December 2005 The Sabbath Sentinel
Story of Samson
Story of Hope
by Kenneth Westby
||The life of Samson has always
made good Hollywood copy, and colorful stories for Sunday
School classes. Some see a shaggy, longhaired Samson
chasing after bad women. They see a wild man slaying a
thousand men with the jawbone of an ass in hand. They see
a blinded, bitter Samson ending his life in a last fit of
vengeance, but few have seen the lesson of Samson's life,
the reason God had these accounts recorded in His Holy
What we were never told on the screen or on our Sunday School
flannel boards is that Samson is going to be in the first
resurrection with Abraham and David and a host of Christians.
Samson is counted among the righteous, and he is going to rule
with Christ on this earth! While listing the faithful righteous,
the writer of the Book of Hebrews included Samson with such men
as Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Samuel and the prophets
(Heb. 11:32). The Bible affirms that these righteous men endured
many trials through faith, "that they might obtain a better
resurrection" (verse 35), the resurrection to rulership
with Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:6). And Samson is one of them! Let's
take a closer look at the life of Samson and discover there is
much more to the story than the fall of an ancient muscleman;
Samson provides one of the most powerful lessons of hope recorded
in God's Word.
Samson's Birth and Destiny
The historical account of Samson is found in the book of
Judges, chapters 13-16. The setting is the land of Israel, in the
12th century B.C. Samson's birth was a miracle. His mother was
not able to have children, but that was no problem for God. Since
Samson's parents were still loyal to God at a time of spiritual
decadence in Israel, God answered their prayer and chose them to
have a son. A messenger was sent by God to give the blessed
parents the news concerning their son (chapter 13). They were
told their son was to deliver Israel from the hand of the
Philistines who were occupying the land and oppressing Israel.
They were given instructions on how to rear and care for the
God ordered Samson put under a special consecration governed
by the Nazirite (meaning separated or dedicated) vow.
This was a unique vow, applicable during the Old Covenant of
national Israel, whereby a non-Levite (Samson was a Danite) could
dedicate his life to the full-time service of God. This vow
required that the hair not be cut a sign of
subjectionnor could any alcoholic beverages be consumed
(Judges 13:5; Num. 6).
God had apparently planned to provide Samson with unbelievable
superhuman strength to be used against the Philistines, providing
Samson's vow of submission was faithfully kept. As a boy Samson
was obedient to his vow and loyal to God. His friends
undoubtedly came to have a healthy respect for his physical
strength. Not many fellows would have braved picking a fight
with him. But once he was grown, Samson seemed to lack concern
about the Philistines' oppressive occupation of his land. He
wasn't revolted at the sight of the foul pagan practices of these
evil Gentile overlords. He didn't share God's hatred of evil, and
he lacked a compelling zeal to see Israel freed of Philistine
domination. Samson didn't think the Philistines were all that
bad. He even made an attempt to blend into their lustful and
perverted society. In fact, his first girlfriend was a Philistine
from Timnath (chapter 14). He became so infatuated with this
Philistine babe he put pressure on his parents to approve their
marriage. On one of Samson's trips to Timnath to see his girl he
was attacked by an Asian lion. Barehanded he grabbed the poor
lion and tore him in two! He threw the back-bone and attached rib
cage along the road and went his way! Like swatting a
flynothing to it.
Samson finally prevailed against his disapproving parents
and the marriage was arranged. Using his strength to fulfill God's
plan for Israel was far from his mind at this point. Since he was
more interested in serving himself than serving God, he
would, like a lot of us, have to learn the hard way. The only way
Samson would fight against the Philistines, it seems, was if he personally
were hurt or wronged. And this is precisely what God allowed
to happen. How much easier it would have been for Samson and
better for Israel had he shared God's hatred of sin and willingly
allowed himself to be used by God. What misery and heartache he
would have avoided.
The marriage didn't last a week! The Philistines didn't trust
Samson and they surrounded him with thirty bodyguards during the
week-long wedding festival. To get rid of them, Samson composed
a clever riddle and promised them each a complete wardrobe if
they could come up with the correct answer. They got busy on it,
but weren't smart enough. So they put pressure on Samson's wife
with violent threats to burn her and her family if she didn't
find out the answer for them. Unsavory "friends" to do
business with! He picked fine family to marry into. She then
started a "crying jag" to get the answer out of
Samson and she succeeded, as women usually do with this
tactic. Samson had his weaknesses. He gave in to her, again
looking for the easy way out rather than the right way.
