Manoah and his wife had tried for years to bear a child but were unsuccessful. Then an angel appeared, announcing they were to have a son. He was to be a Nazirite—that is, he could not drink alcohol or eat unclean foods and no razor was to touch his head. The prophecy came true and the couple named the boy Samson.
One confusing aspect of Samson’s story is this. Having been predicted and ordained an Israeli deliverer by no less than an angel of God, one might expect Samson to have matured into a holy man of God. Instead he was rough and earthy and throughout his life was an aggressive womanizer. Even more surprising, he incessantly chased Philistine women. The Philistines were arch-enemies of Israel. Besides, God had warned that close alliances with foreigners would lead to idolatry.
Something else strikes us as peculiar about Samson. Other judges of Israel taught the people. They set up court and arbitrated cases among the populace. Usually they also mustered an army and fought Israel’s oppressors. We have no hard evidence in the biblical account that Samson did any of this.
Lightning-quick and powerful, Samson was a magnificent physical specimen. What he did he appeared to always do alone. But his solo conquests didn’t make him a hometown hero. In fact, once Samson’s own Judean countrymen tied him up and delivered him to the Philistines. They didn’t want any trouble with their captors, and wherever Samson went he spelled trouble. He murdered many Philistines, but not in the interests of his fellow-Israelis. Most of his exploits were personal vendettas for Philistine offenses.
Finally Samson was betrayed by a Philistine girlfriend. His eyes were put out and he endured the humiliation of woman’s work—grinding grain at a mill all day every day. One day the Philistines were enjoying a great celebration at the temple of their god, Dagon. They sent for Samson to have some fun at his expense. As they entertained themselves, Samson prayed that God would give him supernatural strength one last time. With a mighty shove, he toppled the great pillars supporting the temple. Down crashed the roof, killing thousands of Philistines as well as Samson himself. Possibly this final feat is why Samson is dignified with the title of judge. In destroying so many enemy leaders, he undoubtedly weakened Philistine power over Israel for years to follow.
What can we learn from Samson?
Perhaps a fitting title for Samson would be “the weak, strong man.” He had the potential of being one of the most able, powerful judges Israel ever had. Instead he allowed romantic flings, poor choices, and bitter revenge to severely limit him. What a waste.
Samson squandered his potential. A life that could have been phenomenal became tawdry, then tragic. It is easy to be distracted from wise goals to a worthless flitting from pipe dream to pitfall. Life is too short to waste.
Bible Verses about Samson
Judges chaps. 13-16; Heb. 11:32
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Samson in the Bible?
- Who were the judges in the Bible?
- Who was Delilah in the Bible?
- What was Samon’s secret?
- Did Samson disobey God?
- How did Samson die?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis