Samson and the Sabbath


In the story of Samson’s wedding feast we found out that the feast was to last for 7 days (Judges 14:12). Therefore at least one of the days of this 7 day feast was the Sabbath. When Samson presented his riddle, the 30 companions could not understand the riddle or come up with any truth – sort of like the kings wise men in Egypt or in Babylon (Exodus 41:8 and Daniel 2; 4:1-7; 5:1-8). By the third day they were desperate and they did not seek out the Lord God of Israel. By they 7th day of the feast they had found an unethical way to get the answer but not by the truths of God. The great question is what day was that 7th day and why focus on the 7th day of this feast? What was the purpose of God putting this information into His story? Lets see what He has to say about the 7th day in the Bible.


In the Revelation of Jesus Christ there are many series of 7s – 7 Candlesticks, 7 Churches, 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets, 7 Eyes, 7 Horns, 7 Spirits, and 7 Last Plagues. In the Revelation 7 indicates completeness – a total picture of an event or process. In the Book of Genesis we have our first 7 the 7 days of the Creation week. Jesus, our Creator (Colossians 1:7-20) had finished all of His “work” on the 6 days of Creation and chose to rest on the 7th day. Jesus Himself says that that 7th day, or the Sabbath, had been made for mankind and not mankind for it (Mark 2:27-28). Sabbath, the 7th day of the week had been created as a gift and blessing for mankind, before sin had come into the world. We have a number of texts that speak to the Creation moment that God had rested from His labors, and those labors had been for us (Revelation 14:7; Mark 2:27-28; Exodus 31:12-17; Exodus 20:8-11; Genesis 2:1-3). This 7th day had been blessed (Genesis 2:3), sanctified (Genesis 2:3), and hallowed (Exodus 20:10-11). The Sabbath, the 7th day, was a special day in the mind of God and it was to be a blessing to mankind, not because Jesus had become tired from speaking the universe into existence.


We know from the Bible that the Sabbath was created in the beginning, and that it must have become a bone of contention with people before the flood for the thoughts of their hearts were evil continually (Genesis 6:5). To do evil continually, and to have every imagination of the heart to be evil, means that anything that God had created for our blessing would have been neglected, twisted, or downright rebelled against. To counter these thoughts God sent a man with a special name. Noah, interestingly enough, means “rest”. Rest is another way of explaining Sabbath – to rest from ones works (Hebrews 4:1-11). God created this day to help us and to protect us from the idea that we can take care of ourselves. God says we needed the 7th day to help us to stay focused upon God, our Creator. So when God called Noah/Rest He called him to build the ark that God was going to instruct him how to do. God was going to send the flood if the people did not repent and He wanted a place of safety for His people. He sent His man Noah to do all of the work so that any who wanted to be saved could enter into that place of safety and rest while God sent the flood to do its work of destruction. Anybody who wanted safety could enter into the tabernacle of God made by the man named rest through God’s instructions. Anybody who entered into this ark of rest would be saved, not by his works but by the works of God working through His prophet. This system, trust in God through His prophet is one of the working metaphors in the Bible.


This principle repeats itself in the story of the Exodus. Apparently Israel, while in slavery to Egypt, was not observing God’s holy Sabbath while in Egypt and they were working and not resting in God. When Moses came from speaking to the I Am in Exodus 3 one of the first things that Moses encouraged Israel to do was to rest in God’s care as a testimony of faith in His ability to rescue them and their powerless to save themselves. Ellen White states this idea in the following way:

“In their bondage the Israelites had to some extent lost the knowledge of God’s law, and they had departed from its precepts. The Sabbath had been generally disregarded, and the exactions of their taskmasters made its observance apparently impossible. But Moses had shown his people that obedience to God was the first condition of deliverance; and the efforts made to restore the observance (Exodus 5:5) of the Sabbath had come to the notice of their oppressors.” Patriarchs and Prophets page 257-258.


