Samson – A Man of Great Strength and Weakness
by John C. Westervelt
An angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
In due time, she gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The child grew up near Zorah, fifteen miles west of Jerusalem. The Lord blessed the child with extraordinary strength. When of age, Samson walked four miles southwest to Timnah, a town occupied by Philistines. He came home and said to his father and mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines, and I want you to get her for my wife.”
Samson’s father and mother pleaded with him to find a Hebrew wife, but Samson insisted that the Philistine girl was the one he wanted to marry. The parents did not know that this was the Lord’s doing, for God was seeking to confront the Philistines who had been harshly ruling over Israel for forty years.
Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother. On the outskirts of the town, Samson left his parents and walked into a vineyard. A young lion came roaring toward him. The spirit of the Lord filled this young Nazirite with such strength that he tore the lion as one would tear a young goat. Walking on into town, Samson talked to the woman he had chosen, and he liked her. Then he returned home with his parents.
Some time later Samson went to Timnah with his father and mother for his wedding. He stopped along the way to look at the dried carcass of the lion he had killed and found that a swarm of bees had filled the body with honeycomb.
Samson’s father called on the girl’s family to discuss the wedding. As was the custom, Samson prepared a feast for thirty young men of the wedding party. He said, “Listen to my riddle. If you can guess the meaning by the end of the seven-day wedding celebration, I will give you thirty linen wraps and thirty sets of clothes. If you cannot, you shall give the same gift to me.”
They agreed, and Samson told them a rhyming riddle based on the lion. “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.”
On the fourth day none of the Philistine men had an answer, so they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband to tell you the answer to the riddle or we will burn you and your father’s household to death.”
Throughout the remaining days of the wedding feast Samson’s wife nagged him so that he finally told her the answer to the riddle, and she proceeded to tell the thirty young men. At sunset on the seventh day the spokesman told Samson, “What is sweeter than honey and stronger than a lion?”
Samson said to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.” Filled with anger, Samson left his wife and returned to his father’s house.
The green wheat in the fields across the land had now turned golden. Samson returned to Timnah to see his wife. Upon arriving, her father said, “I thought you hated her for what she did, so I gave her to your friend.”
For revenge, Samson caught three hundred foxes, tied torches to their tails, and lit the torches. The scurrying foxes burned the fields to the ground. Among these people, revenge begets revenge, so the Philistines burned Samson’s wife and her father’s household to death.
Samson retreated to Etam near Bethlehem. The Philistines camped out across Judah searching for Samson. Wanting to avoid war, three thousand men of Judah went to Samson and told him they were going to tie him up and give him to the Philistines. Samson agreed to be bound if the Judeans promised not to kill him.
The Philistines shouted with joy as they came to pick up their prisoner. Samson flexed his muscles, snapped the new rope, picked up the jawbone of a donkey, and killed a thousand men.
After this, the Philistines decided to leave Samson alone among his people where he served as judge for twenty years. This wise judge seemed to have poor judgment in his choice of women.
Delilah, from the valley of Sorek, twenty-five miles west of Jerusalem, had charm that would allure any man; so the first time Samson saw her, he fell in love.
When five lords of the Philistines learned of this relationship, they each offered Delilah thirty-four pounds of silver if she would tell them Samson’s secret of his strength.
Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength is and how you can be tied up and subdued.”
Samson teased her by telling her to tie him with fresh bowstrings, then later new ropes, and finally to braid his hair. Delilah tried each restraint only to find that Samson was able to break loose. She nagged him daily with her words, until Samson was annoyed to death. So he said, “If my head is shaved, my strength will be gone.”
Delilah let Samson go to sleep with his head on her lap, called for the man with a razor, and watched as all the hair was shaved off of his head. The Philistines subdued Samson and gouged out his eyes.
Bound with a bronze chain in a prison in Gaza, Samson’s hair began to grow back. A few months later, the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon, their god. They brought Samson and stood him between the two pillars that were the main supports of the temple. As the crowd taunted him, Samson asked the boy who was leading him to place his hands on the pillars.
The temple was full of men, women, and the lords. Another three thousand people were on the roof. Samson called to God asking, “O Lord God, please remember me and strengthen me one last time, that I may get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
Samson grasped the two pillars and pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on all the people. So in his death, he killed more Philistines than he had during the rest of his life.
Eleven hundred years later Samson was placed in good company by the author of the faith chapter of the New Testament, Hebrews 11. “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets.” Even though Samson acted foolishly with regards to the women in his life, he had faith in the Lord God who gave him the strength to fight victoriously against the Philistines and the wisdom to judge Israel for twenty years. His request to be remembered by God was answered.
Copyright 2002 by John C. Westervelt
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