When we come to the judgeship of Samson, we learn from out of all the previous judges, his was especially unique. He was called by God from before his birth to fulfill his roll as a judge. Both he and his mother, at least for her until she gave birth to him, were under the Nazarite vow. Samson would live a life-long commitment to the vow, at least for the most part as we shall see. But most importantly, Samson’s birth was unique because it was “miraculous.” His mother had been barren since her marriage to his father, Manoah, and she conceives after God’s pronouncement.
Samson’s birth and eventual ministry is entirely orchestrated by the LORD. He had to move to deliver His people, because they wouldn’t attempt to leave their circumstances. They lived under the dominion of the Philistines, and it becomes apparent as we move through the record of Samson’s life and judgeship that Israel was content and comfortable with that arrangement. God was going to move, however, to disturb the peace. He wants them separate from the Philistines.
Coming to Judges 14, we have the first instance of Samson acting in his judgeship. It is an event totally driven by the LORD. The section really begins in 13:25 where the text states that the “Spirit of the LORD began to stir him.” The word “stir” has the idea of compelling. God was directing Samson to be an instigator that would make the Philistines angry with Israel. Coupled with Judges 14:4, we see that God was moving upon Samson, because He was seeking an occasion, or opportunity, against the Philistines.
The catalyst for God’s occasion against the Philistines was a Philistine girl.
Samson goes to Timnah, a town about 6 miles west of Samon’s hometown. While there, he sees a Philistine girl and is immediately smitten by her. He returns home to tell his parents to get her for him as a wife. His parents, as any good God-fearing parents would be, are distraught by his request. Doesn’t he want to marry a nice Jewish girl? Instead he goes to an uncircumcised Philistine girl, which is to say, a girl who is outside the Covenant the God made with Israel.
Samson brashly follows his flesh and lusts. “She is right in my eye,” he says when he demands his parents get her for him as his wife. The comment speaks to what he values most, outward appearance. He is also willing wishes to align himself with a pagan culture. Reluctantly, his parents approve.
Samson and his parents travel to Timnah to ask if the girl’s family would be willing to give the girl in marriage. At some point, Samson is alone in a vineyard, which raises concern about him violating his Nazarite vow. Why is he alone in a vineyard when he isn’t to have any wine? Never the less, he is by himself when a lion attacks him. The Spirit of the LORD rushes upon him and he kills the lion with his bare hands.
At some point later, he goes to make wedding preparations, and so he happens to turn to see the dead lion. Bees had made a hive in the carcass, which is a strange occurrence, because bees don’t normally make hives in rotting corpses. Violating the Nazarite vow of touching unclean things, like a dead body, Samson scrapes up the honey and eats it, and even gives some to his parents without telling them from where he got it.
When he gets to Timnah to be married, he prepares a feast for the men of the town, which it can only be guessed that involved the use of alcohol. Already Samson is on the brink of becoming a seriously compromised man.
As is the custom, Samson is appointed 30 companions. They were “brought” to Samson, which has the idea of being conscripted, or made to be with him. Men who were more than likely told to keep an eye on him, but they give the appearance of being around him in goodwill. He proposes a riddle to them based upon his dead lion with the honey. Obviously, Samson is the only one who could possibly know because he was alone.
Irritated that they could not figure out the riddle, the Philistines tell his wife that she is to find out the answer or they will burn her house down and kill her family. So she did what all manipulative women do: she nagged him until he broke. He tell her the answer and she in turn tells the 30 men. They in turn tell Samson the answer.
Angered by his loss, he now has a need to pay off a substantial gambling debt. He does it by having the Spirit of the LORD rush upon him and by picking a fight with the Philistines. Travelling nearly 20 miles away, he goes to Ashkelon and single-handily kills 30 men! And unbelievable event. He takes their garments and gives them to his companions.
Obviously, the brutal killing of 30 Philistine men by the hands of just one Jewish man would not go unnoticed, and this becomes the event that eventually brings God to using Samson to destroy the Philistines.