claims had a relationship with the Spirit of the Lord was the colorful Samson, son of Manoah of the tribe of Dan (Judges 14-16). Samson was a special child like Isaac and Moses before him, and Samuel and John the Baptist after him. They were children of special births and they were born for a special reasons. Samson’s godly parents were the key to childbearing and rearing. They were childless and advanced in years and trusted the Lord for a child. The Lord did sent his angel with a promise and the conditions the mother had to observe:
Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for lo, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite (holy) from birth; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:3-5).
The woman told her husband the news, “A man of God came to me, and his countenance was like the face of the angel of God, very terrible; I did not ask him whence he was, and he did not tell me his name; but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son” (Judges 13:7). Manoah believed his wife and prayed to the Lord, “Oh, Lord, I pray thee, let the man of God whom thou didst send come again to us, and teach us what we are to do with the boy that will be born” (Judges 13:8). God did sent his angel back. The angel repeated the instructions the woman had received earlier and also added a few more things that could impair pregnancy. Judges, chapter thirteen, is providing good hints for pregnant women that want healthy and god-fearing children.
The parents obeyed the angel of the Lord. “And the woman bore a son, and called his name Samson: and the boy grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahanehdan, between Zorah and Eshtaol” (Judges 13:24-25). The Lord did not instruct Samson how to deliver his people from the Philistines. God left it up to Samson to find ways and the means that his enemies would understand and engage them in their own defeat. This approach Moses used against the Egyptians. The Assyrians used this approach against North Israel. The Babylon and Rome used this approach against Judea. And the worldly and secular nations also used this approach throughout the history and unfortunately, they still use this approach today. God does speak their language; all we have to do is open our eyes and see what man does to himself in our world. God’s Spirit’s stood by Samson, even if He did not agree with Samson’s method to punish evil. This is the mystery, which the Bible reports where God sides with the evil, to correct that evil, which is worse. It is true, we do choose the lesser of the two evils and God allows it. God lets us measure with the measure others measure us by. Both are wrong, but that is the language we understand. And that also was the language Samson and the Philistines understood. God stood by Samson until he betrayed his own strength. And then, the Spirit of the Lord left Samson (Judges 16:18-21). It took some time for Samson to regain what he had lost; namely, his trust in God rather than in man. Samson even was used by a woman to find out what his relationship was with his God. It is the price that all women and men pay when they allow the flesh to control their minds and their spirits. How did Jesus put it? “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Samson went to work and God did not interfere with his plans and with his methods to subdue the Philistines. Samson chose a Philistine woman, against his parent’s wishes to incite his enemies into a fight. The Spirit of the Lord assisted Samson in killing a lion. Bees used the lion’s carcass to collect honey and Samson ate some, then formed a riddle: “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” Then Samson demanded that his Philistine wedding party find the meaning of the riddle or give him thirty sets of clothing on his wedding day. The only way they could induce Samson to give the secret to his wife was by threatening to burn her and her family alive. He gave her the meaning and she passed it on: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Samson lost and he had to come up with thirty sets of clothing. He needed the Spirit of the Lord to assist him in slaying thirty Philistines to collect thirty sets of clothing. The act, made his wife’s father give her to Samson’s best man; the father’s deed gave Samson another reason to seek revenge. It was inhuman to catch three hundred foxes tie them into pairs by their tails, set them on fire, and burn the fields and the vineyards of the Philistine. The Philistines responded by burning Samson’s wife and his family to death. Samson killed more Philistines and the Philistines went after Samson’s people to hand Samson over to them. Samson allowed himself to be tied and handed over, while they pledged that his people would not kill him. Again, the Spirit of the Lord strengthened Samson and he slew a thousand Philistines with a jawbone from a donkey. That ended his first part of his mission. For twenty years, the Philistines stopped bothering Samson’s people. That was the language, both they and Samson understood. God was on the side of the lesser of the two evils. It was a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye way of life, and it still is in the world today. Only Christ has offered man an alternative.
Samson had one more ax to grind with the leaders of the Philistines (Judges 16). In broad daylight, Samson went to Gaza to be with a harlot. The leaders surrounded the town, but at midnight Samson picked up the city gates and took them up a hill toward Hebron. He became infatuated with Delilah. For eleven hundred shekels of silver, the Philistines leaders used Delilah as a snitch to get Samson to disclose the secret of his strength. Delilah did gain Samson’s confidence, but she had no idea how cruel those people were to whom she betrayed Samson. It was on the fourth attempt that Samson told her that his power was in his hair; and that without his hair, he would be like any other man. This time, the Philistines overpowered Samson, blinded him, and made him grind their mill like an ox. The Philistines used Samson to entertain them while they credited their god Dagon for his capture. Samson’s hair grew back. For a big celebration, the Philistines gathered in their temple dedicated to Dagon, which rested on pillars. All the Philistine rulers were gathered to see Samson perform. Samson asked his guide to lead him to a pillar, which the servant did. Samson prayed to the Lord and his strength came back. Samson broke the pillars. The temple crashed on him as well as on thousands of Philistines. The wages for their sins and Samson’s sins were paid in full. God does not change the law of “cause and effect” for anyone.