Words For Courageous Living

Samson: Seldom Asked Questions

Neal Carlson

What’s with the Philistines?

The Philistines were a non-semitic people, sometimes referred to in the Scriptures as "the uncircumcised" (Jud 14:3; 15:18; 1 Sam 14:6; 31:4; 2 Sam 1:20; 1 Chr 10:4). They settled in the plain and low hill country of southwestern Palestine, being part of the great invasion of the sea peoples referred to by Rameses III of Egypt about 1200 B.C. Their knowledge of metallurgy and access to sources of iron gave them a great advantage over other nations and enabled a comparatively small number to conquer far larger groups and to extend their sway for a time over most of Palestine. They were the leading enemy of Israel from the time of Samson to the middle of the reign of David. See 1 Sam 13:19 and 21, notes. Eventually the Philistines gave their name to the whole land, in the form "Palestine." Cp. Isa 14:29,31; see Gen 21:34, note. Jud 10:7 - Scovil notes at Judges 13:1

What is the “Angel of the Lord?”

This particular angel, as distinguished in Scripture from all others, is often referred to in the O.T. (cp. Gen 16:9; 22:11; 48:16; Exo 3:2; 14:19; Num 22:22; Jud 2:4; 6:11; 13:3; 2 Ki 19:35; Isa 63:9; Zech 1:12; 12:8).

(1) He is named "the angel of the LORD [Jehovah] " (Gen 16:7), "the angel of God" (Gen 21:17), "The angel of his [God's] presence" (Isa 63:9), and probably "the messenger [angel] of the covenant" (Mal 3:1).

(2) He is clearly identified with the LORD Himself in His self-manifestation to men. In Gen 31:11 -13 the angel said to Jacob, "I am the God of Bethel." In Exo 3:2 - 6 the same angel said to Moses, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham."

(3) Divine attributes and prerogatives are ascribed to this angel. He said to Hagar, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count" (Gen 16:10), and Hagar spoke of him as the all-seeing God (v. 13). Jacob referred to him as "the angel who has delivered me from all harm" (Gen 48:16). The place where this angel appeared was holy ground and he was to be worshiped (Exo 3:5 - 6), whereas worship is sternly forbidden in the case of ordinary angels (Rev 22:8 - 9). "The angel of the LORD" was the keeper of Israel, and his voice had to be obeyed, for the name of God was in him (Exo 23:20 - 23).

(4) In the light of N.T. revelation, this O.T. angel may properly be identified with the pre-incarnate Son of God. In Jud 13:18 the angel referred to his name as "beyond understanding" or, literally, "wonderful," and Isa 9:6 gives this name to the predicted Messiah of Israel. Malachi affirmed that "the LORD" who would "suddenly . . . come to his temple" would also be "the messenger [angel] of the covenant" (3:1). The identification of this angel with our Lord harmonizes with His distinctive function in relation to the Godhead, for He is the eternal Word through whom the invisible God speaks and manifests Himself (John 1:1,18).

It is significant that in the N.T. there is no further reference to the angel of the LORD. The Greek definite article is used only to identify some ordinary angel previously mentioned in the context. See Mat 1:20, where the article is absent in the Greek, and 1:24, where it properly occurs as referring back to v. 20.
Scovil notes at Judges 2:1

What’s a Nazarite?

The Nazirite, sometimes spelled Nazarite (meaning one separated), was a person who was separated completely unto the LORD. Abstention from wine, the symbol of natural joy (Ps 104:15), was the expression of a devotedness which found all its joy in the LORD (cp. Ps 97:12; Hab 3:18; Phil 3:1; 4:4,10). The long hair, naturally a reproach to man (1 Cor 11:14), was at once the visible sign of the Nazirite's separation and willingness to bear reproach for the LORD's sake. The type found its perfect fulfillment in Jesus who was "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners" (Heb 7:26), was utterly separated unto the Father (John 1:18; 6:38), and allowed no mere natural claim to hinder or divert Him (Mat 12:46 - 50).

