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When we hear the name Samson, we think of a rather foolish man who had superhero abilities, yet he shipwrecked his life over his lust for a woman named Delilah. What we rarely hear about are the other women Samson was involved with before Delilah. She was not his first love. If we are to get the full bitter flavor of Samson, we must start from the very beginning.
Samson’s story begins in Judges 13. Israel is running amuck without the steadiness of a permanent king. The no king part was God’s preference, for He hated the notion of Israel having a human ruler. He wanted the nation to look directly to Him, communicating with Him through His chosen prophets and priests. Yet Israel is far too uncommitted and undisciplined to handle this much freedom and she’s up to her neck in idolatry with the people groups around her. Again and again she becomes obsessed with worshiping despicable idols through despicable practices—like sleeping with temple prostitutes, bowing before ugly statues and scalding live babies to death as human sacrifices. The Book of Judges introduces us to notable personalities that rise up during this classic sin-punishment-mercy cycle. When Israel’s idolatry pushes God’s patience past its limits, He allows one of the surrounding people groups to come step on her neck through military oppression until her misery finally becomes more important to her than her idols. When she starts desperately pleading for mercy, God raises up a “judge”—a temporary hero—to come beat back her enemies. Often peace follows for the remainder of that judge’s lifetime, but when they die, Israel always plunges wholeheartedly back into idolatry. Some of the judges we hear about often: like Gideon and Samson and Deborah. Other judges we carefully avoid mentioning, like Jephthah.
We’re familiar with the name Gideon, but he was back in Chapter 6 which is old news by now. The controversial Jephthah has just received two chapters of attention, the three judges who follow him get a few sentences each, and then we come to Samson’s four chapters which begin with Chapter 13. Right away we notice that the author has taken quite a bit of page space to focus in on this particular man. Clearly he feels there are lessons to be learned. Remember that being given a lot of space in the Bible is not necessarily a compliment.
For forty years, Israel’s been getting trampled on by the Philistines (Jud 13:1). God’s great disgust with her rebellion is evident by the length of her disciplinary season. We are spared mention of Israel’s usual whining, but we can be sure she is indeed crying out to Yahweh for help. Suddenly we’re introduced to a barren woman who is visited by an angel and told she will be having a son who will deliver Israel from the nasty Philistines. How like God to pick the hopeless and overlooked for a special assignment.
The angel announces that this particular son is to be dedicated to Yahweh from birth and raised as a Nazirite. Here we need to brush up on what a Nazirite is because it becomes critical to the story. Jumping back to Numbers 6, we find God instructing Moses on a special custom people may voluntarily engage in (for the sake of brevity, we’ve left out some of the redundant language):
“If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to Yahweh as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink… As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.
During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to Yahweh is over; they must let their hair grow long.
Throughout the period of their dedication to Yahweh, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head. Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to Yahweh.
If someone dies suddenly in the Nazirite’s presence, thus defiling the hair that symbolizes their dedication, they must shave their head on the seventh day—the day of their cleansing. Then on the eighth day they must bring two doves or two young pigeons to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The priest is to offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering to make atonement for the Nazirite because they sinned by being in the presence of the dead body. That same day they are to consecrate their head again. They must rededicate themselves to Yahweh for the same period of dedication and must bring a year-old male lamb as a guilt offering. The previous days do not count, because they became defiled during their period of dedication.” (Numbers 6:1-12)
The Nazirite ritual was a voluntary vow that both men and women were invited to take. The point in doing it was to express your personal dedication to Yahweh in a public way. During this period, your hair became a symbol of your dedication. Your hair was never to be cut until the length of your dedication period–which you chose–was complete. If your dedication period was interrupted in some negative way, you had to shave your head and start over. Vows to Yahweh had to be kept.
Now what’s unique about the story of Samson is that Yahweh declares him to be a Nazirite from birth and to remain one for life. This is quite a departure from the usual temporary act of worship that adults voluntarily signed up for. Before he is even born, Samson is set apart by God for a very special calling.
The barren woman we’ve been introduced to in Judges 13 is now pregnant. We’re never told what her name is, only that she goes to her husband, Manoah, and tells him about her angelic visitor. The angel had given the new mother special instructions to stay away from wine and unclean food for as long as she’s pregnant with her special child.
Father-to-be Manoah seems to take the news well because the next thing we read about is him praying for the angel to come back and give them specifics on how to raise the child. Manoah also wants to confirm the truth of his wife’s shocking claims before he raises his son to look like a freak in the eyes of others.
