Christian Churches of God
(Edition 1.0 20060514-20060514)
Samson was from the tribe of Dan. He was given great power and strength through God’s Holy Spirit and was set aside before his birth for service to the Lord. This paper has been adapted from Chapters 66-67 of The Bible Story Volume III by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press and the paper Samson and the Judges (No. 73).
Samson means sunlight. He was set aside before birth for service to the Lord. Samson’s long hair was a physical sign to show that he had the Holy Spirit working within him. The Spirit of the Lord was the means by which Samson was given his great strength and power.
One day Samson went down to the town of Timnah and saw a young Philistine woman whom he liked. When he returned home he told his father and mother that he wanted this woman for his wife.
Samson’s parents were shocked and disappointed that their only son should choose to marry a foreign woman instead of one of his own people. They did not realise God was using this situation to begin delivering Israel from the Philistines. Samson was so insistent that they finally went to Timnah (Jdg.14:1-5).
In those days parents (especially the father) arranged marriage for their children (Gen. 21:21; 24:4; 34:8; Ex. 21:9). The marriage arranged by the father represents God the Father giving his chosen people (the elect) in marriage to Christ (His Son). The elect are Gentiles called out of a pagan system and prepared for marriage through the Holy Spirit with Messiah, a judge. See the paper Who is Jesus? (No. CB2).
As Samson and his parents approached Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring towards him. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands. He did not tell his mother or father what he did. Samson didn't fully understand at this time that he had been given special protection and extra strength by a loving God (Jdg. 14:5-6).
It is of interest to note that our enemy the devil roams around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (or deceive) (1Pet. 5:8).
Samson continued with his parents to the town of Timnah, where arrangements were made for his marriage to the Philistine woman whom God had put in Samson's life so that he would have a closer connection with the Philistine oppressors (v.7).
In those days it was a custom for a period of time to pass after a couple formally decided to marry, till the time of the wedding. It was many months later, therefore, that Samson and his parents set out again for Timnah for the marriage ceremony.
When they arrived at the place where Samson had slain the lion, the young Danite went aside by himself to the spot where he had left the carcass of the lion. Only the skeleton remained. Samson discovered that bees had built their comb inside the rib cage, and that there was honey inside. Although bees were swarming about, he managed to get some of the honey to eat. He brought some of the honey to his father and mother, but he told them nothing about the lion (vv. 8-9).
Taking honey from the body of the lion shows us that new life can come from something that was unclean and had died. The lion being unclean also represents Satan and the rebellious Host who will be overcome by Messiah at his return. The honey represents new life as that which is given to us when we repent and are baptised into the body of Christ. Satan and the demons will be given the same opportunity to repent and be baptised into a new life. For that to happen they will be changed to human beings and be killed and then resurrected just like the rest of humankind.
The honey could also refer to (or prefigure) Messiah leading us to the Promised Land, since it is referred to as a "land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex. 3:8). In Psalm 119:103 we learn God’s word is sweeter than honey. Proverbs 24:13-14 tells us to eat honey and here it is likened again to God’s word. We are all to eat of God’s word daily.
Samson's wedding turned out to be quite a social event in Timnah. It included a seven-day feast to which thirty young men were invited as friends of the bridegroom. The thirty companions represent the inner council of the Host.
The custom of having a wedding feast for seven days is mentioned in Genesis 29:27, as being practised in Mesopotamia. The feast represents the marriage of the Lamb at the Seventh month called Tishri.
At that time, riddles were a popular form of entertainment. During the wedding feast, Samson asked a riddle to his thirty companions, basing it on his experience with the lion and the honey.
"If you men can give me the answer to a certain riddle before this feast is over," Samson told them, "I'll give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. Here's the riddle: 'Out of the eater came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet.' Now if you fail to give me the right answer before the feast is over, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes."
In overcoming, new garments will be given to the elect. Samson, as the judge, represents the steward of the mysteries of God. The elect are given the mysteries as God decides to reveal them and the Gentiles (here the guests) long to understand the mysteries also.
For three days they could not give the answer (Jdg. 14:10-14).
On the fourth day they went to Samson’s wife and said, “Encourage your husband to explain the riddle or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to rob us?”
