1 Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” 3 Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.” (Jdg. 14:1-3)
As the narrative of Samson’s adult life opens we find him travelling to Timnah, land that originally belonged to the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:57) and was later given to the tribe of Dan (Josh. 19:43), and if that were the case at the time in which Judges 14 began our eyebrows wouldn’t have been raised. But Timnah was now Philistine territory! So, then, the immediate question becomes: what was Israel’s prospective deliverer doing traveling down to Timnah? Pursuing Philistines to expel them from the land that God had given to Israel? Nope. At least not at this point. He was either casually walking through it or hanging out in it when he saw a woman who caught his attention: one of the “daughters of the Philistines” (Jdg. 14:1b). Funny how being in the wrong place often leads to temptation. Samson did not know the Lord’s Prayer, but even Christians who are well aware of the fact that Jesus told us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” will sometimes walk right into Timnah without realizing the sin and danger that awaits there. Let Judges 14:1 be a reminder of Proverbs 4:26: “Ponder the path of your feet.” The hope is – you and I will be able to say like the psalmist: “I considered my ways and turned my feet to Your testimonies” (Ps. 119:59).
Well, Samson was so smitten with the woman that he went back to his father and mother and told them he had found ‘the one’: “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore get her for me as a wife” (vs.2b). Even if he had said those words in the nicest of tones, which he likely didn’t, it wouldn’t change the fact that he was way out line. For starters, in Old Testament Israel it was typically the fathers that arranged the marriages of their children and then made the necessary negotiations with the bride’s family, like paying the dowry, i.e. the bride price. Here Samson offered his parents no choice in the matter. He simply came home from gallivanting in enemy territory and gave his parents a forceful imperative: “get her for me as a wife.” As rude as that was, it wasn’t even the worst part of his request; and his parents likely caught on to the bigger issues behind their son’s petition. They responded by saying, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” (vs.3). They don’t come right out and say it but you’d imagine it was the concern behind the question: what Samson wanted to do was clearly against the Word of God!
The LORD had told the children of Israel in no uncertain terms that when they entered the land of Canaan they were not to intermarry with the pagan nations around them: “Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son” (Deut. 7:3). Samson seems to have shown no regard for this precept of God’s Law or the fact that his request meant asking his parents to sin and comprise obedience. Granted, the parents’ immediate attempt to deter Samson could have been better, but at least it connoted dismay. Can you imagine if they said, “Oh that’s great son, we’re so happy for you, I’m sure she’s a very nice girl with a very nice family.” While that would have borne trappings of niceness and celebratory encouragement, it would have actually been a great affront to God and a great detriment to their child. Even if the woman’s family was voted ‘Friendliest Family in Timnah’ God’s Word prohibited such a prospective union.
That’s an important lesson for Christian parents who are put in the awkward and inappropriate spot that Samson’s parents were put in. After all, New Testament Christians have a similar command to adhere to:
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” 18 “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:14-18)
These verses are as clear for New Testament Christians today as the text of Deuteronomy 7 was for Samson more than a thousand years ago. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are not to follow the example of Samson and they are to heed the instruction of Paul: do not be unequally yoked in relationships with those who do not know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. The idea of being ‘yoked’ is taken from the imagery of oxen plowing a field. Two oxen, for instance, would have a guillotine type thing put around both of their necks that would keep them moving in the same direction as they worked their master’s field. They were ‘yoked’ together in that they were bound with one another and moving in the same direction. But if the yoke were unequal, with, say, two dissimilar animals, both chaos and ineffectiveness would ensue. That is not God’s design for romantic relationships/ marriages and, by way of both further application and principle, the same exhortation applies to both friendships and partnerships.
But Samson, in many ways, was a product of his time and culture. You can see that in the way he responded to his parents’ plea. He told them, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well” (vs.3b). Or more literally, “she is right in my eyes.” Question: What is the refrain that we hear over and over towards the end of the Book of Judges? The answer: “There was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Jdg. 17:6; 21:25 emphasis added). Samson thought the Philistine woman he saw in Timnah was right in his eyes… even though she and the prospect of their relationship was not…in God’s eyes.
May you be exhorted today to (a) avoid any relationships or partnerships where you may find yourself unequally yoked and (b) avoid putting yourself into situations where you know temptation is waiting because you believe that one much greater than Samson purchased you with His own blood on a brutal cross, and for Him you have an affection that helps keep you from temptation.