Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by John Nelson Darby, [1857-62], at sacred-texts.com
The following commentary covers Chapters 14 and 15.
God makes use of Samson's marriage with a Philistine woman to punish that people. Still, in the freshness of his strength, his heart with Jehovah, and moved by the Holy Ghost, Samson acts in the might of this strength in the midst of the enemies he has raised up against him; and, in point of fact, he never marries this Philistine woman. I have said that God used this circumstance. It is thus He may use this spiritual strength of the assembly, so long as in heart it cleaves to Him, although its walk may not be faithful or such as He can approve. For it is evident that Samson's marriage with a daughter of Timnath was a positive sin, a flagrant infringement of Jehovah's ordinances, which is in no wise justified by the blessing which the Lord bestowed upon him when wronged by the Philistines. It was not in his marriage he found blessing, but quite the contrary. Accordingly Samson has not Israel with him in the conflicts occasioned by his marriage; the Spirit of God does not act upon the people as He did in the case of Gideon, of Jephthah, or Barak.
Moreover, when Nazariteship is in question, opposition must be expected from the people of God. A Nazarite is raised up in their midst, because they are no longer themselves thus separated unto God. And this being the case, they are without strength, and will allow the world to rule over them, provided that outward peace is left them; and they would not have any one act in faith, because this disquiets the world and incites it against them. "Knowest thou not," said Israel, "that the Philistines are rulers over us?" Even while acknowledging Samson as one of themselves, the Israelites desire to give him up to the Philistines in order to maintain peace. But in the part of Samson's life now before us there are some details which require more attention.
His marriage was a sin. But the separation of God's people had no longer that measure of practical application which the mind of God had assigned it. The fact itself was inexcusable, because it had its origin in the will of Samson, and he had not sought counsel from God. But, owing to the influence of circumstances, he was not conscious at the time of the evil he was committing, and God allowed him to seek peace and friendship with the Canaanite world (that is to say, the world within the inclosure of God's people), instead of making war against them; so that, as to the Philistines, Samson had right on his side in the contentions which followed.
Before his marriage Samson had slain the lion, and had found honey in its carcase. He had strength from God while walking in his integrity. This is the "riddle," the secret of God's people. The lion has no strength against one who belongs to Christ. Christ has destroyed the strength of him that had the power of death. By the might of the Spirit of Christ our warfare is victory, and honey flows therefrom. But this is carried on in the secret of communion with the Lord. David maintained this place better in the simplicity of duty. Samson did not keep himself from those connections with the world to which the condition of the people easily led. This is always a Christian's danger. But whatever may be their ignorance, if the children of God make any alliance with the world, and thus pursue a line of conduct opposed to their true character, they will assuredly find disappointment. They do not keep themselves apart for God; they do not keep their secret with God, a secret which is only known in communion with Himself. Their wisdom is lost, the world beguiles them, their relationship with the world becomes worse than before, and the world despises them, and goes on its own way, regardless of their indignation at its behaviour towards them.
What had Samson to do there? His own will (chap. 15) is in exercise, and takes its share in the use of that strength which God had given him (like Moses when he slew the Egyptian). We always carry a little of the world with us when, being children of God, we have mingled with it. But God makes use of this to separate us forcibly and thoroughly from it, making union impossible by setting us in direct conflict with the world even in those very things which had formed our connection with it. We had better have remained apart. But it is necessary that God should thus deal with us, when this union with the world becomes an habitual and a tolerated thing in the church [See Note #1]. The most outrageous circumstances pass unnoticed. Think of a Nazarite married to a Philistine! God must break off such a union as this by causing enmities and hostilities to arise, since there is no intelligence of that moral nearness to God which separates from the world, and gives that quietness of spirit which, finding its strength in God, can overcome and drive away the enemy, when God leads into conflict by the plain revelation of His will. But if we are linked with the world, it will always have dominion over us; we have no right to resist the claims of any relationship which we ourselves have formed. We may draw nigh to the world, because the flesh is in us. The world cannot really draw nigh to the children of God, because it has only its own fallen and sinful nature. The approximation is all on one side and always in evil, whatever the appearance may be. To bear testimony in the midst of the world is another thing.
We cannot therefore plead the secret of the Lord, the intimate relationship of God's people to Himself, and the feelings they produce; for the secret and the strength of the Lord are exclusively the right and the strength of His redeemed people. How could this be told to his Philistine wife? What influence would the exclusive privileges of God's people have over one who is not of their number? How can we speak of these privileges when we disown them by the very relationship in which we stand? We disown them by imparting this secret; for we then cease to be separated and consecrated to God, and to confide in Him as we can do in no other. This experience should have preserved Samson, for the future, from a similar step. But in many respects experience is useless in the things of God, because we need faith at the moment; for it is God Himself whom we need. Nevertheless Samson here still retains his strength. The sovereign will of God is fulfilled in this matter, in spite of very serious faults which resulted from the general state of things in which Samson participated. Once in the battlefield, he exhibits the strength of Jehovah who was with him; and in answer to his cry Jehovah supplies him with water for his thirst (chap. 15).
