SDA Sabbath School Lessons
June 8, 1996
#10 The Ungolden Rule
Read for this week's study:
Judges 14 and 15.
Heb.11:32, 33 KJV
Even though Samson's life was far from exemplary, God overruled human attitudes and circumstances in order to carry out His will, the deliverance of His people.
Second Strike. "He hit me first!" "No! He hit me first--purposely!" Sound familiar? The underlying assumption is that hitting is justifiable if it is done in retaliation. This logic is appealing not only to children but to adults and entire nations, as well. A military strike or war is "just" if it responds to provocation by the other side. Of course, the other side is sure that it was also provoked. Resulting cycles of aggression can go on for years, or even centuries, causing untold suffering.
Jesus said: "Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also" (Matt. 5:39; compare verse 44). Love and forgiveness break cycles of aggression caused by hatred.
Why did Samson not turn the other cheek to the Philistines? The situation was special in that the Lord had commissioned Samson to carry out His judgments upon the enemies of His people. Because these enemies had filled up the cup of their iniquity, the Lord brought retribution upon them.
- Sunday June 2: Providential Provocation (Judges 14:1-4).
- "Once Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw a Philistine woman" (Judges 14:1). Thus his troubles began. Eve had a similar experience. (Gen. 3:6). Liking what she saw, and trusting her own perceptions, Eve made a foolish decision. Samson's parents tried to keep him from an unwise decision, but to no avail.
- On what basis did Samson's parents try to persuade him to reconsider? Judges 14:3; compare Exod. 34:16; Deut. 7:3.
- Because of the danger of falling into idolatry, the Israelites were expressly forbidden to intermarry with the idolatrous inhabitants of the land (Deut 7:3, 4). Before this command was given to Israel, Abraham and Isaac recognized the importance of not taking wives from among the inhabitants of Canaan (Gen. 24:3; compare Gen. 27:46-28:5).
- In spite of God's command, examples from the lives of the patriarchs, and the wishes of his parents, Samson wanted a Philistine girl. He was supposed to be dedicated to God for life as a holy person, which gave him all the more responsibility to choose a wife of whom God could approve. (Compare Lev. 21:7, regulating marriages of priests.)
- What is meant in Judges 14:4?
- Did the Lord really want Samson to break His own command regarding marrying non-Israelite women? Before we try to answer that question, let's ask another one: did the Lord want Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery (Gen. 37:25-28)? But see how Joseph later interpreted the event to his brothers (Gen. 45:5; compare 50:20). So the Lord even uses human mistakes to accomplish His purposes. (Compare Rom. 8:28.)
- Have you seen human mistakes overruled by God? Are there aspects of God's overruling providence that you will never understand in this life? How can we reconcile ourselves to hurtful experiences that the Lord has permitted?
- Monday June 3: A Marriage Riddled with Problems (Judges 14:5-20).
- Against the wishes of his parents, Samson insisted on marrying a Philistine woman (Judges 14:3). So his parents went with him to Timnah (verse 5), undoubtedly to make arrangements for the marriage. At some point along the way, Samson was traveling alone when a lion roared at him.
- Why did the Spirit of the Lord rush upon Samson so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands (Judges 14:6)? He was to deliver Israel from Philistines, not from lions.
Which of the following best answers the above question?
- If the Spirit of the Lord had not empowered him to kill the lion, the lion would have killed him, and then he could not have delivered anyone.
- The Lord let him see what he could do to a lion, so that he would have no fear of human beings.
- In this way the Lord set up the circumstances for Samson's riddle (verse 14), which was to carry out His purpose by causing conflict between Samson and the Philistines (verses 15-20; compare verse 4 --"for he was seeking a pretext," NRSV).
- When Samson told his wife the meaning of the riddle (verse 17), he may well have included some description of the circumstances behind it, which she may have passed on to the Philistines. If so, this would explain why the Philistines apparently did not attempt to apprehend Samson after he killed 30 men in their city of Ashkelon (verse 19). Thus, the awesome feat that Samson had performed against the lion would have furthered God's purpose by intimidating the Philistines. Verse 11 suggests that they may have been impressed with his strong appearance even before they knew the riddle: When they saw him, "they brought thirty companions to be with him," perhaps partly to keep him under control.