Fearful of what would happen, Samson's wife tried to get the answer to the riddle from her new husband. At first he refused to tell her. She cried for the whole seven days of the feast and said that he hated her and it wasn't fair of him to keep secrets from her. So on the seventh day Samson finally told her all about the lion and the honey. She in turn explained the riddle to her people.
That afternoon, before sunset the men approached Samson to inform him that they at last had an answer to his riddle.
"Give me your answer," Samson said to them. Here it is they said: “What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?"
Samson wasn't too surprised by such an accurate answer. He realised that these men had somehow got the answer from his wife.
Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Samson was very angry by now so he returned to his father’s house and his father-in-law gave his wife to the friend who had attended him at the wedding (vv. 15-20).
Later on, at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson decided to return to his wife. Taking a young goat as a gift, he went to the home of his wife's father, who was surprised when he opened the door and saw Samson.
"I've come to see my wife," Samson said firmly to his father-in-law. But her father would not let him in.
"A few weeks ago you gave me the definite impression that you would have no more to do with her, so I gave her in marriage to the man who was your chief companion at your wedding."
"As you know, I have a younger and prettier daughter. If you would take her for your bride, I would be greatly pleased" (Jdg.15:1-2).
Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail-to-tail. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines.
The result was that each pair of foxes raced and struggled all over the fields, dragging their torches and setting fire to the grain shocks and uncut fields. Dry breezes spread the many fires over wide territory, so that there was a huge loss of crops to the Philistines during the next several hours (vv. 3-5).
Here, we have the same story as Gideon, where the torches are used to destroy the Gentiles. The three hundred foxes are equal to the three hundred men with pitchers in the story of Gideon. See the paper Gideon (No. CB56). We are the lights of the world bringing God’s light/truth to a dark and blind world.
The Philistines soon discovered that Samson was responsible for this mischief and he had done it because his father-in-law had given his wife to another man. So they went up and burned her and her father to death (v. 6).
Samson told them that he would get his revenge and get back at them. So he attacked them and killed many of them.
Instead of going to the home of his parents, where the Philistines would be certain to look for him, Samson went into the land of the tribe of Judah. The Philistines were in power there, too, but he found refuge in a cave-like fortress named Etam, where some Israelites had gathered to defend themselves against their oppressors (vv. 7-8).
The Philistines immediately formed an army and marched into the territory of Judah, in a rugged area of limestone cliffs in Lehi, near where Samson was hiding. When the leaders of Judah inquired why an army had come against them, they were told that it had come to insure that the men of Judah would find Samson and deliver him, as a bound captive, to the Philistine army.
The symbolism here is that Messiah was to be born in the line of Judah and the Gentiles sought to destroy that tribe to prevent Messiah being born. Christ also allowed himself to be bound and handed over to be killed as we see was the case with Samson.
Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave where Samson was and said to him, “Don’t you realise that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”
He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me”(vv. 9-11).
Samson knew that he would have to submit then and there to the men of Judah or fight against his own people in an attempt to escape. He loved all Israelites and didn't want to hurt any of them.
"I'll willingly go with you if you'll promise to keep me alive," Samson finally said.
"We'll have to tie you up and hand you over to them but we will not kill you" (v. 12).
So they bound him with two new ropes and led him from the rock. As he approached Lehi the Philistines came out shouting. Again the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men (vv. 13-15).
In the same way was as Samson was renewed here in the Holy Spirit, the Messiah was restored in power through the Holy Spirit after his resurrection from the dead.
"I can scarcely believe it," he muttered to himself. "God must have helped and protected me, or I wouldn't have been able to overcome all these men with the jawbone of a donkey!" (vv.16-17).
Until that moment he hadn't realized how tired and thirsty he had become. He looked around for some source of water, but there appeared to be no brook or spring in the vicinity. Samson realised he would be risking death if his enemies should attack him in his tired condition.
He cried out to the Lord, "You have helped me through many great dangers, surely you didn't spare me to this moment just so I would die of thirst and my body at last fall into the hands of my pagan enemies! Please give me water."
God granted his request and by a miracle made a spring in a low spot, or hollow place, there at Lehi. Soon Samson's strength returned (vv.18-19). We saw a similar event when Moses struck the rock water poured out (Ex. 17:6; Num. 20:8).
