The story of Samson in the Bible is one of the wildest stories you’ll ever read. But you likely don’t think of it that way, especially if you grew up in church. Samson is often portrayed as a hero on flannel graphs (remember those?!). Nothing could be further from the truth. Samson was one messed up dude.
The problem is we think the story of Samson as a kids story and the story of Samson and Delilah as a love story. But it’s not those things.
This story is full of obnoxious violence, crude language, and plenty of sexual situations. It’s not a story of love, and it’s certainly not a story appropriate for kids. Rather it’s a cautionary tale of how not to live.
This is a story that we need to revisit and look at with fresh eyes. I think if you do that you will be shocked at what you read and be challenged in your faith.
Let’s dive into this wild story of Samson and see what we can learn today.
The Context Of The Story Of Samson
The story of Samson takes place roughly 1,000 years before Jesus and is recorded in the book of Judges.
The book of Judges takes place after Israel had fled Egypt, wandered the desert, and finally taken possession of the Promised Land. This time in Israel’s history was unique; they had no king. Rather they trusted God, and He led them.
But then the generation that had experienced God’s provision in the desert had died, and a new generation took over and things went downhill quickly.
The nation of Israel started worshiping other gods and ignored what God said. So He raised up foreign powers to come in and conquer them. And they freaked out. (Judges 2:10-15)
This is where the book of Judges picks up. God hears their cries, and raises up a judge who would lead them to victory and point them back to God.
And this is where a cycle forms. Not long after God rescues them they return to prostituting (the Bible’s word, not mine) themselves to other gods. And thus the cycle continues. Israel disobeys, they are invaded, they freak out, God saves them through a judge, and Israel returns to worshiping other gods.
That’s what’s happening in the book of Judges. It’s a cyclical story with different names (Othniel, Gideon, Samson, Shamgar, Deborah, Jephthah, Ehud, etc…) but the same outcome. Ironically even the “heroes,” the judges, aren’t that heroic either. They were supposed to lead Israel back to God, but often they struggled to follow God’s direction themselves.
It is in the middle of all this that the story of Samson takes place. Israel had been overcome once again so God raised up Samson to rescue His people.
Let’s jump into the story of Samson in the Bible.
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The Story Of Samson In The Bible
The story of Samson in the Bible takes up multiple chapters. We aren’t going to cover all of that in here. Instead what I want to do is cover the highlights of who Samson was and what he did.
After we understand the story of Samson we can look at how we can apply it to our lives.
If you want to read the whole story go here: Judges 13 – 16
Different From Birth
From birth Samson was a Nazarite. While still in the womb God told Samson’s mom that he would deliver Israel and was to always follow the Nazarite vow. (Judges 13:2-5)
A Nazarite vow was from Numbers 6 and meant that he had to abstain from three primary things:
- Anything from grapes (including all alcohol)
- Cutting any hair
- Touching a dead body
What’s unique about this is that most people who took a Nazarite vow would only do so for a period of time. The purpose was to show you were devoted to God. This shows that from birth Samson was different, he was to follow the Nazarite vow for his whole life, to be devoted to God.
Samson was to be set apart, devoted. His mission was clear, he was to save Israel from the Philistines (Judges 13:5). Because of his vow the nation of Israel would recognize it was God saving them.
We see this plan unfold very early on in the Samson Bible story. Judges 13:25 says the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him… That word literally means to be motivated to action. And this is used several times throughout the story. God was motivating Samson to action.
You’ve probably been taught that Samson’s power came from his hair, which is true in one sense. But ultimately what the Bible makes clear is that Samson’s power came from God. It was God that had set the stage, and it was God that was motivating Samson to action.
But there’s a problem. Samson had another motivating factor in his life… Women. The story of Samson is about a man who was a slave to his desires.
Samson Was A Slave To His Desires
The first big thing that happens in the story of Samson in the Bible is not a positive action. Samson goes into a Philistine town, enemy territory, where he spots a woman he finds very attractive. He marches home and demands his parents go get her for him.
A few problems… Israel was commanded to not marry outside the nation. Also, Samson was born to rescue Israel from the Philistines, who were not good people. It’s not wise to literally sleep with the enemy. His parent’s had a little foresight so they protest his decision. (Judges 14:1-3)
It’s here where Samson reveals the mission statement for his life. In the face of reason from his parents who bring up valid points, he responds with, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” That’s not the last time we will see that phrase being used. It’s his life motto. He does what is right in his eyes. Ironically this mindset is exactly what got Israel in so much trouble to begin with. Samson is no better.
