The plot of this story is dark
and deceitful, like something Francis Ford Coppola would use in a "Godfather" movie. The characters in this story are quite colorful as well as
the story line. An arranged marriage, that the groom's parents had to make
happen, even without their approval. An arrogant, entitled young man who likely
was spoiled rotten by his older parents, yet whose life was ordained by God.
The subject of this story is of a young Philistine woman, whose family were
enemies of the groom's family, and her father was probably an opportunist and
saw this as a win for his family.
As tragic as this story ends, we discover in the beginning that this was all a part of God's plan to begin the eradication of a people who ultimately wanted to destroy the very people God had promised Abraham. It says in Judges 14:4, "But his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord—that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel." (NKJV)
The story begins in the Philistine town of Timnah. The first time we hear about Timnah, is when Judah, Jacob's son encounters his daughter-in-law, Tamar (Genesis 38). When she gets word that her father-in-law is heading into town to sheer his sheep, she decides to retaliate for not being given to his last son Shelah. Judah thought she was "bad luck" because both of the sons she had been married to, died. She decides to disguise herself as a prostitute and sleeps with Judah. She ends up pregnant and when Judah finds out she's been prostituting herself and is pregnant, he sends for her and in verse 34, calls for her death by burning her. This is interesting as we fast forward into our current story in Judges.
Samson's wife is from this same town. It's located at the northern border of of Judah near Beth-shemesh in the Sorek Valley. In modern day Israel it is Tel Batash, an access point from the coastal plains through Shephelah to the central Judean mountains. It essentially is where the tribe of Judah settles after entering the Promise Land in Joshua. Remember the tribe of Judah is who God sends His very own son through. It’s imperative that the Philistines are removed as they are constantly at war with God’s people. The remnant of these people are known today as the Palestinians. They occupy Gaza as well as some parts of the west bank in Israel.
Women may not have had a voice to speak up as they were used as objects to be traded. We see this often throughout the scriptures. For example, Lot traded his daughters to be raped so his house guests would be safe (Genesis 19:8). But women did have one tool in their tool box of character and that was manipulation. She was obviously beautiful as she was pleasing to Samson (Judges 14:2). Her father saw this as an opportunity and brought in 30 groomsmen to be a part of the wedding. Samson, as arrogant as he was, used this to flaunt his power. He shared a riddle and promised these men 30 linens and a change of garments of clothing. These men must have been desperate for some clothes as they used Samson’s wife, actually threatened her by telling her they would burn her with fire along with her father’s home if she didn’t find out the answer (Judges 14:15). This is when she used her womanly ways, out of the fear of death, to manipulate Samson to tell her the answer. It says she cried saying “You hate me! You don’t love me! (Judges 14:16)” We obviously see Samson’s kryptonite as he does not do well with nagging as later in his relationship with Delilah.
One of the questions we ask here is, did she love Samson? Obviously, she didn’t trust him as he
posed this riddle and wouldn’t tell her the answer so she had to manipulate
him. She may have not really wanted to marry him, but her father encouraged her
as it was good for their people since Samson was Hebrew. The fact remains, she's probably really afraid of what might happen to her.
Nothing about Samson in this story leads us to believe that he’s a devout, God-fearing man. Because he lived among the Philistine people, he had probably conformed to many of their ways. He is someone who lives by his flesh and even though was raised under the Nazarite ways, defiled himself over and over again. His desire for foreign women was a weakness for sure. His pride was definitely bruised by the actions of his wife when he realized he was tricked. He left her in a fit of anger and went back to live with his parents.
His wife was then given in marriage to one of the groomsmen. This obviously means that she and Samson never consummated their marriage as in those days women who were not virgins were shamed and put to death. Instead, her father gives her to another man. Later, Samson, in all of his arrogance returns, and of all things, to sleep with his wife (Judges 15:1-5).
When he discovers she’s no longer his wife, he retaliates and destroys the crops of the people there. This is when we see the true colors of the Philistine ways. There is no allegiance to their own people. They kill Samson’s wife and her father anyway by burning them (Judges 15:6).
Samson again takes revenge on these people and slaughtered them all. He left to Etam and stayed in a cleft of a rock. Three thousand of the people of Judah go to him to hand him over to the Philistines. They were afraid of the Philistines and didn’t understand why Samson would cause trouble for them. These two “families” were always at war. This is why this sounds like a plot in a Godfather movie.
In the end we see God use Samson in a powerful way against the Philistine people. The scripture says, “When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting against him. Then the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands. 15 He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it. 16 Then Samson said:
“With the jawbone of a donkey,
Heaps upon heaps,
With the jawbone of a donkey
I have slain a thousand men!”
17 And so it was, when he had finished speaking, that he threw the jawbone from his hand, and called that place Ramath Lehi.
18 Then he became very thirsty; so he cried out to the Lord and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?” 19 So God split the hollow place that is in Lehi, and water came out, and he drank; and his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore he called its name En Hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. 20 And he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.” (Judges 15:14-20, NKJV)
It’s a tragic ending for Samson’s wife and her people. But as noted in the beginning, it was all a part of God’s plan. Sometimes, in our own lives, bad things happen. We don’t understand how a good God can allow it. God’s ways are not our ways nor His thoughts, our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). When we read these stories, it reminds us that God is not limited in who He uses or how He can accomplish his plan. His plan was to establish His people (the tribe of Judah) so that his one and only son, Jesus could be born to redeem the sin in the world. The One who would save all of mankind from an eternal burning. A world where two families, the Jew and the gentile, could be called sons and daughters. This story may not have a happy ending, but it is important to God’s big story that would bring a victorious ending for all of mankind.
Scriptures to extinguish lies!
Proverbs 26:27, NLT: If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you roll a boulder down on others, it will crush you instead.
Genesis 50:20, NKJV: But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Psalm 46:10, NKJV: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
Genesis 2:24, NLT: This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
1 Corinthians 15:33, NKJV: Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
John 10:10, NKJV: The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
*This information was compiled by the R.E.A.L. Women Bible study out of Hills Church in Laguna Hills, CA.