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Samson Is Born

13 Once again the Israelites started disobeying the Lord. So he let the Philistines take control of Israel for forty years.

Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was not able to have children, 3-5 but one day an angel from the Lord appeared to her and said:

You have never been able to have any children, but very soon you will be pregnant and have a son. He will belong to God[a] from the day he is born, so his hair must never be cut. And even before he is born, you must not drink any wine or beer or eat any food forbidden by God’s laws.

Your son will begin to set Israel free from the Philistines.

She went to Manoah and said, “A prophet who looked like an angel of God came and talked to me. I was so frightened, that I didn’t even ask where he was from. He didn’t tell me his name, but he did say that I’m going to have a baby boy. I’m not supposed to drink any wine or beer or eat any food forbidden by God’s laws. Our son will belong to God for as long as he lives.”

Then Manoah prayed, “Our Lord, please send that prophet again and let him tell us what to do for the son we are going to have.”

God answered Manoah’s prayer, and the angel went back to Manoah’s wife while she was resting in the fields. Manoah wasn’t there at the time, 10 so she found him and said, “That same man is here again! He’s the one I saw the other day.”

11 Manoah went with his wife and asked the man, “Are you the one who spoke to my wife?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered.

12 Manoah then asked, “When your promise comes true, what rules must he obey and what will be his work?”

13 “Your wife must be careful to do everything I told her,” the Lord’s angel answered. 14 “She must not eat or drink anything made from grapes. She must not drink wine or beer or eat anything forbidden by God’s laws. I told her exactly what to do.”

15 “Please,” Manoah said, “stay here with us for just a little while, and we’ll fix a young goat for you to eat.” 16 Manoah didn’t realize that he was really talking to one of the Lord’s angels.

The angel answered, “I can stay for a little while, although I won’t eat any of your food. But if you would like to offer the goat as a sacrifice to the Lord, that would be fine.”

17 Manoah said, “Tell us your name, so we can honor you after our son is born.”

18 “No,” the angel replied. “You don’t need to know my name. And if you did, you couldn’t understand it.”

19 So Manoah took a young goat over to a large rock he had chosen for an altar, and he built a fire on the rock. Then he killed the goat, and offered it with some grain as a sacrifice to the Lord. But then an amazing thing happened. 20 The fire blazed up toward the sky, and the Lord’s angel went up toward heaven in the fire. Manoah and his wife bowed down low when they saw what happened.

21 The angel was gone, but Manoah and his wife realized that he was one of the Lord’s angels. 22 Manoah said, “We have seen an angel.[b] Now we’re going to die.”[c]

23 “The Lord isn’t going to kill us,” Manoah’s wife responded. “The Lord accepted our sacrifice and grain offering, and he let us see something amazing. Besides, he told us that we’re going to have a son.”

24 Later, Manoah’s wife did give birth to a son, and she named him Samson. As the boy grew, the Lord blessed him. 25 Then, while Samson was staying at Dan’s Camp[d] between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol, the Spirit of the Lord took control of him.

Samson Gets Married

14 One day, Samson went to Timnah, where he saw a Philistine woman. When he got back home, he told his parents, “I saw a Philistine woman in Timnah, and I want to marry her. Get her for me!”[e]

His parents answered, “There are a lot of women in our clan and even more in the rest of Israel. Those Philistines are pagans. Why would you want to marry one of their women?”

“She looks good to me,” Samson answered. “Get her for me!”

At that time, the Philistines were in control of Israel, and the Lord wanted to stir up trouble for them. That’s why he made Samson desire that woman.

As Samson and his parents reached the vineyards near Timnah, a fierce young lion suddenly roared and attacked Samson. But the Lord’s Spirit took control of Samson, and with his bare hands he tore the lion apart, as though it had been a young goat. His parents didn’t know what he had done, and he didn’t tell them.

When they got to Timnah, Samson talked to the woman, and he was sure that she was the one for him.

Later,[f] Samson returned to Timnah for the wedding. And when he came near the place where the lion had attacked, he left the road to see what was left of the lion. He was surprised to see that bees were living in the lion’s skeleton, and that they had made some honey. He scooped up the honey in his hands and ate some of it as he walked along. When he got back to his parents, he gave them some of the honey, and they ate it too. But he didn’t tell them he had found the honey in the skeleton of a lion.[g]

10 While Samson’s father went to make the final arrangements with the bride and her family, Samson threw a big party,[h] as grooms[i] usually did. 11 When the Philistines saw what Samson was like, they told thirty of their young men to stay with him at the party.

12 Samson told the thirty young men, “This party will last for seven days. Let’s make a bet: I’ll tell you a riddle, and if you can tell me the right answer before the party is over, I’ll give each one of you a shirt and a full change of clothing. 13 But if you can’t tell me the answer, then each of you will have to give me a shirt and a full change of clothing.”

“It’s a bet!” the Philistines said. “Tell us the riddle.”

14 Samson said:

Once so strong and mighty—
    now so sweet and tasty!

Three days went by, and the Philistine young men had not come up with the right answer. 15 Finally, on the seventh[j] day of the party they went to Samson’s bride and said, “You had better trick your husband into telling you the answer to his riddle. Have you invited us here just to rob us? If you don’t find out the answer, we will burn you and your family to death.”

16 Samson’s bride went to him and started crying in his arms. “You must really hate me,” she sobbed. “If you loved me at all, you would have told me the answer to your riddle.”

“But I haven’t even told my parents the answer!” Samson replied. “Why should I tell you?”

17 For the entire seven days of the party, she had been whining and trying to get the answer from him. But that seventh day she put so much pressure on Samson that he finally gave in and told her the answer. She went straight to the young men and told them.

18 Before sunset that day, the men of the town went to Samson with this answer:

A lion is the strongest—
    honey is the sweetest!

