Study Notes

Judges 13:1-16:31

13:1 Again Did Evil

Quoting Judges 2:19 is getting to be a habit in our study.

Judg. 2:19 But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways.

This time, the Philistines are the ones that God uses to afflict the Israelites.

The Philistines came from the lineage of Noah's son Ham. They were powerful warriors. So powerful, in fact, that God didn't want the Israelites to see what they were capable of when they first left Egypt. That's why He took them through the Red Sea instead.

Exod. 13:17-18 Now it came about when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, "Lest the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt." Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea...

The Philistines didn't really become a factor in Israelite history until the days of Jephthah. Back in chapter 10, we read that...

Judg. 10:7 ...the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the sons of Ammon.

After this, the Philistines will be a continuing enemy of Israel throughout the days of the kings of Israel.

13:2-5 A Nazirite

Maw-NO-akh was from the tribe of Dan. He lived in Tsor-AW, and his wife had not been able to give birth, so they had no children.

Suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Maw-NO-akh's wife and told her that she would in fact give birth to a son. But this was to be no ordinary son. He was to be a Nazirite from birth.

Now the Nazirite vow was introduced to us back in chapter six of the book of Numbers. The Nazirite vow was made by a man or woman to dedicate themselves to the Lord. It was a time of separating oneself unto the Lord. The Nazirite abstained from the fruit of the vine: not only alcohol, but also vinegar, grape juice, grapes, and raisins.

The Nazirite did not cut his hair during the time of his vow, and he was not to be defiled by touching a corpse.

The vow of the Nazirite continued through the era of the early church. In Acts 18, we read of Paul the apostle,

Acts 18:18 ...In Keng-khreh-A he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow.

Then in chapter 21 of Acts, we read about four more men who had taken the Nazirite vow. But Samson was to be a Nazirite from conception. His mother was to abstain from alcohol, lest he break the vow before birth.

God had set this person apart from the womb for a special mission. It reminds me of the words spoken to the prophet Jeremiah:

Jer. 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Like Jeremiah, Samson's mission was already planned before he was even born. He was going to begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines.

13:6-14 A Second Visit

When Maw-NO-akh heard the message from his wife, he began to pray. I really don't know what his motives were. Was there a lack of trust in his wife, or was he simply wanting to be sure they had gotten the whole story? I don't know. But I do know that,

Judg. 13:9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again...

If God was not angry at Maw-NO-akh, then we probably don't have a reason to be either. The messenger comes again, with the same report as before.

13:15-23 The Angel Of The Lord

Maw-NO-akh wanted to be hospitable. He asked the messenger to stay for dinner. "Wait 'til we get the barbecue fired up, okay?" He asks. But this was no ordinary house guest. It was the Lord Himself.

"Wait a minute," you say. "Angels are created beings. The Lord isn't an angel!" But remember that although what we consider to be angels are in fact created, not everything called an angel in the Bible is an angel.

The word "mal-AWK" in Hebrew, and "ANG-el-os" in Greek both mean "messenger, or representative." It is not always one of those celestial, heavenly, created beings that are being talked about when we see the word "angel." And when we see the term "the angel of the Lord," it is likely that it is a Christophany - the pre-incarnate Christ appearing to represent the Lord Himself.

He appeared back in Genesis 16 to Hagar when she was running away.

Gen. 16:10 ...The angel of the LORD said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count."

Notice the dialogue is in the first person.

Gen. 16:13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "Thou art a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"

This will be the reaction of Samson's father as well.

Another obvious reason I believe that this is Jesus Christ is that He says His name is Wonderful. That is prophecied of Him in Isaiah,

Isa. 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

This was the same "angel of the Lord" that spoke to Abraham, appeared to Moses in the burning bush, stood in Balaam's donkey's way, and commissioned Gideon.

13:24-25 The Lord Blessed Samson

As Samson grows up, the Lord blesses him. But with God's blessings comes the neccessity of deeper commitment to God. Think about it: very often when God blesses us, we allow it to become a stumbling block. We allow the nice weather He brings to keep us out of church. We allow the strength and abilities He gives us to become vanity. Aw-GOOR wrote in Proverbs 30 of the danger of financial blessings.

Prov. 30:8-9 ...Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, Lest I be full and deny {Thee} and say, "Who is the LORD?"...

With God's blessings comes a reminder to draw close to Him, not pull away from Him. Based on what we will read, I believe that Samson turned the Lord's blessings into occassions for stumbling.

