Samson and “what is right”

In Sunday morning Bible class the last two weeks Samson (Judges 13-16) was mentioned in the context of missions (and diversity). I am not teaching this particular class. However, I found a significant theme related to the entire book of Judges.

The repeated cycle of blessings, judgments, restorations, in the book of Judges is well summarized in Judges 21:25 “every man did that which was right in his own sight.” As we read through the book, the problems arise when “every man did what was right in his own sight”, in a sense repeating the three-fold problem of Genesis 3:6 (And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes to look upon and beautiful to contemplate).

Samson becomes a miniature view of that cycle, but with some interesting twists in terms of God’s judgment. In Judges 14:3b we read: And Sampson said to his father, “Take her for me, for she is right in my eyes,” which is repeated in 14:7. Now in between those two verses, Samson is empowered by the Spirit of Yahweh to kill the lion. As an Israelite he was not to touch a dead animal (Leviticus 11:39-40), but if he did he was to offer sacrifices for his uncleanness. Also, note that Samson does not tell his parents about his encounter, and therefore leads them to be unknowingly unclean (Judges 14:6). On top of that, as a Nazarite Samson was not to have contact with a dead animal, which likewise causes even his parents or siblings to be unclean (Numbers 6:6-8). Samson compounds his problems when later he kills the Philistines (Judges 14:19), again empowered by the Spirit of Yahweh. However, when the Nazarite has contact with a dead person he is to shave his head (Numbers 6:9). Samson does neither (offer sacrifice nor shave his head).

And yet God accomplishes his cleansing purposes with Samson, but through the Philistines. While the Philistine woman “was right in his eyes”, the Philistines gouged his eyes out (Judges 16:21). And his hair was indeed shaved, by trickery (Judges 16:19), seemingly in retaliation of his own arrogance and his ability to deceive (Judges 14:12, 14, 18, 15:16).

And finally, after he suffers these humiliations, he is now where God can work his greatest work through him, that is, to bring judgment upon the Philistines themselves for their role in conquering some of the tribes of Israel.

So the structure of Samson’s episode is:

A: right in his own eyes
B: uncleanness not taken care of by head shaved
B’: uncleanness resolved by head shaved
A’: right in the eyes of God

Other ideas can be gleaned, but this was an key insight for me today.