The rock symbolises Christ as the spiritual rock (1Cor. 10:4) being the means by which we receive the living waters of the Holy Spirit of God (Jn. 7:37-39). Receiving the Holy Spirit depends on our obedience to God.
Samson led Israel for the next twenty years in the days of the Philistines. During that time, however, the Israelites were still under subjection and rule of their oppressors (Jdg. 15:20).
One day near the end of that twenty-year period, Samson went to the Philistine capital city of Gaza. This city had been captured by Judah many years previously, but had fallen back into Philistine hands at one of the times Israel had disobeyed God.
Samson's reason for going to Gaza isn't mentioned in the Bible, but it was unwise for him to move about in the land of his enemies. To make matters worse, he went into one of Gaza's leading inns. It was impossible that he should go unrecognised, since Samson's peculiar features were well known. Word spread swiftly that the mighty Danite was in town. So the people of Gaza surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They planned to kill him at dawn (Jdg. 16:1-2). Many have planned to try to kill or hurt God’s elect throughout history.
But Samson stayed there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the huge and heavy doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron (v. 3).
Samson seemed to have a weakness for pretty Philistine women. Not long after the episode at Gaza, he fell in love with a Philistine woman by the name of Delilah.
The rulers of the Philistines went to her and offered a reward to Delilah if she would discover for them the secret of Samson's strength (vv. 4-5).
"Each one us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver,” they said (v. 5).
That same night she began to question Samson about the source of his strength (v. 6).
Samson had such affection for Delilah that he didn't wish to refuse her some kind of answer. Yet, he did not completely trust her with the secret of his great strength. And Samson did not want to risk unnecessary danger. So he decided to use his sharp wit again so that, if Delilah talked too much to the wrong people, he might have another good laugh on the Philistines.
"If my enemies were to carefully bind me with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried I would be no stronger than any other man of my physical development" (v. 7).
Later, Delilah contacted the representatives of the Philistines to tell them what Samson had told her.
Then the rulers of Philistia brought her the seven fresh thongs and she tied Samson with them. Then, with men hidden in the room she called to Samson and told him the Philistines were upon him. But he snapped the thongs off his arms as if they were threads (vv. 8-9).
"Why did you joke with me about the wonderful source of your great power?" she asked. "I don't think it was fair of you to tell me something that wasn't true."
"Why shouldn't you tell me what a wondrous thing it would take to overcome such a man as you?"
Again, because of his deep feeling for Delilah, Samson felt that he should give an answer, but he was too wary to tell her all she wanted to know.
“If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used before I would be only as strong as any other man of my size and development."
Delilah took the new ropes and tied Samson with them. Then with the men hidden in the room again she called out to Samson that the Philistines were upon him. But he broke the ropes as though they were fine threads (vv. 10-12).
For the third time, several nights later, Delilah launched into another attempt to uncover Samson's secret.
“Until now you have been making a fool of me and lying to me,” Delilah said to Samson. Tell me how you can be tied.”
Samson answered, "As you know, I often divide my hair into seven braids. If you weave my seven braids into the fabric of the loom and tighten it with a pin, my strength will depart from me."
The seven braids of Samson’s hair represent the seven spirits of God and the seven eras of the Church.
For the third time Delilah arranged for the Philistines to be hidden in the room. While Samson was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his hair and wove them into the fabric and tightened it with a pin. Again she called out to Samson, “The Philistines are upon you!”
He woke up and pulled up the pin and the loom with the fabric (vv. 13-14).
"How can you say that you love me after mocking me three times about your great strength?" Delilah asked. She kept nagging Samson day after day until he couldn’t stand it any longer. So he told her everything.
God protected Samson during these three ordeals to find the secret of his strength, but he was beginning to think the power he had was his own.
Samson said, "No razor has ever been used on my head, because I have been a Nazarite set apart to God since my birth”. This meant that Samson was dedicated to service for the God of Israel for his entire life (Jdg. 13:1-25). There are several special things that a Nazarite must do. One of those things is to let his hair grow without any cutting or trimming (Num. 6:1-21). If his hair was cut off the vow would be broken and Samson’s special strength would leave him (Jdg.16:15-17). In other words, God’s Spirit would leave him.