- Another answer:
- All the above.
- What does this story (Judges 14:5-20) reveal about the character of Samson, his wife (verses 16, 17), and the Philistines (verse 15)?
- Illustrate how God sometimes uses situations existing in our lives to fulfill His purposes.
- Tuesday June 4: "Judge" with a Grudge
- Mr. and Mrs. Samson had gotten off to a rocky start. Rather than telling her new husband about the threat of her ruthless, cruel countrymen to burn her and her father's house, she showed disloyalty to Samson by betraying his secret (Judges 16:15-17). Ironically, she ended up suffering the very fate that she had tried to avoid.
- What chain of circumstances led to the death of Samson's wife? Judges 15:5, 6.
- One thing led to another, in a series of "cascading consequences" shaped by human choices in accordance with the characters of the individuals involved. Killing the lion and eating the honey led Samson, who was clever, as well as strong, to invent a riddle and challenge the Philistines with a wager. To solve the riddle and win the wager, they intimidated his wife into betraying him, which infuriated him so that he abandoned her. Thinking that the abandonment was permanent, her father betrothed her to the best man at Samson's wedding. When his anger abated and he again felt desire for his wife, Samson returned to take up marital relations. But because she was now betrothed to someone else, her father could not give her to Samson. so Samson took revenge by arson on a grand scale. Their crops gone, the Philistines blamed Samson's father-in-law for provoking him and burned the father-in-law along with his daughter, Samson's now ex-wife.
- If Samson were angry with his wife and father-in-law, why did he want revenge on the Philistines when they burned them? Judges 15:7, 8.
Which of the following best answers the above question?
- Samson was appalled by this excessively brutal act.
- Samson was angry with the Philistines anyway and was ready for any excuse to do them more damage.
- It appears that Samson still had some loyalty to the woman he had loved.
- Another answer:
- All of the above.
- Have you experienced "cascading consequences" (one thing leading to another) in your live, including your spiritual life? How have you related to these consequences?
- Wednesday June 5: Counterrevenge Countered
- To avenge the death of his wife, Samson wiped out a group of Philistines, perhaps the same ones who had burned his wife. "He struck them down hip and thigh" (Judges 15:8, RSV), that is, he destroyed them completely.
- The Philistines had not retaliated directly against Samson, most likely because they were afraid of him. Now they could no longer tolerate his being on the loose. So he chose to live in an isolated place, where he could defend himself against capture.
- What was the principle on which the Philistines and Samson were operating? Judges 15:10, 11.
- Both sides were trying to do to the other what the other side had done to them. This principle of retaliation is the "ungolden rule," in contrast to Jesus' "golden rule": "Do unto others what you would have them do to you" (Matt. 7:12).
- How did the men of Judah help Samson, and how did he demonstrate his faith in God? Judges 15:12-15.
- Samson's 3,000 fellow Israelites did not intend to help him. Had they fought with him, who knows what deliverance could have been wrought. But their fear overshadowed any faith in God. Nevertheless, the cowardly Judahites unwittingly helped Samson by setting up a situation in which the Philistines were surprised. Thinking that he was theirs, the Philistines rushed upon him, but the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon Samson, and he wiped them out.
- The fact that Samson had allowed himself to be bound shows his great confidence in the strength given him by the Spirit of the Lord. He was a hero of faith (Heb. 11:32).
- Samson must have been remarkably muscular, but he was not muscle-bound. He was fast enough to kill a lion (Judges 14:6), to catch 300 jackals (Judges 15:4), and to do hand-to-hand combat against an entire army (Judges 15:15). His physical prowess was superhuman. With God's Spirit working through him, be was invincible.
- Barak had led 10,000 brave volunteers (Judges 4:10); Samson now fought alone. The spiritual deterioration of the Israelites was reflected in their shortage of courageous individuals.
