Women of the Bible – Hannah

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Hannah – her name means “gracious or favor”

Her story is found in 1 Samuel 1 & 2

Ideal Motherhood

Talk about irony. The Old Testament woman who most personifies ideal motherhood – Hannah – almost didn’t become a mother at all. Infertility tested her to the very core of her being. But when she was pressed to the breaking point, she got down on her knees and prayed. Nothing evil came out of her mouth. No complaints. No whining. No entitlement. Instead, we see a grateful worshipper of God who changes her own life (and her nation) with one heartfelt prayer.

Motherhood. A pretty thankless job. No little girl grows up thinking I can’t wait to change diapers, wipe snotty noses, constantly correct and teach and referee disagreements. But mothers are makers of men. – architects of the next generation. Hannah only had Samuel for three years but those three years set him on God’s path. Research says it is in the first three years that 90% of the the personality is formed – so mothers matter. Really.

A mother’s character (or lack thereof) shows up in the man she raises. It’s interesting to note that in the Old Testament many of those evil kings mentioned had ungodly, unbelieving moms; some of them even mentioned by name. But Hannah, a woman of prayer, raised a man of prayer who later said to his people,

“As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.
I will teach you the good and right way”.

Barren Women

“The Lord had closed her womb.” Hard words to read. Why would God deny a woman her heartfelt desire for children? Hannah was only one of several women in the Old Testament narrative who had to wait on God’s perfect timing to conceive. Her womb was empty at a time when her country was empty – gone was faithfulness, holiness had departed and godliness was a rare find. Even in the priesthood. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phineas, were evil men who stole God’s offerings and slept with women who came to worship.

Hannah was LIKE some of these barren women of the Bible who came before her and yet she was also distinctly UNLIKE those other women who also bore famous sons. Let’s look at the differences.

Hannah v. Sarah

1 Samuel doesn’t say. We don’t know if Hannah encouraged Elkanah to take a second wife because of her own barrenness (like Sarah did) or if that was Elkanah’s idea? Either way, it doesn’t matter. Hannah handled the whole second wife problem way better than Sarah. She patiently endured her rival’s constant harping; demonstrating great self control. Sarah beat her rival and set her packing.

Interestingly, both second wives handled things about the same way. Penninah, like Hagar was not the beloved wife even though she was the one bearing children. Both Penninah and Hagar flaunted their children before the barren first wife instead of treating her with kindness. Both were haughty and proud instead of grateful for the gift of their children. Instead of seeking to become a godly woman – like Hannah – Penninah seemed to enjoy using her “gift of sarcasm” taunting her rival with unkind words meant to wound.

Hannah v. Rebekah

Like Rebekah, prayer was involved in Hannah’s conception. Scripture says that Isaac prayed for Rebekah’s barrenness to be removed. Unlike Rebekah, scripture records that Hannah went directly to the Lord and prayed for herself pouring out her heart to God. All her anguish. All her fear. All her pain. She openly and transparently talked to the One who truly understood her.

We learn some things about prayer from Hannah.  First, she went to the temple to kneel in prayer. She wanted to be close to God and in her day, that’s where He was said to reside. Second, she shows us that silent prayer (not the norm in her day) is just as effective as prayer spoken out loud. Even though Eli criticized her because her mouth was moving but no words were coming out, he ended up blessing her in the end.

Third, Hannah prays a radical prayer. She understands the sovereignty of God. She doesn’t insult Him by asking for a small favor. Her God is a rewarder of those who believe! He owns it all and she is asking for a real miracle. She doesn’t pray vaguely. She prays for a very specific request and her prayer ends up being a turning point in history. Samuel, born in answer to prayer, was destined to replace the corrupt leadership of his day.

What moved her to such a prayer? Suffering. Hannah’s wretchedness from Penninah’s goading was the catalyst for desperate, faith-filled prayer. After Eli’s benediction Hannah’s countenance changed. She was at peace. She believed even though she didn’t have what she desired yet. She had placed it all in God’s hands.