When Delilah was certain that at last Samson had told her the truth she contacted the rulers of Philistia to tell them that Samson was about to become their prisoner. She arranged for the men to go into hiding in her house that night.
Having put Samson to sleep on her lap she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair. And his strength left him.
As soon as his hair was cut, Delilah signalled to the Philistines to come out of hiding. When Samson woke from his sleep he thought he would shake himself free as before, but he did not know that the Lord had left him (vv. 18-20). Samson had yet to learn that his strength came through the power of God in the Holy Spirit and not from himself.
He probably began wondering how he had lost his hair and if God had completely deserted him because of his breaking his Nazarite vow. The answer was plain when it became apparent that he was powerless against the group of Philistine soldiers. Samson's love for a pretty pagan girl had been his undoing, just as God had warned the Israelites (Ex. 23:31-33; Josh. 23:12-13). However, Samson had also become vain and proud so was allowed to be taken captive by his enemies.
To add to his misery the bound Samson suddenly was aware that someone was shoving two red-hot pieces of metal directly toward his eyes! Samson was now blind. In shame and weakness they took him down to Gaza and set him to work pushing a millstone in the grain-grinding room in the prison (Jdg. 16:21-22).
Meanwhile, Samson's hair was again growing to an unusual length.
To show thanks to their pagan god, called Dagon, for helping them win out over Samson, the Philistines planned a special meeting at a large temple in Gaza (Jdg. 16:22-23).
When the time arrived for the celebration, about three thousand spectators (men and women) had gathered on the roof and all the rulers of the Philistines were there to watch Samson perform (v. 27).
The idol Dagon was a towering monstrosity with a human-like head and torso. From the waist down it resembled the rear half of a fish.
Because the emphasis was on pleasure at this special celebration the people were in high spirits. They shouted for Samson to be brought out to entertain them, which he did (Jdg. 16:24-25).
Samson had been in the temple once before he had lost his sight. He remembered that it was built in such a way that the main structural strength of the building depended on two huge columns or pillars.
When he stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who was leading him by the hand, "Put me where I can feel the two main pillars that support the temple so I can lean against them" (v. 26).
Then Samson bowed his head and silently and fervently asked God to once more strengthen him to the extent that he could perform a feat by which he might be avenged for the loss of his sight by the Philistines (vv. 27-28).
Samson then reached towards the two central pillars on which the temple stood. He spread his hands and feet out and pressed them against the pillars on either side so that he was firmly wedged between the two columns.
"God of Israel, help me to bring death to these Philistines, even though I have to die with them!" Samson prayed.
Samson pushed with all his strength and down came the temple on the Philistine rulers and all the other people in it.
In those few seconds, when so many of the leaders of Philistia were wiped out along with Samson, the Israelites were freed for a time from their oppressors. Without their leaders, the Philistines could do little against the Israelites. In spite of his weakness, Samson's life and his death were not without some purpose. God used him in a mighty manner for the benefit of his people (vv. 29-30). Word of the great destruction quickly spread, and the Israelites realised they no longer need have such great fear of the Philistines.
The temple of Dagon represents the false religions of this world that will be destroyed when Christ returns.
Samson's relatives boldly went down to Gaza to find and claim his body. They took it back to the territory of the tribe of Dan, where Samson was buried next to his father in the family cemetery near his hometown (v. 31).
Because God spoke in the Bible so plainly about Samson's weakness for pretty Philistine women, some people have misunderstood the meaning of Samson's life. Samson's accusers have forgotten that God Himself said He allowed Samson to fall prey to this weakness in order to bring Samson into conflict with the Philistines. Read it in Judges 14:1-4. Samson's accusers have also forgotten that Samson was a man of extraordinary faithfulness to God in every way except for this one major weakness -- and in a time when most of the Israelites were steeped in idolatry.
Samson accepted the life of trouble and heartache that came upon him in God's service without complaint. Samson wasn't concerned about his sufferings, because he, like Abraham and God's other faithful servants of old, was concerned about God's salvation and an inheritance after being resurrected (Heb. 11:10, 14-16, 32, 35, 39-40).