The damage done to the Philistine crops by the fiery foxes was extensive. Samson had orchestrated destruction on a grand scale upon their agricultural efforts. The flames consumed the stacked and standing grain, as well as damaging the olive orchards. The Philistines swiftly looked to attribute this disaster to somebody. Who has done this? This terrible loss was traced back to the family in Timnah that Samson had married into. Note that Samson is not known as an Israelite, instead being called the son-in-law of the Timnite.
How are you known?
…the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. Judges 15:6
Samson’s wife and family are treated brutally by their own people – in a way that makes us grimace with disgust. It is an ugliness that doesn’t bare dwelling on. Yet our world is full of such cruelty and the wrath of man. It always has been. What sets God’s people apart is their desire to show grace and gentleness, to be an agent of blessing in an often-brutal world.
As we contemplate Samson’s reaction to this brutality against his wife and her family, again we note no mention of God. One of the key lessons we can learn from Samson’s story is the nature of revenge and escalation. We spectate as things get worse and worse for Samson and everyone involved, the tragedy is coming to a crescendo. We can listen closely to Samson to hear of his inner emotions.
…I will be avenged on you, and after that I will quit. Judges 15:7
These are not the words of a national deliverer. These are the words of an accidental warrior. These are the words of man who has become embroiled in bloodshed. Samson wants out of this cycle of retaliation, on his own terms. He wants to leave the last blow. That is a decidedly human trait.
We know little about Samson’s third attack on the Philistines. It is captured in half a sentence:
And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow… Judges 15:8
The exact meaning of this expression is unclear. How many people did Samson attack? Was it a general assault upon the Philistines or a targeted attack on the people of Timnah, those responsible for his wife’s death? We later find out how wounded Samson was by the death of his wife – as he describes his loss as a great blow:
As they did to me, so have I done to them. Judges 15:11
What do we know of revenge and retaliation?
Should we follow the example of Samson? The message is loud and clear from the example of Jesus and the New Testament scriptures. We are to be slow to anger. The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20). We are to bless those who persecute us. Live in harmony with one another. Repay no one evil for evil. Live peaceably with all. Never avenge, but leave it to the wrath of God (taken from Romans 12:14-20).
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21