The Failure of the Family in Judges, Part 2: Samson -- By: Michael J. Smith

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 162:648 (Oct 2005)
Article: The Failure of the Family in Judges, Part 2: Samson
Author: Michael J. Smith


The Failure of the Family in Judges, Part 2: Samson

Michael J. Smith

Michael J. Smith is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.

The failure of the family in the Book of Judges is seen in many of the judges, including especially the twelfth and final judge, Samson.1 In his case the paradigm of the judge cycle from Judges 2:11–18 appears for the last time in the book, but only two of the elements are given.2 “Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years” (13:1). Though this is the longest period of time in which Israel was under another nation, there is no record of the Israelites crying out to the Lord for deliverance as they had done in the past. Instead they seem to have been content to exist under foreign domination. Judah, which had begun the fight against the Canaanites (1:1–2), had dropped the goal of conquering the land in favor of a peaceful survival under the Philistines.

After Samson had sought revenge on the Philistines for killing his former wife and her father (15:1–6) by striking them “ruthlessly with a great slaughter” (v. 8), he went to hide in the cleft of a rock near Etam. When the Philistines came into the territory of Judah and the residents learned that they were seeking Samson, three thousand of the men of Judah came to bind Samson in order to hand him over to the Philistines. They argued, “Do you not know

that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” (v. 11). As representatives of all Israel, the men of Judah were willing to sacrifice their Spirit-enabled judge by giving him over to the enemy rather than join him and fight for the land God had promised them. They did not want to be rescued. Their covenant commitment with God to take the land was gone in favor of living as they pleased under the Philistines. The Judahites even forcefully opposed anyone who challenged their acquiescence to living under enemy oppression. God, however, would not go back on His commitment to His covenant with Israel, and so He planned one more “spectacular” judge, Samson, to address their condition.3 With Israel no lo...

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