Another common thread in the story of Samson is that despite the brokenness God is still moving and working. Judges 14:4 shows us what God is up to. We will see this throughout the rest of the story.
One important note that we should recognize is that God wasn’t directing Samson to make all these mistakes. Rather He was using Samson despite his mistakes.
Samson continues to live out his mission statement for his life. This is the crazy part of the story of Samson you probably didn’t learn about in Sunday School. And man do I wish they had flannel graph pieces for these parts of the story of Samson.
Samson Tempts Fate
One day while traveling to visit his Philistine woman Samson strolls through a vineyard where a lion attacks him. The spirit of the Lord rushes upon him and he tears it apart. (Judges 14:5-7) I don’t remember that from Sunday school…
A while later he can’t help but return to his work and finds that bees have made their home in the carcass and produced honey. So he does what any of us would do, he takes a big handful and eats it.
First off gross… But there’s a bigger issue here. Remember his Nazarite vow? He’s already broke two of the rules.
He’s supposed to avoid grapes and dead things. Where did the lion attack him? A vineyard full of grapes. Rather than go around the vineyard, he goes through it, multiple times. And he keeps visiting the carcass of the lion, even eating from it. Samson is supposed to be different, set apart, but rather than follow God he does what is right in his eyes.
But that’s minor, compared to what is about to happen in the story of Samson in the Bible.
Samson Gets Married And Kills Some People
Samson is about to get married and he can’t help but start trouble. He makes a rather expensive bet with his wedding party that they won’t be able to solve his riddle. (Judges 14:10-14)
They agree, but it’s rigged from the beginning. The riddle was about the lion he killed, and no one except Samson knew the answer. Once the wedding party realizes this they search for the loophole. Not wanting to pay up, they go to Samson’s wife and demand that she find out the answer. (Judges 14:15-17) She goes and begs Samson for an answer.
Samson, having little self-control, eventually tells his wife the answer and she turns around and tells the wedding party. They give the correct answer and Samson is forced to pay up what he wagered. Samson can’t even win at the game he rigged to win because he has no self-control.
So now he has to pay. The problem is he doesn’t have the debt he owes.
We all remember this part from Sunday School I’m sure… Samson goes and kills 30 men, takes their possessions and gives it to those who he had told the riddle. And then returns home in hot anger without his wife. (Judges 14:19-20)
Remember that? Guess not. And the story of Samson in the Bible is just getting started, it’s about to get worse, and a whole lot weirder.
Samson Sets 300 Foxes On Fire
Samson is chilling at home in Israel, while his wife remained in her homeland. This might seem weird to us today, but it was a common practice in the day when the Israelites would intermarry with the Philistines.
Often times the wife would stay in her homeland and live with her parents. And the husband would come visit every so often. I’ll let you guess what spurred on these visits…
After some time at home, Samson gets lonely, so he decides to go “visit” his wife. Again Samson isn’t interested in her needs, he’s only interested in what he can get out of the relationship. He’s doing what is right in his eyes.
When he gets there his father-in-law tells him he has given his wife away to someone else. (Judges 15:1-2) And Samson LOSES it. I mean he goes crazy.
Samson goes out and catches 300 foxes, ties them tail to tail, lights them on fire, and releases them into the Philistines grain fields and vineyards burning them to the ground. (Judges 15:3)
Who even does that?!
Whoever said the Bible is boring never read the story of Samson.
Samson’s Wife Is Burned Alive
The Philistines are pissed, understandably as their livelihood was just destroyed. They look for a way to retaliate. They go to Samson’s wife and father’s house and burn it down with them inside. But they aren’t done. Then they decide to go to war with Israel because of what Samson did.
What a mess.
The Israelites don’t much like Samson either, so they broke a deal to turn him over to avoid more bloodshed. They capture him, tie him up, and leave him for the Philistines. (Judges 15:9-13)
Samson Kills Even More People
Samson is now captured by his own people and being delivered to the very people he’s supposed to defeat.
The Philistines arrive with 1,000 men to overpower Samson and bring him to justice. Again the Bible says, “The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon Samson” telling us that what was about to happen wasn’t by Samson’s strength, but God’s.
Samson goes berserk. He breaks his chains and picks up a fresh donkey bone and strikes down everyone. (Judges 15:14-17) Again ignoring the vow he was supposed to be following.