In answer to Manoah’s request, Yahweh sends His angel out again and Manoah gets his face-to-face chat. But the angel merely says that he’s already told Manoah’s wife all that they need to know. The angel isn’t going to repeat himself. Manoah is just going to have to trust what his wife said. Remember that this is a patriarchal society. God is really honoring Manoah’s wife by letting her be the only one to receive direct scoop.
After this brief exchange, Manoah demonstrates reverence for his supernatural visitor by asking the angel to stay for a goat offering. The angel replies:
“Even though you detain Me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to Yahweh.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of Yahweh.) (Judges 13:16)
Suddenly we realize this isn’t just some average angel but it is God Himself. God is offering to stay but not eat. Manoah asks for God’s Name, and gets the usual response:
“Why do you ask My Name? It is beyond understanding.” (Judges 13:18)
Manoah now prepares his goat offering to Yahweh and God gives Manoah the special confirmation He knows he wants. As the flames consume the offering, God ascends in the flames to Heaven. Manoah and his wife are shocked, at last realizing that they have seen God face to face. Manoah cries out that they’re going to die, but his wife, no doubt feeling very certain of God’s special favor o her after these exchanges, says:
“If Yahweh had meant to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.” (Judges 13:23)
Samson is born and we’re told God blesses him and that the Holy Spirit begins to stir in him. End chapter 13.
SAMSON AS A MAN
Chapter 14 opens with Samson the man head over heels in lust for a young Philistine woman from Timnah. The Philistines are Israel’s main oppressors at this time. Samson’s parents are less than pleased when he comes home demanding that they go out and and buy a Philistine woman to be his bride.
“Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” (Judges 14:3)
Their protest falls on deaf ears. Testosterone has completely overcome Samson’s brain but here the author interjects a little side note to remind us that God is always having His way:
His parents did not know that this was from Yahweh, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel. (Judges 14:4)
Although Samson is sinning against Yahweh by seeking to marry an idol worshiping non-Israelite, God is going to use the rebellion in His favor. POINT TO PONDER: We are responsible to God for the decisions we make, yet God will never let our decisions disrupt His master plan. God allows us the freedom to choose how close we want to be with Him on a personal level, but He does not give us the option of obstructing His plans for those around us.
So what do you do with a headstrong son who has set his sights on the daughter of your enemy? Samson’s parents go down with him to Timnah to do business. The author of Judges now slips Samson’s parents into the background by always referring to them in the third person instead of by name. Yet he keeps mentioning them both, reminding us that they are both playing active roles in their son’s life.
At this point in our story, the trio must be separated for Samson is alone when a young lion comes roaring at him. We’re told the Spirit comes upon him powerfully and Samson literally rips the animal apart with his bare hands.
Uh-oh. Touched a dead thing. Not good for a Nazirite.
Samson relocates his parents but is careful not to mention the lion. His actions tell us that his parents have taken some care in teaching him the Nazirite way and they must care about Samson obeying God’s rules for he clearly anticipates they’d be upset with him if they knew about the lion. Who wants to fuss over such details on the day he’s about to meet his first love?
The visit with sexy Miss Philistine goes well and Samson wants to marry her. We’re told it’s “some time later” when he goes back to Timnah for the actual wedding ceremony. By now the dead lion is just a carcass in which bees have built a nest. Samson scoops out their honeycomb and munches on it as he walks along.
Touched a dead thing again. Ate out of a dead thing. Double no-no.
It’s clear that Samson doesn’t care one wit about being dedicated to Yahweh. Samson lives for Samson and he is quite comfortable with defying his parents behind their back. When he reunites with them this time, he offers them some honey without saying where he got it. We get the sense he’s inwardly snickering as they eat this unclean food. According to Leviticus 11:26-28:
“Every animal that does not have a divided hoof or that does not chew the cud is unclean for you; whoever touches the carcass of any of them will be unclean. Of all the animals that walk on all fours, those that walk on their paws are unclean for you; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. These animals are unclean for you.”
According to Yahweh’s Law, eating a lion is a sin, touching a lion’s carcass is a sin, and eating from a lion’s carcass is a sin. Samson is tricking his unsuspecting parents into sinning three ways with what appears on the surface to be a nice gesture of sharing honey. This man is a conniving twerp.