It is here that this general history of Samson ends. We have seen that the people of God, his brethren, were against him-the general rule in such a case. It is the history of the power of the Spirit of Christ exercised in Nazariteship, in separation from the world unto God; but in the midst of a condition entirely opposed to this separation; and in which he who is upheld by the power of this Spirit, finding himself again in his habitual sphere, is always in danger of being unfaithful; and so much the more so (unless he lives very near to God in the repose of obedience) from his consciousness of strength.
Christ exhibited the perfection of a heavenly walk under similar circumstances. We see that no one understood the source of His power, or His authority. He must have given up all hope of satisfying men with respect to the principles by which He was guided. They must have been like Him to comprehend Him, and then they would not have needed to be convinced. To walk before God and leave His justification with God was all that could be done. He silenced His enemies by the well-known principles of God and of all good conscience; but He could not reveal the secret between Him and the Father, the element of His life, and the spring of all His actions. If the truth came out, when Satan pushed things so far that nothing else could be said, His enemies treated Him as a blasphemer, and He openly denounced them as the children of Satan. We find this particularly in John's Gospel (see chap. 8). But at that time Jesus held no longer the same relationship to the people. Indeed, from the beginning of this Gospel, they are treated as rejected, and the Person of the Son of God is brought forward.
From the commencement of His ministry, He maintained the place of an obedient servant, not entering on public service until called of God, after having taken the lowest place in John's baptism. This was the point at issue when He was tempted in the wilderness. The tempter endeavoured to make Him come out of His place as the obedient man, because He was the Son of God. But the strong man was bound there: to remain in obedience is the only way to bind the adversary. Christ ever walked in this perfect separation of the inner man, in communion with His Father, and entire dependence upon Him in obedience without a single moment of self-will. Therefore was He the most gracious and accessible of men: we observe in His ways a tenderness and a kindness never seen in man, yet we always feel that He was a stranger. Not that He came to be a stranger in His relationship with men; but that which lay deepest in His own heart-that which constituted His very nature, and consequently guided His walk by virtue of His communion with the Father-was entirely foreign to all that influences man. He abode emphatically alone. It is striking that not once His disciples understood what He said. The one only trace of a heart going with Him was Mary at Bethany; and that had to be told to the whole world. In Him, sympathy for every sorrow; for His, none.
This spirit of self-denial, entire renunciation of His own will, obedience, and dependence upon His Father, is seen throughout the life of Jesus. After John's baptism He was praying when He received the Holy Ghost. Before calling the apostles He spent the whole night in prayer. After the miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves He went up into a mountain apart to pray. If the request is made to sit on His right hand and on His left in His kingdom, it is not His to give, but to them for whom it is prepared of His Father. In His agony of Gethsemane, His expectation and dread of death is all laid before His Father; and the cup which His Father has given Him, shall He not drink it? The effect is that all is calm before men. He is the Nazarite, separated from men by His entire communion with His Father, and by the obedience of a Son who had no other will than to fulfil the good pleasure of His Father. It was His meat to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work.
But it was when man would not receive Him, and there was no longer any relationship whatever between man and God that Jesus fully assumed His Nazarite character, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens. It is Christ in heaven who is the true Nazarite, and who, having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, has sent Him forth upon His disciples, in order that, by the power of the Holy Ghost, they might maintain the same position on the earth, through communion with Him and with His Father; walking in the separateness of this communion, and capable therefore of using this power with a divine intelligence that enlightens and sustains the obedience for which they are set apart unto the glory of Christ, and for His service. "If ye abide in me," said He to His disciples, "and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." They were not of the world, even as He was not of the world. The assembly, which was formed of His disciples, should walk as separated from the world and set apart unto Himself in a heavenly life.
Christ is then the antitype of Samson's history, as to the principle it contains. But its detail proves that this principle of strength has been entrusted to those who were alas! but too capable of failing in communion and obedience, and thus of losing its enjoyment.
In this union, when it takes place between the world and true Christians, or those at least who profess the truth the world always rules; when, on the contrary, it is with the hierarchy that the world is connected, it is then a superstitious hierarchy that rules, for this is necessary in order to restrain the will of man by religious bonds adapted to the flesh.