Scovil notes at Numbers 6:2

Two traditional forms of the Nazirite are found. One was based on a vow by the individual for a specific period; the other was a lifelong devotion following the revelatory experience of a parent which announced the impending birth of a child.

The Nazirite's outward signs--the growth of hair, abstention from wine and other alcoholic products, the avoidance of contact with the dead--are illustrative of devotion to God. Violation of these signs resulted in defilement and the need for purification so the vow could be completed. Numbers 6:1-21 regulated the practice and lined the phenomenon to cultic law and locality. Verses 1-8 show how the Nazirite's period was begun. In case of defilement, a method of purification was given (vv. 9-12). The status was terminated (vv. 13-21) by the burning of shaven hair and the giving of various offerings. Parallels exist between the cultic purity of the high priest and the Nazirite.
- Holman Bible Dictionary

Did Samson date? (Judges 14:7-8)

The former part of this passage has reference, doubtless, to the betrothal; the latter part, to the marriage. About a year usually elapsed between betrothal and marriage, though this was not always the case. The expression "after a time," literaly after days, is sometimes equivalent to a year.
Bible Manners and Customs, 1996 Whitaker House, Judges 14:7-8

Was Samson's riddle supposed to be funny? Judges 14:12

The Hebrews, in common with all Oriental people, were very fond of riddles. and amused themselves withthem, especially at ordinary mealsand feasts. Even princes sometimes compted in their solution. The queen of Sheba tested Solomon's wisdom with them. See 1 Kings 11:1, where the plural of the word which is rendered riddle is translated "hard question."
ibid, Judges 14:12

Who dreamed up grinding at a wheel as punishment? Judges 16:21

Grinding a hand mill was the lowest kind of slave labor. Among the Greeks and Romans slaves were sometimes compelled to do this as a punishment. It was doubtless considered equally degrading in the days of Samson, and for this reason the Philistines condemned him to it after they destroyed his sight. Some have endeavored to illustrate this scene by a pictorial representation of the Hebrew giant harnessed in leather bands to a huge wooden lever which is connected with a mill! Nothing of the sort, is referred to in the text. The “ass’s mill” was probably the invention of a later age, and even if it existed in Samson’s day, how could he use it when he was “bound with fetters?” He was simply compelled to do the degrading work of a woman or a slave at the ordinary handmill, which is described in the note on Matt. 24:41. Jeremiah laments the same fate which befell the young men of his people.
Lam. 5:13. ibid.

Is Dagon a drain cleaner? Judges 16:23

Nope. Dagon was the national god of the Philistines. The name is derived from dag, a fish. Dagon is the diminutive of dag, and signifies “little fish;” not so much, however, in reference to size, as to the affection entertained for it; so that some would render it, “ dear little fish.” From the description given in 1 Sam. 5:4, the idol is supposed to have been a combination of the human form with that of a fish. “And wheu they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold: only the stump of Dagon was left to him.”

Did the Philistines have a sports arena and was Samson a first round draft? Judges 16:27

This building must have been of great size to have gathered on its flat roof tbree thousand people. The blind Samson probably “made sport” on ‘aide of the inclosed court.yard, where the spectators on the roof and crowds within could see him at the same time. In Algiers, on occasions public festivity, the courtyard of the palace is covered with sand for the accommodation of the wrestlers, who are brought there to amuse the crowd. Dr. Shaw says, “I have often seen numbers of people diverted in this man- on the roof of the dey’s palace at Algiers.”
—Travels, p. 211. ibid.

As to whether Samson was a first round draft choice, God thought so!

Could Samson REALLY have brought down the house? Judges 16:29

The two “middle pillars” here spoken of constituted the key of the entire building: these falling, the house would he destroyed. Pliny mentions two large theaters built of wood, and planned with such ingenuity that each of them depended on one hinge. Dr. Thomson suggests, from his observations of the peculiar topography of Gaza, that the building was erected on a a sidehill having a steep declivity, and in such a position that the removal of the central columns would precipitate the whole edifice down the bill in ruinous confusion.
—The Land and the Book, vol. ii, p. 342. ibid.

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