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I'm trying to understand why God accepted Samson's prayer request to avenge the Philistines for gouging out his eyes.

Judges 18:28-31
28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord [o]God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with [p]all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus he had judged Israel twenty years.

-Would it be correct to say that Samson's prayer request to avenge against the Philistines as being similar to David's imprecatory Psalms( especially Psalm 69 and Psalm 109)?

@macs-musings and @nigel-j Thanks for your suggestions

-In light of the following 2 biblical verses, why would God grant Samson his prayer request to avenge against the Philistines for gouging his eyes?

Romans 12:19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but [a]leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Leviticus 19:18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

-In light of the above 2 biblical verses, why would God grant Samson his prayer request to avenge the Philistines for gouging his eyes?

  • The second "quote" turns this from a valid question into something that is opinion based and, indeed, fanciful. – Nigel J May 20 '19 at 16:37
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    Unfortunately, I agree with Nigel J here. To get a properly considered answer, it might be better to ask why God answered Samson's prayer in view of Rom 12:19 and Lev 19:18, etc. – user25930 May 20 '19 at 22:54
  • @macs-musings Thanks for your suggestions. I'm improved the questions that are asked. – crazyTech May 20 '19 at 23:14
  • You seem to be confusing revenge with warfare. Samson was a man fighting ongoing foreign occupation, and the Philistines were certainly not the sons of [Samson's] people, Israel. – Lucian May 22 '19 at 7:37
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Probably for the first time in his adult life Samson was physically weak. He was humbled before God, and his enemies. Whilst he was blind, it seems he finally saw spiritually. Normally he might have just gone and taken revenge for himself like at other times in Judges 14 and 15. This time he had to ask God...and God was gracious to him.

The destruction of the Philistines temple and Philistine rulers was fulfilling what the angel said to Samson's mother (Judges 13:4) about him beginning the deliverance from the Philistines.

Samson's death also points to Christ's sacrificial death and victory over sin:

  • Caiphas the High priest prophesying Jesus death - John 11:49-52
  • Jesus talking of giving his life for his sheep (spiritual Israel) - John10:15-18
  • Jesus has given us the victory - 1 Corinthians 15:57

Just like death and hell were judged in Revelation 21, the Philistines received judgement.

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Samson showed signs of immaturity

I’m not sure that God answered Samson’s prayer based on Samson’s reasoning, even if it might have been a contributing factor, it most certainly was not the primary contributing factor.

Samson made it personal because his eyes were gouged but in fact his duty and sole purpose of life was to fulfill his calling for which he was born, begin freeing Israel. Samson’s eyes were gouged of his own disobedience.

Unfortunately Samson failed to mature in some areas due to his ability to compensate with brute force and strength. He seemed only motivated to obey when it was personal to him or was constrained. He isn’t recorded as praying much except in dire circumstances. Judges 15:18 & Judges 16:28 ‭

Why would God allow the death of the Philistines?

“For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” ‭‭Judges‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭

Mind you, it would be a minimum two decades before Samson would have any dealings with the Philistines from the time of this visitation made to his parents until Samson would be ready for battle age 20. Numbers 1:3

The Philistines were an instrument in the hands of God against His own people

“And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.” ‭‭Judges‬ ‭13:1‬

The forty years corresponded in God’s eyes to a definite timeframe of punishment. It wasn’t happenstance. Samson would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

Notice the amount of time Samson judged Israel

“Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.” ‭‭Judges‬ ‭16:31‬ ‭

If we take the total of forty years under Philistine dominance and subtract the twenty Samson was judge, that would have made him twenty when he started. That would mean from day one, God had already considered a deliverer for His people. If however the Philistines were handed Israel twenty years prior that means they were dominating Israel twenty additional years than the initial 40 years determined by God.

Either way, the end of Israel’s judgment under Philistine domination was either approaching or overdue.

God’s honor was at stake

This was more than what was happening in the natural, this was a heavenly battle between the principality Dagon and the God of Heaven.

“Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.” ‭‭Judges‬ ‭16:23‬

God was not about to allow Samson’s prayer go unanswered when it was a perfect opportunity to fulfill His prophetic word spoken to Samson’s parents and His Name was being dishonored. It was after all God that allowed Israel into the hands of the Philistines and likewise God allowed Samson into their hands due to his own disobedience.

It’s unfortunate that Samson had to die this way but God’s words were fulfilled. This means God’s words would have been fulfilled no matter what and had Samson obeyed he would have died a different death and Israel would have been freed around the same time by another route or sequence of events. Either way God gets the glory.

