Judges 14: Riddles in the Park

Warning: Before attempting to make sense of Judges 14 you must first remind yourself of the basic story of Judges up to this point!

A few things you need to remember:

  1. When Israel is oppressed, God raises up spiritual and military leaders to rescue them.
  2. The rescuing, though it varies in the details, has always been violent.
  3. The judges themselves are not always moral exemplars. Their role is simply to drive out the oppressors and turn people away from idols and back to God.
  4. At the time of this story, Israel has been oppressed by the Philistines for over 40 years.

Are we good? Good.

Because this is about to get all kinds of weird.

Young Love

Our plucky hero, Samson, is on his way down to the city of Timnah. This is probably an innocent, recreational trip given that nothing shady has ever happened there before.

When what should he see but a lovely young Philistine lady!

Armed with an extensive knowledge of what she looked like from a distance, he ran home and demanded that his parents let him marry her.

Stories like this make me wonder if my relationship is as Biblical as I think it is.

Political Machinations

Little do Samson’s parents know, but there is more than hormones at play here. God and Samson are playing conspiring ways to start a war with the Philistines (See points 1 & 4 above).

As disgusted with this plan as I am, I have to hand it to Samson, he executed it well.

He killed a lion with his bare hands and didn’t tell anyone.

He persistently fought for this girl’s hand in marriage, even when his parents said “no.”

He told the Philistines an impossible riddle (much like Bilbo did to Gollum in The Hobbit) that would have given him an excuse to kill thirty of them.

Even losing the riddle wager, he still managed to kill thirty of them. He just did it in another town.

What The Spirit of The LORD Does

At the end of chapter 13, I noted on my manuscript that the spirit of the LORD began to stir in Samson. I wrote a question: What exactly is is stirring?

Now I have some answers.

The spirit of the LORD rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart barehanded as one might tear apart a kid.

The the spirit of the LORD rushed on him, and he went down to Ashkelon. He killed thirty men of the town . . .

While this is a deeply troubling thing to read, (and makes me NEVER want to sing songs that say “Come holy spirit!”) it is crucial that we remember the context of the story. This is part of God’s deliverance of Israel from the oppressive Philistines. And in this time and culture, violence was pretty much the only way to do it, as far as I know.

Still, this stuff is really hard to know what to do with.

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3 responses

  1. Well, I’ve heard before that many stories in Judges (which it bears mentioning was written during the reign of King David I do believe), was sorta a way to help secure the power of the monarchy, whilst not completely disenfranchising their old folk heroes, the judges. See, some people wondered why they even needed a king, they got along just fine without them for generations, and the judges were generally thought of as Robin Hoods. So, the author(s) of Judges tell the old stories… Just in a way that would make many of them seem like utter sociopaths. They give them enough credit to not sound like they’re totally bashing them… Whilst also embellishing (or if not, at least pointing out) their huge flaws. If I remember correctly, the Philistines and Israelites were allies by this time, so there’s also a bit of “look what he did to our friends” thing going on too.

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