Samson, Part Four

A Sorry End to a Sorry Life

In studying the life of Samson, we notice something glaring: the editor of the book of Judges is about as blunt as any writer could be. He does not even try to paint a pretty picture of this judge of Israel. He states Samson’s sin in a matter-of-fact manner. Another thing we notice is that in spite of Samson’s many sexual misadventures, God continued to use him to accomplish His purposes. That leaves us more questions than answers. But one thing is certain: one who cannot control their passions will find them to be their undoing in the end. This is exactly what Samson found by the end of chapter 16.

A scholar of a bygone era said this:

Samson, when strong and brave, strangled a lion; but he could not strangle his own love. He burst the fetters of his foes, but not the cords of his own lusts. He burned up the crops of others, and lost the fruit of his own virtue when burning with the flame enkindled by a single woman.

There are a great many Christians who like to look at Samson as a type of Christ, largely because of this one verse in Hebrews 11:32,

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets.

However, I will state that Samson was, in no way, any type of Jesus Christ, despite some of the similarities surrounding his remarkable birth.

We’ll examine the events that led to Samson’s pitiful downfall, namely, his involvements with the prostitute from Gaza and Delilah.

1. Samson at Gaza, 16:1-3

Herbert Wolf has written that these final episodes in Samson’s life “confirm his great physical strength and his great weakness for women.” It had been a number of years since the last time Samson had been in Philistine territory, but the people in Gaza had never forgotten about this strong man.

One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”

But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

This judge of Israel was completely insolent and apparently had learned nothing from his past experiences with Philistine women. As he indulged himself with this prostitute, the men of Gaza lay in wait to kill him as he left town in the morning. Outsmarting them, he left early, and with a great demonstration of physical strength, he grabbed hold of the city gates, ripped them off their hinges, and carried them some distance away.

Although the text gives no indication of the Holy Spirit’s involvement, it is probable that the Spirit of God, once again, came upon Samson and enabled him to do this. However, these “gifts of strength” that came from the Lord were of a physical nature only; they did not cause Samson to see his sin or cause him to repent. Clyde Rydall:

Not all the men upon whom the Spirit of God came in the Old Testament times were good men. God used them as instruments to accomplish His historical purposes for His people, much as one might seize a muddy stick to drive off an angry dog.

Further, Samson’s feats of strength and achievements were entirely personal in that they revolved completely around him. What he did here in Gaza, and indeed what he did to the Philistines during his judgeship had nothing to do with his people. In fact, as we have seen, all the acts of Samson were provoked by his own foolish, sinful behavior, and despite the fact that the Holy Spirit “came upon” him from time to time, Samson was not a servant of Yahweh, and spent his entire life doing his own thing and giving in to his sinful nature.

And this would lead to his inevitable downfall.

2. Samson and Delilah, 16:4-20

Younger correctly noted that chapter 16 begins with a great deed and ends with a great deed, but neither one does anything for Israel. The story of Samson and Delilah makes for great reading and is the thing movies are made of. Warren Wiersbe wrote:

Along with David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah have captured the imagination of scores of writers, artists, composers, and dramatists. Handel included Delilah in his oratorio “Samson,” and there was even an opera about Samson and Delilah! When Samson consorted with Delilah in the Valley of Sorek, he never dreamed that what they did together would be made into a Hollywood movie and projected on huge screens.

However, there is a very real sense that, one day, when we stand before God, stripped of all our pretenses and our motives laid bare before him, our deepest, darkest secrets will be exposed.

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

After Samson escaped from Gaza, and after humiliating the men there, they became determined to find out why this Israelite was so strong. As in chapter 14, a woman led Samson to divulge a secret. Samson was foolish in chapter 14, being tricked by a godless Philistine, but there is good reason to believe that this time, the woman was an Israelite, for she had a Hebrew name. In fact, as an indication of Delilah’s sin, of the four women mentioned in Samson’s life, only her name is mentioned, and at that, no less than seven times. Being led to destruction by one of his own showed the depths of the strong man’s depravity.

The lowlights of the story can teach us some lessons.

