Honey from the Lion
A cart rounded the bend in front of us, and we saw Manoah and Naamah riding toward us. Samson sat with his feet dangling in the rear behind four barrels of wine in the cart. He leaned to the side and turned his head to see who had met them in the way.
“Ho there!” I shouted. “We meet again! Where are you going?”
“We are going to Timnah for Samson’s wedding feast,” Manoah answered.
“Where is the celebration being held?” I asked.
“It is at The Tipsy Tavern,” Manoah answered. “Since all of the guests are Philistines, it is more convenient for them to hold the feast in Timnah, rather than for all of them to travel to Zorah.”
“Then, if you do not mind, we will go with you,” I said. “Eglah has already extended an invitation to us. Of course, it is really Samson’s decision, since this is his party.”
“You are most welcome to join me in this joyous celebration,” Samson said from the back of the cart. He hopped off the cart and walked alongside of it until it reached us. Samson’s beard was braided, and the hair on the back of his head was tied back. “My father told me that you were back for a visit. I remember you from when I was a child, and I will always be grateful to you for introducing me to Samuel. I heard from Samuel that you were at Sukkoth recently.”
Samson reached out and, with a thoughtful look, ran his hand down Pegasus’ neck and on to his shoulder, where he felt the scar just in front of my knee.
“Yes,” I said, “we were able to keep the feast in Shiloh for the first time. We ran into a few problems along the way, but it all turned out for good in the end.”
“I heard about those problems,” Samson said with a scowl. “I avoided the feast, but if I had been there, I would have prevented Phinehas from shooting Pegasus.”
“If you had been there to prevent it, you probably would not be the Judge in Israel today,” I responded with a slight smile. “God spared you for another task. The unjust ordeal was truly heart-wrenching for us, but God raised Pegasus from the dead, as you can see.”
“Yes,” Samson said, “his scar proves it. Nonetheless, Eli’s motive was evil, and his sons were complicit in this. Even though God has obviously performed a miracle, it was still a sin in the eyes of God and men. Innocent blood was shed when he sentenced Rephah to death as well. Nathan may forgive Eli for that, but as the Judge in Israel, I am not allowed to forgive murder. I am called to execute judgment in order that blood does not pollute the land further.” 33
“The land is indeed polluted,” I said.
“I know,” he said, looking up at me. “My job is to find a way to cleanse the land of innocent blood.”
“Do not be too eager to do this,” I said slowly. “Do not take the lead, but be led by the Spirit. What you do may be legal, but it is not necessarily the best way to resolve an issue of justice. Even now, God is already taking steps to cleanse the land of Israel and its priests.”
Samson remained silent, pondering my words. But clearly, his anger burned toward Eli and his sons. If he did not resolve this anger, he would soon feel its sting.
“I hear that Master Naoki has been teaching you some fighting techniques,” I said, changing the subject.
“Yes, the training has been intense in the past six months,” Samson replied. “His techniques are useful, since we are forbidden to have weapons. I have also learned how one can turn almost anything into a formidable weapon. Use whatever is available, Master Naoki says.”
“Has he also taught you the value of self-control?” I asked.
“Yes,” Samson replied. “He says that it is as important to know when to fight as to know how. And it is also important to fight with proper motives in order to channel energy toward good purposes.”
“I am glad to hear that,” I said. “If one fights out of negative emotions such as anger or revenge, one’s fighting skills can become destructive, rather than defensive. The greatest warriors have mastered their own hearts before trying to master other people.”
Before I finished my sentence, Samson had already jumped off the cart and was trotting into the field near the vineyard.
“Where are you going?” Manoah shouted, pulling on the reins of the cart to stop the donkey.
Samson just waved his hand without turning his head, shouting back, “Go ahead; don’t wait for me. I will catch up to you.”
We continued on our journey. Sippore flew high into the air to see what the eyes of God always saw. She soon returned and alighted upon Sipporah’s shoulder once again. About half an hour later, Samson came running swiftly, holding something in his hands. When he caught up to us, he was smiling broadly, and his hands were dripping with honey.
“No thanks,” I said, when he offered us a taste.
He then gave some to his parents. “Very sweet,” Naamah said. “Where did you find it?”
“There was a beehive in the field near the road,” Samson replied. “I was able to get my share of it with only a few stings. Moses was right; this is indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. It is too bad, however, that our tribe is unable to obtain its inheritance here in the Philistine plain.”
Manoah said. “Are you sure you don’t want to taste some, Anava? The honey is good.”
“We have already tasted the promises of God,” I replied, “and the living word is indeed sweet—unless, of course, we taint it with death that resides in the hearts of men.”
Samson looked at me quizzically, as he returned to his place at the back of the cart, licking his hands. Perhaps he suspected that I knew his secret, but I said nothing that might expose his shame. He knew that, as a Nazirite, he was not allowed to touch a dead body nor eat honey from the carcass of a dead lion. By law, the honey was unclean, and he had defiled both his parents and himself—effectively ending his Nazarite vow, from God’s point of view. 34
If he had acknowledged this, or if he had been discovered, he would have had to shave his head seven days later and go to Shiloh to offer the dedicated hair of his “crown” on the fire of a peace offering. But Samson chose to hide his broken vow deep in his heart next to his treasure chest where a root of bitterness had already begun to grow. The honey that he ate was a divine promise tainted by death in a land that was already polluted by innocent blood.
Samson seemed unaware of the great spiritual truth that lay before him. He was blind to the fact that the great lion, which he himself had killed, was a type of the Messiah, who was to die for the cleansing of the earth. He was unaware of the pain that this had caused the dead lion’s parents. To one with no understanding, a dead lion is just a dead lion. But the eye of faith sees beyond tragic death to the light and life that gives purpose to all things.
A feeling of foreboding sadness enveloped me. Sipporah felt it as well, and her little dove, who witnessed all of this firsthand, hung her head as she sat on Sipporah’s shoulder. For a time, we rode in silence, contemplating the consequences of Samson’s actions. For him to do this on the way to his wedding feast was not a good sign. Though God would no doubt work this out for a good purpose in the end, the peace had been broken, and the path would be painful.
- Judges do not have the right to acquit the guilty. Only victims have that right.
- Nazirite laws are found in Numbers 6.