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Keeping Vows

or not.

Judges 14:5–9 (ESV)

Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring. Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson’s eyes.

After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.

The Samson era will be relentlessly different from all the previous ones. It started out different.

One thing that's missing that all the others had—Israel crying out to the LORD for relief from their oppressors. This time, the Israelites accommodated their oppression and didn’t cry out.

That explains a lot. Samson getting a wife from the Philistines seems absurd, but it’s not. The Israelites were mingling with the Philistines. They were being assimilated.

So, Samson comes to visit Timnah and that’s no big deal—except for the lion! Even that is no big deal to Samson. You’d think that after his battle with a lion, he’d want to tell the tale of what just happened.

But he keeps the whole thing secret, even from his parents. This will turn out to be important.

After some time Samson returns to see his fiancé. This is so ordinary that he takes a detour to see what became of the lion he killed. Oddly enough, he finds a beehive in the carcass, which is highly unusual—unusual enough to make one wonder what’s going on.

And, sure enough, something is going on. What Samson does next is the key to the whole story. He touches the body of the dead lion. That breaks the Nazarite vow.

“When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, … All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins. … he shall not go near a dead body.” — Numbers 6:2b,4, 6b (ESV)

Samson’s cavalier attitude about the Nazarite vow is astonishing. Samson shouldn’t have been in a vineyard in the first place. The lion may have been sent by God to distract him from breaking the vow by eating grapes.

Overpowering a lion isn’t normal, and Samson knows why he’s not normal. He has an incredible gift, but he doesn’t seem to care. Keeping the vow isn’t all that burdensome, yet he tosses it.

If he’d told his parents where he got the honey they would have flipped out.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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