Hannah v Rachel

Hannah and Rachel were both loved by their husbands. Penninah and Leah, not so much. Of both Hannah and Rachel scripture says that God “remembered” them. God isn’t some old, doddering man in heaven who forgets He has children. When scripture says He remembered Hannah and Rachel it means that their problem of barrenness moved to the top of his To Do list, to the forefront of His mind. It was time for Him to act.

Unlike Rachel who railed at Jacob, “Give me children, or I die!” Hannah leaned against her husband’s chest and accepted his comfort as she wept. I always thought that his words “Why are you so sad? After all, you’ve got me.” were a tad insensitive, the words of a macho man. But maybe his words gently prodded Hannah’s spirit, turning her obsessive focus off what she didn’t have back to what she did have. Maybe her husband’s loving words were the wakeup call that sent her to the temple to pray.

Unlike Rachel, who demanded a child, Hannah was much more humble. She considered her child on loan from the Lord; a gift from God. She asked for a child selflessly – not to win a competition as Rachel did. Hannah determined to give this child back to the Lord. In the book of Numbers we learn that women could only make vows if their husbands approved of the vow. Elkanah obviously approved of Hannah’s vow since he allowed her to keep it. What a loving relationship they had – making life and family decisions together.

Hannah raised Samuel to let him go.  Technically, all moms have to do that.  She just had to do it earlier than most women. She gets what she asks for – a son – but is not afraid to keep her promise and surrender him. Like Jochebed placing her baby in the basket in a river full of crocodiles, Hannah releases her three year old to passive Eli and his evil sons. But God rewards such faith.  It is only after she gives up Samuel that she is able to conceive more children.

God is waiting for someone to truly believe Him. To take Him at His Word. Hannah did. Her faith freed God to abundantly bless her more than she could ever ask or think. From the verse where it says she made Samuel a little coat every year, most commentaries assume Hannah just got to see her son once a year. But Elkanah was a devout man. The devout had to report three times a year to the temple (plus his annual levitical service time) and they only lived some 15-20 miles away. It is quite probable that she got to see her son more than once a year. But more importantly, from the text we see that Samuel returns home when he is grown. His government seat is in Ramah. Hannah’s hometown. What she gave up willingly, returned to her.

How is Jesus Involved in the Story of Hannah?

Unlike most of the Bible Women who came before her, Hannah’s boy is not in the line of Christ. Yet Hannah’s life foreshadows the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Hannah gives birth to the last judge: a deliverer, a kingmaker. Mary gives birth to The Deliverer, The King, The Judge.

Scripture says very similar things about both Jesus and Samuel like: they both “grew up before the Lord.”Both women had to give up their sons. Both were women of prayer who knew God intimately. Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2 and Mary’s magnificat are very similar.  John MacArthur calls Hannah’s prayer “a masterpiece of theological understanding.” not mere academic knowledge but intimate knowledge of God a combination of love and wonder.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Where are you barren or experiencing barrenness in your life?
  2. Do you have someone who constantly taunts you as Penninah did Hannah? How to do react?
  3. Would you be willing to give up your three year old as Hannah did? If not, what is holding you back from total surrender to God?

Prayer:

There is no rock like our God! Lord of Hosts, help us to be like Hannah and turn to you first in prayer, not as a last resort. Thank you that you hear us and we can tell you everything that is in our hearts. You have made us strong. We rejoice because you delight to rescue us. No one is holy like you, O Lord. You will protect your faithful ones. Amen.

The Bottom Line

Things I learned from Hannah: Graciousness in suffering.


Women of the Bible – Ruth

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Ruth – her name means “beautiful friend”

Her story is found in the Book of Ruth in the Bible

Ruth is standing at a crossroads. Literally. Will she turn back, play it safe and stay in her homeland? Or will she risk all, step out in faith, and travel with Naomi to Bethlehem? The logical decision is to head back home to Moab – back to her family, friends and all that is familiar. There’s not much chance of remarrying and having children in a country where she will be a poor widow, despised and rejected because of her race. Her sister-in-law, Orpah, gives in to Naomi’s persuasive arguments and turns back to her people and to her god. But Ruth takes the risk. She clings to empty, bitter Naomi and says:

Do not persuade me to leave you or go back and not follow you.
For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live;
your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.
May Yahweh punish me, and do so severely,
if anything but death separates you and me.