- What can we accomplish when we have confidence in what the Holy Spirit can do through us? (See Acts 1:8.)
- Thursday June 6: Miracle Water
- After Samson killed 1,000 Philistines, he celebrated in the same way that Deborah and Barak had: with a poem (Judges 15:16; compare Judges 5). His poem was short, but like his riddle, it is clever. (See Judges 14:14.) It includes a wordplay on donkey and heap, which sound identical in Hebrew: Bilchi hachchamor, chamor chamoratayim ("With the jawbone of a donkey, a heap, two heaps").
- In what predicament did Samson find himself? Judges 15:18.
- Killing 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15) was hard work, even for Samson. So after his deliverance and his poem, Samson was dehydrated, in a hot country without water. He was in real trouble.
- Compare the situation of the Israelites after their deliverance from Pharaoh at the Red Sea (Exod. 14:21-31): they celebrated with a song (Exod. 15:1-21), after which they found themselves in the wilderness without water (verse 22).
- What did Samson's prayer (Judges 15:18) reveal about his dependence upon God?
- The Lord had given Samson superhuman strength, but He did not keep him from becoming weary and dehydrated. Samson had won, but without divine help, he would have died right there. He was completely dependent upon his heavenly Father, an important thing for him to understand.
- Jesus demonstrated the importance of recognizing dependence upon the heavenly Father. The Spirit led Him into the wilderness, and after 40 days of fasting, He was hungry (Matt. 4:1, 2). Then Satan tempted Him to neglect dependence upon His Father for physical needs (verses 3, 4). When the defeated foe departed, angels came and ministered to Jesus, who was weak and exhausted (Matt 4:11).
- Just as angels ministered to Jesus after His victory, and just as God provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness (Exod. 15:25), even bringing water for them out of rocks (Exod. 17:6; Numb. 20:10, 11), so God miraculously provided for Samson in answer to his prayer (Judges 15:19).
- Do you live and pray in harmony with the fact that you are dependent upon God? (See Dan. 5:23.) How can we learn to have greater dependence upon Him?
- Friday June 7:
Further study: On the need of total dependence upon God, read Ps. 127:1; Jer. 10:23; John 3:27; 15:5; 2 Cor. 3:5. Read Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, "Samson," pp. 563, 564.
- "Thousands of Israelites witnessed Samson's defeat of the Philistines, yet no voice was raised in triumph, till the hero, elated at his marvelous success, celebrated his own victory. But he praised himself, instead of ascribing the glory to God. No sooner had he ceased than he was reminded of his weakness by a most intense and painful thirst. He had become exhausted by his prodigious labors, and no means of supplying his need was at hand. He began to feel his utter dependence upon God, and to be convinced that he had not triumphed by his own power, but in the strength of the Omnipotent One.
"He then gave God the praise for his deliverance, and offered an earnest prayer for relief from his present suffering. The Lord hearkened to his petition and opened for him a spring of water. In token of his gratitude Samson called the name of the place En-hakkore, or 'the well of him that cried.' "--Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, October 6, 1881.
- Discussion Questions:
- In Wednesday's lesson, we mentioned Samson's faith in the strength given him by the Spirit of the Lord, as shown by the fact that he allowed himself to be bound. How does this idea relate to the quotation given above? Have you, like Samson, had experiences that taught you not to rely on your own abilities, but on those given to you by God?
- What kinds of problems are caused today by marriages of believers with nonbelievers? How far should parents go in trying to prevent such marriages? Can two Seventh-day Adventists marry and then experience problems of a mixed marriage due to differing levels of spiritual commitment?
Samson was a one-man army for the Lord. To use him effectively, in spite of his failures, God allowed a chain of circumstances in which he and the Philistines provoked each other. At crucial times, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him and enabled him to wreak havoc upon them. As Samson was dependent upon God's power, so are we. Only by complete trust in Him can we fulfill our mission in life.
HTML code added by Bob and Bryan Hanson.
Last updated on May 29, 1996.