When Israel had been delivered from Egypt and had passed through the Red Sea they came to a place in the wilderness that they felt that they needed food. They could not see how God would be able to take care of all the people and they started to believe that they would die from starvation in the wilderness. But God sent them manna – bread from heaven to deliver His people (Exodus 16). God instructed them that they were to gather manna each morning but only gather enough manna to care for their needs for one day. If they gathered more then that manna would spoil, smell, and breed worms. However, on the 6th day – Friday, they were to gather twice as much because on the 7th day – Sabbath, God would not send any manna. When they gathered twice as much on Friday the manna did not spoil, stink, or breed worms. On the 7th day of the week no manna was given for all of the work was to have been done on the 6 days allotted for work. When people went out looking for manna, God asked Moses how long was Israel going to rebel against His commandments (Exodus 16:26-30)?


Sabbath keeping, or trusting in God to care for His people, was a constant struggle all through the history of Israel. Sabbath breaking, or distrusting Jesus, was one of the issues that caused the Babylonian captivity (Jeremiah 17:19-27; Ezekiel 20:10-26). Eventually God sent them into Babylon in order for the land to keep Sabbath for 70 years (II Chronicles 36:11-21). When Israel came back from Babylon they still did not understand the magnitude of trusting in God and they continued to break the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-22) and when Jesus arrived one of the things that He did was as the Lord of the Sabbath He displayed what real Sabbath keeping was about (Matthew 12; John 5, John 11). Jesus even went so far as to die on Friday, “rest” on His Sabbath, and resurrect and go back to work on the 1st day of the week – the first work day.


After Jesus’ death not one facet of the covenant agreement could be changed for a covenant contract can not be altered nor anything added or deleted (Galatians 3:15; Hebrews 9:16-17). So when Jesus died His disciples continued to observe His Sabbath according to God’s commandments (Luke 23:56) and according to His covenant of love for nothing had changed regarding His New Covenant requirements. His disciples continued to observe Sabbath and even the Gentiles in Asia understood much of the Sabbath and they sought that the Sabbath would be an ideal time to hear the gospel from Paul in Acts 13:14, 40-44. This continued on even to the time of John receiving visions on the Sabbath – God’s holy day (Isaiah 58:13).


An interesting issue seemed to spring up in the Galatians church and the church of Colossians and that there was salvation in the observance of keeping Sabbath as the way of salvation to the neglect of focusing on Christ and observing His ways and commandments out of love rather than works. In Colossians 2:14-17 there are concerns about the Sabbath as a way of saving oneself. Many people conclude that Sabbath is not one of the commandments of God any longer because they look for the Sabbath to be expressed in the style of the last six commandments as expressed in Romans 13:8-10. But the issue of Colossians 2 is outlined in verses 8, 18, 22 where Paul expresses that the commandments and traditions of men are not the standards of God. The 7th day Sabbath is not a shadow of things to come but a testimony of the fact that God is our Creator and demands our worship, and worship is required of God’s people forever and even in the new heavens and the new earth Sabbath will take place (Isaiah 66:23)


Now that we have a little better awareness of the 7th day Sabbath let us go back to Samson. The 30 companions had intimidated Samson’s wife to the point that she harassed Samson into telling her the answer to the riddle for she did not know Samson’s God and she tried to defend herself from her kinsmen by manipulation and compromise rather than by resting in the care of Jehovah – the Christ of I Corinthians 10:1-4 – the essence of Sabbath rest. Once she received the answer from the man of God, on God’s 7th day, then they took that information and answered the parable by works of deceit rather than by the awe of Jesus’ gospel. As a result of her cheat, she, as well as Samson, set in motion the early stages of the deliverance of Israel from submission to the Philistines. This is another aspect of Sabbath – deliverance from slavery to sin (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). This is the essence of the gospel parable that Samson shared during the marriage festival and that was proclaimed on that Sabbath day in Judges 14:18 for even though it was uttered through sinful mouths and unconverted hearts the gospel was still being spread through the world on God’s holy Sabbath day (Matthew 12:10-13).