THE WEDDING & THE RIDDLE
Now it’s the first day of a seven day wedding feast. Samson is sitting with his bride and thirty Philistine men who have been volunteered by the townspeople to be his companions. Samson is getting his entire way, so you’d think he’d be happy. But instead he wants to play nasty tricks and see what other fun he can squeeze out of his secret sins. He seems quite impressed with his carcass born snack and the fact that he duped his parents into eating it, for now he tries to bring down this whole company of men with a special riddle:
“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” (Judges 14:14)
The answer of course is lion and honey. This is a coy reference to Samson’s sin, and he’s probably counting on his Nazirite reputation to keep these thirty men from ever guessing the right answers. If they can’t solve his riddle before the feast is over, they’ll each owe him a set of clothes and linen garments. If they figure it out—which he’s sure they won’t—he’ll give each of them a set.
By day four, the thirty Philistine men are getting mad. They don’t find this game fun anymore and they’re not about to be mocked by some long-haired foreigner. Pulling Samson’s wife aside, they show their nasty colors with this threat:
“Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?” (Judges 14:15)
Clearly the stakes of the bet are too high for comfort. Samson’s wife is understandably terrified. She knows these men aren’t making an empty threat. She throws herself at Samson and starts pleading with him for the answer using language which foreshadows Samson’s future rows with Delilah.
“You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer!” (Judges 14:16)
At first Samson seems indifferent. He shrugs her off saying:
“I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother, so why should I explain it to you?” (Judges 14:16)
But after seven days of the waterworks, he finally caves in and tells her the answer. She relays it to the mobsters and just before sunset of the last day, the thirty men smugly announce the answer.
“What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” (Judges 14:18)
Samson instantly knows who betrayed him and he’s ticked. Like most liars and cheats, he proves himself to be a very poor loser. He goes to the Philistine town of Ashkelon, beats the tar out of thirty men, strips them naked and hands their clothes over to the mob he’d made the bet with. Once again we’re told the Holy Spirit empowers him to carry out his nasty plan. While Samson’s motives are purely rotten, God is still using him to exact His own vengeance on the Philistines.
Now that Samson has technically held up his end of the clothing deal, he storms back to his father’s house, still boiling with anger. Meanwhile, back at the feast, his abandoned wife is handed over to one of the mob members and becomes his wife instead. The people of Timnah temporarily forget about Samson.
Chapter 15 opens with the passing of time. Samson has finally calmed down and takes a young goat to go visit his wife, who he clearly assumes is just sitting around waiting for him at Timnah. But when he gets to his father-in-law’s house and tries to barge in, he gets body blocked.
“I was so sure you hated her, that I gave her to your companion. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.” (Judges 15:2)
Things have changed since his last little snit, but this news enrages Samson all over again. He says,
“This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them!” (Judges 15:3)
Interesting choice of words. Samson is admitting here that he was out of line with his previous behavior, but he doesn’t care. We’ve all seen how violent he can be when he’s cheating. Now that he considers himself fully authorized to exact revenge, it’s going to be no holds barred.
By now we’ve learned Samson is conniving, disrespectful, violent and extremely hot-tempered. Now we can add perverse and cruel to the list. He goes out and captures 300 foxes, then ties the poor animals together in pairs by their tails. Who would even think up such a sick game? We can’t help but wonder what kind of games the young Samson used to play with other living victims because he turns to this fox trick so instantly. Sticking a lit torch into every tail knot, he lets the terrified animals loose in the standing grain fields of the Philistines. We’re told that it’s harvest time. No doubt the foxes went up with the wheat and we’re told the damage is very extensive, with the fire also trashing the neighboring vineyards and olive groves.
Destroying a community’s food supply is serious business. The Philistines are furious. Since Samson is obviously sensitive about his wife, they grab the woman and her father and burn them to death. Nice people, these Philistines. This scene reminds us of how God told the Israelites over and over to exterminate all of the inhabitants of the land He was giving them so that would not be dragged down by their evil influences. Too bad the Israelites didn’t listen.
It’s now game on to Samson. He flies at the Philistines as an army of one and we’re told “He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them” (Jud. 15:8). After the sick fox trick, “viciously” is a very sobering adjective. We can only guess what mangling deaths these grown men had at the hands of the sadistic Samson.
This time Samson doesn’t dare run back to daddy. Instead, he runs away and hides in a cave.