The Spirit Stirs In Samson

The Spirit of God begins to work in his life. The word translated "stir" in the New American Standard and NIV is rendered "move him at times" in the King James. The Hebrew word is "paw-AM." It means "to thrust, impel, push, or beat persistently."

It is used only three other times in Scripture (Gen. 41:8; Psa. 77:4; Dan. 2:1, 3). In Genesis 41, Pharoah was troubled by his dream. In Psalm 77, Asaph wrote,

Ps. 77:4 Thou hast held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

And we read in the book of Daniel,

Dan. 2:1-3 ...Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans, to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, "I had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream."

It seems that in all these instances, the word "paw-AM" is indicating a sleepless, troubled feeling. When does the Spirit of God do this? The book of Romans tells us that,

Rom. 8:26-27 ...the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for {us} with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to {the will of} God.

When our flesh is at war with our spirit, there is a battle raging inside of us. The Holy Spirit intereces for us, groaning from inside of us.

There in the camp of Dan, Makh-an-EH-dawn, between and Tsor-AW and Esh-taw-OLE, the Spirit of God was keeping Samson awake, knowing the great battle which was raging inside of him: flesh versus spirit. Which one will will? Unfortunately, the next verse tells us.

14:1-3 A Woman In Timnah

Returning from Tim-NAW, Samson utters his first words recorded in Scripture:

Judg. 14:2 ..."I saw a woman..."

This will be Samson's downfall throughout his life - his attraction to women pulling him out of the will of God. Even when his father said, "She's a Philistine," Samson simply replied, "Hey, she looks good to me."

14:4 It Was Of The Lord

Samson's life seems to be an occasion for pondering the mystery of God's plan. Samson is in sin: lust, coveting, and desiring to be unequally yoked. Yet the Scripture says,

Judg. 14:4 was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines...

God is going to use Samson's sins - his lust and rage - to begin the deliverance of the Israelites from the Philistines. Most of his attacks against the Philistines stem from a woman being in the center of the situation, and Samson getting angry.

It never ceases to amaze me that God uses everything. Everything. The most terrible tragedy, the most hateful and vindictive leader, the most sinful person.

Col. 1:16 For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created by Him and for Him.

The awful affliction that Joseph endured - sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused of sexual attack by his owner's wife, abandoned in prison for years - these things were all working together for good - not only for Joseph's good, but for his entire country. Later in life, when Joseph confronted his brothers, he said,

Gen. 50:20 "And as for you, you meant evil against me, {but} God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

God takes evil and turns it into good. "God's will is fulfilled in many ways, and by alternatives. When sin refues to be put under then it can be utilised; and the end more completely served, albeit not to the immediate happiness or advantage of the guilty agent." (A.F. Muir) That is why we can confidently say,

Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.

Samson will spend much of his life following his sensual desire, yet God is going to use it for Israel's deliverance from the Philistines.

14:5-6 Vineyard Violations

This time, Samson travels to Tim-NAW with his parents to arrange the marriage with the Philistine woman. But for some reason, Samson found himself alone in the vineyards. While this is not actually sinful, it is dancing fairly close to the edge. As a Nazirite, he was held to the Law,

Num. 6:3-4 he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh or dried grapes. All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from {the} seeds even to {the} skin.

If he's to have nothing to do even with fresh grapes, what is he doing in the vineyards?

Samson's Supernatural Strength

Suddenly, a lion attacks Samson. But the Spirit of God empowered him, making him supernaturally strong. He tore the lion with his bare hands, as easily as taking meat off the bones at the dinner table.

This is Samson's first of many recorded acts of strength. Because of them, we often picture Samson as this huge bodybuilder - an Arnold Swarzennegar type of physique. But Samson's strength was not from his muscules - it was directly from the Spirit. So much so that later, we're going to see people trying to discover the source of his strength.

Samson was an ordinary-sized man. Maybe he even looked like a 98lb weakling! And when the Spirit of God leaves him, so will his strength.

14:7-9 More Violations Of Vows

Remember the Nazirite was also not to defile himself with the dead. But here he is grabbing a handful of honey out of the body of the dead lion.

14:10-11 A Wedding Party

As was the custom, Samson threw a week-long wedding party. Since he was in a foreign town, the Philistines provided the 30 guests.

14:12-15 A Riddle

Samson offered to give his "groomsmen" gifts of clothes if they could answer his riddle. If they couldn't, then he would be the one to receive the gifts.

Unable to guess, the Philistines intimidated his fiance, threatening her and her father's house with death if she did not find out the answer to Samson's riddle.

