Our reading today begins with our familiar refrain (13:1). Notice that the years of oppression are now far longer than the years of rest (which we saw are getting shorter). In verses 2-3 we see another example of barren women being given children by the hand of God.* We also see the Angel of the Lord appear – another pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. In this case, the child is dedicated to God at God’s own command (v. 5). This is typological of Christ. We see a semblance of faith in Manoah by his reaction to the news his wife gives him (v. 8). We see in verses 4, 5, 7, and 14 that the child is to take a lifelong Nazirite vow (Nazirite means “separated one” – see Numbers 6). He is called to be holy unto God for his whole life – again a pointer to Christ.
In verse 16 we are told that Manoah did not know with Whom he was dealing. After the offering is supernaturally accepted, we see in verse 20 that Manoah and his wife know, and worship. We are told in verse 21 that Manoah then understood Who he was dealing with. He calls Him God (v. 22). His wife calls Him YHWH (v. 23). In verse 25 we see that the Spirit was with Samson (which means “like the sun”).
Chapter 14 begins the record of the exploits of Samson. He is to be holy to the Lord. As a Nazirite, he has three rules to follow. He may not drink wine (Num 6:3-4), he may not cut his hair (Num 6:5), and he may not touch a dead body (Num 6:6). These are an outward sign of the inward holiness of one separated unto the Lord. And we see right away that inwardly, Samson is not holy unto the Lord. He desires to marry a Philistine (14:2), which, though forbidden by God, is right in his eyes (v. 3). But note in verse 4 that this was “from the Lord.” This shows that God, though not the creator of sin, does ordain all that comes to pass, including sin**, to fulfill His purposes. Here, we see that His purposes are against the Philistines.
On the way to see his bride-to-be, Samson encounters and kills a lion (vv. 5-6). We are told again in verse 7 that this Philistine woman is “right in Samson’s eyes.” When he comes back to take her as wife, Samson sees the dead lion, with honey in its carcass, and he takes and eats (vv. 8-9). At the wedding, Samson puts a riddle to the Philistines based on his encounter with the lion, and makes a bet (vv. 12-13). The Philistines threaten his wife and her family to get the answer (v. 15), and Samson knows it (v. 18). Samson then kills Philistines to pay his debt to Philistines. The chapter ends with Samson’s wife being given to another man. Sin upon sin upon sin. Samson is not different from the Philistines.
Chapter 15 begins with Samson coming back for his wife (15:1). In his anger, Samson burns the Philistines fields (vv. 4-5). So the Philistines burn his wife (v. 6). And so he kills more of them (v. 8). Samson is not different from the Philistines. So they attack Judah (v. 9). The Israelites betray one of their own to save themselves (v. 12), showing that Samson is not unique in his proclivity to sin. In verses 14-15, we see that God is indeed using all of this sin to punish the Philistines.
Now judge of Israel, Samson is no less prone to sin (16:1). We see the incredible strength of Samson in that he carries the city gates 40 miles (v. 3)! In verse 4 we are introduced to Delilah, another Philistine woman. Note that the “loves” in this verse can also mean “desired” (as in, physically). In the twisted game between Samson and Delilah (vv. 6-15), we see that neither has any regard for the other, yet a physical relationship is strongly implied. Sin upon sin upon sin.
The shaving of Samson’s head and his subsequent weakness are related, though not directly. His strength is not in his hair. His strength is the Holy Spirit (vv. 19-20). His breaking of the Nazarite vow*** is an outward result of the inward sin, and it was brought about by blatant outward sin. The mention of his hair growing back is not an indication that his hair contains any power, but the outward action of his hair growing is symbolic of an inward change, which we will see in the sacrificial final act of his life (v. 30).
In verse 23, we see some cosmic irony: the Philistines believe their idol Dagon has given them Samson, when is was, in fact, God. Considering what is about to happen, verse 24 is more ironic still. When they get drunk enough, the Philistines want to mock Samson (v. 25). In verse 28, we see Samson call out to God, albeit with less than perfect motives. But without his eyes, Samson can only be guided by faith (no matter how small), and he acknowledges – perhaps for the first time in his life! – that God is the source of his strength (v. 28). And God fulfills His purpose set out in 14:4.
*The physical impossibility of these women having children (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Manoah’s wife here, and later Hannah and the Shunamite woman), but then being given a child from the hand of God are preparatory and typological of the physical impossibility of a virgin having a child. But it is also typological of Israel – rendered barren by their faithlessness – and yet the mother of the Messiah (see Isaiah 54).
**Jonathan Edwards said this of God as the author of sin: “If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing . . . it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.” Rather, God is: “the permitter . . . of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted . . . will most certainly and infallibly follow.”
***Some commentators believe that the touching of the dead lion (14:8-9) broke one of the three rules, that the feast (14:10) implies wine drinking and is a breaking of another, and that his hair being cut completes the trifecta.