Samson's Anger Kindled
When the Philistines came up with the riddle's solution,
Samson immediately knew that they had gotten the answer from his
wife. He was mad! He left his wife and went to Ashkelon and slew
thirty men and took all their apparel and gave it to the thirty
who had answered the riddle. He then went back to live with his
parents. He had been betrayed! He was angry and discouraged! But
would he learn his lesson? Samson got lonely and went back to the
Philistines to get his wife, only to find she had been given to
another man (chapter 15). He was beginning to personally hate
the Philistines and anger boiled! It was now personal payback
time. Samson devised an attack plan. He caught three hundred
foxes and tied their tails together. He must have been a good
trapper, or faster than any track star we have today. It was
harvest time for the Philistines and Samson set fire to material
tied between the tails of the foxes and turned them loose on the
croplands of the Philistines wreaking great destruction.
The Philistines retaliated by burning Samson's wife and her
family. As so happens in betrayal, she received just what she
tried to avoid. The girl he loved was now murdered and his
miseries increased. Overflowing with anger, he slaughtered many
more Philistines. Later, he arranged to be caught by an army of a
thousand Philistines and while they surrounded him, he broke
loose and grabbed a fresh jawbone of an ass and killed a
thousand men in hand-to-hand combat! Such a superhuman feat is
hard to imagine. Try picturing Sampson taking on a ring full of
the best from the World Federation of Wrestling; Picture him with
a football running 100 yards through the entire NFL suited up to
stop him. When it came to power, he was not normal. Sex is the
bane of many a man and Sampson did not resist its pull. He
frequented harlots and seemed bent on following the destructive
pulls of his flesh. It was not that he could not have had a fine
wife and a wonderful marriage. His parents had told him: "Is
there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among
all my people, that you go to take a wife of the uncircumcised
Philistines?" (14:3). Had Samson followed the advice of his
parents and of God he could have had a beautifully happy life and
avoided a load of pain. But Sampson was still too full of
himself. One mistake after another one loose woman to the next
that was the path Samson took during his twenty year judgeship in
Israel. He had been largely faithful to his Nazirite vow and at
times made an effort to serve God, but his desire for Philistine
women was his undoing.
His selfish lust finally brought him to his last
harlotDelilah (16:4), and here is where Hollywood comes on
strong. It was a craving, wanton, treacherous affair. Samson
wanted love and happinessbut they are elusive apart from
the Law of God. As for Delilah, she was in love with herself and
money, not Samson. The rulers and generals of the Philistines
offered her a large sum of cash to find out the secret to
Samson's strength. After being "nagged to death" by
this wicked, unprincipled woman, he finally told her the key to
his strength. If his hair were cut, the vow would be broken and
he would lose the strength God supplied him; he would become as
any other man.
Samson's First Haircut
Samson's hair wasn't hanging down to the ground
hippie-fashion, looking like a male lion's mane after a rain! It
was neatly arranged in seven locks or braids and probably formed
an impressive looking crown to his formidable physical body
Delilah got the secret she sought and after deceitfully causing
Samson to fall asleep tenderly upon her knees, she called for an
aide to come and shave off the seven locks of his head. She then
began to hit, punch, and scratch him as she called for the
Philistines who were waiting outside her chamber.
The Philistines overpowered him and he quickly realized his
special strength from God was gone! The vengeful Philistines then
gouged out his eyes and bound him with brass chains and bands,
fastened him to a grinding wheel in a dark prison and made him
rind grain like an ox.
What a pitiful sight; blind, bald, a dejected hulk of a man
grinding like an animal, stepping in his own manure. Day in and
day out he walked the same circle amid the continual abuse of his
But now Samson had time to think. Time to think about what a fool
he had been. Time to think of the lusting eyes that had led him
from one sin to another with all the bowel twisting anguish
those sins brought. Now there were empty sockets where eyes had
been! Now he suffered in abject slavery where before no one dared
question his freedom and power.