This is war for the Philistines. They get an army together and go camp in Judah, making the Israelites very nervous. When they hear that the Philistines are looking for Samson, 3,000 men from Judah go to the cave where he’s hiding and say:
“Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?” (Judges 15:11)
As usual, Samson’s answer demonstrates that in his mind, the world revolves around Samson:
“I merely did to them what they did to me.” (Judges 15:11)
This answer doesn’t work for the men of Judah. They can’t afford to start a war over some punk. They announce they’re going to hand Samson over to the Philistines and he surprises us by agreeing, so long as the men of Judah promise not to hurt him.
As soon as they see their bound prisoner being led towards them, the Philistine army charges with bloodthirsty shouting. Once again, we’re told the Spirit comes powerfully onto Samson. The ropes become “like charred flax” and drop away. Samson sees a fresh jawbone of a donkey and snatches it up as a weapon.
Oops. Touched a dead thing. Nazirite alert.
With this bizarre weapon in hand, Samson singlehandedly massacres a thousand Philistine men. Obviously the Spirit does the massacring, and Samson is just the instrument. But Samson doesn’t see it this way. When the ordeal is over, he makes up a little exultant rhyme about himself:
“With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them.
With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.” (Judges 15:16)
We’re told that he tosses the jawbone aside after trumpeting these words. It’s the dramatic scene of a pigheaded show off. By now we should have a very strong dislike of this arrogant man. In case we still need help, the author of Judges rushes us into this next shining moment:
Because he was very thirsty, Samson cried out to Yahweh, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” (Judges 15:18)
“Your servant”? Is this a joke? How can Samson dare to even use such language when he has spent his whole life spitting in God’s face? Oh, but he’s thirsty and for once he can’t just grab what he wants from someone else. He needs God’s help, so he decides some buttering up is in order. Tossing God a very transparent bit of praise, he then has the gall to try and manipulate God with Covenantal language. “Must I fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”
Circumcision was the sign of the Covenant made between God and Israel. It was supposed to inspire some personal desire to revere and honor God. We know by now that Samson doesn’t care one bit about honoring God, nor does he have any problem reveling with uncircumcised prostitutes (as we will soon learn). But here he tries to get Yahweh on his side by painting the Philistines in the ugly light of uncircumcised. “God, aren’t You going to protect me, Your special chosen one, from those sinful animals?” is what he’s essentially asking. Though he clearly deserves to be struck dead on the spot, we read that God opens up a spring in the ground for him to drink out of. This is a tough scene to gag down. We want to see God grind Samson’s irreverent face in the dirt, not placate him. Yet we must remember that God is hardly fooled by Samson’s conniving words, nor is He giving him water as some kind of reward. While Samson might think he is successfully manipulating God, it is actually God who is manipulating Samson for His own purposes against the Philistines. POINT TO PONDER: Today prosperity teachers encourage us to treat God like a slot machine in Heaven. Drop a few bucks in the offering plate, push the button of faith, and down comes the jackpot of blessings. Prosperity theology is hugely popular in America today because we all have carnal flesh which likes the notion of leading and controlling God. Yet God will never take orders from us, and even when He appears to do so, it is only because He is leading us into the inescapable trap of His will. God is the master manipulator. We can bargain and bribe all day long, but all our efforts to persuade Him to submit to us are utterly laughable. Be wary of any teaching which promises to show you how you can get God to align with your will. It is only when we consciously seek to align ourselves with Him that we can ever hope to really please Him. God will have His way with us regardless, but we will be held accountable for the way we treat Him in our hearts. Many a miracle worker has spent a life time thinking they were leading God about only to find themselves a permanent resident of Hell. God always has the last laugh.
We’re told that Samson leads Israel as a judge for twenty years after his jawbone triumph. No doubt they were impressed with his crazy powers—or too afraid to cross him.
Now we reach Chapter 16 and here at last we see Delilah’s name in the chapter heading. But first there’s still one more woman ahead of her in line: a prostitute at Gaza. Here Samson’s reputation has preceded him and the people of the town are clearly not his fans. They plan to murder him at dawn and take up positions around the brothel. But apparently Samson isn’t one for a bunch of romantic talk because as soon as he’s gotten his high, he’s ready to leave his lady’s side. We have to assume he heard about the murderous plot because on his way out of Gaza, he rips apart the fortified city’s doors and posts, then drags them up to the top of a hill. Why? To show off, of course. Samson’s never been one for subtle exits and it’s clear that his short fuse isn’t getting any longer with the passing of time. This Samson is acting as impulsive and violent as the Samson who was twenty years younger and our dislike for him continues to deepen.