I love that Ruth’s famous words – oft quoted at wedding ceremonies everywhere – were actually spoken by a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law; one of the most maligned and trickiest relationships to negotiate ever. In our culture mother-in-laws are the punchline for a joke.

“Two men were in a pub. One says to his friend, “My mother-in-law is an angel.” His friend replies, “You’re lucky. Mine is still alive.”  OR  God said, “I can’t be everywhere so I created Mother.”  The devil said, “I can’t be everywhere, so I created Mother-in-Law.”

On Moabites and Mother-in-laws…

I’m married but I’ve never had a mother-in-law (MIL). Not really. My husband was 10 when his mom died. His dad didn’t remarry until my man was heading out to college, so his step-mom never got chance to “mother” him. When we got married, she was pregnant with my hubbie’s youngest sister and I had our first child a year later. (Aunt Sarah was only 1 year older than her niece, Naomi. Yes, I confess, I named my daughter Naomi Ruth. I’m a bit fond of this whole story).

Instead of enemies, my MIL and I became friends, raising daughters together. She never got into that whole “you’re not good enough for my son” thing. She was loving and supportive; an incredible role model. She loved and trusted God and encouraged that belief in her children and grandkids. She was a one of a kind of woman whose sudden death grieved me deeply. She inspired the same kind of love the biblical Ruth had for Naomi. I think if she and I had been standing at those crossroads I could’ve said Ruth’s words…

Wherever…

“Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you live I will live.” Ruth’s wherever was Bethlehem. A place where she would always be known as “Ruth the Moabitess.”

What does it mean to be a Moabitess? (If you’re interested, check out this artifact that confirms the biblical text regarding the Moabites – The Moabite Stone)

  • Your People/My People – Remember Lot’s Wife?  Her daughters were just as unbelieving as their mom. Fearing they’d never have children, they got their dad drunk and slept with him. Moab was the son of an incestuous relationship between Lot and his eldest daughter. (Genesis 19) Not a great beginning for Ruth’s people.
  • Your God/My God – Moabites were called “the people of Chemosh” – their angry, bloody god who demanded human sacrifice to gain his favor. God called Chemosh the abomination of Moab. It’s easy to understand why Ruth may have been interested in the God of Naomi who is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.
  • Enemies – When the Israelites were in their midst of their wilderness wanderings, Moab would not let them pass through their country. God had said to the Israelites: “Do not harass Moab, nor contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.” But Moab and Midian, both relatives of Israel, had no such injunction against attacking Israel. They joined forces to try and harm Israel by hiring Balaam to curse them. But God would not allow Balaam to curse. Balaam helped anyway by encouraging the Moabites to send treacherous women into the Israelite’s camp to seduce the men away from God.
  • Unwelcome – Moabites were not welcome “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord forever.”

Ruth the Risk-taker

They say with great risk comes great reward. Ruth is proof.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11:6

Your God will be My God – Ruth made a statement of faith. She believed in Naomi’s God. Actually she showed more faith that Naomi and her husband had. Instead of running away when things got tough, she risked taking the long and perilous journey with Naomi.  Then she risked going to glean in the fields in order to provide for her mother-in-law. It was dangerous to be around the men gathering the grain but God sent her to the right field and to the right man, Boaz. She risked following Naomi’s crazy advice. It was pretty “bold and unconventional” going to the threshing floor and laying at the feet of Boaz – essentially proposing to him. She risked marrying an older man.

What did Ruth get for all this risk?  Great reward. A husband. A future. A baby. A blessing for Naomi. And she ends up in the line of Christ.

How is Jesus Involved in the Story of Ruth?

