Samson whose name means "sun or brightness" was the last of the major judges over Israel about 1100 B.C. who lead for 20 years (Judg. 13:1-16:31).
An Angel of God had appeared unto his mother, who was barren, and told her she would have a son and was to call him Samson. The couple showed hospitality to God's messenger by offering food, but the Angel said to offer it to God. As the flame blazed up from the altar the Angel ascended in the flame, and afraid they fell with their faces to the ground.
Samson, a divinely promised child, was dedicated by his parents to be a lifelong Nazirite. His vow was not voluntary. He was to be distinct from earthly desires and consecrated fully to God. Because of the unique child she was to bear, she herself was ordered to take the Nazarite vow. As Samson grew God greatly blessed him.
Samson belonged to the Tribe of Dan and was a hero known throughout Israel for his incredible physical strength. He frequently did battle against the Philistines who, at that time, had dominion over the nation. He was significantly victorious in his confrontations with the powerful enemy.
Some of his exploits included killing a young lion with his bare hands, killing over 1000 Philistines with a jaw bone of a donkey, carrying away the metal city gate and posts of Gaza up hill for 38 miles, and setting alight the harvest fields of grain, vines and olive groves of the enemy using 300 foxes by tying their tails together and lighting them aflame sending them into the fields. Samson used his speciall abilities unwisely. He mainly used his strength upon jokes and for his own vengeance, but still did accomplish divine purposes.
Although a Nazirite, Samson did not live a devoted life and disobeyed the prohibitions of his vow. A Nazarite, was prohibited to cut their hair, nor to drink wine, not to touch a dead body and not to eat unclean food, but Samson violated them all. Israelites were forbidden to marry the inhabitants of Canaan, but Samson insisted on doing so.
God however continued to tenderly care for him and miraculously provided spring water for him after a battle so that he could be revived.
In spite of his single-handed deeds against the enemy of Israel, Samson was a headstrong young man with little or no self-control and greatly fell short of God's standard with sin and disobedience. He was very self-indulgent and had lack of discipline. He continued to chase pagan women, many of bad reputation, who worships foreign gods.
Samson's fascination with Delilah, his foreign girlfriend, finally produced his downfall. The rulers of the Philistines offered her eleven hundred pieces of silver from each of them to find out the source of Samson's strength. In her first three attempts, Samson gave her false answers. The Philistines bound him each time by Delilah betrayals. Finally, she coaxed the truth from him, that if his hair was cut, he would be rendered weak as a normal man and Samson was captured and blinded. The fact was God's Spirit had left him. His long hair had identified him as being separated for God's use. Samson's distinguished strength came through the Spirit of God who would come upon him to enable him to perform amazing feats and not come from his long hair, although it was a symbol of his strength.
Samson never freed Israel from the dominion of the Philistines but in his death as a prisoner, he killed more of the Philistine enemies than the total he had killed during his lifetime by pushing apart the two middle supporting pillars of their pagan temple while he was on display as the captured Israelite hero.
Samson had prayed sincerely that God might return his strength to him once more to wipe out many of Israel's enemies, for the overcrowded temple also had 3000 men and women standing on the roof. This act caused the building to crumble and with it killing not only Samson himself but all of the prominent Philistine leadership members.
Samson is listed with the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:32,
because his strength came from God and because in his dying selfless act,
he demonstrated his faith. At the end of his life he recognised his dependence
God uses the sinful weaknesses of mankind to accomplish his purposes. Failures and defeats can be victories for God's glory.
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