Samson: Judges 13:1 – 16:31

Samson is given more space in the biblical record than any other judge.  He is also undoubtedly the least qualified morally for leadership – the only judge whose rule did not bring some relief from the oppressors.

The story of Samson introduces us to the Philistines, who will be Israel’s dominant enemy through the day’s of Saul and david.  The Philistines were members of a wave of “Sea Peoples” from the Aegean that swept the eastern Mediterranean about 1200 B.C.  They not only attacked Palestine, but also Egypt to the south, and the Hittite empire to the north.

The Philistines settled on the narrow coastal plain in southwest Palestine, incorporated the Canaanites already there, and established five principal cities, which are mentioned often in the Bible (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron).  Earlier in the times of the judges the Philistines were occupied by warfare with Egypt under Ramses III.  It’s possible that in Samson’s day the Philistines guarded Egypt’s interests in Canaan, for she claimed control over Palestine then.  One reason for the dominance of the Philistines was the superiority they maintained in weaponry.  They controlled the smelting of iron and kept Israel from having a single ironsmith (cf. 1 Sam. 17:7).

Samson is set apart from birth for his divinely appointed mission.  And he is endowed with amazing strength.  But he is a slave to his physical appetites, and betrays his calling.  His lack of religious and patriotic motivation is revealed in the selfish focuses of his personal vendetta with the Philistines.  The writer focuses on Samson’s strength (ch. 14, 15), and on his early and dramatic death (ch. 15).

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