Ruth is one of several Gentile women in the line of Christ. In her story we get an Old Testament glimpse of what Jesus would accomplish in the New Testament: salvation for all who would believe on His name, whether Jew or Gentile. Ruth is a preview of Ephesians 3:6 which says: ” …the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

The book of Ruth is read aloud at the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Pentecost or Shavuot (aka the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Latter Firstfruits) is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. Shavuot is traditionally a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting offerings for the new grain of the summer wheat harvest in Israel. To Christians it is the festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Ruth left all that was familiar to follow God. What risks have you taken for Him?
  2. Have you ever continued to gently love a friend who was as cranky and bitter as Naomi was or did you just stay away from her?
  3. Scripture says Ruth happened to go to the right field at just the right time. Have you seen God’s hand working in your life in similar ways?

Prayer:

Let’s pray Ann Spangler’s prayer: Lord, thank you for the blessing of friends who, by sharing their lives with us, double our joy and halve our sorrows. Help me to cherish the friends you’ve given me and to become the kind of friend others will cherish; a woman who listens, encourages, and keeps confidences; a woman who knows how to laugh and how to cry who is loyal, forgiving, and loving. Amen.

The Bottom Line

Things I learned from Ruth: God rewards those who believe.


Women of the Bible – Naomi

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Naomi

Naomi – her name means “pleasant”

Her story is found in the Book of Ruth in the Bible

This morning my pastor said the book of Ruth is like a flower growing on a heap of manure. The book of Judges – the manure – actually starts well. God’s people are obeying His command and setting out to possess the Promised Land. But they don’t complete the job. The book ends abruptly with the horrific story of The Levite’s Concubine and the war that ensues. In between we see a cycle of sin (see picture below) repeated over and over again. Each time the people sink a little lower, a little farther from God, as they all “do what was right in their own eyes” instead of obeying God.

The little Book of Ruth gives us a much needed shot of hope after such a dark tale. As I read Naomi’s story, however, I couldn’t help but notice it, too, doesn’t start very well. In fact, Naomi’s life seems to follow the same sin cycle found in the book of Judges. The difference is…there’s a better ending!

cycle of sin

 

Serving the Lord

Naomi and her husband, Elimilech, were God’s people living in Bethlehem. It is not known who wrote down their story but we can speculate from the genealogy at the end that it was penned by someone in King David’s court to show the king’s lineage. Scholars think that Naomi and Elimilech lived some time between the judges Jephthah and Samson – some very dark times.

Falling in to Sin

  • Sin #1 – Elimilech decides to move his family out of the Promised Land to the land of Moab because of the severe famine in the land.

Herbert Lockyer says – “If the famine was a judgment upon the nation, Elimelech should have repented, tried to have helped his fellow countrymen back to God and prayed for the removal of the scourge.”

Elimilech’s name meant “My God is King” but he was like everyone else in the time of the judges – he did what was right in his own eyes. To him it was best to move where there was no famine instead of trusting God in the midst of the famine. If God had truly been his king, he would’ve stayed put in Bethlehem – the House of Bread. Moabites were distant relatives of the Israelites who did not greet or help them when they entered the Promised Land. They were not friends.

  • Sin #2 – Israelites were not supposed to intermarry with foreign women who would lead them away from their faith in God. Naomi’s sons Mahlon and Chilion both break God’s law and take foreign wives. Naomi and her family should’ve known better but Mosaic laws were ignored during the times of the judges.

Oppression

Just let the magnitude of what happens to Naomi sink in for a moment as you read these verses:

Naomi’s husband Elimelech died, and she was left with her two sons.  Her sons took Moabite women as their wives: one was named Orpah and the second was named Ruth. After they lived in Moab about 10 years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two children and without her husband.
Ruth 1:3-5

I believe God wants to bless us. I also believe that when we disobey Him, it ties His Hands. He’s holy. He can’t bless us if we’re deliberately sinning against Him. We might succeed for a time – Naomi spent 10 years in Moab – but ultimately we will fail when we are walking outside the will of God. God will do whatever it takes to turn us around and get our attention. Even if it means stripping us of everything that we love.

