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Category Archives: Judges

Parents of the Bible — Manoah and His Wife (Samson’s Parents) Part 2

One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.” His father and mother objected. “Isn’t there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry?” they asked. “Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?” But Samson told his father, “Get her for me! She looks good to me.” His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time. As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. But he didn’t tell his father or mother about it. When Samson arrived in Timnah, he talked with the woman and was very pleased with her. Later, when he returned to Timnah for the wedding, he turned off the path to look at the carcass of the lion. And he found that a swarm of bees had made some honey in the carcass. He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. He also gave some to his father and mother, and they ate it. But he didn’t tell them he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion. As his father was making final arrangements for the marriage, Samson threw a party at Timnah, as was the custom for elite young men. When the bride’s parents saw him, they selected thirty young men from the town to be his companions. Samson said to them, “Let me tell you a riddle. If you solve my riddle during these seven days of the celebration, I will give you thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing. But if you can’t solve it, then you must give me thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing.” “All right,” they agreed, “let’s hear your riddle.” So he said: “Out of the one who eats came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet.” Three days later they were still trying to figure it out. On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband to explain the riddle for us, or we will burn down your father’s house with you in it. Did you invite us to this party just to make us poor?” So Samson’s wife came to him in tears and said, “You don’t love me; you hate me! You have given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” “I haven’t even given the answer to my father or mother,” he replied. “Why should I tell you?” So she cried whenever she was with him and kept it up for the rest of the celebration. At last, on the seventh day he told her the answer because she was tormenting him with her nagging. Then she explained the riddle to the young men. So before sunset of the seventh day, the men of the town came to Samson with their answer: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Samson replied, “If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer, you wouldn’t have solved my riddle!” Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to the town of Ashkelon, killed thirty men, took their belongings, and gave their clothing to the men who had solved his riddle. But Samson was furious about what had happened, and he went back home to live with his father and mother. So his wife was given in marriage to the man who had been Samson’s best man at the wedding.
Judges 14

Dear God, these poor people. I would not have liked to have been Samson’s father. What do you do with him? He’s another one that you made a judge of Israel that I just don’t get. He was terrible. Is that really what you wanted? Did you really want him to do all of the awful things he did? And what were his parents to do?

This one sentence is what humbles me about my own parenting and what I think is my wisdom and insight: “His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time.” If Samson had been my son I would have been telling him he was wrong to do what he was doing. If he was the president, I would be wanting to vote him out. If he was the king I would hope he would be overthrown. That’s why, ultimately, I can have my opinions, and I may very well be right, but I can also not live in fear when things don’t go my way. Maybe you are doing exactly what you want done through those who are ungodly.

Father, thank you for this faithful couple. This is the last story we get about them. I think it’s interesting to see Samson’s love for them in his line to the woman: “I haven’t even given the answer to my father or mother. Why should I tell you?” He obviously respected them and revered them as his parents because he said as much to his new wife. They were good people who really tried. I am sure it didn’t work out at all like they thought it might. It almost never does. But here they are. They get their own chapter in Judges 13 and then we get to see them doing their best in the next chapter (chapter 14). I hope history will look on me as kindly (if not as publicly) as it does these two people.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Parents of the Bible — Manoah and His Wife (Samson’s parents) Part 1

Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.” The woman ran and told her husband, “A man of God appeared to me! He looked like one of God’s angels, terrifying to see. I didn’t ask where he was from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he told me, ‘You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. For your son will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the moment of his birth until the day of his death.’” Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, saying, “Lord, please let the man of God come back to us again and give us more instructions about this son who is to be born.” God answered Manoah’s prayer, and the angel of God appeared once again to his wife as she was sitting in the field. But her husband, Manoah, was not with her. So she quickly ran and told her husband, “The man who appeared to me the other day is here again!” Manoah ran back with his wife and asked, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife the other day?” “Yes,” he replied, “I am.” So Manoah asked him, “When your words come true, what kind of rules should govern the boy’s life and work?” The angel of the Lord replied, “Be sure your wife follows the instructions I gave her. She must not eat grapes or raisins, drink wine or any other alcoholic drink, or eat any forbidden food.” Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please stay here until we can prepare a young goat for you to eat.” “I will stay,” the angel of the Lord replied, “but I will not eat anything. However, you may prepare a burnt offering as a sacrifice to the Lord.” (Manoah didn’t realize it was the angel of the Lord .) Then Manoah asked the angel of the Lord, “What is your name? For when all this comes true, we want to honor you.” “Why do you ask my name?” the angel of the Lord replied. “It is too wonderful for you to understand.” Then Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered it on a rock as a sacrifice to the Lord. And as Manoah and his wife watched, the Lord did an amazing thing. As the flames from the altar shot up toward the sky, the angel of the Lord ascended in the fire. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell with their faces to the ground. The angel did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Manoah finally realized it was the angel of the Lord, and he said to his wife, “We will certainly die, for we have seen God!” But his wife said, “If the Lord were going to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted our burnt offering and grain offering. He wouldn’t have appeared to us and told us this wonderful thing and done these miracles.” When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he lived in Mahaneh-dan, which is located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol.
Judges 13

Dear God, parents so often are just desperate to get it right.

