Samson’s life is recorded in Judges 13: 24-16: 30. His parents, fully consecrated to God, desired that their son might be useful in His service. Obedient to the instructions of the angel of the LORD, they brought up Samson as a Nazarite. Samson consecrated his life to the Lord and voluntarily took the Nazarite vow as child. This meant that he would abstain from grapes, wine and all intoxicants; keep his hair uncut; and avoid contamination with dead bodies (Numbers 6: 2-6). There is no evidence that he ever violated his vow.
According to the Divine promise, Samson was to be one of the judges, or deliverers of Israel. The Philistines, who were living in southwest Palestine, preyed upon the Israelites. They had disarmed the Israelites, prohibited them from making any iron implements, thus preventing them from making any weapons of war, and exacted tribute from them.
Samson Judges Israel
Samson judged Israel for twenty years, and his chief work was to revive the spirit of the people who had become thoroughly dejected under the oppression of the Philistines. He was a firm believer in the Oath-Bound Covenant, who hoped for the deliverance of Israel from all enemies and for the nation’s exaltation as God’s people for the blessing of all the nations. For this reason, Samson directed his energies against the Philistines, and the Lord gave him great physical strength to accomplish this mission.
The Philistines were wealthy, mainly due to their extensive wheat fields. To injure them financially, Samson employed an unconventional method. He caught three hundred foxes, tied them together, then sent them through their wheat fields with torches in their tails to destroy the crops.
The servility of the Israelites is seen by the fact that, instead of cooperating with Samson, they had so little faith in God that they were even willing to deliver him to the Philistines. Samson allowed them to bind and deliver him to the Philistines, knowing that he could break the bonds and put the enemy to flight, which he did. On another occasion, Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.
But despite Samson’s zeal, faithfulness and physical strength, the Philistines discovered his weak point and capitalized upon it. They planned Samson’s downfall by using the beautiful Delilah as a decoy who coaxed him until he revealed that the secret of his strength was his uncut hair. When Samson was shorn of his hair he lost his great strength. The Philistines took him, put out his eyes, bound him and forced him to grind their food, but while in prison his hair began to grow out again.
The Philistine worshippers of Dagon, their idol-god, called for a great religious festival in honor of their god. The festival was to begin in a great temple, and as they were praising their god, they called for Samson so that he could entertain them. He then stood between the two main pillars upon which the structure rested, in full view of the thousands who were in the temple proper and three thousand on the roof – the Philistine lords and prominent men and women of the nation. Samson called upon the Lord to accept the sacrifice of his life in the slaughter of all the principal people of the Philistines, so that the Israelites could be released from their slavery. The Lord accepted Samson’s sacrifice, he exerted his strength on the two pillars and the whole structure came down with a crash, killing more than he had slain in his life.
Lessons from Samson’s Life
Samson’s name appears as a hero of faith (Hebrews 11: 32), which has perplexed some people who measure him by the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. However, by rightly dividing God’s Word of Truth, we recognize that no such standards were set before Samson or any of the Ancient Worthies, as are set before us of this Gospel Age. But Samson did possess a strength of character which enabled him to endure and overcome, and the key to that strength was his faith in God and in God’s promises. May we emulate Samson’s faith.