A Meditation on Judges 15: 16-20

Kevin J Youngblood
When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16 And Samson said,
“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”

17 As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi. 18 And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the Lord and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore; it is at Lehi to this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years. (Judges 15:14-20)

I could not help but be amused this morning as I read this episode from Samson’s life. In particular, I chuckled at his petulant and pushy insistence that YHWH slake his thirst after his remarkable performance in battle against the Philistines. Samson is a classic example of a type-cast character. He is a brutish caricature of masculinity found frequently in world literature alternately extoled for heroism and vilified for insensitive impetuousness (e.g. Gilgamesh, Gaston). These days, of course, Samson and his ilk are public enemy number one – the source of all that is wrong with the world which makes this episode and the Samson story in general all the more critical and urgent for our time.

The Samson cycle in the book of Judges is a reminder of the remarkable variety of types of characters with whom YHWH partners to advance his holy purposes. YHWH’s relational versatility and willingness to associate with such unsavory people never ceases to amaze. While contemporary culture has given up on Samson and excluded him, God has not. By no means is this an endorsement of his testosterone driven impetuousness and his “all I have is a hammer and therefore every problem is a nail” approach to life. What is encouraging, however, is that God works with him. God values and delights in the raw energy, the sense of justice, the compulsion to act to right the perceived wrongs of the world even though they are so grossly distorted and misdirected in Samson’s life.

As I read this text and balked at Samson’s blatantly disrespectful and impatient insistence that YHWH immediately provide him with water, what shocked me most was that God complied with this infantile request without comment or rebuke. While this is not the way YHWH always, or even usually, responds to such human petulance, I found it deeply moving that he chose to respond this way on this occasion with this character. It is as if YHWH demonstrates in his relationship with Samson precisely those qualities that Samson lacks. Had YHWH pushed back against Samson’s brutish impatience, he likely would have only reinforced and exacerbated Samson’s selfishness and short-sightedness. Instead, YHWH models the gentleness and humility that he hopes one day will temper the energy and passion of Samson.

As a member of God’s family, I struggle to appreciate the variety of characters with whom I must share God’s attention and love. I am not a fan of the Samsons in God’s family and I do not understand why God uses them. But then again, I am riddled with sins and shortcomings of my own that God patiently puts up with and despite of which he uses me anyway.

As I raise two rambunctious boys of my own, I hope that I, like God, can value and delight in their raw energy, their raging passion, their compulsion to act, often without thinking, even as I try to curb it and tame it with gentleness, patience, and humility. Admittedly, when I see the “Samson” in them, I am tempted to crush it with harsh reprimands, to confront it directly and sometimes this may be appropriate. This, however, cannot be my default. I want my default to be like God’s – modeling the restraint, gentleness, humility, and thoughtfulness that they do not yet have. As God taught in his incarnation in Jesus, these things are better caught than taught. What the Law could not do, weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own son.


Thank you for your gentleness and patience with deeply flawed saints like Samson and me. Thank you for partnering with us in redemption despite our impetuousness and short-sightedness. Forgive me for my impatience with other of your children who are so different than me, whose struggles are different, whose besetting sins are different, though no better or worse than my own. Help me to show them the same love and patience you have always shown me and to trust that you are using them despite their flaws just as you are using me in spite of mine. Lord Jesus, I praise you for being the expression in flesh and blood of the Father’s profound patience, gentleness, and love. You surrounded yourself with such a motley crew of diverse disciples with antithetical politics, competing careers, and mutually misunderstood backgrounds, and yet you loved them all, valued them all, delighted in the very diversity that provoked unending conflict within their ranks. Holy Spirit, as you fell upon Samson, please fall upon me. Unlike Samson, however, never depart. I will yield to your work in my life as you remove all that must go so that my heart can be your home, my mind your orchard for cultivating your fruit.