A recent “Sally Forth” cartoon starts with daughter Hillary saying to her mother: “I assume you let Dad play poker tonight instead of going out to dinner with you.” Sally replies, “It’s not a matter of LETTING, Hilary. We discussed it like adults. I recognized it was important to him to play, and he came to recognize that I was displaying remarkable understanding.” Next Hilary says, “So not you can extort whatever you want from him?” “That sounds so ugly,” Sally replies. “Let’s just say I’m in an advantageous bargaining position.”
We’ve all been in positions where the other person was in an ‘advantageous bargaining position’ over us. It makes us feel, well, MANIPULATED. No one likes being manipulated, but we all seem to be able to do it to others. Manipulation is a dishonest, sneaky way of getting control. Love, faith and trust are replaced by power, control and pressure. Manipulation can and will destroy relationships and marriages. That happened to Samson’s marriage.
THE MARRIAGE Samson wanted to marry an unbelieving Gentile woman in direct disobedience to God’s clear command. Still, he was head over heals in lust and no rational arguments could change his mind. On his way to the wedding (Judges 14:8) he passed by where he had earlier killed a lion that had attacked him (14:4-7). Knowing that, as a Nazarite, he wasn’t allowed to touch a dead body, he touched it anyway in getting honey from a bee hive that had developed within the carcass. He knew it was wrong (14:9) but did it anyway. Giving in to small lusts always precedes giving in to larger lusts, and Samson shows an inability to deny his fleshly lust for food. Indulging the fleshly lust for food (too much, too sweet, etc.) often preceded indulging the fleshly lust for sex. Thus fasting can really help overcome sexual lusts, for if one can learn to have victory over this basic desire of the flesh, then that self-control and be applied to the lust for sex. Try fasting to defeat sexual temptation, it works!
When he arrived at his wedding feast, Samson threw a customary drinking bash (v 10). There is no reason to assume he abstained from alcohol at his own wedding. This broke the second part of his vow, that to not drink fruit of the grape. After breaking the first vow, breaking the second was easier. The first sin opens the door and makes it easier to sin again.
At this wedding celebration thirty Philistine men were assigned to Samson as his companions there. Why not Jewish men? Well, godly Jews wouldn’t have anything to with a pagan love feast. More than that, though, it doesn’t seem Samson had male friends, Jewish or Gentile. He seems to be the kind of man who is comfortable among women but not men. That probably started because of his relationship to his more capable mother who had the predominate role in his childhood. She was the one who told him he was doing all right and made him feel like a man. He bonded with her, not his weaker, more distant father. Thus he wasn’t able to relate to men and grew up with a need for female approval. More about that later.
THE MANIPULATION During the wedding celebration, which lasted several days, Samson gave the Philistines a riddle with a wager of 30 sets of fine clothes (v. 12-14). Another lust is seen here: gambling. He wants something for nothing. One lust always opens the way for others. His weakness of character is also revealed in that it is evident Samson needs to be the center of attention, impress others, and feel superior and in control of others.
When they can’t get the answer and don’t want to pay up, the Philistines put pressure on Samson’s new wife to get the answer for them (v. 15). Instead of honestly telling her husband of the threat and doing the mature thing, calling off the bet, she uses manipulation to get Samson to tell her the answer so she can pass it on (16a). She uses typical female tools: guilt, tears, “If you really loved me…” Only children (like Samson) and extroverts (also like Samson) are more susceptible to pressure like this because of their need to be liked, but Samson holds out for a full seven days (16b-17).
PRAY: Ask God to show you any way in which you manipulate others. Confess that as sin and ask Him to help you have healthy relationships. Ask God to take back any access this sin has given to Satan’s forces.
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available for free.)