Samson lived in the land that God had given to the Israelites. But there were still other people who either inhabited the land or attacked the Israelites. God used men (and one woman) called Judges to lead and protect the people of Israel during this time before they had a king.
One of these judges was Samson. Though we probably think of Samson as being a wicked man, God still used Samson to accomplish His purposes.
This story is from Judges chapters 13 through 16.
Chosen From Birth
God had planned a special life for Samson. God visited Samson’s parents through an angel to tell them that Samson would be a Nazarite from birth. The vow of a Nazarite was typically for a set period of time and was voluntary. Yet, in Samson’s case, he was to be a Nazarite all his life and it was a calling by God, not a choice that Samson made personally.
This special vow put restrictions on his life. This included the food that Samson was to eat, that he was not to cut his hair with a razor, nor to be near a dead body. In exchange for these limitations, God endowed Samson with exceptional strength. Sadly, Samson violated all these restrictions during his life which brought him to a tragic end.
A Young Lion
Samson met a woman from the Philistines. These were the enemies of the people of God. Samson’s parents tried to convince him to choose an Israelite woman to be his wife, but he refused their guidance. Even though Samson’s desires were carnal, God used this choice to accomplish His plan.
On Samson’s way to visit the woman he had chosen to be his wife, he met a young lion along the way. He was able to kill the lion with his bare hands. Apparently this was the first time the great strength from God appeared in his life. The Bible says that he did not even tell his parents about this event.
When Samson returned home from visiting the woman who was to become his wife, a swarm of bees inhabited the dead body of the lion. Samson took honey from the lion’s carcase—in violation of the Nazarite vow to avoid dead bodies.
This event of the death of the lion and subsequent inhabitation by bees became the basis for a riddle he later told.
When preparing for the wedding feast a group of Philistine men, who apparently wanted to cause trouble, came to Samson. Samson proposed a challenge to them. He gave them a riddle that they had to answer within the week of the feast. If they answered correctly he would give sheets and clothing for each of the 30 men. Or, they would do the same for him if they could not figure out the riddle.
The riddle was, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”
The Philistine men were not able to answer the riddle on their own. They threatened the lives of Samson’s wife and her family to get her to discover the riddle from Samson. She pleaded with Samson for the answer during the feast. Samson finally revealed the answer to her.
The Philistine men came to Samson with the answer, “What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?”
To obtain the clothing he needed to pay off the debt of the riddle, Samson went and slew 30 men from Ashkelon.
Foxes in the Corn
Samson’s wife was taken from him and he was not allowed by his father-in-law to have her. The father offered Samson a younger sister instead. Samson was not pleased with the idea of a substitute. As a punishment for taking away his wife Samson tied 300 foxes together by their tails in pairs and lit a torch between them. The foxes ran through the corn fields of the Philistines destroying their crops.
The Philistines retaliated against Samson by burning Samson’s wife and her household. Samson singlehandedly went to war against the Philistines. We are not told how many people Samson slew at that first battle, but apparently an impressive number. He then retreated to a mountain.
The men of the Philistines came to take Samson by force. But the men of Israel did not want their country destroyed because of this war. They knew the Philistines were mightier than Israel. Therefore, 3,000 Israelites came to Samson to ask him to turn himself in. He allowed them to bind him with ropes and deliver him to the Philistines.
When he arrived in the camp of the Philistines, Samson broke the ropes and again fought the the men of the land. This time he battled with a donkey’s jawbone. He killed 1,000 Philistines before the fight was over. But, he was dying of thirst. God provided water for him from the jawbone.
This single-man war against the Philistines started a 20 year reign of Samson over the Philistines. Samson did not always obey God or His plan, yet God used Samson to lead and protect Israel. Therefore he is one of the many judges in the Bible that God used.
At one point Samson was surrounded by the Philistines in Gaza to capture him. He rose in the middle of the night and tore the gates of the city from their hinges. Then he carried them up to the top of a hill near Hebron. His great strength was demonstrated again and again.
Another article about Strength: 25 Bible Verses About Strength
Samson had a woman problem. The reason he was in Gaza previously was to be with a prostitute. Later he was in the Valley of Sorek with Delilah, who was not his wife. Delilah was a Philistine. The leaders of the land each promised to pay her 1,100 pieces of silver for her help in discovering Samson’s strength and for bringing him into captivity.
Through various attempts and pleading, which you can read about in the story of Samson and Delilah, she was able to uncover his weakness. Samson was taken prisoner with the help of Delilah.
Capture and Death
Samson’s hair had been cut and his eyes gouged out. He was taken to the grinding wheel of the Philistines. Samson was publicly humiliated.
I don’t believe Samson’s strength was wrapped up in the length of his hair. His strength was something that was given to him by God for a purpose. We see that the Spirit of God moved upon Samson to give him his strength (Judges 14:6). When Samson continually disregarded the vow, or calling, that God bestowed upon him, that is when his strength was taken away from him.
Samson was placed in front of the prison house to be humiliated once again. He asked the young boy that led him out (presumably like a dog on a leash) to place his hands on the pillars of the building. Though blinded and humiliated—or maybe because he was finally humbled—Samson prayed that God would allow him to do a work on behalf of Israel once again. God granted him the strength to knock down the building. The Bible says that Samson slew more in his death under the rubble of the building than he did in his life.
Though Samson accomplished the purposes of God, I often wonder how much more powerful and effective he would have been had he also honored God with his life.
Lessons to Learn
- God often works in spite of our rebellion.
- God allows us to make wrong choices. He will not force us to follow and obey Him.
- Though God does not force us to obey, He can withhold His blessings and empowerment when we don’t.
- Though God did not visit your parents or my parents with a set of instructions for us before we were born, He has given us His Word that should guide us in our daily lives.