God sure uses strange people at times to do His will. Samson is one of those people.
In all, Samson judged Israel for 20 years (Jdg 15:20; 16:31). The story of his life is incredible. It is filled with adventure, action, love, deceit, trickery, anger, and violence. I’m kind of surprised it is not in the movie theatres at the moment or on Netflix…
An Amazing Start
Samson’s story begins before he was born. His father Manoah and his mother had no children. They obviously wanted kids, but had none. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and explains that they would have a son. I imagine that they were beside themselves with excitement! Not only were they going to have a son, but he was going to be something special! Not every pregnancy begins with the announcement that a baby is on the way, but theirs did!
Special instructions were given to Manoah and his wife:
First, the mother was not to drink wine or similar drink and she was not to eat anything unclean (13:4).
Second, the boy was to have no razor come upon his head.
Third, the boy was to be a Nazirite (one separated to God) from the womb (13:5)
Fourth, the boy was going to be used by God to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines (13:5).
Fifth, the parents were explicitly given the above instructions and told to carefully observe them (13:14). Side note…but this also shows the importance of doing what God tells us, and not adding to or taking away from His word…
A Strong-Willed Child
Once the boy, Samson, was born and as he grew, he was blessed by God (13:24). He was a strong man, but also strong-willed. Maybe it was because he was coddled by his parents. Maybe they doted on him because he was going to do special things when he grew up. However it happened, it seems that Samson was indeed strong-willed as well as strong in physical strength.
Samson overpowered his parents
He wanted to marry a woman from the Philistines (14:1). He begged his parents for this woman’s hand in marriage and ignored their advice to marry someone from their own people (14:2, 3). In essence, he threw an adult fit and said, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well” (14:3). His parents gave in and did what he asked, even though it was not what they wanted.
Samson overpowered a lion
Samson was a man with incredible strength. After going with his parents to arrange his marriage to a Philistine woman, he was attacked by a lion. He killed the lion with ease (14:5, 6). His family went back home and began preparations for the wedding and Samson later went to visit his fiancé. On his way, he saw the lion’s carcass, but it wasn’t just a rotting carcass, it had bees and honey inside. Ignoring the command to eat nothing unclean, Samson ate honey and then brought some of it and gave it to his parents and they ate, making all involved defiled from eating unclean food (14:8, 9).
Samson’s incredible strength made him too proud and confident for his own good. He overpowered his parents, ignored their wishes and wisdom, and drunk with his own power and strength defiled himself for a sweet taste of honey.
A Smart Riddle
Samson is well-known for the riddle he proposes to the 30 people from the Philistine clan his wife was from. Feeling proud of himself, Samson challenges 30 men to a bet: figure out my riddle and win a change of clothes…lose the bet and pay me a change of clothes. Feeling rather wise, the 30 Philistines take the bet, and the game was afoot.
Unable to figure out the answer to the riddle, the Philistines apply pressure to Samson’s Philistine bride: get the answer to the riddle for us, or you’re dead (14:15). Familiar with the Philistine tactic of applying pressure to get what you want, Samson’s bride used the equivalent of Kryptonite against Superman: she cried (14:16). Oh, the crushing weight of seeing those tears! Samson was a sucker for a woman’s wiles, something that plagued him his whole life (14:16, 16:13-15). He told the answer to the riddle to his bride, lost the bet, and had to deliver 30 changes of clothes. He did this by killing 30 Philistine men and giving their clothes to the winners of the bet.
A Sad Ending
The end of Samson's life is a sad one. He was betrayed by another woman, arrested, had his eyes plucked out, and made to do humiliating work as a prisoner. The Philistines made him perform like a lion at the circus just for their entertainment (16:25). Weary from the performance, he used this as an opportunity to lean on some pillars supporting the temple where the show was being held. Using this as his last hurrah, he pushed down the pillars, killing himself and 3,000 others. Suicide is always a sad ending, especially to Samson’s incredible life. It is never part of God’s plan, which just shows that Samson was acting selfishly instead of seeking what God wanted him to do.
In the end, he preferred to “get even” and be a lone-wolf attacker. No doubt Hollywood will one day make a movie of this incredible story. Until then, I’ll just read about it in my Bible in Judges 13-16 and marvel at this imperfect man whom God was able to use. If God can use an imperfect person like Samson, maybe he can use me, too!
Aaron Baker works with the fun church family at Foristell.