Marriage Gone Wrong

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Judges 14:1-20 (Samson’s marriage)

INTRODUCTION: Our sermon series is called “Samson: Strong Man Gone Wrong,” and we are looking at Samson’s life in Scripture to better understand how we are to live our lives now.

Last week we saw that Samson got off to a good start. He had godly parents and a miraculous birth. He was set apart for God’s service, blessed by God in his life and equipped with the Spirit of God for his mission. Samson had a promising beginning, and God gave him everything he needed to succeed.

So, what went wrong? That’s what we will begin to see this week as we look at Samson’s marriage. We will look at the whole chapter in the course of the message, but let’s begin by just reading verses 1-4. (Read Judges 14:1-4 and pray.)


Marriage is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. Marriage is for a lifetime. A good marriage is one of God’s greatest blessings. A difficult marriage is one of life’s greatest heartaches. There are few things as beautiful in life as marriage gone right, and few things as painful as marriage gone wrong.

Unfortunately, Samson’s marriage is an example of marriage gone wrong. Fortunately, we don’t have to get married with a trial and error approach. God has given us good principles in his word to follow when we are getting married, and things go so much better when we follow God’s way.

So, today we are going to look at seven principles from Samson’s life that will help you when you are getting married. If you are already married, you can pass these helps along to your children or grandchildren or anyone else you know. If you’re an older single, these principles apply to you also.

So, together, let’s look at these seven biblical principles for those getting married.

1) Marry another Christian (1-2)
   – Deuteronomy 7:3-4; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14

Principle number one: Marry another Christian. If you’re a believer, make sure you marry another believer. There was a lot Samson did wrong when it came to his marriage, but this was where he first got off track. Look at Judges 14:1-2:

Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 2 When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” (Judges 14:1-2)

(As you can see, Samson was a real subtle guy.)
We mentioned last week that Samson liked women, and he especially liked Philistine women. Remember, Samson is supposed to be fighting the Philistines. Instead he is hanging out with the Philistines, and now he wants to marry a Philistine.

When Israel entered the Promised Land, God gave them strict instructions not to intermarry with the various nations who already lived there. We read in Deuteronomy 7: “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods.” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4) This was not a racial restriction; it had nothing to do with racial or ethnic differences. This was a religious restriction to protect the Israelites from forsaking the one true God by running after other gods. They were not to intermarry outside of the faith.

It’s the same thing here with the Philistines. When Samson’s parents object to this marriage in the next verse, it’s not because the Philistines are a different race, but rather because the Philistines are not circumcised. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant with God. This was not a problem of interracial marriage. It was a problem of marrying outside the covenant faith of Israel.

The New Testament tells us as believers not to marry outside the Christian faith. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) In 1 Corinthians 7:39 Paul gives instructions to women who have lost their husbands. He stresses if they remarry it must be to a believer: “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) This is God’s instruction not just widows, but for all believers to marry within the faith.

Marrying another Christian is important for so many reasons – sharing your faith together as a married couple, praying together, attending church together, serving God together, raising your children together in the Lord. Your Christian faith is the most important part of who you are, and the person you marry is the most important person in your life. How sad if you cannot share the most important part of who you are with the most important person in your life.

So that’s the first Biblical principle when it comes to getting married: if you’re a Christian, marry another Christian.

2) Seek your parents’ blessing (3-4)
   – Deuteronomy 5:16; Judges 17:6, 21:25; Proverbs 1:8-9

Number two: Seek your parents’ blessing. Look at Judges 14:3:

His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” (Judges 14:3)

When Samson told his parents that he wanted to marry the girl from Timnah, they immediately objected. The girl was not a believer, and Samson was going directly against God’s command. This was Samson’s second opportunity to get it right, and he blew this one as well. When it came to marriage, the most important decision in his life, he didn’t listen to his parents’ input.
Deuteronomy 5:16 says: “Honor your father and your mother … so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) Proverbs 1:8-9 says: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9)

Your parents raised you, and they know you better than anyone else on earth. If they are not comfortable with the person you want to marry, you should take that as a very strong indication from the Lord that this may not be the right person or right time for you to get married. This is especially true when you have godly parents who know and love the Lord like Samson’s parents did.

I know of one Christian mother who told her daughter that the man she wanted to marry was not the right man for her. She told her all the way up to the wedding. She even told her at the wedding – while the organ was playing, and her daughter was getting ready to walk down the aisle. She held her daughter’s face in her hands, looked right into her eyes and told her, “Honey, you don’t have to do this. We can walk out of here right now. There’s plenty of food, and everyone else can have a big party. Don’t make this mistake.” Her daughter didn’t listen to her, and she got herself into a bad marriage.

Samson’s parents objected to the girl from Timnah, but Samson didn’t listen. Instead, Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” (Judges 14:3) Literally what Samson said to his father was, “Get her for me. She is right in my eyes.”

