Why did the lion attack Samson?
In this article we look at the lion that attacked Samson in Judges 14, as the Word for WORD Bible Comic is of a high view of scripture not only do we believe in inerrancy but also that all scripture is for our learning, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). So what does the story of the lion tell us? There are a few options as to why the lion attacked Samson, namely Natural, Holy and Demonic...
Natural- The type of lion found in ancient Canaan was the Asiatic lion. Normally lions do not attack people but there are still plenty of cases were they will. If a lion gets desperate, unwell or has an issue with its teeth they will take down any prey they can. Once a lion has started eating people it is likely to continue to do so. In biblical times it seems that man eating lions were a real danger even outside of the Samson story (Proverbs 26:13, 1 Samuel 17:37, 1 Kings 13:24) and it is clear from archaeological evidence of lion hunts and depictions that unlike today, lions were a presence in the Levant at that time.
The idea that the incident was purely an unlucky encounter is of course a possibility, but many Jewish rabbis would say “coincidence is not a Kosher word”. If we believe in an omniscient God that is sovereign we know that, at the very least, this encounter was not a surprise to God who then employed the Holy Spirit to bail Samson out. While it is speculation, I think it's reasonable to say that if God knew this natural danger and didn't want Samson to be harmed he could have averted the situation in a number of mundane or less dramatic miraculous ways. See conclusion for more on this.
Holy – I have read one commentary that suggested God sent the lion to keep Samson from the vineyards (Judges 14:5b) due to his Nazerite vow. This is based, I believe, on the idea that God enlists lions in 2 Kings 17:25, 1 Kings 20.36 and 1 Kings 13:24 for his purposes or judgement. But this point of view while linked with other biblical instances doesn't make any sense. Why send a lion to threaten Samson only to empower him to kills it. Also, if Samson had chosen a path of sin and disobedience, or one that teeters on the edge, it is not like God to intervene in such a dramatic fashion, as we are allowed free will to choose whether we live righteously or otherwise.
Demonic- I'm not one to hyper-spiritualise everything and say there are demons behind every misfortune but in this case I think it is a possibility. We look at this story with the benefit of hindsight, but to people involved didn't know the future and that includes Satan and other demonic entities. Satan knew from the judgement in the garden of Eden that a messiah would come to crush him and would be a son of Eve (Genesis 3:15). Up until the day of Samson God had revealed that the messiah would come from Abraham's line, (Genesis 18:18) then narrowed it to Issac's line (Genesis 17:19) then narrowed it down to Jacob's line, (Numbers 24:17) he did not know who the messiah would be and so concentrated his effort on destroying any potential threats within the bracket he knew about. All Satan knew at this point was that he would be from the people of Israel. He did not know when this would be, so when 'the' Angel of the Lord appears to a baron woman and tell her that her miraculous son will be special, a dedicated as a Nazarite from born and “He will take the lead in delivering Israel” (Judges 13:3-5) I'm sure that Samson became his number one priority. Which brings us to the conclusion.
I dismiss the possibility that God sent the lion to judge or ward off Samson as illogical, but the other two options are both possibilities. Due to my high view of scripture, that all things are there by design and there are no accidents in God's plans, I lean to the interpretation that Satan (or his agent) was trying to thwart God's plans by slaying his messiah before he could get started on his mission and probably at a young age 13-18. In addition it fits with the 'whole council of scripture' (old and new as one whole) that this motif of Satan as a lion is “in the New Testament revealed” by Peter's words “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). It seems to me that Satan took the opportunity to attack Samson when he was in a position of compromise (“approached the vineyards”, Judges 14:5b). It could even be that the Enemy sought to throw Samson into the grapes of the vineyard to break his vow or to touch him with a lion's flesh to make him ceremonially unclean and thus shatter his power and kill him while his was an unclean oath-breaker. If we understand that, we can perhaps understand not only why “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands”(Judges 14:6) in order to protect him but also why God let this attempt go ahead to then take it down so violently.
In the comic I try to leave both logical interpretations open. The lion that attacks Samson has a broken tooth and its ribs protrude from starvation, but also the colour of its eyes have an unnatural sickly green which hints at the demonic possession of the creature, the lion is further demonised by portraying it with a bloody maw.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:8-10
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