The Expository Files.

The Weakest Side of the Strongest Man

Judges 13-16

Step aside Hulk Hogan! He's more than a match for you or anyone who has ever stepped into the ring to beat or be beaten by you! Who is he? It is someone who I would imagine that the very sight of would send dark chills deep within the souls of his opponents. His reputation had spread far and wide among both friends and enemies, and deservedly so. Professional wrestlers today are notorious for their antics, but all their bravado and bluff are nothing compared to the deeds of the subject of this article. He does have something in common with many of the modern wrestlers though. While physically strong, he was not very bright. (If you happen to know any professional wrestlers, please don't tell them I said that.)

"Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the Lord blessed him." (JUDGES 13:24).

His birth and purpose:
The time was eleven centuries before Christ. The nation of Israel was young and leaderless because as yet the monarchy had not been established. In times of trouble God would raise up temporary leaders referred to as "judges" in the Bible, though their function was seldom what we think of as a judge. Usually their leadership consisted of delivering the young nation from her enemies and calling her unto repentance when she was wayward. This period lasted about four hundred years from Joshua up until Samuel.

Because of Israel's evil deeds, the Lord had used the Philistines to punish her. Samson was born to deliver a penitent Israel from Philistine oppression. The Lord promised a childless couple that they would have a son, but that he would be under the Nazarite vow all his life. He was never to eat anything unclean, drink of the fruit of the vine or ever cut his hair (JUDGES 13:4,5; cf. NUMBERS 6:2-21).

His character:
Samson is unique among the judges for several reasons. Though judges were leaders, Samson never led in a direct sense. While certainly he "led" the people out of oppression, he did it alone. There is no evidence that he ever led an army or ever challenged the people to live by their faith. Samson was able to continue to accomplish heroic feats as long as the vow was kept. While this shows his faith, it is also true that he was a very worldly man and succumbed easily to temptations. Ultimately, this would lead to his downfall. Samson is a case of a person who was abundantly blessed by God, but who became a tragic hero because of his many negative qualities when he could have been so much more. He succeeded in burying his talent under his own sin.

His life:
There are three women in Samson's life that shouldn't have been there. The first was a Philistine girl in Timna, a Philistine town not far from Samson's home. He fell in love with her and decided to marry her though his parents objected, preferring an Israelite girl. (14:4). It was during subsequent trips to Timna to see his girlfriend that Samson broke the first part of the Nazarite vow. Upon finding honey in the carcass of a lion he had earlier killed, he ate some of it. The dead body of the lion rendered the honey unclean (NUMBERS 14:5-9; NUMBERS 6:6).

The breaking of the next part of the vow seems to have come at his wedding feast. The Hebrew word for "feast" used in this passage implies drinking, and it was Samson who made the feast (NUMBERS 14:10-20).

Ultimately, the Philistines take Samson's new wife and give her to another. Samson spills much Philistine blood before and after the fact. Though Samson is very carnal, God still uses him to punish, weaken and drive out the Philistines.

The second woman was a harlot in Gaza. While Samson is carrying on with her, the Philistines of the city are plotting his death. They laid their plans well, but  Samson's strength was too much for them. When they locked the city gates to trap him, he simply ripped them off their hinges and carried them nearly forty miles away (JUDGES 16:1-3).

It was the breaking of the third part of the vow when God's Spirit, who was providing Samson with his strength, left him. This is not to say that up to this point God was pleased with Samson's deeds; He was not because Samson sinned against God. But God had continued to use him as long as the vow was partially kept. The breaking of the third part of the vow rendered Samson without power. Samson fell in love with Delilah. The five lords of the Philistines bribed her with silver to find the source of Samson's strength and reveal it to them. After some work, she enticed Samson into stupidly revealing the connection between his hair and his strength. When he was asleep, she cut it and Samson was captured by the waiting Philistines (16:4-22).

You can be sure that Samson is not treated kindly by his captors. They blind him and put him to work as a slave. Then during a celebration to the Philistine god Dagon, they bring Samson to the temple to mock him. Samson prays to his God for strength for one last time, grasps two pillars of the temple, and pulls it down on top of himself and the gathered Philistines, resulting in his own death as well as that of more Philistines than he had killed during his whole life.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (ROMANS 6:23). Sin always looks better than it really is. It did to Samson. People are much more prone to sin if they do not allow themselves to think about the possible negative consequences. Samson didn't spend much time thinking about that either.

Sin will always take you further than you wanted to go (JUDGES 16:4-20). Certainly Samson did not see the end result of his affair with Delilah. All see saw was her pretty eyes. "After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah." (16:4). If it had been up to Samson, that would have been as far as his sin would take him. Just to the point of the gratification afforded him by yielding to temptation.

There would have been no visit of the Philistines to Delilah with their offers of a bribe. There would have been no searching questions posed by her to Samson concerning his strength. Her love would be true. And certainly he would never reveal the source of his strength. Why is it so difficult to stop with just a "small sin" with only "small consequences" to pay?

Sin will always keep you longer than you wanted to stay. It would be difficult to come up with a better picture of the bondage of sin than that of Samson. "Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in prison." (16:21). Samson suffered much because of his sin. Some of the consequences could never be undone. Though he could be forgiven, his eyesight was gone forever.

Sometimes we can patch up the damage caused by our sins, at least to a degree. We can perhaps make restitution to someone we have wronged, for example. But some things can never be brought back or undone. You cannot bring a child back to childhood and raise him again . You cannot make things right with someone who has died. You cannot rid yourself of a terminal disease brought on by sinful behavior. Sin will always cost you more than you thought it would. It ultimately cost Samson his life (16:30). It looks like he repented of the sin in his life, though we cannot be certain of that. The book of Hebrews briefly mentions his faith  (HEBREWS 11:32). Certainly, if Samson had known beforehand what his sin was going to cost him, he would have avoided it. But as horrible as the cost was, please notice something: there are eternal costs to sin which are much more devastating. Samson has a soul that exists today. If Samson was not right with God when he left this world, then tragic price of sin has continued to mount to this day and will continue to do so for eternity. Samson was physically strong. Maybe he thought himself impervious to damage, even spiritual. He wasn't, as he found out. He had a great reputation. He was well favored. But whatever he was, he could have been so much more.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 1.11; November, 1994