Judges 15:1-8 Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, “I’m going to my wife’s room.” But her father would not let him go in.
2 “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.”
3 Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” 4 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, 5 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.
6 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. 7 Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” 8 He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam.
This is another head-scratcher to me. Samson (a Nazirite) had broken God’s law by taking a Philistine wife. He made a foolish bet with her friends based on a riddle that he made up, then told her the answer. When she betrayed him, he killed 30 innocent men to take their clothes and pay the bet. The girl’s father then gave her to another man as his wife.
In today’s passage, we see that Samson apparently only learned this when he returned to consummate the marriage at harvest time. Once again, Samson gets angry, and claims “a right” to have his vengeance. In order to get even, he decides to burn all the crops. You’ve already read how he did it. That must have been quite a picture! And once again, many people who had nothing to do with the offense were made to suffer.
That’s often the problem when we decide to take ‘justice’ into our own hands – which usually means to exact our vengeance for a wrong someone has done to us. We often end up punishing people who did nothing – but we convince ourselves that it’s OK, they’re just ‘collateral damage’ that can’t be helped.
This barbaric cycle doesn’t end here, of course. The Philistines, who have just lost a year’s worth of crops, are angry too. They want their revenge too. When they found out what happened, they take the girl and her father and burn them alive. Samson finds out, and attacks and kills “many of them” – violence begets violence. We end this chapter with Samson staying in a cave, so that the Philistines won’t immediately attack his own people in order to get at him.
Today let’s continue to pray for understanding as we read through this difficult story, and thank God that because He sent His Son to us, we can now know how to turn to forgiveness instead of vengeance when someone wrongs us.