Judges 15:1-20 (Part 1) – Revenge Is A Dish That Is…Like Setting Your Food On Fire!

Posted: September 18, 2017 in Book of Judges
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Judges 15:1-20 (Part 1 of 2)
Samson’s Vengeance on the Philistines

In the movie, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, released in 1982, Khan uttered what he called an old Klingon proverb, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” It is actually earthly in origin and it means that revenge that is delayed, and executed well after the heat of anger has dissipated, is more satisfying than revenge taken as an immediate act of rage. It was first used by French author Eugène Sue in his novel, Memoirs of Matilda, which was translated into English by D. G. Osbourne and published in 1846 but did not gain traction in popular American culture until the movie, The Godfather, was released in 1972.

The idea of revenge is at the very nature of man. It is an emotion of pride. I must be avenged of a wrong done to me, whether it be perceived or real. There is a saying about revenge too is that when we seek revenge, we are allowing another person to “live rent free in our heads.” Revenge can consume us and destroy us and often the revenge that we seek does not satisfy us. We can get so wrapped up in revenge and hatred of another person that we end up consuming and destroying ourselves in the process. One of my favorite movies on the subject is the Kevin Costner movie, The War, with Elijah Wood as the central child character in the movie. Kevin Costner who plays Stephen Simmons in the movie is the returning Vietnam War vet who is dealing with what happened over there and detests anything to do with war, hatred, killing, etc. Elijah Woods plays his son in the movie and his character’s name is Stu. As the movie plays out, Kevin’s character’s kids are out to build the ultimate tree fort during their summer break from school back in the 1960s Vietnam Era. But, there are these other set of brothers, the Lipnickis, the low-life junkyard owner’s kids, are the antagonists in the movie. The action between these two families of kids escalates throughout the movie because Kevin Costner’s kids stole some things from the junkyard for their fort and it escalates into an all out “war” by the end of the movie. The fight becomes so great that during the final “battle” scene between the two families of kids that the tree house that the Simmons kids and their neighborhood buddies had worked so hard to build all summer long is set on fire. But the war goes on that day and the fight does not end until the tree house is completely consumed by the fire – and there is nothing left to fight for. It is good movie that is worth a watch on a Friday night. The points out that ever-escalating revenge always results in all out war and war consumes everything in its path and nobody wins.

I am reminded of that morality tale of a movie about kids and the fort and of my ex-wife when I think of how revenge can consume us and destroy us. She allowed her desire for revenge against me consume and destroy her to the point that she ended up lonely and alone with only her second husband as a person who would have anything to do with her. Revenge itself can become our god to the point that we worship the pain that another person caused us and it can lead us to burn up our treehouse in the process. Let’s read about Samson’s consuming desire for revenge in this passage, Judges 15:1-20:
15 Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat as a present to his wife. He said, “I’m going into my wife’s room to sleep with her,” but her father wouldn’t let him in.

2 “I truly thought you must hate her,” her father explained, “so I gave her in marriage to your best man. But look, her younger sister is even more beautiful than she is. Marry her instead.”

3 Samson said, “This time I cannot be blamed for everything I am going to do to you Philistines.” 4 Then he went out and caught 300 foxes. He tied their tails together in pairs, and he fastened a torch to each pair of tails. 5 Then he lit the torches and let the foxes run through the grain fields of the Philistines. He burned all their grain to the ground, including the sheaves and the uncut grain. He also destroyed their vineyards and olive groves.

6 “Who did this?” the Philistines demanded.

“Samson,” was the reply, “because his father-in-law from Timnah gave Samson’s wife to be married to his best man.” So the Philistines went and got the woman and her father and burned them to death.

7 “Because you did this,” Samson vowed, “I won’t rest until I take my revenge on you!” 8 So he attacked the Philistines with great fury and killed many of them. Then he went to live in a cave in the rock of Etam.

9 The Philistines retaliated by setting up camp in Judah and spreading out near the town of Lehi. 10 The men of Judah asked the Philistines, “Why are you attacking us?”

The Philistines replied, “We’ve come to capture Samson. We’ve come to pay him back for what he did to us.”

11 So 3,000 men of Judah went down to get Samson at the cave in the rock of Etam. They said to Samson, “Don’t you realize the Philistines rule over us? What are you doing to us?”

But Samson replied, “I only did to them what they did to me.”

12 But the men of Judah told him, “We have come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”

“All right,” Samson said. “But promise that you won’t kill me yourselves.”

13 “We will only tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines,” they replied. “We won’t kill you.” So they tied him up with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

14 As Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting in triumph. But the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists. 15 Then he found the jawbone of a recently killed donkey. He picked it up and killed 1,000 Philistines with it. 16 Then Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,
I’ve piled them in heaps!
With the jawbone of a donkey,
I’ve killed a thousand men!”

17 When he finished his boasting, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was named Jawbone Hill.[a]

18 Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the Lord, “You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?” 19 So God caused water to gush out of a hollow in the ground at Lehi, and Samson was revived as he drank. Then he named that place “The Spring of the One Who Cried Out,”[b] and it is still in Lehi to this day.

20 Samson judged Israel for twenty years during the period when the Philistines dominated the land.

Here, in this passage, we see Samson’s reply in Judges 15:11 tells the story of this chapter: “I only did to them what they did to me.” Revenge is an uncontrollable monster. Each act of retaliation brings another. The cycle of revenge can only be halted by forgiveness.

In the movie, The War, the only thing that broke the cycle of violence until Stu Simmons saves the youngest Lipnicki kid from drowning. In that situation, Stu saves the little boy’s life by not only drawing out of the water but also by performing CPR on him. It is only that act of kindness that changes everything. After that as the movie closes, the Lipnicki boys and the Simmons kids and their friends bury the hatchet. One person has to take the initiative to end the cycle of violence by either not retailiating or by some act of kindness. Revenge consumes and destroys. Revenge blinds us to normal decency. Revenge burns everything in its path and leaves nothing but charred, used up remains behind. The path of extinguished friendships of my ex-wife, God rest her soul (as she passed on back in 2015), is evidence of how hate can consume a person. When we let revenge consume us we end up with the charred remains of a tree fort that we call our life, but yet we won. We won but everything is destroyed. Forgiveness is the only thing that will end the battle and end the war. We must turn out perceived or actual wrongs over to the Lord and evict that person from living in our head rent free. We must not let revenge become the napalm of our lives. It consumes and burns up what was once a beautiful forest full of foliage and leaves only scorched earth in its wake.

Is there someone that you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to evict from their rent-free apartment in your head? Is there someone that you need to extend the same grace that you were given in Jesus Christ? Can you not offer the same grace that you have been given? How freeing will that day be when you offer the same grace that you have been given?

Amen and Amen.

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