If you know the book of Judges well, you will recognize that phrase. This is the theme of the whole book of Judges. This is the word of judgment that hangs over every page – “Everyone did as he saw fit,” which is literally, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6, 21:25) Samson is supposed to be the judge, and he is no better than the rest of the nation. This marriage was not right in God’s eyes. It was not right in his parents’ eyes. But it was right in Samson’s eyes, and so he went ahead and plunged into disaster.

Now it’s very important to note verse 4 here as well. We read in Judges 14:4:

His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel. (Judges 14:4)

In other words, God is using Samson despite Samson. God is sovereign. This marriage is wrong, but God will use Samson’s sin to bring about the necessary conflict between Samson and the Philistines. Remember what we said last week, God is the hero of the story, not Samson.

Parents, take heart when your child is wandering. God is sovereign, and he has not forgotten you or your child. Keep praying for him or her. God is still working out his purposes even when your child is disobedient or defiant.

That’s the second biblical principle when it comes to getting married Seek your parents’ blessing.

3) Pay attention to God (5-6)
   – Hebrews 12:10-11; 1 Peter 5:8

Number three: Pay attention to God. Look at verses 5-6:

Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. 6 The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. (Judges 14:5-6)

So, Samson has been set apart by God as the judge of Israel, and he’s going down to Timnah to marry a girl in direct disobedience to God and in total disregard of his parents. Do you think the lion just might have been a sign of God’s displeasure? Perhaps a little warning from God that he was not going in the right direction?

God is a good God, and he gives us warnings all the time when we get off track. Sometimes it’s just a tap on the shoulder. Other times it is more severe. The Bible calls it discipline. We read in Hebrews 12:10-11: “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10-11)

God gives us warnings. But he also gives us grace. God not only sent the lion Samson’s way; he gave Samson the strength to defeat the lion. This was pure grace from God.

Once again, you need to pay attention. 1 Peter 5:8 says: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Satan wants to bring you down, but Christ has already defeated the enemy. Remember, Samson foreshadows Christ who destroyed the enemy for us. Christ has already torn the lion apart.

That’s our third principle this morning. Pay attention to God! Listen to his word. Watch out for his warnings. Recognize his grace in your life.

4) Do things God’s way (7-9)
   – Proverbs 3:5-6, 4:25-27

Number four: Do things God’s way. Look at verses 7-9:

Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. 8 Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass. In it was a swarm of bees and some honey, 9 which he scooped out with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass. (Judges 14:7-9)

Remember Samson’s three-part vow as a Nazirite? 1) He couldn’t drink wine. 2) He couldn’t cut his hair. And 3) He was not supposed to touch or go near a dead body. (Numbers 6:6)

Verse 8 tells us that Samson “turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass.” He just turned aside. He was just going to look. No harm in looking, right? Except he wasn’t even supposed to go near the dead lion. And once he looked, he saw the honey. And when he saw the honey, he scooped it out of the dead lion’s body and he ate. Samson just broke one of his three vows as a Nazirite.

You might way, “Well, I’m not set apart as a Nazirite.” No, but if you are a Christian you are set apart for God and his glory. Samson turned aside from God’s will for his life. Don’t you turn aside from God’s will for your life. Do things God’s way.

Proverbs 4 says: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27) Proverbs 3:5-6 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Young people, this is why it is so important that you walk closely with God when you graduate from high school or go off to college. You are going to be making a lot of important life decisions in your college years and beyond – what you will do, where you will live, whom you will marry – decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life. Don’t you want God to guide you in those decisions?

This is where a lot of us mess up in our young adult years. We get away from church and our relationship with God. We do what is right in our eyes instead of what is right in God’s eyes. We do things our way instead of God’s way. And we end up making some very bad decisions at a very important time in our life.

There are so many potential pitfalls in your young adult years. Don’t marry or date an unbeliever. Don’t live together before marriage. Don’t get caught up in the drinking scene or get sexually involved with your boy or girlfriend. Do get involved with a good Christian church and meet with other Christians in a small group or Bible study. Do things God’s way, go God’s way, and your life will be so much the better for it. That’s the fourth principle when you are getting ready to marry. Do things God’s way.

5) Beware of pride (10-14)
   – Proverbs 16:18; James 4:6

Number five: Beware of pride. Look at verses 10-14:

Now his father went down to see the woman. And Samson made a feast there, as was customary for bridegrooms. 11 When he appeared, he was given thirty companions. 12 “Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. 13 If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.” “Tell us your riddle,” they said. “Let’s hear it.” 14 He replied, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” For three days they could not give the answer. (Judges 14:10-14)

Now this is actually a fun part of the story. Everyone likes a riddle, and it’s fun watching Samson bring out this riddle at the feast. We’ve got the inside information, we know about the lion, so we immediately know the answer. But the poor Philistines don’t have a chance. If you don’t know about the dead lion with the honey in it’s carcass, you can never guess this riddle. And that’s the problem here. It’s not a fair riddle at all. And yet Samson brings it out to lord it over the Philistines that they can’t solve his riddle. It’s a problem of pride.