Samson replied,

This answer you have given me
doubtless came
    from my bride-to-be.

19 Then the Lord’s Spirit took control of Samson. He went to Ashkelon,[k] where he killed thirty men and took their clothing. Samson then gave it to the thirty young men at Timnah and stormed back home to his own family.

20 The father of the bride had Samson’s wife marry one of the thirty young men that had been at Samson’s party.[l]

15 Later, during the wheat harvest, Samson went to visit the young woman he thought was still his wife.[m] He brought along a young goat as a gift and said to her father, “I want to go into my wife’s bedroom.”

“You can’t do that,” he replied. “When you left the way you did, I thought you were divorcing[n] her. So I arranged for her to marry one of the young men who were at your party. But my younger daughter is even prettier, and you can have her as your wife.”

“This time,” Samson answered, “I have a good reason for really hurting some Philistines.”

Samson Takes Revenge

Samson went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them together in pairs with oil-soaked rags around their tails. Then Samson took the foxes into the Philistine wheat fields that were ready to be harvested. He set the rags on fire and let the foxes go. The wheat fields went up in flames, and so did the stacks of wheat that had already been cut. Even the Philistine vineyards and olive orchards burned.

Some of the Philistines started asking around, “Who could have done such a thing?”

“It was Samson,” someone told them. “He married the daughter of that man in Timnah, but then the man gave Samson’s wife to one of the men at the wedding.”

The Philistine leaders went to Timnah and burned to death Samson’s wife and her father.[o]

When Samson found out what they had done, he went to them and said, “You killed them! And I won’t rest until I get even with you.” Then Samson started hacking them to pieces with his sword.[p]

Samson left Philistia and went to live in the cave at Etam Rock. But it wasn’t long before the Philistines invaded Judah[q] and set up a huge army camp at Jawbone.[r]

10 The people of Judah asked, “Why have you invaded our land?”

The Philistines answered, “We’ve come to get Samson. We’re going to do the same things to him that he did to our people.”

11 Three thousand men from Judah went to the cave at Etam Rock and said to Samson, “Don’t you know that the Philistines rule us, and they will punish us for what you did?”

“I was only getting even with them,” Samson replied. “They did the same things to me first.”

12 “We came here to tie you up and turn you over to them,” said the men of Judah.

“I won’t put up a fight,” Samson answered, “but you have to promise not to hurt me yourselves.”

13-14 “We promise,” the men said. “We will only tie you up and turn you over to the Philistines. We won’t kill you.” Then they tied up his hands and arms with two brand-new ropes and led him away from Etam Rock.

When the Philistines saw that Samson was being brought to their camp at Jawbone, they started shouting and ran toward him. But the Lord’s Spirit took control of Samson, and Samson broke the ropes, as though they were pieces of burnt cloth. 15 Samson glanced around and spotted the jawbone of a donkey. The jawbone had not yet dried out, so it was still hard and heavy. Samson grabbed it and started hitting Philistines—he killed a thousand of them! 16 After the fighting was over, he made up this poem about what he had done to the Philistines:

I used a donkey’s jawbone
    to kill a thousand men;
I beat them with this jawbone
    over and over again.[s]

17 Samson tossed the jawbone on the ground and decided to call the place Jawbone Hill.[t] It is still called that today.

18 Samson was so thirsty that he prayed, “Our Lord, you helped me win a battle against a whole army. Please don’t let me die of thirst now. Those heathen Philistines will carry off my dead body.”

19 Samson was tired and weary, but God sent water gushing from a rock.[u] Samson drank some and felt strong again.

Samson named the place Caller Spring,[v] because he had called out to God for help. The spring is still there at Jawbone.

20 Samson was a leader[w] of Israel for twenty years, but the Philistines were still the rulers of Israel.

Footnotes

  1. 13.3-5 belong to God: The Hebrew text has “be a Nazirite of God.” Nazirites were dedicated to God and had to follow special rules to stay that way (see Numbers 6.1,21).
  2. 13.22 angel: The Hebrew text has “god,” which can be used of God or of other supernatural beings.
  3. 13.22 We have seen an angel. Now we’re going to die: Some people believed that if they saw the Lord or one of the Lord’s angels, they would die.
  4. 13.25 Dan’s Camp: Or “Mahaneh-Dan.”
  5. 14.2 Get her for me: At that time, parents arranged marriages for their children.
  6. 14.8 Later: Or “The following year.”
  7. 14.9 But he didn’t tell them. . . skeleton of a lion: To eat anything that had touched a skeleton was against God’s laws (see Leviticus 11.27-40).
  8. 14.10 party: The Hebrew term means a party that involved a lot of drinking.
  9. 14.10 grooms: Or “warriors.”
  10. 14.15 Finally, on the seventh: Hebrew; three ancient translations “on the fourth.”
  11. 14.19 Ashkelon: Another Philistine town.
  12. 14.20 one. . . at Samson’s party: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  13. 15.1 Samson went to visit. . . his wife: See the note at 8.31.
  14. 15.2 divorcing: It was often very easy for a husband to divorce his wife.
  15. 15.6 and her father: Most Hebrew manuscripts; many Hebrew manuscripts and two ancient translations “and her family.”
  16. 15.8 hacking. . . sword: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  17. 15.9 Judah: Samson belonged to the Dan tribe, but his hideout in the cave at Etam Rock was in Judah, a few miles southwest of Bethlehem.
  18. 15.9 Jawbone: Or “Lehi” (see verse 17).
  19. 15.16 I beat. . . again: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  20. 15.17 Jawbone Hill: Or “Ramath-Lehi.”
  21. 15.19 God sent. . . a rock: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  22. 15.19 Caller Spring: Or “Enhakkore.”
  23. 15.20 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.

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