Samson’s Spectacular Sin

In the book Spectacular Sins, John Piper writes about how God uses even (and especially) his people’s most tragic sins to work his global purposes for the glory of his Son, and for his people’s good. Judges 14 picks up on the tune.

There Samson bids his parents secure him a wife, a particular Philistine woman who has caught his eye. And, as you probably know, in ancient Israel, the Philistines are usually the bad guys. This marriage would be worse than Montagues and Capulets.

His parents, good Israelites, push back—but not as strongly as we might expect. Their response is surprising restrained: “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go and take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”

But Samson has made up his sinful mind. “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” (Judges 14:13).

Yikes. “Right in my eyes” is not a phrase to let pass your lips, especially when someone might record it for Scripture. Exhibit A is Eve, who listened to the serpent, and then saw that the off-limits tree “was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Absalom shows a similar kind of decisional rebellion and self-reliance, over against God-reliance, in 2 Samuel 17:4. In strategizing against his father David, he hears Ahithophel’s advice, and the text says, “the advice seemed right in the eyes of Absalom and all the elders of Israel.”

And, back to Samson, his brash self-reliance sets off a refrain in the latter part of the book of Judges. After 14:3, Samson’s phrase is echoed in 17:6, and then the last line of the book sums up the whole mess: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

It is a serious mistake for Samson to take a wife from among the unbelieving Philistines, but God hasn't lost control. The very next verse (14:4) gives us God’s shocking sovereignty over sin:

[Samson’s] father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.

And so that we don’t miss it, verse 7 tells us again that “she was right in Samson’s eyes.” Samson is a rebellious sinner, his parents are poor guides, and all the while God is on his throne, bringing to pass his great purposes for the salvation of his chosen people, even (and especially) in their spectacular sins. Even in his downward spiral of sin, it would be “the Spirit of the LORD” who would rush upon Samson to bring about God’s victory for his people over the Philistines (14:6, 19; 15:14).

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.