14:16-18 Turn On The Tears

She turned on the tears for days until he finally gave in and told her the answer to the riddle.

14:19-20 Cheaper Clothes Than Wal-Mart

Again the Spirit strengthens Samson. He went to the Philistine city of Ash-kel-ONE, killed 30 men, and paid his obligation to the wedding party. Then he went home very angry.

The woman's father therefore gave her in marriage to the "best man" at the wedding.

15:1-5 Samson's Revenge

Samson began to feel the need to see his wife, and he brought a present with him to make peace. But when he discovered that her father had given her to someone else, he became enraged. He burned up the Philistines fields, their vineyards, and destroyed their food supply.

15:6-8 Torch The Timnite

When the Philistines discovered that it was the Timnite's actions that had brought about the destruction, they torched his house, killing him and his daughter.

When Samson heard this, he exacted even more revenge, killing many Philistines before setting up house in Ay-TAWM.

15:9-13 Serving A Warrant

At this point, Samson was Philistine Public Enemy #1. They advance into Judah, spreading out in LEKH-ee, and demand that Samson be turned over to them for justice.

Having heard of his incredible exploits, the Israelites take no chances - they send three thousand men to apprehend him and turn him over to the Philistines.

14:14-17 With A Jawbone

Again, the Spirit of God strengthened Samson to destroy the Philistines. He uses the only weapon available - a jawbone of a donkey - to inflict his wrath.

He names the place RAW-math LEKH-ee, which means "jawbone heights," referring to the heaps of dead Philistines killed by the humble weapon.

15:18-20 Water Provided

A man can work up a thirst killing a thousand men singlehandedly! Samson realizes his humanity and helplessness with the simple absence of water. He calls to the Lord for provision.

After God miraculously provided water, he changed the name of "Jawbone Heights" to "Ane-hak-ko-RAY," meaning "the spring of him that called upon God."

16:1-3 Carrying Away The Gates

Again, Samson's desire for women surfaces. While he is spending the night with a prostitute, the Philistines in Gaza locked the gates to the city, so they could ambush him in the morning.

But at midnight, Samson took the gates to the city, carrying them to a mountain believed to be about ten miles away!

16:4-14 Delilah's Plot

In the valley of So-RAKE, Samson falls for yet another woman, Delilah. Having a greater love for silver than Samson, she sets out to discover the secret of his strength.

At first, Samson plays games with her, but now is becoming awfully close to revealing that his strength was because of his sanctification. Although he had at times violated his Nazirite vow, his hair remained long for his entire life. He was still set apart for God.

16:15-20 The Lord Had Departed From Him

Samson had finally compromised too much. The final symbol of his sanctification unto God was gone - the Philistines had shaved his head.

I think that verse 20 is among the most sorrowful passages of Scripture:

Judg. 16:20 ...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 the LORD had departed from him.

The Lord had left him. The Spirit of God was not there to supernaturally strengthen him. And worst of all, he didn't even know it.

Saints, we can harden our hearts with sin so much that we can't feel anymore. We can choke out the conviction and voice of God so often that we can't hear Him anymore.

Hebr. 3:12-15 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is {still} called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; while it is said, TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME."

May this never happen to us! May we repent even at this very moment and cry out to the Lord to forgive our sins and soften our hearts. May we plead with Him to restore us to right relationship with Him before we find ourselves in a similar situation.

16:21-22 A Time Of Affliction And Humiliation

Just as Samson's hair began to grow back during his days of affliction, his heart was drawn back to the Lord. Without the lust of his eyes for women, without the availability of wine and grapes, without the freedom to defile himself with the dead, Samson again sanctified himself unto the Lord.

There is a point where we can get to, that the Lord will cause grievous affliction to bring us to repentance. As Paul wrote,

1Cor. 5:5 ...deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus taught how much more important our eternal soul was than our flesh.

Matt. 18:8-9 "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.

When Samson refused to pluck out his own eyes in regard to his lust, God allowed the Philistines to do it for him. And Samson's eyes were lost that his soul might be saved.

16:23-30 A Party Broken Up

Once again, Samson was strengthened to destroy the Philistines - about 3,000 of them died with him that day.

16:31 Samson Is Buried

Samson had judged Israel not in righteousness, but in the beginning of deliverance. His life is a testimony to the fact that God's plans are established, regardless of evil, and that willful sin will destroy us.

Samson was buried between Tsor-AW and Esh-taw-OLE in the tomb of Maw-NO-akh his father - in the same place that so many years ago, the Spirit of God had moved in him.

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