You'd think that with a name like Judges, this book would be about really smart people that helped settle disagreements. Sorta like the Jewish People's Court. For sure it wouldn't be as bloody as Joshua, right? Wrong. Ancient Israel had a slightly different (and much more violent) definition of the word "Judge." Take Samson for example, probably the most popular "Judge." Growing up, I always remembered hearing stories about how heroic Samson was, and how God gave him extraordinary physical strength. As I read it over now, I'm struck by his stupidity. He was basically a dumb thug and would tear you limb from limb if you ever said that to his face. If I was around back then, I'd probably call him an "imbecile" or some other word with more than two syllables, because he'd be too stupid to know what it meant.
Samson would kill anything at the drop of a hat, but he really had it out for the Philistines and wiped out large groups of them on several occasions. The Bible says that one time Samson killed 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Yikes!
However, Samson had a weakness for the ladies which led to his eventual imprisonment. He ends up marrying a Philistine woman named Delilah and she up coerces him into telling her the secret of his strength (never cutting his hair).
Samson does and says some crazy stuff. Here's a few of my favorites:
- At one point he says this to his parents: "I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife." Then wash my car and make me a sandwich! (OK, I made up that last part.)
- Before Delilah, Samson gets married to a different Philistine woman and at the wedding feast he tells a riddle to 30 dudes. They figure out the answer by cheating (they get Samson's wife to find out the answer and tell them). He responds as anyone would... goes to the next town, kills 30 completely different dudes, takes their clothes and gives them to the 30 dudes who cheated to get the answer to the riddle. Then he gives his wife away to some other dude and leaves town. C'mon, I think we've all been there, right?
- He goes back to that town to see his wife (yes, this is the same wife that he gave away) and finds out that she's with someone else (probably because he just gave her away). Again, as most people would do in a situation like that, Samson gets 300 foxes, ties them in pairs, fastens torches to their tails and lets them run loose in their fields, essentially burning down the entire food supply of the Philistines.
- Like I mentioned, Samson marries another Philistine woman named Delilah. The Philistines get her to ask him the secret of his strength. She literally asks Samson "Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued." For most people, that question in and of itself would be a red flag. Not for Samson. At first Samson makes stuff up. He tells Delilah he could be subdued by being tied down with seven bowstrings. The Philistines try that and Samson busts them up. He says he could be subdued by being tied down with new ropes. The Philistines try that and Samson busts them up. He says he could be subdued by having his hair braided. The Philistines try that and Samson busts them up. Not seeing any pattern at all, Samson finally tells Delilah that he can be subdued by having his hair cut. You can imagine Samson's surprise when the Philistines cut his hair and proceeded to take him prisoner.
All throughout this, God kept working with Samson – and that is amazing to me. If God had that much patience with Samson and all his poor choices, I have to think he has enough patience for me and mine.