Reading: Judges 12-15
The story of Samson is one of the more entertaining and at times perplexing accounts in the Bible. He definitely does not have the resume one might look for in a leader of God's people. In one of his lack luster decisions, a decision to marry a Philistine woman, his parents were confused but the narrator let's us in on a clue.
(His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.) Judges 14:4
After a string of events we arrive at that confrontation, his wife having been killed by the Philistines along with her father. They are out to get Samson now. His own people, the Jews, were willing to hand him over to them out of fear. They were trying to save their own skins. “Don't you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us?” they asked Samson, pointing out that he was putting them in a risky position. They inform Samson that they have come to hand him over to the Philistines.
Of course, Samson could have defeated them, but they were not the enemy, they were the very ones God intended to deliver through Samson. So Samson requests,
Samson said, “Swear to me that you won't kill me yourselves.” 13“Agreed,” they answered. “We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. 14As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. 15Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. 16Then Samson said, “With a donkey's jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I have killed a thousand men.” (Judges 15:12-16)
There is some real humor here, that is probably missed in translation, but not completely. The NIV's “I have made donkeys of them” probably captures the idea about as good as we can, but tames it a bit more than I imagine Samson said it. (A man who just slew a thousand men is probably not going to worry about the saltiness of the word ass, which serves well the double meaning. Young's Literal Translation might help us a bit. The [ ] indicate my expansion to make obvious what is likely to have been intended.
With a jaw-bone of the ass – an ass upon asses [the jawbone of the ass upon the asses I just killed] – with a jaw-bone of the ass I have smitten a thousand men.'
So it seems that Samson was saying that he made an ass (fool) out them with the jawbone of an ass. Donkey seems to loose the flavor a bit, since nobody uses that as a term of derogation. But think about what Samson did, and how he explains it. “With the folly of a dead donkey's jawbone, I conquered those into whose hands I had been delivered.” It is here that we see how this story points us to the cross.
Christ was also delivered into the hands of the enemies of God's people, by His own people. Unlike Samson, he did not have to specify, “don't kill me, only tie me up,” for Christ was conquering death itself. In fact, it was into death's hands that he was delivered. And through the folly of the cross, a picture of death and weakness, symbolic of the folly of those who hung there because of their crimes, Christ made an end of death. Christ declared, death to death— death upon death through death.
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