Samson’s Wife & Delilah (Hearts Devoted to Destruction) Part 1

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The period of the Judges was considered a very dark time for Israel. We learned about Moses and the period of the wanderings, with the Israelites finally reaching their Promised Land with Joshua. We know from reading Exodus and Leviticus that the tribes were a tight-knit group during this period, simply because they had to be! When God’s presence departed, they packed up camp and followed along.

Samson Israel encampment  

Here are 2 images of what the camp of Israel might have looked like as they wandered in the wilderness. The second picture into account the amount of people in each tribe. Also, notice the Pillar of Cloud? Or Smoke?

Samson Pillar of Fire Wilderness

Remember the imagery of God as a consuming fire? A Pillar of Fire? Well here is a depiction of the Pillar.

As they wandered, you get the impression that they were a unified group of people, following their God to the destination He promised them. Then as they reach Canaan, we read of the effort the tribes gave for one another as they took over the land. They went through the trial of the wanderings and then the trial of war. Finally, able to rest in their promised portions of land as individual tribes of Israel.

Trials have a way of bringing people together.

Comfort has a way of coaxing them into apathy.

And distance didn’t make their hearts grow fonder. It only brought disunity.

What I see as I scan the pages of Judges is a group of people who are scattered over a relatively small area, unable to grasp ahold of their identity in their Savior God because they had forgotten God’s Word and God’s Works.

“Setting for Judges”

After the death of Joshua, Judges 2:10 says:

10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

From reading the book of Judges, it can be seen that there was “a lack of political, military, and religious centralization in the tribes.” (Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books) What is more, it seems like the writers were making a case for Israel to have a king. Yes, their leader and King was God, but they were doing a terrible job of following their Leader.

Think about why they’re in this mess. They had the knowledge of God’s law, what He instructed them to do, but during the conquest of Canaan, they failed to remove the inhabitants completely, thus allowing for their enemies to gain strength over the years. They also fell into temptations galore – the two greatest temptations being foreign women and foreign gods.

My husband made a great point concerning Israel’s faithlessness to God. In Jeremiah 3, God indicates that the other nations remain faithful to their gods, who aren’t really gods at all, while Israel, the chosen people of the One True God, are unfaithful to their God and go after the gods of the other nations.

Jael judges cycle

In fact, when you read through Judges, you’ll find that sin cycle, except in the Samson narrative, there is no reference to Israel crying out to God! Judges 13:1 says:

Israel did evil in the sight of God and He delivered them into the hands of the Philistines.

“In this cycle, the Israelites display little discomfort or evidence of even wanting to be delivered.” (Block p. 395 in New American Commentary) They were so apathetic this time around, that they didn’t even bother calling out to the God who had chosen them and who had set them in that Land.

“No Knowledge”

Perhaps Asaph, the psalmist, could have been hearkening back to this time when he wrote:

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness…. (Psalm 82:5)

Their leadership was severely lacking:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [priests] have rejected knowledge… (Hosea 4:6)

Remember what we learned from Zipporah:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

The Israelites have lost the fear of God.

There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land. (Hosea 4:1)

God desired for them to know Him and to obey Him. But instead they were unfaithful to their God. They were unfaithful by going after those other, worthless gods, and by going after those foreign women. They were a people with the knowledge of God, acting in ways that discarded the knowledge they had.

In our current narrative, we learn about 2 of these FOREIGN women: One of them happens to be Samson’s wife! The other has been bestowed with the honor of being identified with promiscuity and deceit. A Delilah is a treacherous and seductive woman, especially a mistress or wife.

Jael Israel_time_of_Judges

Here is a map of Israel during the time of the Judges. Dan is the location in which Samson specifically served. You can see the arrows where Israel’s enemies came in to oppress them. You will also notice that the trouble for Israel occurred throughout the ENTIRE region, not just in the northern or southern kingdom. Because their enemies came at different times and from different regions, you can understand why there may have been an overlap in the service of the judges. It wasn’t like the Philistines hollered to the enemies of the north, requesting to fight Israel, and asking for them to back off. No, the enemies came when God sent them.

“Wife of Samson”

In Judges 14 we see Samson waltzing right into Philistine territory, as if it were his normal daily stroll to a neighbor’s house. It is as if the writer was pointing out the comfort or resignation Israel felt with the Philistines, even though, as the Judahites remind Samson, these Philistines were their “rulers.” (Judges 15:11). Everything that God had intended for the Israelites in their Promised Land was coming loose at the seams. Their lack of obedience to their King resulted in oppression in their own Promised Land.

