Sometimes we read a Bible passage and we have to stop and say “this really happened. I’m reading something that really happened a long time ago.” We have to say that from time to time because from time to time we read about Samson lighting the tails of three hundred foxes on fire and setting them loose. I mean, admittedly, there are some pretty amazing things that happened that are recorded in your Bible. And I don’t mean “God made the universe” amazing, because things like that are so big there’s nothing to compare them to. I’m talking about those things that we read think: “I can see my younger, rambunctious-self doing this…”

Take, for example, Samson here:

But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her. And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure. And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.
And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.
(Judges 15:1-5)

Now don’t misunderstand, Samson was not often a great role model for young people everywhere. The background to this is Samson’s wife (and really, she’s an entirely separate issue) was with another man. Samson went to see her but her father would not let him near her. By the way, Samson’s wife (and new man) was a Philistine. Angry, Samson (you guessed it) rounds up 300 foxes, ties their tails together, sets the tails on fire (because why not) and turns them loose on the Philistine fields (which were ready to be harvested). To be clear, Samson’s actions were not done from any sense of godly justice.

This was sinful vengeance, and–as it always does–it beget more vengeance:

Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.
(Judges 15:6)

At the news of Samson’s actions, the Philistines (never known in history as a civilized people of negotiation) burned Samson’s wife and father-in-law to death. Do you see the cycle of vengeance? It’s certainly no coincidence that the Philistines murdered Samson’s family with fire (the very weapon he had first used against them).

After that, the cycle continued…

And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.
(Judges 15:7)

At some point we have to stop the cycle of vengeance. Samson tries to have it both ways, saying “I’ll get you back and then we’ll call it a truce.” But will the Philistines see it that way? They will seek him out looking for vengeance against Samson’s vengeance…against their vengeance…against Samson’s vengeance! Getting even is not the way to solve a problem. Sure we can turn french poodles into flamethrowers, but at what cost? Wouldn’t it be better to just turn it over to God and trust in Him to be the Judge? Think about that the next time someone wrongs you, and maybe we can avoid doing something rash.

Like arson.

~ Matthew