One way of learning how to do something is by watching someone else do it poorly. When I swam in triathlons, I had a friend who worked out in the same pool. In his freestyle stroke, he had a habit of putting his hand in the water too far toward the centerline of his body, turning his body slightly sideways. Therefore, instead of gliding through the water, he snow-plowed the water in front of him. I learned a lot by watching him: I learned how not to swim. His mistake helped me correct a similar error in my own stroke.
Perhaps we can use that same approach as we consider how Samson went about finding a wife. I once heard a dating talk entitled “the dos and don’ts of Dating.” Unfortunately, in chapters 14–16 of the book of Judges, we find only the don’ts of dating. There are no dos in Samson’s story. He did everything wrongly.
…then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. so he came back and told his father and mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” (Judges 14:1–2)
3 DON’Ts OF DATING
Samson had seen girls before, but this one was a real knockout. So much so, he immediately decided he wanted to marry her. What’s wrong with that? Boy meets girl. Boy flips his lid. Boy asks girl to marry him. Love at first sight … how romantic! What was wrong with Samson’s approach to dating? Everything. Specifically, he made three disastrous mistakes.
- Don’t #1 – Samson was visiting Timnah and saw “one of the daughters of the Philistines.” What was the problem with that? Just this: Israel had been commanded by God not to marry the daughters of the idolatrous, demon-worshipping peoples around them (Deuteronomy 7:3–4). It was a wise command. God didn’t want his people being led astray by the idol worship and occult practices of the Canaanites, the Philistines, and others. In other words, Samson had no business going to Timnah with a roving eye. Every girl there was off-limits. Unfortunately, Samson never learned his lesson. If it wasn’t a sweetheart in Timnah, it was a prostitute in Gaza (Judges 16:1), and when he grew tired of her, he pursued yet another Philistine lover, the delectable Delilah (16:4). The land of the Philistines was the home of a wicked and immoral people, and every time Samson went there, his lust pulled him into another disastrous relationship.
- Don’t #2 – Besides looking for love in all the wrong places, Samson had another major problem in his approach to dating. How did Samson determine that a girl would be a good partner? “I saw a woman in Timnah” (Judges 14:2, emphasis added). Samson’s measure of a woman was her profile. Always the human hormone, Samson thought only of sex appeal when he searched for a wife. Her faith and her character were inconsequential. If the curve of her face and the cut of her hair were right, then it was full steam ahead.
- Don’t #3 – Scripture continues…then his father and his mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me” (Judges 14:3). Proverbs says, foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15). Certainly that was true of Samson. His parents tried to warn him. They strongly encouraged him to reconsider his course of action. Samson’s response? “Dad, Mom, you’re idiots. I know better than you do.” Blinded by infatuation, Samson rejected his parents’ counsel. In so doing, he steamrolled right over one of god’s most important lines of defense protecting us against foolish decisions.
PRIDE GOES BEFORE DESTRUCTION
You probably know the rest of the story. Before the wedding feast was over, Samson’s beautiful bride had manipulated and betrayed him. She nagged and whined out of him the answer to the riddle he had invented to stump her wedding guests (Judges 14:16–17). Samson left the wedding in a fury and stormed out of town. Eventually, after several bouts of revenge and counter-revenge between Samson and his wife’s friends, Judges 15:8 tells us that Samson ended up living in a cave like an outlaw.
His self-styled approach to dating didn’t bring him the happiness and pleasure he thought it would. It brought only manipulation, distrust, faithlessness, in-law squabbles, anger, vengeance, and loneliness. Samson was forever putting himself in situations where he could become emotionally and physically involved with an unbeliever. And, inevitably, he did. He also measured a prospective companion only by her physical attractiveness rather than by her love for God. And when his parents tried to shine the light of wisdom on his bad decision, he turned a blind eye to their counsel. Those are three classic blunders, and Samson made them all.
[This blog post is excerpted from HELP! I’m Confused about Dating a mini-book by Joel James, a pastor in South Africa.]