I remember being at the hospital holding our son and thinking, “Okay, I haven’t screwed up yet.” Of course, I was only about an hour into being a father. There were many screw ups to come. I also remember being incredulous that they were going to trust us enough to take this new baby home and care for it. What were they thinking? We didn’t know what we were doing!!

For my wife’s part, she read parenting books and tried to do everything right as a mom. Schedules. Reading to them while she nursed them. Bible time at the breakfast table every morning. Play groups.

I see that here in Samson’s parents. One might look at the finished product (which I’ll do tomorrow? And say that they failed, but there’s no doubt that they wanted to give this their all. Their interactions with the angel were all about getting it right. They were all about sacrificing to you and submitting themselves to the process you had for them. I just love the excitement and obedience represented in this story. This was going to make their lives weird and interesting, but they were so excited to have a child. You put something in us, I suppose, that makes us want to love something the way you love us.

Father, thank you for the time this author took to tell us the story of Manoah and his wife (I wish we knew her name). They could have skipped this and gone straight to Samson, man of power, but they took a whole chapter in the midst of Judges to tell us about these two faithful, good-hearted people. Even though my wife and I made many mistakes, I would like to think that you saw us as faithful and good-hearted as well. What can I say except that we will continue to offer ourselves up to you through this process of caring for our adult children, our parents, and those around us.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Fathers of the Bible — Jephthah

Now the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon. Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord gave them into his hand. He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel. When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.” So she said to him, “My father, you have given your word to the Lord; do to me as you have said, since the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.” She said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.” Then he said, “Go.” So he sent her away for two months; and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity. At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.
Judges 11:29-40

Dear God, I had forgotten about this story, but my wife remembered it for me. Maybe, as a woman, it had left a stronger impression on her than it did me.

I think men were prone to making stupid vows back then. Saul gets in trouble with a vow he makes later in 1 Samuel that almost causes him to kill his son Jonathan. In this case, I understand that Jephthah was trying to tell you that he would be willing to sacrifice anything he holds dear, but is that really what you required. He was obviously willing because he followed through with it, but it sure would have been nice if you’d sent him a ram like to you sent to Abraham when he was about to sacrifice Isaac.

As for me, my children’s lives are not mine to sacrifice. I can sacrifice my own life. I can sacrifice my possessions. I can sacrifice my time. I can sacrifice my career. But my children’s lives are theirs and they are yours. I suppose this is a weird cultural thing that made sense to them that doesn’t make sense to me.

On the other hand, I was with a church study group last night, and one of the things we talked about was allowing our children to live their own lives and not trying to direct their lives or live through them. Now that is something that can be a struggle for some. Frankly, I think you burned that tendency out of my wife and me over the last 23 years through some of the trials we endured as parents. I don’t feel any desire to direct the paths my children take beyond praying for them that they will find their peace in relationship with you. But I can’t make them make that decision. It is theirs to make.

Father, help me to be exactly who you need me to be for my daughter and for my son. Help me to be who you need me to be for my wife as well as we parent our children. I’ve willing to do anything for them–at least I think I am. Make my role in their life clear to me and to them so that you might be as glorified as possible through all of us.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2020 in Judges

 

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Judges 8:33

As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping the images of Baal, making Baal-berith their god.
Judges 8:33

I’ve been skimming through Judges looking for my next Parent of the Bible, and I kept seeing the same thing over and over again. It was the same thing I saw when I was a kid. The Israelites were constantly falling away from you and turning to other gods. How could they do that? Now, as a man, I see how I tend to do this as well. As “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” says in it’s last verse: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” I can relate to that. But what caught me in this verse was the use of the word “prostitute.” The New American Standard said, “…played the harlot.” The Message used the word “prostitute.” That’s an interesting word with a lot of loaded meanings: Prostitute.

