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Moses commanded the Israelites not to marry a gentile in Deuteronomy 7:

3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons,

God wanted Samson to pursue a gentile woman in Judges 14:

1 Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 2When 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.”

3His 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.” 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.)

Did God want Samson to violate a statute of Moses? Did Samson sin?

As suggested by חִידָה's comment: Why would YHVH cause an Israelite to violate His Torah?

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  • Are you not really asking : Why would YHVH cause an Israelite to violate His Torah? Mar 24, 2021 at 13:43
  • 1
    Good point. I added to my question.
    – user35953
    Mar 24, 2021 at 13:46
  • The full context of Deuteronomy 7:1-3: "the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites .... do not intermarry with them." Marriage with the Philistines wasn't a violation of the letter, if the spirit, of the law
    – b a
    Mar 24, 2021 at 13:50
  • @b a - Philistines were not Canaanites, but just inhabited Canaan? Mar 24, 2021 at 13:58
  • 1
    Right. I corrected the typo. Thanks.
    – user35953
    Mar 24, 2021 at 17:29

3 Answers 3

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Moses in Midian, unable to marry a Hebrew, married Jethro's daughter.

Moses, again, in the wilderness unable to find a suitable wife amongst the rebellious multitude, married an Ethiopian.

So Samson, at a time when Israel was slumped under Philistine rule, and was not attempting to overthrow such a rule, chose not to marry a Jew but a Philistine so he could have an occasion against the overlord's of God's people.

This is not sin, it is in alignment with whom and with what God is and is in alignment with his ultimate purposes in Israel and the coming Messiah.

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The purpose of God appointing Samson as Judge of Israel is stated by the Angel before Samson's birth in Judges 13:5 -

For behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son. And no razor shall come over his head, because the boy will be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

The fact that Samson was not doing this and becoming too "friendly" with the Philistines meant that God had to show him the error of Samson's ways and the consequences of his actions.

Thus, Samson was allowed to arrange an illegal marriage which resulted in the death of 30 men. However, notice that Samson's marriage to the woman never occured as described in Judges 14:19, 20 -

And burning with anger, Samson returned to his father’s house, 20and his wife was given to one of the men who had accompanied him.

Thus, the Torah was not violated in this case.

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  • But (Judges 14:20) states "his wife was given to one of the men who had accompanied him." The possessive pronoun "his" mentioned in the aforementioned verse refers to Samson. Therefore, Samson must have been married to the Philistine woman from Timnah at some point in time. Samson's marriage to said Philistine woman was incidentally & consequentially annulled when said woman was married off to one of Samson's companion friends. Therefore, Samson, an Israelite, did at some point in time was briefly married to a Philistinian woman. Mar 14 at 14:43
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Yes, Samson did sin. Not only did he marry a Philistine woman, but he also had sex with a Philistine prostitute (Judges 16:1) and with Delilah. In the later case he committed the additional sin of violating his Nazarite vow by allowing his hair to be cut.

Nor was Samson the only judge to violate the Torah. Jephthah committed the sin of human sacrifice. (11:39) Gideon created an unauthorized ephod that became an object of idolatry. (Judges 8:27) God used these men despite their sins. But, just as God did not look the other way when David sinned with Bathsheba, we should not find excuses for the judges when they, like David, clearly did sin.

The OP also asks: "did God want Samson to sin?" To this the answer is no. There must have been alternative path open to him. This, of course, is speculative. However, Jewish tradition holds that a man may indeed take a foreign wife if the woman agrees to become a believer in the God of Abraham and raise their children in the faith. Thus, Moses married the Midianite Zipporah -a woman from a forbidden tribe - but she demonstrated her faith in God when she circumcised their son (Exodus 4:25) and thus rescued Moses from death at the hands of the Lord. Similarly, none other than King David was the descendant of the Moabite Ruth - the daughter of another forbidden tribe - who likewise left behind her foreign gods and accepted the God of Israel. If this course was open to Zipporah and Ruth, then why not to Samson's wife, if Samson had behaved differently? And through her, perhaps a path was open to a lasting peace between the Israelites and the Philistines, in which the Philistines would accept the Israelite religion. (Such a thing in fact happened centuries later when the Edomites adopted the Jewish religion in the time of the Hasmonean dynasty.)

Conclusion: Samson did sin. The narrative tells us he was used by God in spite of this. But this does not mean that God wanted him to sin.

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