Block postulates, “Israel would have been satisfied to co-exist with the Philistines but Yahweh [had other plans] to incite the Philistines and thereby disturb the comfortable status quo that existed between them and Israel.” (p. 424 NAC)

God used Samson to shake the Israelites out of their slumber and apathy.

We first hear of the Spirit of God “stirring” Samson in Judges 13:25. This word is not used anywhere else, but you get the idea after reading the narrative that this is the divine initiation. (Block p. 424 in NAC) Interestingly the stirring results in Samson entering the Philistine territory of Timnah which had originally been allotted to the tribe of Dan. God was getting ready to give the Promised Land back to the rightful owners. (Block p. 424 in NAC)

In verse 1 We meet our girl at Timnah. She doesn’t even get a name. She’s simply the “daughter of the Philistines”. And though her life was far from an example of a godly one, God includes her in His story of judgment on the enemy nation, her nation.

Block writes, “Yahweh was determined to shatter the status quo. Samson was his tool chosen to rile up the Philistines, and this woman offers the opportunity to make it happen. If the Israelites did not have the heart to take action against the Philistines, God would cause the Philistines to take action against them.” (p. 426 NAC)

While we are at least somewhat familiar with Delilah, I wonder how many of you were surprised to learn of Samson’s Philistine wife! She sounds much the same as her counterpart, Miss Delilah! I guess this is why God warned the Israelites to steer clear of the foreign women!

Who were these Philistines anyway? They certainly had no knowledge of the God of Israel. They were also people walking in darkness. But they were pagans, violent and odious to God. The more well-known stories about them involve David and Goliath.

Samson philistine warrior garb                   Samson map clear

The Philistines were considered Sea-Faring people who are believed to come from the Aegean region. An Egyptian source reveals that Pharaoh Ramessess II claimed defeat over them in the 5th year of his reign because they had tried and failed to invade Egypt. It was shortly after this that the Philistines ended up sailing slightly north to settle in the coastal strip of Canaan. From there they began filtering into the foothills of Dan and Judah. They plagued Israel all during the times of the Judges as well as into David’s lifetime. (footnote from Word Study Bible)

You’ll notice in the wall carving that the Philistines are distinguishable with their feathered headdress.

They were organized into a confederation of 5 city-states with coastal cities of Ashdod, Asheklon, and Gaza and 2 inland cities of Ekron and Gath.

Music stand

Music stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excavations done in this coastal region have shown that the Philistines were musicians,

Wine jug with bowl

Wine jug with bowl

liked to drink wine (not beer), prized pork over sheep and goats for food,

Olive Press reconstructed with actual parts from the city of Ekron

Olive Press reconstructed with actual parts from the city of Ekron

Labeled Olive Press

Labeled Olive Press

were one of the largest producers of olive oil in the ancient Near-East,

Samson pottery

and used iron, ivory, and bronze, and of course made pottery.

Samson dagon fish man

Later on we learn of the Philistine god, Dagon (16:23) who makes another appearance in 1 Samuel 4:1-7 in the story about the ark of the covenant. In all the paintings, mosaics, or statues of him, he is usually portrayed as a fish-man god. The Hebrew word for fish is “dag”. So was he Dagon, the fish-man? Or was Dagon the god of grain? Dagan in Hebrew meant grain. Recent scholarship believes he was the god of grain. This is extremely important for understanding the text later on. He was also considered the father of Baal. (Block)

This daughter of the Philistines, a Dagon worshipper, was from Timnah – the land that was supposed to belong to Dan!

Samson Valley of Sorek        

Where was Timnah, you ask? It is in the Valley of Sorek, 20 miles west of Jerusalem, right on the border of Philistia and Israel. Timnah was just 4 miles from Samson’s town, Zorah.

The Valley of Sorek was likely a fertile area, well suited for vineyards. (http://www.bible-history.com/geography/maps/map_philistine_valley_sorek.html)

The Scripture (Judges 13:25) said that the Spirit of the LORD began to stir Samson at Mahaneh Dan, an area only 6 miles east of Timnah. Also when Samson “went down to Timnah” (v. 1), he literally went down as there is an 800 foot drop in elevation between these two areas.

{Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!}

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