Many times, I have prayed with a woman like Naomi – a woman who is struggling with depression, anxiety, feeling like God is not answering her prayers. There’s usually a lot of tears. Almost every time after I lift her up in prayer, when we sit and talk, that’s when it comes out. She is deliberately sinning against God – breaking one of his commandments – usually to get her own way. It breaks my heart. I want to shake her and say, “Stop disobeying God! Your prayers won’t be answered until you get right with Him.”

Even though we currently live in the “age of grace,” I believe the principles found in Deuteronomy 11:26-28 still stand. God said in the Old Testament: If you believe and obey then I will bless you, if you don’t, then I will curse you. There’s corroboration in the New Testament – Jesus said: “If you love me, you will do what I command.” (A disclaimer here – I don’t think believing and obeying means you’ll have a “perfect” life and get everything you want. God knows what’s best for you and His blessings sometimes come in odd packages, like pain.)

Cry Out/Repent

Repentance in Christianity means a sincere turning away, in both the mind and heart, from self to God. It involves a change of mind that leads to action–the turning away from a sinful course to God.”

In spite of all her pain, Naomi does not turn around, repent and go home until she hears that the famine is over in Bethlehem (a very pragmatic reason). You have to admire her, though. She’s still angry with God but steps out in faith anyway returning to her people and her God. The return costs her something. Change always costs you something. One daughter-in-law stays by her side but she loses yet another family member when Orpah turns back. The journey home was a trek of anywhere from 30-70 dusty miles – very dangerous for two women alone.

Her return to Bethlehem caused a sensation. She was back. Almost unrecognizable. She was marred. She was Mara – a bitter woman proclaiming, “I’m changing my name because God hates me.”  Gien Karssen says,”Self pity usually blames someone else.” Naomi blames all her problems on God crying out, “The Lord’s hand has turned against me”even though she was the one who moved away from Him to an idol worshiping nation.

God Raises Up a Deliverer (or two)

I love how Naomi says “Call me Mara” but nobody ever does. The story continues and she is still called Naomi. Poor Naomi is in need of a rescuer…or two.

The foreigner, Ruth the Moabitess, seems to believe in God more than Naomi right now. She springs in to action to provide for the two of them taking advantage of the Mosaic law spelled out for widows, orphans and foreigners. She asks to glean. This is a person God can use. Someone who believes in Him and acts – even if the work ahead of her is back-breaking labor. This act of faith and obedience puts Ruth in a place her where God can pour out his blessings…and He does! He arranges for Boaz, a kinsman redeemer, to come and rescue the two destitute women.

Deliverance!

Ruth’s work and Boaz kindness wake Naomi up. She jumps back in to action. This Jewish mother-in-law arranges things just right. Boaz and Ruth are married. Naomi gets a grandson. (He doesn’t carry a drop of her blood in his veins, but who cares!)

Then the women said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and took care of him. The neighbor women said, “A son has been born to Naomi,” and they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

How is Jesus Involved in the Story of Naomi?

The Book of Ruth shows we can break the cycle of sin in our family! We can obey, return to God and watch Him restore us above all we could ask or even think. The story restores hope that there is a redeemer – that a Savior will come. Naomi’s grandson is in the line of Christ. Matthew chapter 1 shows the same lineage (above) of King David but it keeps going and ends with the birth of the King of Kings. Verse 16 says “…and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.”

Questions to Ponder

  1. Naomi thinks her suffering is a result of God punishing her. Have you ever felt like God was punishing you? Have you ever blamed God for what you were going through even though it was you who moved away from Him?
  2. Maybe Naomi was just a victim of her husband’s poor choices. Have you ever asked God for bread and felt like He gave you a stone? Asked God for a fish and felt like He gave you a snake?  Have you ever doubted this verse in Matthew 7 which says: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”?
  3. What do you do when you see a Christian sister deliberately (or unknowingly) sinning against God? Do you approach her or do you run away from the problem hoping it will somehow work itself out?

Prayer:

Lord, circumstances – like a famine – are actually neutral. How I react to the circumstances You allow in my life is up to me. Will I walk in faith? Or will I choose fear or try to control things? Lord, help me not to immediately panic when something goes wrong. Do not let me go straight to planning (plannicking) my way out of the circumstance you have brought. Help me to immediately turn to You, pray, trust and wait patiently for You, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Amen.

