Judges 15: Scapegoats and Sociopaths

A guy I work with has never heard of Samson.

We work in full-time ministry.

Ordinarily, that would seem weird to me. Samson is one of those “big-name” man’s men of the Bible. He’s the 1980’s Arnold Schwartzenegger of the Old Testament. “Samson and Delilah” are a premodern power couple.

But after reading a few chapters of Samson’s story, I’m not surprised my friend hasn’t heard of him.

I mean, how on earth would you preach this? What lesson would you take if you studied it in your weekly BSF gathering? How do you “apply what you have learned?”

I like to think I can pull some nuggets out of obscure Bible passages, but this is testing my abilities.

Samson the Sociopath

Samson’s father-in-law thought he was gone for good after that whole “kill 30 people and bring their cloaks as wedding gifts” incident. I can’t blame him. I also can’t blame him for denying Samson sexual rights to his daughter when he comes back.

This would make any red-blooded man upset. But would it make them upset enough to . . .

caught three hundred foxes, and took some torches; and he turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. When he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines.

Um, this is the kind of guy I don’t want my kids to play with. The dude is a sociopath. If you want to burn the fields because you can’t have sex, fine! But do you have to terrorize an entire community of foxes to do it?

Binding the Strong Man

No less than five times do we hear about Samson being bound or the bonds that bound him. The Philistines want to do it. Then the Judahites want to do it so the Philistines don’t kill them.

Apparently, tying this man up is crucial to the Philistine (and Israelite) survival.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

Scapegoats and Sacrificial Lambs

Samson went to visit his wife, bringing along a kid.

This may be an inconsequential detail or a cultural custom I don’t understand. Or it may be a little bit of foreshadowing. Hear me out.

  • After the incident with the foxes and the burning and such, the Philistines discover why Samson did it: His wife was given to his best man by her father. The Philistine response? Kill the girl and her dad.
  • When a Philistine army comes to Judah looking for him, the Judahites, rather than fight for a fellow Israelite, hand Samson over as a way of appeasing their Philistine oppressors.

Did Samson’s wife and father-in-law do anything wrong? Not really. But they were punished because of Samson’s response. They were blamed for his “crime.”

They were the scapegoats. The sins of the Philistines were put on their heads.

Samson’s own people choose to hand him over to the enemy to save their own heads. Samson is a sacrificial lamb (the metaphor breaks down. Homeboy isn’t innocent and the Philistines have every right to want him dead) that will let Israel live another day.

Is this why God gave them the law? So they would never have to actually do this to other human beings? Do the goats, lambs, bulls and rams exist to satisfy some human urge to blame someone else?

What do you think?

Ok, maybe you can preach on this chapter after all.