'I was so sure you hated her,' he said, 'that I gave her to your companion. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.'
Samson said to them, 'This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.' So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.
When the Philistines asked, 'Who did this?' they were told, 'Samson, the Timnite’s son-in-law, because his wife was given to his companion.'
So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. Samson said to them, 'Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.' He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam.” (Judges 15:1-8) Today’s passage needs some context to make it make sense. Last week we read about Samson’s wedding celebration. Samson offered up a riddle to the wedding party for their entertainment with a large price attached to it. The guys were frustrated that they couldn’t figure out the answer so they begged Samson’s wife to give them the answer, which she got out of Samson and gave them. Samson got mad at this, and the situation ended with their marriage not being consummated, and the bride’s father gave her to one of the groomsmen. Samson, however, apparently thought that they were actually married. So why did Samson have to go visit his wife, if they were actually married? It was actually fairly common in that society that when the bride and groom were from two different cultures, the bride would primarily live with her family and the groom would regularly visit her. The purpose of staying apart like that was to avoid cultural tensions between the bride and her in-laws, since more often than not the bride would move to where the groom lived. Samson was an Israelite and his bride was a Philistine, so that applies here, and the bride was staying with her Philistine family in Timnah. It appears that Samson felt guilty for his actions at the wedding, so he brought the young goat as an apology to his bride’s family. Samson’s intention at this visit was to make things right with his bride’s family and to finally consummate the marriage, since he didn’t know that her father had already given her away to another man. Samson technically had legal claim to receiving his bride, so her father offered a sister instead to fulfill his obligation of a bride for Samson. Samson, however, demonstrates his temper once again. He did have some grounds for getting mad, since he should have married to the bride he chose, but he also messed up at the wedding ceremony. But instead of just taking his anger out on the bride’s family, Samson’s temper escalates and he takes his anger out on the Philistines as a whole! Samson’s method of revenge destroyed all the crops of the Philistines in that area - grain, grape vines, and olive trees. This is a pretty big deal, because that destruction was quite severe. It’s also a big deal because Israelite law explicitly identifies burning crops as a serious offence in Exodus 22:6, for which the person who started the fire must make restitution. But the hot-tempered Samson was naturally not willing to make restitution for the damage he caused, so the Philistines retaliate. They burn Samson’s wife (who was actually another man’s wife at this point) and her father to death! The irony here is that back in Judges 14:15, the bridal party threatened this very thing against her if she didn’t get the answer to the riddle from Samson. And the retaliation doesn’t stop there! Samson gets back at the Philistines for the murders by killing thousands more Philistines. You may have noticed that things escalated rather quickly here. Samson offers a riddle at the wedding, the men use trickery to answer it, Samson reacts in anger causing his father-in-law to give his bride away, then Samson burns lots of crops, the Philistines murder Samson’s bride and father-in-law, and Samson kills thousands more Philistines. Due to tempers and revenge, a small thing of offering a riddle ends up killing thousands of people! Pretty crazy, right? But that’s how sin works. Think about how quickly a little white lie can escalate into much larger deception. You have to tell another lie to cover up for the one you told, and then another, and another. I recently saw a play at the Fort Findlay Playhouse that depicted just that, called Run For Your Wife. A cab driver has a very carefully-planned schedule to spend time with two different wives, and one night he gets caught up with the police because he intervened in a mugging he saw, and the whole situation gets crazy! Lie after lie is told to try and cover up his indiscretion, and the main character even gets neighbors involved in the lies as well. By the end of the play, there are so many lies that when he finally tells the truth, no one believes him! Often our sins don’t escalate to the nature of killing thousands of people like Samson did, but they can still have a big effect on many people’s lives. People can get into legal trouble, they could be injured because of our actions, and relationships are often broken. What may feel like a “no big deal” sin to us can cause serious damage in our lives and the lives of those around us. Remember that when you’re faced with the temptation to do something dishonest Resisting the temptation to give in to sin will save us a lot of grief in the future, since no sin stays small.
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