The life of Samson has always made good Hollywood copy, and colorful stories for Sunday School classes. Some see a shaggy, long-haired Samson chasing after bad women. They see a wild man slaying a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass in hand. They see a blinded, bitter Samson ending his life in a last fit of vengeance. But few have seen the lesson of Samson’s life, the reason God had these accounts recorded in His Holy Book.
What we were never told on the screen or on our Sunday School flannel boards is that Samson is going to be in the first resurrection with Abraham and David! Samson is counted among the righteous, and he is going to rule with Christ on this earth!
While listing the faithful righteous, the writer of the Book of Hebrews included Samson with such men as Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Samuel and the prophets (Heb. 11:32). The Bible affirms that these righteous men endured many trials through faith, “that they might obtain a better resurrection” (verse 35), the resurrection to rulership with Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:6). And Samson is one of them!
Let’s take a closer look at the life of Samson and discover there is much more to the story than the fall of an ancient muscleman; Samson provides one of the most powerful lessons of hope recorded in God’s Word.
Samson’s Birth and Destiny
The historical account of Samson is found in the book of Judges, chapters 13-16. The setting is the land of Israel, in the 12th century B.C.
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.
A messenger was sent by God to give the blessed parents the news concerning their son (chapter 13). They were told their son was to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines who were occupying the land and oppressing Israel. They were given instructions on how to rear and care for the child.
God ordered Samson put under a special consecration governed by the Nazirite (meaning separated or dedicated) vow. This was a unique vow, applicable during the Old Covenant of national Israel, whereby a non-Levite (Samson was a Danite) could dedicate his life to the full-time service of God. This vow required that the hair not be cut– a sign of subjection–nor could any alcoholic beverages be consumed (Judges 13:5; Num. 6).
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. As a boy Samson was obedient to his vow and loyal to God. His friends undoubtedly came to have a healthy respect for his physical strength. Not many fellows would have braved picking a fight with him.
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 domination.
Samson didn’t think the Philistines were all that bad. He even made an attempt to blend into their lustful and perverted society. In fact, his first girlfriend was a Philistine from Timnath (chapter 14). He became so infatuated with this Philistine babe 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 back-bone and attached rib cage along the road and went his way! Like swatting a fly—nothing to it.
Samson finally prevailed against his disapproving parents and the marriage 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 himselfthan serving God, he would, like a lot of us, have to learn the hard way. The only way Samson would fight against the Philistines, it seems, was if he personally were hurt or wronged. And this is precisely what God allowed to happen.
How much easier it would have been for Samson and better for Israel had he shared God’s hatred of sin and willingly allowed himself to be used by God. What misery and heartache he would have avoided.
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 weren’t smart enough. 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. Unsavory “friends” to do business with! He picked fine family to marry into.
She then started a “crying jag” to get the answer out of Samson– and she succeeded, as women usually do with this tactic. Samson had his weaknesses. He gave in to her, again looking for the easy way out rather than theright way.
Samson’s Anger Kindled
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 and slew thirty men and took all their apparel and gave it to the thirty who had answered the riddle. He then went back 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 (chapter 15). 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. He must have been a good trapper, or faster than any track star we have today.
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.
The Philistines retaliated by burning Samson’s wife and her family. As so happens in betrayal, she received just what she tried to avoid. The girl he loved was now murdered and his miseries increased.
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 an ass and killed a thousand men in hand-to-hand combat! Such a super-human feat is hard to imagine. Try picturing Sampson taking on a ring full of the best from the World Federation of Wrestling; Picture him with a football running 100 yards through the entire NFL suited up to stop him. When it came to power, he was not normal.
Sex is the bane of many a man and Sampson didn’t resist its pull. He frequented harlots and seemed bent on following the destructive pulls of his flesh. It wasn’t that he couldn’t have had a fine wife and a wonderful marriage. His parents had told him: “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that you go to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” (14:3). Had Samson followed the advice of his parents and of God he could have had a beautifully happy life and avoided a load of pain. But Sampson was still too full of himself.
One mistake after another–one loose 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 his last harlot–Delilah (16:4). And here is where Hollywood comes on strong. It was a craving, wanton, treacherous affair. 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 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, unprincipled 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.
Samson’s First Haircut
Samson’s hair wasn’t hanging down to the ground hippie-fashion, looking like a male lion’s mane after a rain! It was neatly arranged in seven locks or braids and probably formed an impressive looking crown to his formidable physical body (16:13).
Delilah got the secret she sought and after deceitfully causing Samson to fall asleep tenderly 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 him 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, stepping in his own manure. 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–with all the bowel twisting anguish those sins brought. 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. But was it too late?
Too Late to Repent?
After burning out his life and so utterly spoiling the high calling he had, wasn’t God through with Samson? Wasn’t God’s back turned on Samson? Hadn’t God given Samson enough time, enough mercy? Was this the end of the road for Samson?
What about you? Many of you may feel like you are right there with Samson in the prison grinding like a dumb ox. You may feel you have made a total mess of your life. You too may have broken God’s holy laws with little regard and lived only for momentary selfish pleasures. You too may feel it is a little late for God’s mercy.
Maybe you feel that God’s black book of your sins is full-up or that you have waited too long without submitting to God’s will for your life. Do you feel it is too late for you?
The God of Samson has no such black book. Instead, He has open arms and a loving, tender heart full of mercy waiting for you to make the total commitment–to repent and obey Him!
This is the decision Samson finally made. 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.
Samson’s Last Stand
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. According to many scholars, Dagon may have been depicted as a fish-man, head of a man, body of a fish.
In attendance were the royal family of the Philistines, the Philistine General Staff and the whole administration of that powerful nation. They were seated in a large viewing stand suspended over an arena where games were played.
It was a time of boisterous rejoicing and making merry, thinking that their god–old fish-foot–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, perhaps hidden from view by a head wrap (16:22).
After abusing Samson and having their perverted sport, 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.
Learn From Samson’s Example
God was not only still willing to hear and forgive Samson, but God was still willing to use him in doing His work of deliverance for Israel.
It doesn’t matter what kind of mistakes you have made. No matter how bad your past is, if you are willing to totally submit your life to your God in Heaven, there is hope for you. But the clock is running.
We best learn from the mistakes of Samson rather than repeating them. We can draw encouragement by how in the end he turned out. After all, it isn’t how we start the race that counts–though that’s important–it is how we finish. If we have life, we can change.
Samson became a righteous man and will be raised from the dead in a few years at the return of Christ to this earth. We can join him and the faithful of God.
If our merciful and patient God could forgive Samson, redeem his life, and use him mightily, won’t he do the same for you and me? He will if we let Him.