- What can we learn from this chapter concerning:
(a) the folly and fruit of sin;
(b) the exultation of the ungodly at the downfall of God’s servants;
(c) God’s enduring mercy to the penitent?
- Contrast the sad end to Samson’s life with its bright dawn in the sincere desire of his parents to rear him aright (13:8, 12).
Can you suggest reasons why Samson fulfilled so little of his potential?
Under what conditions is it possible for the Christian to exhibit similar powerlessness?
- What does the incident of 15:18, 19 teach regarding God’s ability to supply every need of his servants?
Cf. 1 Kgs. 17:4, 9; Phil. 4:19.
Note. The apathetic acceptance of he Philistine yoke by the men of Judah was the most dangerous feature of their period.
Samson’s one-man activity was used of God to bring the danger of complete Philistine domination out into the open.
- Note the contradictory elements in Samson’s character.
He was a judge in Israel, yet his life-story centres around his dubious relationship with Philistine women.
His unshorn locks denoted a Nazirite consecrated to God, yet his chief aim was to please himself.
How many more such contrasts can you discover?
How important is it that we should be consistent in our Christian profession?
Cf. 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thess. 5:22.
- How did Samson’s Nazirite calling differ from that of the ordinary Nazirite vow? See Num. 6:1-5, 13-18.
- Observe Manosh’s concern (verses 8, 12) for guidance on the subject of the upbringing of the promised child.
What lessons can presents learn from this?
Cf. Prov. 22:6; 2 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 12:5-11.
- What evidence of faith do you find in Manoah and his wife?
And how did the wife’s faith show itself to be greater than that of her husband?
- Read the story of Jephthah’s vow in the light of Eccles. 5:2-6; Deut.23:21-23.
What does this story teach about:
(a) the sacredness of a promise to God, and
(b) the necessity of considering what such a promise may involve?
- Compare Jephthah’s treatment of the Ephraimites with that of Gideon in a similar situation (8:1-3).
What light does this incident throw on:
(a) the Ephraimites,
Note. Whilst all earlier commentators and historians accepted that Jephthah offered up his daughter in sacrifice, well-meaning scholars from the middle Ages onwards have tried to reduce the maiden’s fate to one of perpetual virginity. But the anguish of Jephthah (verse 35), the two-month reprieve (verses 37, 38) and the institution of an annual four-day feast would be inappropriate in such a situation. The plain statement of verse 39 must be allowed to stand
- Why did God, at first, refuse to deliver Israel from the Ammonites?
What caused the change in his subsequent attitude?
Cf. Jer. 18:5-11.
- What indications are there in this section that Jephthah, in spite of his unfortunate background, possessed nobility, piety and faith?
- Summarize Jephthah’s answer to the Ammonites.
To what extent do you find his arguments valid?
- Consider in this story:
(a) the sin of Gideon in association with a Shechemite women and having a son by her (see 8:31; cf. Deut. 7:3);
(b) the sin of the men of Shechem (9:4, 5, 16-18);
(c) the sin of Abimelech (9:1-5). Compare verses 56 and 57 and consider how in each the words of Num. 32:23b were fulfilled.
- Shechem was a Canaanite city which, most probably, had been assimilated into Israel.
What does this chapter teach us about the dangers of such a compromise?
Note. Verses 7-15. The first part of the parable contains a reference to 8:22, 23. Verse 15 presents the incongruous picture of great trees seeking shelter under a lowly bramble, and being destroyed in a forest fire that originated in the very thorn bush whose shade they had sought. The point of the parable is not that the Shechemites had chosen a king, but that they had selected the wrong person to rule over them.