New Garments for the Philistines
What should have been Samson’s wedding night was spent alone and unfulfilled for Eglah, for her husband did not show up to claim his bride. We were unable to give him the special silk robe, and we were unable to give Eglah the royal crown. Samson might have blamed his friends for his absence, citing the urgency of fulfilling his obligation; however, there was no compelling reason for him to give his friends the garments immediately. Furthermore, his father was not so poor that he could not have provided thirty garments.
But Samson was angry at his so-called friends, and he was frustrated with Eglah for betraying him. His pride was hurt, and this ripened the fruit of the root of bitterness hidden deep in his heart. It often takes a traumatic experience to expose that which lies inside a man’s heart. Pain and adversity do not plant seeds of good or evil, but water those already planted in the ground. Good seeds, when watered by pain, bring good fruit to maturity. But bitter seeds, too, are brought to maturity by the same pain.
Samson’s heart had produced two trees from very different seeds. Hence, he had genuine faith from God, but in his garden was another tree which had been planted early in life and which had been watered by later experience. He was blind to the conflict in his own heart, nor did he understand the inherent contradiction between the two trees.
Perhaps as long as he had physical eyes, he would fail to see his heart with spiritual eyes. Perhaps the only way to give him spiritual eyes would be to remove the hindrance by blinding his physical eyes. These thoughts came to me as the dawn interrupted my dream. This insight was a parting gift from the Cherubim, as I transitioned through the gate between the dream-world of spiritual Truth and the rough terrain of earthly realities.
After a wistful, parting glance at my land of choice, I opened my eyes to the early morning light.
As we ate breakfast in the tavern, we heard a shout from the street outside. The door burst open, and Samson strode into the dining area holding a bulging sack. He dumped its contents on an empty table.
“The garments!” one of the young men exclaimed. “Samson has brought the garments that he owes us!”
“Yes, there are thirty of them!” Samson shot back. “I got them in the same way that God did when he first clothed Earthyman at the beginning of time!”
“What do you mean?” another man asked hesitantly.
“Do you not know the story of creation?” he replied in an irritated voice. “God killed animals and took their garments to cover their nakedness. 50 I, too, killed some animals. Go cover your nakedness!”
“What have you done?” Baasha asked with growing alarm. “Surely you did not kill thirty men just to take their garments for us!”
“And why not?” Samson replied angrily. “You won the wager by cheating, and so your reward comes by your own standard of morality.”
With that, Samson went up the stairs to fetch his parents. Soon they all came down the stairs and left the tavern. Manoah glanced at the young men with apprehension, and Naamah was in tears.
“I think we ought to go with them,” Sipporah said in a low voice.
“Yes, I think it is time for us to leave,” I replied.
We got up from the table and left quickly. Samson was hitching the donkey to the cart while the stable boy brought out our horses. I quickly tipped him generously with a silver coin. “Take care of yourself,” I said. “Thank-you for treating the horses so well.”
We had crossed the bridge and turned east, riding for a time in silence. It was clear that Samson had no intention of seeing Eglah, not even to explain to her what had happened. That was unfair to her, so I thought it best to do what I could to ease the situation.
“If you don’t mind,” I said to Samson, who was sitting in the back of the cart, “we will tell Eglah what has happened. She deserves to know.”
“Do what you like,” Samson replied. “She broke our contract when she betrayed me. I do not want to see her again.”
“Then we will part from you for now,” I said, “and I trust that we shall meet again under better circumstances. Shalom.”
We turned the horses around and rode toward Avoda’s house. Dogma greeted us as usual. Sippore was there as well. “The household is in an uproar,” he informed us. “Baasha is here, and he has just told them about Samson’s overnight exploit. I do not think you will find much welcome here. Sippore has told me what she knows. It seems that last night Samson attacked a wedding party taking place at the shrine to the bronze calf just outside the gate of Ashkelon. He used the idol as a club to kill thirty guests, and then he took their garments.”
At that moment, Avoda appeared at the door and said in a loud voice, “Where is Samson? Is he not coming?”
“I am sorry. He is on his way home,” I replied. “I wanted him to come and explain his intentions personally, but he refused. So we came to do whatever we could to ease the situation. He is very angry, for he feels that he was betrayed by his friends. And now he has crossed a line from which there is no return. His actions are distressing to me as well. I do not want you to think that I support his vengeful actions, nor did I in any way plant that idea into his mind.”
“What has happened cannot be undone,” Avoda said with sadness. “But I still hold Manoah’s dowry. If he wants it back, he must come and get it.”
“As long as you hold the dowry, Samson still has a legal claim upon Eglah,” I said, “at least until enough time has passed where it can be said that he abandoned her.”
“It seems that he has already abandoned her,” Avoda said, “but I will give him a bit more time to change his mind.”
“Thank-you, Avoda,” I responded. “Give our sincere greetings to your wife and Eglah. I hope that someone can find a way to resolve this difficulty without further violence.”
“Shalom,” Avoda said as he walked back into the house.
We turned the horses and walked slowly back to the road. Dogma followed us.
“Samson justified his actions in a very legalistic way,” I observed. “He likened his actions to what God did when Earthyman sinned at the beginning. Because they had lost their heavenly garments, God clothed them with alternate garments from animals that He sacrificed.”
“In our tradition,” Dogma said, “God killed two lions, a male and a female, in order to clothe the first man and woman.”
“Those lions were innocent,” I observed, “for they represented the Messiah in both His male and female aspects. Only innocent blood can cover the guilty. Samson must have known this, but he applied it in a very harsh manner, shedding innocent blood in Ashkelon for the sins of his thirty friends. God substituted the blood of animals so that human blood would not need to be shed to pay for sin.”
“And yet,” Dogma said, “from a legal standpoint, the Philistine idolaters deserved to die. It seems that the problem was that the law was applied without mercy, and I do not believe that it was done as a true act of faith. I think that Samson, like so many, was hearing God’s voice through distorted ears, idols of the heart. He has yet to learn that one cannot overthrow physical idols by the power of heart idols. To try would only bring adverse consequences.”
“Unfortunately,” I said, “he has crossed the point of no return. The bridge has been burned behind him, and he must now go forward to an appointed destiny. He must eat his own cooking and drink his own bitter wine until the tree in his soul becomes repugnant to him. Only then can he truly repent.”
“You seem to speak from experience,” Dogma said, cocking his head to one side. I perceive that, like Samson, you were once young and brave, but now you are old and wise.”
“I have lived long enough to overthrow many heart idols,” I said with a smile. “But wisdom never ceases to grow, for it is the fruit of experience, by which we learn the ways of God. To stop growing would be a sign of death and then all wisdom would evaporate as the morning mist or a drop of rain on a hot stone.”
At that moment, Sippore flew down and landed upon Sipporah’s shoulder. “I am feeling strange again,” Sipporah said. “It seems that it is now time to leave you. We will meet again!”
Dogma faded from view, and we were lifted up by the Spirit and transported instantly to a new location.
“I recognize this place,” Pegasus said, “and I discern that some weeks have passed. I believe it is now the time of the second Passover.”
- Genesis 3:21