One of the most amazing stories in all of the Bible is the story of Samson. He was the strong man; judge of Israel and the Philistines arch nemesis. His birth was miraculous and his rise to fame was nothing short of legendary. Samson, a member of the tribe of Dan, was one of the Judges of Israel.
He Judged Israel for 20 years. Samson’s mother received a visit from an angel, who told her she would give birth to an unusual son, a Nazirite, and not to cut his hair. Samson had great strength, he killed a lion with his bare hands, and later killed 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey. He had romantic encounters with three Philistine women.
He fell in love with one of the women, Delilah. The five leaders of the Philistine nation went to Delilah, and demanded that she find out from Samson what made him so strong, so they could subdue him. She eventually found out it was because his hair had never been cut. While asleep, Samson’s hair was cut off. Losing his strength, he was captured by the Philistines, who gouged out his eyes, and made him grind grain in prison.
Samson’s commitment to God, through his Nazarite vow, was the key to his strength (Judges 16:17). The enemy constantly sought an opportunity to find out what would make Samson weak, but they failed to realize that Samson would become weak long before the locks of his hair were cut off. Samson’s undoing would prove to come through the portal of his eyes.
In (Judges 14:1-3; 16:1), we find the following statements, “saw a woman”, “I have seen a woman”, “for she pleaseth me well” (literally, is right in my eyes), “saw there an harlot”. The man who was renowned for his strength would be brought to his knees because he couldn’t harness his own fleshly desires.
When the enemy finally subdued him, after cutting his hair (Judges 16:9), the first thing they did was put out his eyes (Judges 16:21). Little did they know that they had done Samson a favor. By taking out his eyes, they eliminated the lifelong hindrance that Samson had. Now, in his blindness, he was able to see God like never before. His sight had proven to be his downfall and now his blindness would lead to his greatest moment of victory.
Perhaps the most critical passage in the book of Judges is that which has to do with Samson’s selection of his Philistine wife, with the reluctant participation of his father and mother. Here is the controversial reading:
“But his father and mother knew not that it was of Jehovah; for he sought an occasion against the Philistines” (14:4).
:There are two problems here that must be carefully considered:
First, there is the phrase (regarding Samson’s marriage to this Philistine), “it was of Jehovah.” How can that be said when, clearly, marriages between the Hebrews and pagans were prohibited (Exodus 34:16); (Deuteronomy 7:3)? Did God cause Samson to violate divine law? He did not. What, then, is the meaning?
This is an example of the use of a common Hebrew idiom, whereby God is said to actively do what he merely tolerates. The Lord can take a bad situation and use it for the accomplishment of his own purpose.
Second, what does the text mean when it says that “he sought an occasion against the Philistines”? Does the pronoun refer to God, or to Samson?
Though some attribute the action to Samson, more likely the reference is to God. If that is the case, we must not assume that the Lord was arbitrarily looking for some excuse to justify the destruction of an innocent people. No, the record of Philistine depravity is clear enough. In fact, these people should have been eliminated during Israel’s initial invasion of the land.
Furthermore, “sought” is a form of the figure of speech known as anthropopathism (human emotions ascribed to deity) — just as physical traits are sometimes employed of God for emphatic purposes (Isaiah 59:1).
The meaning of the text, therefore, seems to be this. God, in his infinite wisdom and in the exercise of his sovereign power, allowed Samson to utilize his own freedom of choice — foolish though it was — yet the Lord turned the occasion into a victory for Israel over their oppressors. Jehovah’s will cannot be thwarted!
The Philistines stood Samson in the center of a temple during a celebration, his hair had now grown back. Samson was placed between the two main pillars of the temple. He asked God to strengthen him one more time “so that I may pay back the Philistines for the loss of at least one of my eyes.” Then Samson pushed against the pillars with all his might. “Let me die with the Philistines,” he prayed.
The temple crashed, killing more Philistines at the time of his death, than during his entire lifetime. His brothers brought him back home and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol, where his father, Manoah was buried. The story of Samson is found in the Book of (Judges 13). The name Samson means “Little Sun.”
Samson’s Moral Flaws
In discussing Samson as a person, we must first observe that the critical view, which sees this narrative as a collection of “folk tales” which were merely intended “to entertain” and do not reflect historical reality is to be rejected forthrightly.