The Bottom Line

Things I learned from Naomi: Don’t blame God for evil. He loves to give good gifts.


Women of the Bible – Delilah

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Delilah

Delilah – her name means “delicate or dainty one”

Her story is found in Judges 16

Have you ever been betrayed? Have you ever known that feeling, an emptiness in the deepest part of your soul, when you realized the one you loved & trusted has been unfaithful to you or shared your secrets with your enemy? Samson knew that feeling. He was betrayed by the woman he loved. He was betrayed by Delilah.

Not many people call their daughters Delilah – a name that has become synonymous with a femme fatale who will ultimately bring disaster to any man who becomes involved with her. The strongest man who ever lived, Samson, and the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, were both brought down by bad women. Perhaps Solomon was thinking of Delilah when he wrote Proverbs 5 and the following verse in Ecclesiastes 7:26:

And I discovered that [of all irrational sins none has been so destructive in beguiling one away from God as immoral women for] more bitter than death is the woman whose heart is [composed of] snares and nets, and whose hands are chains. Whoever pleases God will escape from her, but the sinner will be taken captive by her [evil].  – AMP

A Woman Named Delilah

The Bible says: Samson WANTED his wife, he HAD SEX with a prostitute, but he LOVED Delilah.

“Some time later, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah who lived in the valley of Sorek.” Judges 16:5

Delilah’s nationality is a mystery. Jewish rabbis and Josephus think she was a Philistine but the Bible does not say one way or another. I, personally, think she may have been a Jewess who betrayed her own country’s spiritual leader for money. (Delilah is a Hebrew name, she lives in the territory of the tribe of Dan, calls out “The Philistines are upon you” to Samson and then there’s the Micah’s mother thing – see below.)

Most commentaries call her a harlot – citing her actions as those of a loose woman (sleeping with a man for money) – but the Bible does NOT call her a prostitute nor does it explicitly state that she had illicit sexual relations with Samson. In fact, some scholars think she and Samson were married. More likely he went from wanting a wife, to visiting a prostitute, to becoming a live-in lover.

The Study Bible for Women says, “ironically the one time Samson appeared to love and trust someone, she proved to be as callous and uncaring to him as he had been to others.” Philistine rulers came in secret and offered Delilah a boatload of silver to betray her strongman. She accepts and the game is afoot.

And Samson loves to play games. He fooled his parents by giving them honey out of a dead lion. A riddle with his groomsmen destroyed his relationship with his now-deceased wife and her family members. He burned the Philistines crops by tying torches to the tails of foxes, killed a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey and after visiting a prostitute carried the gates of Gaza several miles away at midnight to show the city their security system was a joke. Now he’ll try and brush off Delilah’s persistence with a series of jokes.

Delilah starts the game with flattery – batting her eyes, squeezing his big bicep and saying, “Please tell me why you’re so strong and no one can ever capture you.” When that failed, she worked on his character then his feelings. “You are lying to me. You don’t really love me.” Then she turns on the waterworks – using the same technique as Samson’s dearly departed wife who wept the whole seven days of her wedding feast. Delilah nagged Samson day after day and pleaded with him until she wore him out – one Bible version says until “he was annoyed to death” – then he gave in and told her the whole truth.

“While you were sleeping”

I used to think the euphemism for having sex with someone you’re not married to – sleeping together – was kind of weak. Sleep is such a benign term. The biblical words fornication and adultery pack way more punch. But a recent phenomenon on social media changed my mind – sleeping around someone else involves trust. Father’s Day 2016. A new father decides babies are kind of boring so he sees how many Cheerios he can stack on his sleeping infant’s face. The pictures go viral and spark copycat behavior. The first time I saw the images, I slammed my Ipad shut and had to walk away. I was mortified that a parent would betray their trusting infant in such a trivial way.

