July 24, 2019

Honey is Sweet, But . . .

Judges 14:5-20

He did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass.

—  Judges 14:9

Why didn’t Samson tell his parents that the honey was from a carcass? Because at that time in Israel’s history, touching the carcass of a dead animal was considered unclean (Leviticus 11). But Samson ate the honey anyway, gave some to his parents, and so defiled himself and his parents. He also defied God’s wishes by marrying a Philistine woman who worshiped other gods.

At the wedding feast Samson entertained the local young men with a riddle about sweetness. Unable to solve the riddle, the men threatened Samson’s wife. Fearing for her life, she begged and harassed Samson till he told her—and then she told them.

Samson was furious, but the mess was his own doing. He’d created the riddle from the carcass, something no faithful Israelite, not to mention a Nazirite, would touch. But it had seemed right in Samson’s eyes. Honey from a lion’s carcass? Eat it! A “sweet” Philistine woman? Get her for me! Defiling himself or his parents didn’t matter to this savior of Israel.

Many years later, Jesus, the true Savior, explained that what really defiles people is what’s in their heart, not what they eat (Mark 7:1-23). Samson defiled himself by turning away from God to pursue his own desires, doing what was right in his own eyes. Jesus, however, took our defilement on himself, washing us clean and giving us new life. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

“I praise the Christ of God; I rest on love divine; and with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine. . . . I love because he first loved me; I live because he lives.” Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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