Samson has been much romanticized by the world, which admires his super-human strength but ignores the sad facts of his miserable life. Born with amazing potential to do good and deliver his people from their ancient enemies once and for all, Samson lived his life entirely for himself and consistently refused to fulfill his purpose in life. Far from being a role-model for our children, he serves as a warning against selfishness and disobedience. And yet, he is redeemed in the end. Our God is a God of redemption, and He wastes nothing that He creates: Samson never does completely destroy the enemy, but he does damage their political system enough to render them fairly harmless for many years. Still, one wonders what the world would be like today if Samson had defeated the Philistines: we call them Palestinians in our modern world today.
Samson’s birth was a miracle. His mother wasn’t able to have children, but that was no problem for God. Since Samson’s parents were still loyal to God at a time of spiritual decadence in Israel, God answered their prayer and chose them to have a son. An angel was sent by God to give the blessed parents the news concerning their son. They were told their son was to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines who were occupying the land and oppressing Israel. Then they were given instructions on how to rear and care for the child.
God ordered Samson put under a Nazirite vow. “Nazirite” means “Dedicated”. This was a vow in which a man could dedicate his life to the full-time service of God. This vow required that the hair never be cut, nor could any grape products be consumed—no wine, grape juice, raisins, or even just plain grapes. He was also never to touch a dead body.
God had apparently planned to provide Samson with unbelievable superhuman strength to be used against the Philistines, providing Samson’s vow of submission was faithfully kept. But once he was grown, Samson seemed to lack concern about the Philistines’ oppressive occupation of his land. He wasn’t revolted at the sight of the foul pagan practices of these evil Gentile overlords. He didn’t share God’s hatred of evil, and he lacked a compelling zeal to see Israel freed of Philistine rule.
Samson didn’t think the Philistines were all that bad. In fact, his first girlfriend was a Philistine from Timnath (chapter 14). He became so infatuated with this Philistine woman he put pressure on his parents to approve their marriage. On one of Samson’s trips to Timnath to see his girl he was attacked by an Asian lion. Bare-handed he grabbed the poor lion and tore him in two! He threw the body along the road and went his way! Like swatting a fly—nothing to it. Later, he returned to the dead lion and discovered bees had made a nest in the carcase. He took the honey out of the dead lion’s body and ate it. Now, what was wrong with that? Remember, as a Nazirite, Samson was not to touch a dead body.
Samson’s marriage to the idol-worshiping Philistine woman was arranged. Using his strength to fulfill God’s plan for Israel was far from his mind at this point. Since he was more interested in serving himself than serving God, he would, like a lot of us, have to learn the hard way. Not only was he uninterested in obeying God, he seemed completely unconcerned with the oppression his own nation was living under. The only way Samson would fight against the enemy of his people, it seems, was if he personally were hurt or wronged by them. And this is precisely what God allowed to happen. The marriage didn’t last a week! The Philistines didn’t trust Samson and they surrounded him with thirty bodyguards during the week-long wedding festival. To get rid of them, Samson composed a clever riddle and promised them each a complete wardrobe if they could come up with the correct answer.
They got busy on it, but couldn’t come up with the answer. So they put pressure on Samson’s wife with violent threats to burn her and her family if she didn’t find out the answer for them. She then started crying incessantly to get the answer out of Samson. He gave in to her, again looking for the easy way out rather than the right way. When the Philistines came up with the riddle’s solution, Samson immediately knew that they had gotten the answer from his wife. He was mad! He left his wife and went to Ashkelon, slew thirty men and took all their apparel and gave it to the thirty who had answered the riddle. He then went sulking home to live with his parents. He had been betrayed! He was angry and discouraged! But would he learn his lesson?