In all, Samson kills 1,000 people.
The Turning Point In The Story Of Samson
It’s around this point in the story of Samson in the Bible we start seeing a turning point. Samson is uninterested in God’s plan and continues to do whatever he wants to do. But that way of life is about to catch up to him.
Even after killing 1,000 Philistines, further ticking off the nation, Samson decides to wander back into enemy territory. Not smart.
But he’s not thinking with his head… He wants what he wants. And in this case what he wanted was a prostitute. So, against all conventional wisdom he goes after what he desires and spends a night in enemy territory with a prostitute.
Not only is he disregarding God, he’s being unwise. He again ventured into a Philistine town and drew a large crowd that wanted him dead. (Judges 16:1-3) But using his strength he escaped.
At this point in the story of Samson he has continually broken the first two vows he had taken, but he still hadn’t broken the last one. His hair. He still had his strength, which he uses to be increasingly foolish and get what he wants.
But then he sees another Philistine woman, Delilah, and starts playing an even more dangerous game.
The Story Of Samson And Delilah
The story of Samson and Delilah is not a love story. Both Samson and Delilah are just using each other. Samson wants his “needs” meet and Delilah is trying to figure out Samson’s secret so the Philistines can finally capture him. (Judges 16:4-5)
This is not a love story. In reality this is a really sad story about two people using each other with no regard for the other.
In Judges 16:6-22 we see Delilah seduce Samson and then beg him to tell her his secret to his strength. And he tells her a lie to appease her, she ties him up, calls in the Philistines, Samson breaks free and kills them. This plays out over and over again.
Now I’m not sure why Samson kept letting Delilah tie him up… Well, I have one idea, but we aren’t going to go there…
He has to know at this point that she is just with him to trap him. But he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about wisdom, he doesn’t care about what God says is best, His ONLY concern is getting what he wants.
He is a slave to his lust and desires. So he keeps going back to the same trap. Knowing full well what is going to happen, confident in his own strength to get him out.
Judges 16:16 says Samson was sick to death of her nagging. So finally he gives in and tells his secret. Samson has to know what is going to happen next, he’s done this before. But he lets it happen anyway. He’s a slave to his desires.
He falls asleep with her, she calls the Philistines in, they shave his head. He wakes up and tries to break free… But this time God has left him and he has no power.
Up to this point, Samson had broken every rule but one… he had not cut his hair. God had patiently been waiting for him to repent. To turn back to him. But when he breaks the last rule God isn’t there to bail him out. Samson has to suffer the consequences. Why? Because God wants him to feel the weight of what he has done so that maybe, just maybe Samson will repent and come back.
The Philistines take Samson, gouge his eyes out, and put him into forced labor. Wanting to humiliate him more, they bring him out of prison to be their entertainment for a large party. They chained him to a few pillars and began to mock him. (Judges 16:23-25)
It just so happened they chained him to pillars supporting a roof with 3,000 Philistines on it. Like I said, it was a LARGE party.
Samson, maybe for the first time, gets it and prays an honest prayer. He begs God for strength one more time. He recognizes that it was God that did everything through him. God gives him the strength, and he pulls the roof down killing the 3,000 Philistines and himself. (Judges 16:26-31)
And that’s how the story of Samson in the Bible ends. It’s a sad story really. A man that literally destroys everything in his life, including himself, in his pursuit of what is right in his eyes.
The point we cannot miss is that God’s purpose for Samson’s life was accomplished. But because of Samson’s continued and blatant sin it was done the hard way.
We can only imagine how things could have been if Samson did what was right in God’s eyes rather than his own. Or at least had he sought repentance earlier in the story. But he didn’t and his life stands as a warning for us about how not to live and a promise that despite us, God’s will, will be accomplished.
What The Story Of Samson Teaches You Today
If we are honest in this story we can probably see more of ourselves then we care to. Maybe we don’t live to the extreme that Samson lived, but we do what’s right in our eyes far too often. Most of the time we are more concerned with our own desires rather than God’s desire for us.
For us, Samson’s life shows us the results of living life according to what is right in our eyes. We should take it as a warning to live differently. If we don’t we will end up like Samson.
Regardless of what we do, God’s will for us, for humanity, will be accomplished. We don’t get to decide or change that. We get to decide if we want to go with God’s plan or against it.
Which path will you take?
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