For what do I sell myself? What do I get for my allegiance, time, attention and affection? Is it money? Is it sex? Acceptance? Adoration? When I fall away from you, what am I getting in exchange that draws me away? I guess it helps to think about the times when I drift from you. At this stage in my spiritual development I suppose it is the joy of being undisciplined. The lure of self-indulgence. Why would I stop and pray to you when I can have some fun? Why would I spend time reading scripture when I can stay up a little later watching some video on YouTube and then sleep late in the morning? “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.

Father, here’s my heart. Take and seal it. Seal it for they courts above.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2020 in Judges

 

Samson & Delilah — Judges 16:4-22

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Judges 16:4-22 [NLT]
4 Some time later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek. 5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “Entice Samson to tell you what makes him so strong and how he can be overpowered and tied up securely. Then each of us will give you 1,100 pieces[b] of silver.”
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me what makes you so strong and what it would take to tie you up securely.”
7 Samson replied, “If I were tied up with seven new bowstrings that have not yet been dried, I would become as weak as anyone else.”
8 So the Philistine rulers brought Delilah seven new bowstrings, and she tied Samson up with them. 9 She had hidden some men in one of the inner rooms of her house, and she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” But Samson snapped the bowstrings as a piece of string snaps when it is burned by a fire. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
10 Afterward Delilah said to him, “You’ve been making fun of me and telling me lies! Now please tell me how you can be tied up securely.”
11 Samson replied, “If I were tied up with brand-new ropes that had never been used, I would become as weak as anyone else.”
12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him up with them. The men were hiding in the inner room as before, and again Delilah cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” But again Samson snapped the ropes from his arms as if they were thread.
13 Then Delilah said, “You’ve been making fun of me and telling me lies! Now tell me how you can be tied up securely.”
Samson replied, “If you were to weave the seven braids of my hair into the fabric on your loom and tighten it with the loom shuttle, I would become as weak as anyone else.”
So while he slept, Delilah wove the seven braids of his hair into the fabric. 14 Then she tightened it with the loom shuttle.[c] Again she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” But Samson woke up, pulled back the loom shuttle, and yanked his hair away from the loom and the fabric.
15 Then Delilah pouted, “How can you tell me, ‘I love you,’ when you don’t share your secrets with me? You’ve made fun of me three times now, and you still haven’t told me what makes you so strong!” 16 She tormented him with her nagging day after day until he was sick to death of it.
17 Finally, Samson shared his secret with her. “My hair has never been cut,” he confessed, “for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as anyone else.”
18 Delilah realized he had finally told her the truth, so she sent for the Philistine rulers. “Come back one more time,” she said, “for he has finally told me his secret.” So the Philistine rulers returned with the money in their hands. 19 Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down,[d] and his strength left him.
20 Then she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!”
When he woke up, he thought, “I will do as before and shake myself free.” But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him.
21 So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. They took him to Gaza, where he was bound with bronze chains and forced to grind grain in the prison.
22 But before long, his hair began to grow back.

Dear God, before I start talking about this story, I just have to comment on verse 22. It’s a little cliffhanger like at the end of the old Batman television show from the 60s with Adam West: “But before long, his hair began to grow back.” Love it. I suppose I should also mention that the image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard, and the picture itself was actually created by Ned Bustard.

It the midst of our #metoo wave that is currently happening and changing our perspectives on how men treat women, I can’t help but read this story this morning through a different lens–the lens of her perspective. Why did she do what she did?

It wasn’t for the money. Samson had no qualms about taking and/or killing anything he wanted. If she had said, “Samson, I could really use 1,100 pieces of silver,” he would have gone and killed those same Philistines and taken it from them. No, the money wasn’t the deal-maker–unless…

She wanted freedom. That money gave her freedom from a boorish man who probably did not treat her very well. And we aren’t told what she did after this story, but I would imagine she had to move into the center of Philistine territory where she would have been treated like a hero. If she had stayed in Israel, the people would probably have killed her for her role in Samson’s demise.

So how does this apply to my life? Well, beyond the obvious questions of whether or not I am ever a Samson (driving people to betray me) or a Delilah (betraying others for my own gain), I think one thing that is important to do is to look at betrayals that I see and try to look beyond the surface and find a deeper reason.

For example, very few people are actually evil. Even when they have done something that I find reprehensible, they usually see it as morally justified from their own perspective. And then there are addictions to things like alcohol, drugs, and even pornography that can make a person do things they wouldn’t normally do. Where I work, we see that with domestic violence all of the time. And of course, there are always two sides to every story.

Father, make me more thoughtful in my assessment of others. Make me more aware when I am doing something that others perceive as evil. Help me to give people the benefit of the doubt and understand how to be an instrument of your peace.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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