The inspired writer of Hebrews obviously considered Samson as a real, historical person as with the other Old Testament figures he mentions. Besides, such a stained character would scarcely have been invented as a national hero.
The early years of Samson are passed over quickly by the sacred writer. He “grew, and Jehovah blessed him. And the Spirit of God began to move him” (Judges 13:25). A study of the subsequent record, however, pinpoints many weaknesses in this man who was so strong physically. Let us focus attention upon this matter.
One of Samson’s constant sins was his lust for women. He flung principle to the wind by marrying a heathen woman simply because she “pleased” him (Judges 14:3). He fraternized with a prostitute at Gaza (Judges 16:1), and fell head-over-heals for the treacherous Delilah — even though he could discern her designing intentions from the start. He subordinated spiritual interests to the flesh.
Additionally, Samson did not live up to his training and dedication as a Nazirite. He involved himself in a wine-drinking feast (so the Hebrew term misteh of (Judges14:10) indicates). He took honey from the carcass of a dead lion, thus violating laws regarding ceremonial separateness (Numbers 6:6).
Finally, many of his heroic efforts appear to have been motivated by personal inclination of revenge, rather than a desire to establish the cause of a Holy God.
But that is not the entire story.
Samson’s Commendable Traits
By way of contrast, Samson possessed qualities which obviously were worthy of commendation.
He appears to have accepted his role as one who was set apart to be a deliverer of the Lord’s people from their pagan enemies. There is no evidence that he repudiated the divine appointment, of which his parents would have informed him.
While he was marred by weakness, he did not hesitate to engage the enemy as a lone warrior. He never led an army; his victories were achieved with only God as a partner.
There are glimpses of trusting faith when he calls upon God for strength and sustenance (Judges 15:18-19). It is interesting that in his final prayer (16:28ff), he employs three names for God. He appeals to Yahweh (rendered “Jehovah”), the covenant name of the self-existing God (Exodus 3:14-15).
He designates God as Adonai (Lord), suggestive of the sovereignty or mastery of deity over man. Then there is the designation Elohim (God) which likely hints of the strength or power of deity.
- Samson’s willingness to be used as an instrument of Israel’s deliverance and even to die in a final act of courage was an expression of faith — however jaded such might have been.
- The reflective student cannot but be troubled by what appears to be a disproportionate amount of material derailing Samson’s weaknesses as compared to his deeds of nobility. However, to provide balance, the following factors must be kept in mind.
- The period of the judges was “the dark age” of Hebrew history. The entire nation was characterized by a spirit of rebellion. Samson’s weaknesses mirrored the religious and moral climate of the people as a whole.
- One must remember that Samson judged Israel for twenty years (16:31); the episodes recorded in the book do not represent the totality of his service.
- Samson’s sins were weaknesses of the flesh. They were not defiant repudiations of the Creator, such as were those frequent meanderings into idolatry to which so many of the Hebrews were prone. The fact that the Lord responded to this judge when he called out for help, is testimony that Samson was sincere in his devotion, though tragically weak in character.
- The Old Testament record contains these unvarnished accounts of Samson’s sins, with no attempt to conceal them, is evidence of the divine inspiration of the document. A strictly humanistic vantage point would have down-played the man’s blunders and exalted his nobler traits.
- The Old Testament contains wonderful examples of how Almighty God can work a divine plan using even the most tarnished of characters. The acts of Providence are amazing indeed. The examples of Balaam (Numbers 22-24), Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:9), and Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28-45:1) are incredible cases of where God employed weak — sometimes even evil men — to weave his sacred purpose into the tapestry of history.
When Samson’s eyes were removed, he did more in his blindness than he ever did with his sight and, may I add, he saw more of God in his blindness then he ever did with his sight.
The prayer of every believer should to be, “Lord, remove from me that which hinders my view of You, and that which keeps me from accomplishing all that You desire me to do.” We must not let the things of this world blind us to what’s important and that is to Worship and Glorify God’s’ name put God first in our lives and everything will be alright.
We are in good hands when we trust God and Love Him with all of our Heart, all of our soul, with all of our mind and with all of our strength.