Sleeping all night in the same bed with someone you don’t know (and can’t trust) is almost as foolhardy as having sex with a total stranger. All of us, every one of us, are completely vulnerable when we are asleep. Samson trusted Delilah. She didn’t deserve it but he trusted her. It was while he was sleeping that she betrayed him – four times. Instead of running for his life after the first attempt, invincible Samson kept on playing Delilah’s dangerous game. Josephus believed the phrase “she made him sleep upon her knee” means that she drugged him that final night. The men who were paying her for the information on how to defeat Samson hid in the room next door, watching for their moment to pounce.

Delilah’s End

The Bible does not tell us what happened to Delilah after she betrays Samson. Did you she have any remorse?  Was she present when the lords of the Philistines brutally gouged out her lover’s eyes – those wandering eyes that had gotten him in so much trouble? Was beautiful Delilah counting her stacks of silver the last thing Samson saw on this earth?

Some say Delilah was probably in attendance at the great celebration giving glory to Dagon, the Philistine’s grain god. Blind Samson was brought out for entertainment and tied up between a couple of pillars. Did Delilah mock him and gloat over her victory? Was she alarmed when she noticed that his hair had grown out? The Bible indicates that we will, surprisingly, see Samson in heaven. Hebrews 11 lists him as a man of faith. At this, his weakest moment, he cries out to God. True to form – he asks amiss but he still asks – he seeks revenge for the loss of his two eyes rather than the glory of God. But God, who is rich in mercy, gives Samson the strength for one last task – to quite literally bring down house. (Isn’t that the goal of every good entertainer?) Samson killed more of God’s enemies that day than he did in his whole life. Was one of the victims Delilah?

John Milton wrote the tragedy Samson Agonistes where a repentant Delilah visits Samson asking for forgiveness and begging to touch his hand. She “apologizes” but blames him for telling her his secret in the first place. She’s just a weak woman, prone to gossip so it’s really all his fault anyway. Samson doesn’t buy it saying: “How cunningly the sorceress displays her own transgressions to upbraid me mine.” Some things never change.

Then there’s a third possibility. A wild possibility. When studying the Bible, they say “context is king.” Well, tacked right on to the story of Samson’s death is the tale of Micah’s Mother (Judges 17), a woman who has placed a curse on whoever has stolen her 1100 pieces of silver. Hmmm. Sounds very familiar.

Wycliffe Bible commentary says:  “The fact that the amount was eleven hundred shekels of silver has led some commentators to identify Micah’s mother with Delilah.”

Could it be that a Jewish Delilah was so unpopular with her own people that she had to move to Ephraim? Could it be that she had a son named Micah who stole her money and then confessed it? Could it be that she finally spends 200 pieces of the blood money she earned betraying Samson on making an silver idol that becomes the downfall of the tribe of Dan, the very tribe that Samson came from?

How is Jesus Involved in the Story of Delilah?

Herbert Lockyer says: “Delilah was a woman who used her personal charm to lure a man to his spiritual and physical destruction and she stands out as one the lowest, meanest women of the Bible – the female Judas of the Old Testament.”

Samson’s actions were not anything like those of our Savior Jesus but he was a judge sent to deliver his people – a type of Christ in the Old Testament. Sinful, flawed Samson was betrayed for 1100 pieces of silver – a king’s ransom equivalent to hundreds of pounds of silver or approximately 550 years of a laborer’s daily wage. The perfect son of God – Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – however, was betrayed for the paltry sum of 30 pieces of silver – the price paid to a master when his slave was killed accidentally.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Why is Delilah’s sordid story included in the Bible?
  2. Why would God use a man like Samson to accomplish His Will?
  3. Perhaps Samson’s mom witnessed the disaster her turbulent son made of his life. Do you have a rebellious child like Samson? Where do you turn for help?

Prayer:

Lord, I confess my need to control things in my life. I, right here, right now confess that you are sovereign and more than able to untangle the mess I’ve made of my life. I confess that I manipulate things to get what I want all the time. Please forgive me. Help me to surrender to Your Will and to live my life Your Way. Help me to extricate myself from unhealthy relationships that do not honor You. Please give me a passion for purity.  Amen.

The Bottom Line

Things I learned from Delilah: You can’t put a price on your integrity.