Samson’s marriage is the matter of some debate with people who want to look at the theology of destiny. I hear a lot of people get after Samson for marrying outside the faith but there is a line in this story that even though his marriage displeased his parents, God was going to use it to seek occasion against the Philistines. The occasion then becomes something that God will use to bring about a war between Samson and the Philistines. It is here that those with a more classical theology talk about how God was running the whole thing but the text itself says nothing about God using his power to bring about any of this. All it says is that the situation pleased the Lord because now there would be a reason for Samson to fight the Philistines.
None of this requires and absolute foreknowledge or use of omnipotent power. Samson is who he is and the Philistines are who they are. God knows them both very well and just has to empower Samson and sit back and watch the show. It is simply a matter of time before the differences will cause conflict. All this situation did is speed things up a bit and God is OK with it. The only constant action of God is to give Samson his strength. The rest is all Samson and the Philistines.
The event unfold. Samson kills a lion and offers his famous riddle to the Philistines. They can’t figure it out so they go to his wife and convince her to give the answer. When Samson finds himself in the position where he needs to give them all new clothes, he goes out and kills thirty Philistines to get them. I am not so sure that Samson had lust (the text only sows him involved with three women total – his first wife, a prostitute and Delilah) problem so much as an anger problem. He was so angry he leaves his wife to go back and live with his parents and during his absence she is given to another man. When he returns he finds his wife has been given to someone else and gets angry again. This time his anger leads him to burn the fields of the Philistines using foxes and torches. The Philistines finding out the cause burn his wife and father in law in their house. Because this is not what he wanted Samson also slew them in return and although it does not say how many he killed this time the phrase ‘great slaughter’ is used. 3000 men go to try to kill Samson at the cleft of a rock and the kills 1000 of them with a jawbone of an ass. There is a miracle of God at this point in that God splits the rock so Samson can have water. For the next twenty years he judges Israel.
It should be noted that through all this story, there is no mention of God speaking to anyone to guide them. If anything all God does is give Samson his strength as long as he does not cut his hair and gives him water after a battle. God provides but leaves the decision of what to do with that strength to Samson. It is actually one of the clearest examples of God doing very little but because of the personalities and situation things come about according to his desire to liberate his people without violating anyone’s freewill . His perfect knowledge of the present is more than sufficient to bring about events with only slight nudging. This is a story where the open theist notion of God suing his power persuasively instead of coercively is clearly demonstrated.
Next: Samson (Part Three)