We’re told that it’s “some time later” when testosterone strikes again, this time for the infamous Delilah. Clearly Samson gets around, and there’s no reason to think he hasn’t been in other beds since Gaza. (How these people managed to survive all of the STDs they must have been passing back and forth is a mystery we get no help with.) Delilah lives in the Valley of Sorek and her power over Samson must have been evident to all, for the Philistine leaders quickly find her and say:
“See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.” (Judges 16:5)
With Samson’s first wife, it was a graphic threat on her life, but here the Philistines resort to bribery, suggesting that their hold over Delilah isn’t as strong. Either that, or they can smell her greed from miles away. Money is definitely the right bait for this fox because Delilah instantly agrees and starts the usual female coaxing. We are left to imagine the setting for these discussions. Somehow sexy attire and lots of hands-on rubbing seem a likely background. Instead of arguing, Samson tries to give a phony answer just to keep things moving. The part which amazes us all is when his farfetched descriptions keep becoming reality yet he doesn’t seem to catch on that Delilah is a snake.
First he finds himself tied up with seven fresh bowstrings. Delilah herself does the tying while Samson is dead to the world. We get the idea that the man is either a very heavy sleeper, drugged, or stone drunk. In a very weak attempt to hide her betrayal, Delilah always cries out some frantic warning that wakes Samson out of his slumber just before the Philistines attack. Of course Samson always breaks free and beats heads. But you have to love Delilah’s response after the first assault goes south:
“You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.” (Judges 16:10)
Wow. What a complaint. “I tried to murder you but you tricked me.” One wonders why this open confession of betrayal doesn’t instantly spark Samson’s infamous temper. Yet it seems that time has rendered Samson’s brain impotent while his hormones have completely taken him over. Whatever sexy aura Delilah is exuding makes him decide to hang around for more maltreatment. Twice more he fibs about the secret to his strength. Twice more Delilah does to Samson exactly what he says will disarm him, then she wakes him with that same frantic warning about the Philistines. Never once does our protagonist ask where all these Philistines are coming from or why Delilah’s always letting them in. You’d think by now Samson would have trouble relaxing. You’d think his eyes would be watching for any rustle of the draperies and looking for signs of intruders. But apparently he’s only thinking of sexalicious Delilah and her amazing skills in bed, for what else could possibly be holding him in her company?
“How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it. (Judges 16:15-16)
Apparently a lot of “I love yous” have been exchanged between this couple, for Delilah is now trying to leverage the language against Samson. Persistent nagging really dampens the romantic mood and Samson finally hits refusal. Acting like the idiot he’s proven himself to be, he tells all.
“No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” (Judges 16:17).
This connection between Samson’s hair and his strength has obviously been revealed to him at some point. The original instructions about Nazirite vows make no promise of obtaining superhuman strength. Samson’s situation is unique in two ways: that he is a Nazirite for life and that long hair is God’s prerequisite for empowering him with special skills. It seems not shaving his head is the only command from God that Samson has ever put effort into obeying. POINT TO PONDER: How often do we obey God’s instructions for merely self-serving reasons while we feel free to disobey Him when His rules inconvenience us? Selective obedience is a common lifestyle for Christians today, yet obeying God as a means of getting some specific blessing from Him—such as the strength to beat your enemies—is hardly honoring Him. The proper motivation for obeying God is to please and bless His heart, not to further one’s own agenda.
Now Delilah knows she’s finally got the truth. She convinces the Philistines to come back yet again (we can only wonder how awkward that conversation was). We’re reminded that these are the rulers of the Philistines—not just average citizens—who are making these special trips to Delilah’s place. They show up for the fourth time and bring her silver payoff with them. Delilah sounds the alarm and a now hairless Samson springs up out of bed, assuming he’ll just beat his enemies back again.
But he did not know that Yahweh had left him. (Judges 16:20)
What a tragic statement. And yet since Samson had no regard for Yahweh, it’s not surprising that he is unable to discern the Spirit’s Presence or absence. For the first time, Samson loses a fight and is dragged back to Gaza—the city he tore the doors off of. His eyes are gouged out, he’s bound with bronze shackles and made to walk in endless circles grinding grain in a prison. The once cocky superman is now reduced to an ugly, pathetic weakling. And we almost feel sorry for him…until we think of the poor foxes he so gleefully tortured, the way he intentionally defiled his parents with honey, and all the men he tortured and beat and abused who hadn’t lifted a finger against him. No, Samson just doesn’t quite earn our sympathy. We see him here not even getting half of what he deserves. How many families has he shattered, how many bodies has he crippled, how much sorrow has he brought to his parents? Yahweh is exacting just revenge on the Philistines, but Samson the man has been hurting people just to please himself. POINT TO PONDER: We are judged by our heart intentions, not by the outcome of our actions. God knows when we are secretly aiming to harm someone. We may fool those around us with our outward behavior, but we will be judged by our hearts.