Well, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, right? And this particular riddle game is going to end in tragedy – tragedy for Samson and tragedy for his wife and her family, not to mention the Philistines. Pride is a game where no one wins, and everyone loses.

We need to beware of pride. Proverbs 16:18 says: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) James 4:6 says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Trust me, when you’re getting ready for marriage, when you are making important life decisions, you want God on your side. You don’t want God opposing you. And God opposes the proud. That’s the fifth principle when you’re getting married. Beware of pride.

By the way, this feast that Samson threw for the Philistines? This was actually a drinking feast. That’s what the word means in the original language. And so, this feast was Samson’s second breaking of his Nazirite vows. First, he scooped the honey out of the dead lion. Now he’s out drinking with his Philistine buddies. So, we’re only in chapter 14 and he’s already broken two of the vows – no touching dead bodies, no drinking wine. If you’re reading Samson’s story attentively at this point, you know that he’s only got one vow left, and he had better hold on to his hair! We’ll see how that works out, won’t we?

6) Practice unity, love and respect (15-18)
   – Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:33

We’ve looked at five biblical principles to follow when you’re getting married. Now let’s look at the last two. Number six: Practice unity, love and respect. Look at verses 15-18:

On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to rob us?” 16 Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” “I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” 17 She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people. 18 Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Samson said to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.” (Judges 14:15-18)

This whole scene is a preview of what will happen later with Delilah. But for now, Samson’s wife pesters him until he tells her the answer to the riddle. And of course, as soon as he tells her, she tells her people.

Genesis 2:24 says: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Marriage is the joining of two people as one. You need to leave your old loyalties behind and practice unity with your spouse. Here Samson and his wife are not unified. Samson brings up his father and mother against his wife. Samson’s wife favors her people over him. They let this riddle come between them and divide them.

How do you practice unity in your relationship? You treat each other with love and respect. Ephesians 5:33 says: “Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) Samson and his wife were only four days into their marriage, and love and respect had already gone out the window.

7) Beware of anger (19-20)
   – Proverbs 22:24, 29:11; James 1:19-20

And then finally, number seven: Beware of anger. Look at verses 19-20:

Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he went up to his father’s house. 20 And Samson’s wife was given to the friend who had attended him at his wedding. (Judges 14:19-20)

Samson was angry that the Philistines won the contest, and he was angry that his wife told them the answer to the riddle. He was literally burning with anger, and that anger led to the death of thirty men. Now God was also using Samson to fulfill his purposes. Samson was supposed to be fighting the Philistines, and God empowered Samson by his Spirit for the task. God used Samson, but Samson’s anger was still wrong.

Anger is a problem in life, and it is especially a problem in marriage. In fact, one of the questions I ask couples in premarital counseling is about the three A’s – anger, abuse and alcohol. I ask them: “Have you ever been exposed to or participated in extreme/severe anger? Have you ever been exposed to or participated in abuse of any kind? (verbal, physical, sexual) Have you ever been exposed to or participated in alcohol or drugs?” In premarital counseling I want to know about anger in their life and history.

Proverbs 22:24 says: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.” (Proverbs 22:24) Proverbs 29:11 says: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11) James 1 says: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)

A word of advice? Don’t marry an angry person. If you’re not even supposed to make friends with an angry person, you certainly don’t want to marry one. An angry person is a foolish person. An angry person will not bring about the righteous life that God desires for you.

CONCLUSION: If there was ever an example of marriage gone wrong, it was Samson’s. Samson’s marriage didn’t even survive the honeymoon! Samson did just about everything wrong that you can do wrong when it comes to marriage. He married an unbeliever. He didn’t listen to his parents. He didn’t pay attention to God’s warnings. He did things his way, not God’s way. He was proud and arrogant. He and his wife were not united together in love and respect. He gave into anger. And yet God still worked through Samson to begin Israel’s deliverance from the Philistines.

God is sovereign. He works even through the evil actions of men to bring about his good purposes. The greatest example of this is Jesus at the cross. We read about Jesus in Acts 2:23: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23) Wicked men put Jesus to death by nailing him to the cross, and yet this was all according to God’s set purpose. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins so that we could be forgiven.

Question – why does God use flawed people like Samson in the Bible? Answer – flawed people are all he has! It’s all he had then, and it’s all he’s got now. And yet God continues to work out his purposes in our lives despite our sin and weaknesses.

Marriage is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. God has given us good principles in his word to follow when we are getting married. I trust that you will take these principles to heart in your daily life whether you are getting married or not. Because when we follow God’s way, life is so much better than when we go our own way.

© Ray Fowler

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