Monday, March 21, 2011

New Year: Jdg 15-17 for Mar 16

Samson's story is highlighted by only a few incidents, since he judged Israel twenty years (16:31). But the summary of it in Judges 13:5 is still valid, however these few incidents pique the curiosity of us all.

One of the ways the story with Delilah gets its point across, as we have seen in the Old Testament so far, is repetition: 16:6,10,13,15 are so monotonic in the moronity of the situation presented, that the text begs us to ask obvious questions: 1) Is Delilah so stupid as to ask the same question over and over again, after Samson obviously mocks the question with his fake answers, multiple times? Does she really think that multiple break-ins, which she announces to Samson, each one as it comes, doesn't add up to Samson, so that he knows they are caused by her duplicity? The reader knows Delilah is corrupt (16:5). Samson knows Delilah is corrupt, because he gives her fake answers. 2) There is a carry-over from the first wife's question (14:16). If Samson really wanted to, with Delilah, it would have remained a secret to her, just as it had to the woman in Timnah. Therefore, if there is even a repetition from wife to wife, what do the two times have in common? Samson! It is Samson who caves (14:17) in the case of the first wife, and the irony is evident even in the wording: "because she pressed him so hard." This is high-handed irony, given the metaphor of 16:29-30.

But of what? Is Samson not a vessel in God's hands to "begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines?" Of course. "The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him" in 14:6. Previously, "the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him" in 13:25. Then in 14:19; again in 15:14. To punctuate that, God supernaturally quenches his thirst, as if to remind the reader of His ways with Israel, in which He had done the exact same thing during the exodus from Egypt. So with Israel, so with Samson. God was behind Samson.

So should we resort to slogans about it, such as "every Samson has his Delilah"? We can assume that the text is teaching something more interesting than that.

What is it, then, to live in a way that furthers the purposes of God? Samson's life did so. We have some highlights of his twenty years of power. Do the highlights show Samson's strength, literally?! It is thirty miles and more between Gaza and Hebron (16:3). Do the highlights show any strength besides the physical? Look at the description of his dealing with his own conscience, in 15:3. The text is not trying to condemn the "warriorness" of Samson, but instead, exalt it, from beginning to end. All in a day's work of twenty years.

But Samson's warriorness comes one event at a time, and Samson knows that (15:18; 16:28). It comes from God. Samson believes, and the text teaches, that it's tied to his hair and his Nazirite-ness. The story highlights that in a direct set of brackets from 13:5 to 16:17. The text puts this question, therefore, to the reader. Do you, reader, believe that God can give a man such strength, and in such a way that superhuman feats can be accomplished, like Samson did, using Samson's actions to further His purposes -- and all the while have the miraculous aspect tied to the discretion of someone with a weakness?

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