And So, It Begins
5Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring. 6Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson’s eyes. 8After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. 9He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.
As we discussed last week, Samson is someone bound by the vow of a Nazarite. This means that he has been set aside for God’s purposes. While this vow was declared by God and executed by his mother before his birth, he is nonetheless bound by it. This vow includes three markers: don’t cut your hair, don’t drink fermented beverages, and don’t touch anything that is dead. We see in this text today how seriously Samson takes that vow.
The decision to procure a wife from the Philistines was not pleasing to Samson’s parents. Maybe that’s why they weren’t traveling together to Timnah. Samson is alone when the lion strikes and he readily kills it with the help of strength from the Lord. Enough time passes between the first and second scene of this story for the lion carcass to decompose to the place where it provides a suitable place for honey bees to build a hive. Upon the return trip to consummate the wedding union, Samson finds the newly created hive filled with honey and helps himself. Thus, the requirement that Nazarites don’t touch dead things goes up in smoke. It would appear that Samson doesn’t even give it a thought. And, he shares the honey with his parents, not telling them where he procured it.
Samson did not accidentally break his vow. He acted with full knowledge. No one but God saw Samson’s sin, but it was a sin nevertheless. Ritual purity was to be an outward sign of a Nazirite’s inner dedication. It was a way to make clear to others that the Nazirite was a person set aside publicly to serve God’s purposes. In this respect, Samson failed. Samson’s life had little room for confessing sin or proclaiming forgiving grace. Samson told no one about the lion or his secret sin. The episode would give Samson material for the riddle he would soon put before the Philistines.
Lawrenz, J. C. (1997). Judges, Ruth (p. 153). Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House.
This marriage to the Philistine woman is an interesting part of the culture that we most certainly do not practice ourselves. The marriage was of the same type that Gideon made with Abimelech’s mother. The bride would stay at the house of her father, making a dowry unnecessary. Which means that Samson would regularly travel into Philistine territory to see his wife. I’m not going to be overly gross here, but this marriage clearly has only one purpose.
We find Samson living like someone who answers to no one. As his story emerges, we will find that more and more apparent. This first action of eating honey from the dead body of the lion is only step one in a long line of bad choices. But we will also see that God’s plans are not thwarted by our bad decisions. I guess that’s a good thing. Samson’s story is that of a man ruled by his passions rather than by God. And here is where we can all relate to Samson on some level. Which of your passions can drag you from God’s will into your own? Most of us have them, we would just rather not admit it. So, we watch as Samson makes choices for himself that assuage his passions, but God is still in command and His judgment over the sins of the Philistines is still meted out with great creativity. I pray that God can take my wrong decisions and mistakes and turn them into His good and perfect will, making gold where I have designed trash.