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First things first. There is a big difference between the words avenge and revenge. As a writer (here) suggested:

Avenge is a verb meaning to inflict a punishment or penalty for an injury or a wrong.

  • We will avenge your son’s death.
  • I will avenge those who sullied your name.
  • The victim was avenged after the shooter was sentenced.
  • “As her family, we do not seek to avenge her death.” – The Guardian

Revenge is both a noun and a verb and generally means the act of taking vengeance for injuries or wrongs; retaliation. While revenge can function as a verb, it is much more commonly used as a noun.

  • He was so blinded by a desire to get revenge. (Noun)
  • I had difficulty not being overwhelmed by feelings or hate and revenge. (Noun)
  • “Rodman, a lifetime fifty-eight-per-cent free-throw shooter, was decidedly less amused, but he got revenge by making nine of twelve from the line.” – The New Yorker (Noun)
  • We are determined to revenge our humiliating loss from last year. (Verb)

As the writer I've quoted above says,

Avenge means the achievement of justice. Both avenge and achievement start with the letter “A.

Revenge means retaliation. Both revenge and retaliation start with the letter “R.”

Samson was more interested in being avenged for the loss of his sight than in exacting revenge on his enemies. His prayer to the LORD reflects--albeit belatedly--his dependence on God for the amazing--miraculous, really--feat of strength with which he would be avenged, yet at the cost of his life.

Since context is of paramount importance in hermeneutics, I suggest we start answering your question by unpacking several layers of context. First, there is the context which constitutes the elephant in the room, so to speak, and that is the natural antipathy between Samson, a child of Israel, and the Philistines. Writ large, this antipathy was commanded by God, and if Joshua and his generation had obeyed God by dispossessing the Philistines as he had directed, the life of Israel as a nation would have been vastly different--and far better!

God, of course, realized that Israel's obedience in ridding the promised land of her (and God's) enemies would be but partial. Hence, the antipathy and conflict between the polytheistic Philistines and the monotheistic Israelites would be an unpleasant aspect of Israel's history for generations.

Since God did not have a Plan B but only a Plan A, which is just as true today as it was in Samson's day, God did not require Samson's obedience to bring his will to pass. Nevertheless, Samson's partial obedience, as evinced by his last heart-felt prayer, God rewarded, and Samson was avenged.

Were Samson's motives as pure as the driven snow? Probably not. Was he after justice or revenge? The Bible does not give us a definitive answer. In his defense, however, Samson was not the only "judge" of Israel who disappointed God during this dark time in the history of Israel. A verse which summarizes the spiritual nadir into which Israel had sunk is in Judges Chapter 21:

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (v.25).

In other words, the second contextual component for Samson's sad story is the entire period of the judges, which according to some estimates could be anywhere from 385 years to 450 years, depending on how you calculate its beginning and ending. Regardless how long the period was, the lesson writ large over the entire period is that despite its lack of a king (Judges 21:25a reads "in those days there was no king in Israel"), a king would one day burst on the scene who would have the cure for the ills of humankind.

The third contextual component, then, is Jesus Christ himself, who through his death, burial, and resurrection would one day bring a sure hope to the world's repentant sinners who by being regenerated and sanctified would become a kingdom of priests. As such they will, both in this life and the next, be "offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). They will also rule and reign with Jesus, who alone is the King of kings and Lord of lords, in a new heaven and a new earth in which only righteousness dwells.

The failures of not only the period of the judges but also the failures of each and every period in Israel's history and in the history of the church universal in the year of our Lord will give way to the success of the Kingdom of God, through which the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever as the only infinitely perfect prophet, priest, and king.

In conclusion, as for revenge of any sort constituting disobedience to God, the verse you quoted from Leviticus 19 includes a key phrase; namely,

. . . against the sons of your people (v.25).

God commanded his people to refrain from exacting vengeance (or taking revenge) on their fellow Israelites, for vengeance belongs only to God. Morevoer, Israel was charged by God to be a light of righteousness in the midst of a dark world which saw nothing wrong with exacting revenge on an enemy.

Jesus amplified and expanded the concept of revenge in his Sermon on the Mount, which looked forward to the time when his followers, after his ascension to heaven, would refuse to take revenge not only on a fellow believer but would also refuse to take revenge on their enemies and persecutors.

To that end, even Gentiles would experience the mercy and grace of a loving God who

causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (v.45b).

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