One of the goals of this series is to cause you to “stop and look”, when reading the Old Testament and encountering a three day reference. The reference should be examined to determine whether it is a type of Christ’s third day resurrection. If it is not a type, then no harm, no foul. But if it is a type, then you have grown in your understanding of the gospel, for both Jesus and Paul consider third day types in the Old Testament to be part of the gospel’s essential definition (see Luke 24 and 1 Cor 15).
In the story of Samson there is a three day reference, and without consciously stopping and thinking about the reference, one could easily overlook its significance to the plot. But it is very important in the story of Samson. However, before we look at the specific three day reference, we need a little more context regarding Samson. In a general way, Samson himself is a type of Jesus. Despite being riddled with flaws and sin, Samson as a judge of Israel pointed ahead to Jesus the judge of the world, who is Himself flawless and without sin. Consider these things:
|Mother was barren||Mother was a virgin|
|An angel announced his conception to his parents||An angel announced His conception to His parents|
|He was made a Nazarite (set apart for the Lord) before birth||He was the eternal Son of God before birth|
|He was conceived for a specific purpose (to begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines)||He was conceived for a specific purpose (to deliver His people from their sins)|
|His purpose was fulfilled in his death (Judges 16: 30)||His purpose was fulfilled in His death|
One day Samson became enamored with a Philistine woman (Philistines were enemies of Israelites) and she became his wife. Samson threw a feast for her and her people, and something happened at the feast that changed Samson’s life. Unbeknownst to Samson, a riddle he gave had dramatic consequences for him, his wife, and her people.
This riddle seems harmless enough, but one needs to know that an answer would have been virtually impossible for the guests to guess. The riddle was based on an isolated experience that Samson had on the way to his wife’s land:
Samson killed a lion. Later, he founds bees and honey in the carcass. It is as simple as that. Now the reason the riddle was so important for the rest of Samson’s life was not because of the content, but because of the peoples’ reaction to it and the subsequent course of events. It is at this point where we have our three day reference. For the sake of context we will repeat the verses where Samson gave the riddle, and continue past them to see the peoples’ reaction.
But they could not tell the riddle in three days.
Then it came about on the fourth day that they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband, so that he will tell us the riddle, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us to impoverish us? Is this not so?” Judges 14: 12 – 15
Despite being given seven days to guess the riddle, the text tells us that the people grew anxious after three days. Here is a summary of Samson’s story following this three day interval of time:
- The people threatened to harm Samson’s wife if she couldn’t tell them the answer.
- Samson’s wife was able to get the answer from him, and then she gave it to her people.
- The people gave Samson the answer by the end of the feast, which caused Samson to have to pay the prize.
- In order to pay the prize, Samson went to a city and killed some Philistines and took their spoil.
- After paying the prize, Samson went away in anger without his wife.
- Since Samson left without his wife, the woman’s father gave her to another man.
- When Samson returned to visit his wife, he learned she had been given away, and in anger he torched the people’s crops and fields.
- The people burned Samson’s wife in retaliation.
- Samson went to battle the people and killed them.
- Weary after his battles, Samson called on God for refreshment, and God split open a hollow place and caused water to come forth.
This is quite a string of events to derive from a riddle given at a feast. Between the riddle and the string of events we find a reference to a three day passing of time. Now the three day reference didn’t really need to be there to advance the plot. It would have been enough to say “on the fourth day after the riddle, the people threatened Samson’s wife.” But the text, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself, included the line
It is clear, at least to me, that this portion of Samson’s story meets the required pattern that allows us to classify a passage as being a type of the third day resurrection of Jesus. The story features an Old Testament figure, a three day interval of time, and extraordinary events related to the time frame (the 10 events listed above that followed the giving of the riddle).
This pattern, which we see multiple times in the Old Testament, prepares the reader for the ultimate manifestation of the pattern: the death, burial, and third day resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, laid down His life for us, so that through His death and the giving of His body we might taste the sweet honey of the gospel – forgiveness of sins and peace with God.