5.5 Samson In Gaza (Judges 16: 1-3)
The way this passage starts with " Then" is one of several
classic conjunctions which occur in the Biblical record. The "
But" of Acts 5:1 is another. After the spiritual and personal
glory of the fight at Lehi, " Then..." Samson goes to
Gaza and sees a whore. It may not have happened immediately afterwards
(n.b. 15:20), but it seems purposefully placed where it is in the
record. A similar example occurs in 14:19,20 cp. 15:1: after repenting
of his marriage with the Philistine girl and using his failure as
an opportunity to seek occasion against God's enemies, Samson then
relents and lets his human love for the girl take him over, and
he goes to visit and sleep with her. And again in 16:3, we see Samson
repentant as he lies there at midnight, and he rises up and in the
spirit of the Lord's cross, carries away the gate of his enemies.
And then, " it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman..."
(16:4). He simply couldn't keep up the level of spiritual intensity
which he fain would have. And again, we know much about this problem
(1). And yet Samson went to Gaza conscious
that his people had failed to drive out the tribes (Josh. 11:22).
Judah had captured it in Joshua's strength (1:18), but had let the
Philistines return. So Samson chose Gaza from spiritual motives;
and yet he schemed out his plan to enable him to gratify his flesh.
We have elsewhere demonstrated (Samson And Jesus) how Samson
at this time reflected something of the spirit and victory of the
Lord Jesus on the cross. And yet once again, as with the fight at
Lehi, there was a strong unspiritual element in Samson in Gaza at
this time. He schemed to have a little of both; to please his flesh,
and yet also do the work of God. It seems that his conscience once
again pricked him about this. " He went in to spend the night"
with the prostitute, " But Samson lay there only until the
middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors..."
(16:1,3 NIV) (2). If he went in to
spend the night there, he presumably entered the house at around
7 or 8. He had what he wanted, and then lay there thinking, the
record seems to suggest, and decided to not lay there all night
as he planned, but get up and do God's work. Whilst it is unrecorded,
surely there were prayers of deep and fervent repentance as he lay
there? His conscience likewise seems to have struck him after he
attempted to marry the Philistine girl, and also when he burnt up
the vineyards. And so again here. He may have justified his behaviour
by reference back (in his deep subconscious, maybe) to how the spies
sought to destroy Jericho by entering the city and lodging with
a whore. The way he chose to destroy the Philistines at the end
by bringing down the posts of their temple (16:29,30) has some connection
with the way he chose to take up the posts of Gaza. Perhaps he remembered
his earlier failure and repentance in Gaza, and now he was back
there (16:21), he repented again and wished to replicate his earlier
repentance and victory for the Lord.
The Psychology Of Samson
It's inevitable that the record of Samson in Gaza prompts us to reflect
upon the psychology of Samson as a womanizer. Why are some men womanizers?
Why was Samson a womanizer? The psychological basis for womanizing has
been summarized like this: " Some men are womanizers and what is
wrong with them is that they have issues with commitment and intimacy
that they refuse to deal with and escape into a fantasy relationship with
another women time after time. Other men though are seeking something
they feel is missing in their primary relationship - understanding, excitement
in bed, a woman that is challenging to them" . To that I'd add that
most womanizers I know are simply very lonely men. Another psychologist
comments: " Womanizers ...often claim to have a high sex drive and
a lust for sexual variety. Their therapists say such men often don't like
women or even sex. Womanizers have a disease or an addiction, in which
they see women as the enemy. They think of " being a real man"
as escaping a woman's control and as being someone who can powerfully
manipulate and deceive women. Like a rapist, he seeks power and superiority"
. How does all this apply to Samson?
If Samson in Gaza had been all rippling muscle, Delilah would not have
had to ask where his strength lay. His strength was from God, not from
his muscles. And yet he would've been perceived as a " real man"
, a strong man... it was just enigmatic to everyone, how this was, when
an ordinary man acted so strong. Perhaps the Heb. 11 comment that he was
" out of weakness made strong" implies he was actually quite
wimpy. And so, perhaps he acted up to how others perceived him. He endulged
the 'woman thing' because that's what heroic 'strong men' of his time
were supposed to do. He felt he had to act as if he had a strong
libido, when perhaps he didn't. And of course he was lonely... the picture
of the young man wandering off from his parents when they were on their
way down to talk with his first wife... meeting a lion... here's the very
cameo of a lonely man. And his special calling from God would've made
him lonely. This would have led to his problem with intimacy with others,
in an Israel of cowards and semi-spirituality. He wasn't much understood
by anyone... David had Jonathan, Gideon had Phurah, but Samson apparently
had nobody at all. His whole behaviour with women, Delilah especially
but actually all the recorded women in his life, speaks of a man who relished
" escaping a woman's control and ... being someone who can powerfully
manipulate and deceive women" .
But the bottom line is that Samson in Gaza sinned. Reflecting upon the
psychology of Samson, we can understand why he was a womanizer.
But we too are lonely, not understood by our world or even our own brotherhood,
we too try to act up to the expectations and images which others place
upon us... but this doesn't justify us! This is the lesson of Samson.
Sin is sin, even if our own faith and spiritual commitment has placed
us in a situation where the loneliness and lack of being understood of
itself creates a psychological situation which leads to temptation. Falling
to that temptation, even if like Samson in Gaza we preserve our faith
and commitment in our deepest heart, isn't justifiable- and we shall pay
the price for it.
(1) See Enduring
To The End.
(2) " Samson lay till midnight,
and arose at midnight" (16:3 AV) gives a different picture:
of Samson 'laying' with her as a man lays with a woman, and then
getting up and going out to do God's work. The interplay between
sexuality and spirituality was never stronger.