Time is passing and that symbolic hair is slowly growing back again. It’s now time for a grand ceremony to be held in honor of the Philistine god Dagon, and the Philistines hit upon the great idea of making Samson come out and entertain them in the grand temple where the ceremony is being held. We can only guess at the kind of entertainment this was—no doubt it was sadistic in nature and quite miserable for Samson. This would not be some clever juggling act. To them, Samson was like a freak in a circus: something to mock and gawk at.
We’re now told that the blind Samson is positioned between two pillars. We’re not told why—perhaps this is the beginning of another entertainment act. But he asks the servant who is guiding him about to position him so that each hand is resting on a key support pillar. These two pillars are playing a critical role in holding up the entire temple. The servant does as Samson asks, obviously not suspecting trouble. We’re told the temple is packed. All the rulers of the Philistines are there plus another 3,000 men and women who are watching from the roof. Samson prays:
“Sovereign Yahweh, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” (Judges 16:28)
Notice the reverent title which is once again meant to butter God up. We can’t attribute any heartfelt respect for God to this prayer because Samson is so blatantly clear that his motive is self-serving revenge. Samson has yet to do a single thing for God. He only wants God to do things for Samson. In his final hour, Samson goes out the same shortsighted man he’s always been: he wants revenge. In all the time it’s taken for his hair to grow back in that miserable prison, he’s been stewing over his eyes. What happened to soul searching? What happened to repenting for his terrible attitude and self-serving lifestyle? All he can think about is that the Philistines appear to have won his lifelong battle with them and he can’t stand it. Samson must have the last word. He’s Samson. Revenge and sex are all he cares about.
While Samson wallows in angry self-pity, God has set the stage for His own agenda, which is to nail the Philistines for stomping all over the Israelites. God empowers Samson to push the pillars over, and just before he does, Samson cries out:
“Let me die with the Philistines!” (Judges 16:30)
Here is one request that God is all too happy to grant. He’s done with Samson’s foul attitude and offensive lifestyle which has made a mockery out of all things Nazirite. He collapses the temple onto the Philistines and Samson and we have no reason not to assume that the whole lot of them ended up in Hell. Exit Samson. We’re told his brothers come down and pick his body out of the rubble so they can bury him in the tomb of his father. We’re reminded that Samson led Israel 20 years. And we are relieved to finally be rid of him.
From the time Samson was conceived, he was set apart in a special way and offered the chance to do great things for God. But he flushed it all away in the name of greed and carnality. Certainly God accomplished His agenda, but Samson ended up shipwrecking his soul. How many of us today respond similarly to Divine opportunities? How many Christians hear God calling them to a deeper pursuit of Him, only to turn their backs and embrace the world instead? Yet when we are in crisis, we all expect God to come running—in fact, we demand it. What a terrible way to treat our King! The author of Judges took his time in telling us the story of Samson, no doubt to give us a close up picture of just how ugly it is when we disdain God’s calling on our lives. Samson’s life could have been so amazing—he was set up for such success and, like King Solomon, he was blessed early on in life. But in the end, both men used their special blessings to serve themselves instead of God.
We propose that Samson’s complete lack of reverence for God, and his willful, ongoing rebellion landed him in Hell. God says that we will be judged in eternity for how our souls responded to Him on earth. Samson never pleased God, only himself. Today many souls are following a similar path and even calling themselves Christians. Yet as Samson proves, labels mean nothing. Nazirite, Christian—both terms suggest a people whose hearts are dedicated to pleasing God. But we cannot fool God with our labels, nor can we manipulate Him into serving us. God’s agenda will always be accomplished, with us or in spite of us. God is led by no man. He generously invites us to join Him in His work with willing hearts which He will then reward us for. But if we try to use His power to serve ourselves, we will reap eternal consequences.
The Eternal Cost of Defying God: A Warning for Christians
Gideon: Idolatrous to the End