And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” (Judges 16:28).
The Judges author presents the story of Samson as a cycle of vengeance. The father of the Timnite shames Samson, and in revenge, he has the grain of Philistia burned. In revenge, they kill the Timnite and her father, and seek to do to Samson what Samson did to them. Samson then kills more Philistines (Judges 15). The Philistines, through Delilah, figure out how to capture Samson, and blind him in vengeance for what he did to them. And here, at the end of his life, Samson asks God to give him strength to get revenge on Philistia for his eye.
What is the result? The death of thousands, but no real change. Philistia is still in control, and Israel is still humbled before them. Samson’s vengeance is not enough to save Israel.
Samson’s life provides a vivid demonstration of the fruitlessness of the cycle of vengeance. Its desire is never satisfied; there is always some new affront that requires restitution. This is not God’s way in His Kingdom.
Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written,
“‘Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense,’ saith the Lord.”
“But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21).
Only by loving our enemies can we win them over or to at least demonstrate that we are God’s children (Matthew 5:43-45, Luke 6:27-36). Let us leave judgment in God’s hands, and love all men!
Ethan R. Longhenry