Over the months he had plenty of time to meditate on God's
purpose for his life and what a shattered mess he had made of it.
He had time to repent before his Creator for all his filth and
self-seeking vanity. But was it too late?
Too Late to Repent?
After burning out his life and so utterly spoiling the high
calling he had, wasn't God through with Samson? Wasn't God's back
turned on Samson? Hadn't God given Samson enough time, enough
mercy? Was this the end of the road for Samson?
What about you? Many of you may feel like you are right there
with Samson in the prison grinding like a dumb ox. You may feel
you have made a totalmess of your life. You too may have broken
God's holy laws with little regard and lived only for momentary
selfish pleasures. You too may feel it is a little late for God's
Maybe you feel that God's black book of your sins is full-up or
that you have waited too long without submitting to God's will
for your life. Do you feel it is too late for you?
The God of Samson has no such black book. Instead, He has open
arms and a loving, tender heart full of mercy waiting for you to
make the total commitmentto repent and obey Him!
This is the decision Samson finally made. He couldn't see the
light of day without his eyes, but he came to see the truth that
the way of this world and sin does not pay. He came to see that
yielding to his Maker would have spared him a life of suffering.
He was still alive and while he yet lived he had the opportunity
to serve his God.
Samson's Last Stand
The Philistines were gloating over their
capture of Sampson and when a major holiday came a large crowd
gathered. The occasion was to offer sacrifice to their great god
Dagon and to celebrate Sampson's imprisonment. According to many
scholars, Dagon may have been depicted as a fishman, head of a
man, body of a fish.
In attendance were the royal family of the Philistines, the
Philistine General Staff and the whole administration of that
powerful nation. They were seated in a large viewing stand
suspended over an arena where games were played.
It was a time of boisterous rejoicing and making merry, thinking
that their godold fish-foothad delivered Samson into
their hand (16:23). So they called for Samson to be brought out
to torment and ridicule.
It had been some time since Samson's head had been shaven and his
hair was long again, perhaps hidden from view by a head wrap
After abusing Samson and having their perverted sport, he was
allowed to stand near the two main supporting pillars for the
elevated stands from which the dignitaries watched the
festivities. Still blind, he asked the young boy who was leading
him to guide his hands to touch each of the two pillars. Sampson
Sampson knew God called him to deliver Israel from its
oppressors, but instead he had mainly served himself. In his
pathetic troubles he experienced a conversion and became totally
committed to God and to doing His work..even if it meant his own
life. He saw the sorry mess he had made of himself and was
willing to let God work his will through him.
He fervently prayed and asked God to hear him. God did. God
always hears such heartfelt, humble prayers. Samson said,
"Let me die with the Philistines." He then bowed
himself with all his might against the two pillars. His muscles
bulged, quivered, and filled with greater God-given strength than
ever before. The pillars began to push apart, and then like a
massive earthquake the entire viewing stand collapsed, killing
about three thousand including virtually all the leadership of
This disaster so disrupted the Philistine nation that Israel was
able to throw off its yoke of oppression. In this one act,
after yielding himself to God, Samson accomplished more than in
his entire life following the way that seemed right to him.
Learn from Samson's Example
God was not only still willing to hear and forgive Samson, but
God was still willing to use him in doing His work of deliverance
It doesn't matter what kind of mistakes you have made. No matter
how bad your past is, if you are willing to submit your life
totally to your God in Heaven, there is hope for you, but the
clock is running.
We best learn from the mistakes of Samson rather than repeating
them. We can draw encouragement by how in the end he turned out.
After all, it is not how we start the race that countsthough
that's importantit is how we finish. If we have life, we
Samson became a righteous man and will be raised from the dead in
a few years at the return of Christ to this earth. We can join
him and the faithful of God.
If our merciful and patient God could forgive Samson,
redeem his life, and use him mightily, will he not do the same
for you and me? He will if we let Him.
Ken Westby is a former president of the BSA and is the
founder and direction of the Association for Christian
Development (ACD), which can be found on the Web at godward.org.
-December 2005 The Sabbath Sentinel