In Judges we read:

Judges 14:3-4 (NIV) (emphasis added)

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.” 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.)

How do we explain the statement “His parents did not know that this was from the Lord?” It's clear that God doesn't allow His men to take wives from other peoples according to Ezra 9:12 and Deuteronomy 7:3. There are also other verses with the same idea. Was Samson an exception?

  • Just because they couldn't know doesn't mean they're at fault! Much like Joseph's plan to disavow Mary before the angel spoke to him, they acted in line with God's general plan, His specific one not having been revealed to them. May 16, 2018 at 20:15

4 Answers 4


Marriage Prohibitions

The two references you give (Dt 7:3, Ez 9:12) explicitly help answer your question (though the Ezra one is technically irrelevant since it was centuries after the time of Samson). Both passages list an explicit set of people when a slightly expanded context is shown:

Deut 7:1-3 (KJV)

1When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: 3Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

Ezra 9:1-2, 10-12

1Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass. ... 10And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments, 11Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. 12Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.

Note that the Philistines are not listed. This is true even at the time of Israel entering into the Promised Land (during Deuteronomy).1 To my knowledge, the Philistines are never directly stated anywhere in Scripture to be prohibited from marriage to an Israelite.

Additionally, except in the case of a man having only daughters and no sons to pass inheritance to (like Zelophehad's daughters, Num 36), there was not an explicit command that all marriage had to be done between Israelites.

The Philistines

The Philistines likely had conquered and settled or been transplanted to that location,2 and were not part of the people group of Canaan.3 So the Philistines did not originate from the Canaanite groups infected by the Amorite sins (Gen 15:16). The Philistine land was considered separate from the Canaanite land (Ex 13:17), and the people group was distinguished from the Canaanites (Josh 13:1-6).

The Parents' Objection

Undoubtedly the Philistines were the enemies of Israel (Jdg 14:4 mentions their dominion over Israel). They also were a pagan people, worshiping gods other than the God of Israel (Jud 10:6, 16:23). This alone is enough reason as to why the parents objected to Samson's choice. Indeed, any mixed marriage (even with non-forbidden peoples) ran the risk of having the Israelite's heart turn to the pagan gods; and idolatry was expressly forbidden (Dt 11:16). As the verse notes, however, they were not aware how God was working through the request.

God's Ways

So there is no direct conflict with God's commands and His possible moving in the heart of Samson to be attracted to a Philistine woman. However, even if it were sinful of Samson, and arose wholly of him, and God simply allowed it for His own purposes, it could still be something "of the Lord." Whether God is actively doing or passively allowing, He is working. That is simply how God operates in a sinful world. Humans sin, and God works despite that sin.


1 I do not hold to a late date, redacted writing of Deuteronomy, but that it was completely (or nearly so) written by Moses (though parts of last chapter perhaps by Joshua).

2 "1175 BC: Ramses III defeats the Sea Peoples including Philistines and settles captives in fortresses in southern Canaan (alternatively, Philistines invade and settle the coastal plain for themselves)." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philistines#History accessed 5-2-2014)

3 "The Philistines, while an integral part of the Canaanite milieu, do not seem to have been ethnic Canaanites, and were listed in the Table of Nations as descendants of Misraim; the Arameans, Moabites, Ammonites, Midianites and Edomites were also considered fellow descendants of Shem or Abraham, and distinct from generic Canaanites/Amorites" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaan#Biblical_usage accessed 5-2-2014)


The story of Samson is difficult for some because he was clearly very 'fleshly' in some ways, but in reality very holy and the best example of a body Israelite in his generation.

With respect to the verse in question I think this quote begins a proper sorting:

Samson, in the old fleshy nature, was seeking his own self-gratification: but the higher impulses in him from the Spirit of God, in concert with the Providence of God, were seeking an opportunity of quarrelling (2 Kings 5:7) with, and so delivering Israel from, the Philistines. Whatever may have been Samson’s carnal purpose, in effect he sought an occasion against the oppressors. (Fausset, A. R. (1885). A Critical and Expository Commentary on the Book of Judges ,p. 227)

This kind of coinciding of men's lusts and God's inspiration occurs in he BIble more then once (see 1 Kings 12:15). What we must remember thought to see the strong holy desires guiding his unholy desire is that Samson had a deep desire to bring freedom to Israel and sought a way to bring himself into conflict with the Philistines, in order to achieve is most intense dream. So on the surface he may have been attracted to a Philistine woman but much deeper and more influential in his life was the desire to use that desire for a godly purpose. Even his parent seem to be cower under the holy dream of Samson and all subconsciously yield to the Spirit in him. If it were not so there would be much greater objections for the idea was monstrous that the man set apart as a Nazarite should marry Philistine!

To some this whole concept of mixed motives (holy and evil) is rubbish. Self-righteous people are not aware that motives (good and evil) may be mixed and often imagine it must be one or the other only. However, no man has a single motive and God's works within the frail nature of humans. Furthermore, Samson is all alone as a holy man. He seems to be the only hero. He has no teachers, no supporters, no aids, no patriots ready to battle. He alone seems to have a holy desire for Israel and he alone knows that he will free Israel. He is brave, courageous an strong. Regardless of who suffers and who dies he will free Israel. We need not look down on such a man as some expositors do, for he is honoured by God who judges the heart.

Regarding the legality of it all. In some ways it does not matter. If we think God made an official 'exception' for Samson, to marry a woman from an enemy nation which would otherwise be deemed unlawful, or that God 'used' Samson's sin as an occasion to arrange his will (meaning it was still a sin) -- the result is pretty much the same. There was a higher work at play and higher desires in Samson, making his weakness less noticeable to God then his faithful strength. To God samson was a man after his own heart as is every hero of faith. We mist remember that the reason why Israel was not to marry wives from enemy nations is that this desire would lead to adultery, etc. In the case of Samson the road to destruction was a road of deliverance because he was so holy that his temptations among the pagans could not overwhelm his unwavering desire to destroy them.

  • Interesting answer, BUT looking at the life of Samson we see that he fell down and down. First, a wife from Philistines, then a prostitute from Gaza and then Delilah, which betrayed him. The Philistines gouged out his eye setting him to grinding grain prison. Judges 16:20: But he did not know that the Lord had left him. It's clear that this wasn't the plan of the Lord to save Israel. At the end of his life he repented and God gave him the power, destroying Dagon's temple: Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.. I believe God had a better plan with him. May 2, 2014 at 5:08
  • yes but that's the point. his failings led to his position which could destroy the enemies of Israel. God used his weakness to get him close to the enemy. Samson wanted to get close as a holy desire and as a fleshly desire but God was coordinating it all. Of course there are other views also. cheers.
    – Mike
    May 2, 2014 at 7:02

It does seem troubling, because the question immediately arises "Did God cause Samson to sin to accomplish his purpose?" This notion, however, is completely contrary to the nature of God. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (BSB) states:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Romans 9:11-24 seems to indicate that God uses us to accomplish His purposes, yet none of us are destined for destruction if we choose Him. The very end of Romans 9 proclaims this, "...the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."

  • I have edited your answer to format the quote appropriately ('>' as first character in the paragraph). Also, don't forget to identify the Bible version used. The Berean Study Bible (BSB) is the closest match I could find. If it is not correct, then edit your answer to fix it.
    – enegue
    May 12, 2017 at 21:23

The perfect will of God was for Sampson not to marry from the Philistines else God would have contradicted Himself.But he permissively allowed Samson to attempt marrying the Philistine woman in order to glorify Himself and cause Samson to fulfill his destiny.

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