  • Samson had become infatuated with one like himself. The Philistines made Delilah an offer she could not refuse. Just as Samson yielded to temptation to get what he wanted, so Delilah did. She would give Samson’s life in exchange for money. It’s always interested me that a person is generally known by the company he keeps.
  • Delilah’s goal must have been obvious to Samson, yet for some reason he played along, toying with Delilah, not knowing that doing so would end in his death. Maybe it was amusing to him, perhaps Samson got a good laugh out of Delilah’s failed attempts to his secret. How many of us toy with the sin in our lives, thinking we can enjoy it “a little,” thinking in our naiveté that we can stop before going too far; before we get into trouble.
  • After several attempts to learn the secret, Delilah got frustrated, and Samson got frustrated with her constant nagging and he gave in and told her. He did exactly the same thing back at his wedding feast, in 14:7. Samson was more willing to break his Nazarite vow than to break his relationship with this woman.
  • Verse 17 is an interesting verse. It shows Samson, called to be set apart from birth as a Nazarite, actaully bearing his soul, sharing his most intimate secret with a pagan woman who wasn’t even his wife. Sadly, verse 17 also shows us that he knew all along he was a Nazarite, yet could care less.
  • Samson, man of great strength, is willing to compromise his very self for the love of a woman. Delilah, has no interest in Samson; love is not on her mind at all. She is using him to get what she wants, just as he has used God his whole life to get what he wanted.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:6)

The last sentence of verse 20 is arguably the saddest in the Bible:

“I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

Samson, like so many of us, had taken the Lord’s presence in his life for granted. He assumed God would always be there, no matter what his behavior. How many of us assume we can live how we please, and just assume God will tolerate us and put up with us? There is a price to pay for continuing in sin, and Samson is about to pay it.

3. Samson’s inevitable end, 16:23-31

The Philistines seized the weakened Samson and:

  • blinded him, as sin blinds those caught up in it;
  • bound him, as sin bounds those trapped in it;
  • made him grind at the mill. Sin, which seems so pleasant, always takes its toll on us.

During the pagan festival, the drunken Philistines praised their god, Dagon for helping them to capture Samson, their enemy. The people began to shout out for Samson to be brought in to entertain them and amuse them. It must have been a sad scene. The strongest man in the world, being led into a large pagan temple, shackled and blind, being laughed at and mocked by a thousand drunken spectators. But, in reality, he was there because of his life of compromise. God had let him go into the life he showed a constant desire for.

And then an amazing thing happened. Samson prays. Literally, the prayer went like this:

O Lord Yahweh, please remember me.
Please strengthen me! Just this once! O God!
And let me revenge myself with one revenge on the
Philistines for my two eyes.

What starts out as a decent prayer, degenerates into an egocentric plea for personal revenge. Once again, Samson is seen putting his own personal ambition (revenge for what they did to him) ahead of the interests of God. It’s truly amazing how this man’s self-interest dominated his life to the bitter end.

The prayer prayed by Samson is structured similarly to the Philistine prayer to Dagon:

Our god has delivered our enemy
into our hands,
the one who laid waste to our land
and multiplied our slain.

Notice the profusion of personal pronouns in both prayers; five in each prayer. But while the prayers are similar, there is one striking difference. There were thousands of Philistines praying together. But Samson was all alone. His preoccupation with himself left him with the most important person in his life: himself.

In the end, however, in spite of Samson’s personal motive for revenge, God, for the last time, used Samson to glorify Himself. In that pagan temple, when the Spirit of God came upon Samson and Samson pulled down that temple, Dagon was powerless. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had demonstrated His superiority. But the tragic irony cannot be missed. Samson, for all his strength did more for God dead than alive.

Some lessons from Samson

Samson’s tragic life and death can teach us much, if we have “ears to hear” what the Spirit is telling us.

Samson shows us, in a personal way, what happens when the people of God fail to be obedient to God and fail to fulfill their obligations to Him. God’s will for His Church and the world will be accomplished with or without our help. We may choose to work with Him and be blessed in doing so. Or we may be like Samson, and go our own way doing our own thing, but be used of God anyway, yet not be blessed. It’s our choice to be a part of God’s marvelous work, or be dragged kicking and screaming into it. Either way, we will be a part of it.

On this point, Wolf’s comments are excellent:

Samson was ranked among the heroes of faith. Yet he failed to live up to his great gifts. Unable to conquer himself, he was ruined by his own lusts. He stands as a tragic example of a man of great potential who lacked stability of character. Still, God in His sovereignty used him.

The story of Samson should serve as a warning to all believers. Take seriously your relationship with God. Honor His Word and His will. Be obedient to its dictates. Watch what you look at. And make sure Jesus Christ is the most important person in your life, because nobody should stand before the Judge of the Universe alone when they could stand beside Jesus Christ.

(c) 2008 WitzEnd
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