One of the most heartbreaking incidents in Judges is Samson's disastrous marriage. In a misunderstanding of classical proportions, his wife is given to another man before Samson consummates the marriage, and in a fit of jealous rage he avenges his abandonment on the entire Philistine nation, setting off a feud that consumes his whole life. An overreaction? Maybe, but Samson's flaming fox freak-out is symbolic in many ways of the jealousy and fear of abandonment in God's relationship with Israel.
More than perhaps any other book in the Bible, Judges drives home the idea (repeated throughout the Bible) that "I the Lord God am a jealous God" (KJV Ex. 20:5). In fact, jealous is one of his names (see Ex. 34:14), and he lives up to it during the lovers quarrel that is Judges.
God and Israel have a super unhealthy relationship. The very first of the Ten Commandments forbids worshipping other gods, and Israel's inability to do just that is a huge red flag that this probably isn't going to go well. Another issue is God's out-of-control jealousy toward other gods. This isn't just pout-at-home-and-eat-ice-cream jealousy; it's more like the slash-the-tires-of-every-guy-your-ex-looks-at kind. Like, seriously psycho. And although they are clearly guilty of infidelity, Israel gets upset when it seems like God's never there. If these two were our friends, we'd be giving them serious it's-time-to-break-up pep talks.
And yet, they're miserable when they're apart too. For better or for worse, it seems like they belong together, though they might always always be stuck in this "can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em" cycle of jealousy and abandonment. Maybe they like it this way. Who are we to judge?
Questions About Jealousy and Abandonment
- Pretend you're a marriage counselor, and God and Israel visit you for an appointment. What do you tell them about jealousy and abandonment?
- Can you find any moments in Judges where the God/Israel relationship is free from jealousy and fear of abandonment?
- Why does God hold Israel to keeping the covenant that their ancestors made with him, even though they often don't seem interested in doing so?
- What's the worst break-up in Judges? What's the best make-up in Judges?