In the story of Samson the angel’s version of what a Nazarite does says nothing about not touching dead things. In fact, it openly allows for eating the meat of clean beasts. The words of the angel were that he was to have no wine or strong drink, to not eat any unclean thing, and that no razor would touch his head.
In our feminized day of emasculated men we have started to view Samson as a villain who uselessly kills people even in his death. I find that view repulsive.
Samson appears in Judges 14. The entire preceding book of Judges is a single scenario repeated over and over. The scenario is summarized well in Judges 2.
Judges 2:15 Whithersoever they [Israel] went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them; and they were greatly distressed.
16 Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.
17 And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them, they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so.
18 And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord hearkened because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.
Thus when we read
Judges 3:31 And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox-goad; and he also delevered Israel.
We are reading about a hero, Shamgar, who was one of the righteous men the Lord rose up and granted miraculous power to deliver Israel.
This theme in judges repeats itself again and again up to the story of Samson. When the Israelites are wicked they are delivered into the hands of other nations. When they repent in their great distress then the Lord raises up righteous men and, because of their righteousness, gave such men divinely endowed power to deliver Israel.
Does the Lord grant wicked men power to deliver Israel by divine power? No. That is the whole point of that verse “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only on the principles of righteousness”. You don’t get divine manifestations of power from God for being bad.
But most of the accounts I have heard of Samson in the last decade have concluded that he was a horrible man whose death was a meaningless gesture that was an affront to God. These accusations seemed to be founded in the ideals of our very effeminized society and the modern emasculated man. There are completely wrong.
Among the previous chapters in judges are a constant stream of men (and women) delivering Israel by violence from her oppressors. In the strength of the Lord Shamgar slays six hundred philistines with an ox goad (which is probably no more than a pointed stick used to prod and ox along). Ehud slays king Eglon with a long knife hidden upon his thigh and delivers Israel from Moab by warfare. Deborah directs Barak who delivers Israel by warfare against Sisera and his 900 chariots of Iron. The Lord delivers Sisera himself into the hands of the woman Jael, who slays him by pounding a tent spike through his temples into the ground as he sleeps, and then decapitates him, for which act the prophetess Deborah includes her in a scriptural song of praise. Gideon is called by an angel to deliver Israel at a later date. Jephthah drives back the children of Ammon and does all that he swears to the Lord he will do, even concerning his only child, a daughter.
We read all these stories of the Lord putting Israel into bondage for years at a time when they are wicked, and then delivering Israel by righteous judges that he raises up for that purpose. And then we read the story of Samson and start calling him names because he slays a large number of philistines, even in his death.
Look, Samson was a good guy for the spirit of the Lord to fall upon him so that he slew a Lion with his bare hands as if the Lion was a goat’s kid. The spirit of the Lord has never fallen on anyone I know of today in anything like that much power. Had the Lord wanted Samson to prophesy in such power, or to see visions, he would have, but the Lord called him to destroy in that strength – specifically to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines who had ruled over them 40 years. It was an angel that said to Samson’s parents:
Judges 13:5 For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head; for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
When Samson sees Timnath and desires her to wife, his parents object, but the Lord says it is of him. The Lord says he is inspiring it to create an occasion against the Philistines. The Lord does that sometimes. He creates offenses among men to protect or deliver his followers. We don’t know it. But, yes, the Lord arranges occasions of offense on purpose. That should not be a surprise. He says as much. He did so here to begin to deliver Israel.
Yes a dead lion would be considered unclean under the law of Moses. But the Lord did not apparently consider eating the honey to be a violation of his covenant. For the Lord stood by Samson after he ate the honey.
The first place we see something that we can clearly mark as wrong in the eyes of the Lord is after Samson has judged Israel 20 years when he goes in unto a harlot. Up to that point we are seeing the offense that the Lord laid out rolling forth to the destruction of many of the philistines as well as many of their crops. This is not particularly different than the Lord delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians using plagues, except he has sent Samson instead.
The Lord destroyed Sodom by fire from heaven, and he destroyed the Midianites by the sword of the Israelites acting under his command. Both Sodom and Midian were so wicked the Lord considered them worthy of destruction. Which method he used is, effectively, irrelevant. And whether he sent miraculous plagues to destroy the Philistines just as he destoyed Egypt, or instead gave miraculous power to a good man to destroy the Philistines is equally irrelevant.
Not long after the harlot we have Delilah, and certainly Samson pays the price in full. We look back at Samson almost with indignation. I am curious what we would think if the same punishment was laid on a man who did the same things today – to have his eyes put out and to grind in the prison house.
Yes, the punishment God appointed was just. But it was a punishment we could not endure. We would revolt if the punishment for adultery was to have one’s eyes put out and to grind as a slave in the prison house. Samson was right enough with the Lord for the Lord to pour his spirit out mightily upon Samson. Certainly such light came with greater knowledge and Samson knew better than to do that which led to offending the Lord so. And with such knowledge the Lord poured out severe punishment.
And there is more to it. When I read of a man whose birth was announced by an angel, and around whom what we think of as the normal laws of physics seem to be as pliable as putty when the spirit of the Lord comes upon him, then I am hesitant to speak ill of him, particularly when such power has returned to him near his death. Honestly, I think his election was made sure, and that is why the Lord allowed his misbehavior near the end of his life without God withdrawing his spirit from Samson until his hair was cut.
When the spirit of the Lord comes upon a man like that, we should not trifle with the account we give of him.
But we should recognize that when the Lord returns Samson’s strength, that Samson has repented in the Lord’s eyes and has again won the Lord’s favor. In fact Samson is again doing precisely the work the Lord called Samson to do while he was yet in the womb. He kills more Philistines in his death than all that he killed in his life. If that is what the Lord called him to do from the womb, we should put aside our stupidly effeminized cultural eyes to judge his final acts as “meaningless violence”.