Samson got lonely and went back to the Philistines to get his wife, only to find she had been given to another man. He was beginning to personally hate the Philistines and anger boiled! It was now personal pay-back time. Samson devised an attack plan. He caught three hundred foxes and tied their tails together. It was harvest time for the Philistines and Samson set fire to material tied between the tails of the foxes and turned them loose on the crop lands of the Philistines–wreaking great destruction. Overflowing with anger, he slaughtered many more Philistines. Later, he arranged to be caught by an army of a thousand Philistines and while they surrounded him, he broke loose and grabbed a fresh jawbone of a donkey and killed a thousand men in hand-to-hand combat. These were amazing feats! But was this what Samson was meant to do? No, God had raised Samson up to judge and lead his people; to rally them together to free themselves from the Philistines as a people. Samson was on a one-man revenge mission. He had forgotten his people, his purpose, and his God.
One mistake after another—going from one pagan woman to the next–that was the path Samson took during his twenty year judgeship in Israel. He had been largely faithful to his Nazirite vow and at times made an effort to serve God, but his desire for Philistine women was his undoing. His selfish lust finally brought him to Delilah. Samson wanted love and happiness–but they are elusive apart from the Law of God. As for Delilah, she was in love with herself and with money, not Samson. The rulers and generals of the Philistines offered her a large sum of cash to find out the secret to Samson’s strength. After being “nagged to death” by this wicked, ungodly woman, he finally told her the key to his strength. If his hair were cut, the vow would be broken and he would lose the strength God supplied him; he would become as any other man.
Delilah got the secret she sought and after deceitfully causing Samson to fall asleep upon her knees, she called for an aide to come and shave off the seven locks of his head. She then began to hit, punch, and scratch Samson as she called for the Philistines who were waiting outside her chamber. The Philistines overpowered him and he quickly realized his special strength from God was gone! The vengeful Philistines then gouged out his eyes and bound him with brass chains and bands, fastened him to a grinding wheel in a dark prison and made him rind grain like an ox. What a pitiful sight; blind, bald, a dejected hulk of a man grinding like an animal. Day in and day out he walked the same circle amid the continual abuse of his captors. But now Samson had time to think. Time to think about what a fool he had been. Time to think of the lusting eyes that had led him from one sin to another. Now there were empty sockets where eyes had been! Now he suffered in abject slavery where before no one dared question his freedom and power. Over the months he had plenty of time to meditate on God’s purpose for his life and what a shattered mess he had made of it. He had time to repent before his Creator for all his filth and self-seeking vanity. He couldn’t see the light of day without his eyes, but he came to see the truth that the way of this world and sin does not pay. He came to see that yielding to his Maker would have spared him a life of suffering. He was still alive and while he yet lived he had the opportunity to serve his God.
The Philistines were gloating over their capture of Sampson and when a major holiday came a large crowd gathered. The occasion was to offer sacrifice to their great god Dagon and to celebrate Sampson’s imprisonment. In attendance were the royal family of the Philistines, the Philistine General Staff and the whole administration of that powerful nation. It was a time of rejoicing and making merry, thinking that their god had delivered Samson into their hand (16:23). So they called for Samson to be brought out to torment and ridicule. It had been some time since Samson’s head had been shaven and his hair was long again.
After abusing Samson he was allowed to stand near the two main supporting pillars for the elevated stands from which the dignitaries watched the festivities. Still blind, he asked the young boy who was leading him to guide his hands to touch each of the two pillars. Sampson prayed. Sampson knew he had been called
to deliver Israel from its oppressors, but instead he had mainly served himself. In his pathetic troubles he experienced a conversion and became totally committed to God and to doing His work…even if it meant his own life. He saw the sorry mess he had made of himself and was willing to let God work his will through him.
He fervently prayed and asked God to hear him. God did. God always hears such heart-felt, humble prayers. Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” He then bowed himself with all his might against the two pillars. His muscles bulged, quivered, and filled with greater God-given strength than ever before. The pillars began to push apart, and then like a massive earthquake the entire viewing stand collapsed, killing about three thousand including virtually all the leadership of Philistia.
This disaster so disrupted the Philistine nation that Israel was able to throw off its yoke of oppression. In this one act, after yielding himself to God, Samson accomplished more than in his entire life following the way that seemed right to him.