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Samson:  How Strong Can God Make a Man?  (Judges Chapter 13 Through 16):



              Samson was from the tribe of Dan, born to a woman who had proved infertile until Samson.  In his time, the Philistines were ruling over sinful Israel for a period that ended up being 40 years.  An angel appeared to Samson's mother telling her she would conceive, but it would be a boy set apart to God, and that the mother must eat nothing unclean, or from grapes.  And the angel said the boy would be a Nazarite - no blade was ever to be used on his hair - and that he would grow up and begin to over throw the Philistines from the land. 

              The parents were excited to hear this, and asked if they could offer a burnt offering to the Lord while the angel was there.  The angel allowed it, but then, as the offering burned, the angel ascended in the flame.  They both realized that this was no ordinary angel, but the Angel of the Lord, and they fell to the ground waiting to die, for their eyes had looked at Him.  But because He had allowed it, they did not die.  Samson was born in due time to the woman and she raised him a Nazarite, never cutting his hair and he ate or drank nothing unclean, and nothing of the grape.

              When he became a young man he met a Philistine girl that he wanted for his wife.  He asked his father to go with him to make arrangements with the girl's family to get her for his wife, and when they could not persuade him to find a girl from his own people to marry, they agreed.       

              They walked the distance to Timnah, where this girl's family lived, and for a while Samson was walking at such a distance from his parents that they could not see him.  He was in the vinyard area of Timnah, part of the land belonging to Judah.   And a young lion came roaring out to attack him, but the spirit of the Lord came on him, and he tore the lion to pieces with just his hands.  His parents never saw this and he did not tell them.  Later, returning from making the wedding arrangements, Samson turned aside to look at the Lion carcass, and bees had built a honeycomb inside of it.  He tasted the honey, and it was good.  He gave some to his parents, not disclosing its source.  (To a Jew I think it should have been 'unclean' as it came from inside a dead animal)

              His wedding ended up going sour, as he had a bad experience with 30 young Philistines that stood in as his companions for the wedding.  He bet them on a riddle:  30 pairs of clothing for him if they could not answer it, and 30 pairs - one for each of them - if they could answer it.  They could not guess the answer, so they got his bride-to-be, their country woman, to coax the answer out of him and then she told them.  When they gave him the answer to his riddle Samson guessed what had happened, and stalked off angry.  He went to a nearby Philistine town and killed 30 men, taking their clothes, and these he gave upon returning to the wedding companions.  Then, debt paid, he left them all. 

              After his temper cooled off he returned to see his intended bride, but he found that the girl's father had assumed Samson would never be back for her, so he had given her as a wife to Samson's 'best man'.  This made Samson so mad that he caught 300 foxes and tied their tails together in pairs to lit torches and let them loose in the Philistine grainfields, where they ran all through the country side trying to escape the fire of the torches attached to them.  This caused great financial damage as the countryside and grainfields went up in flames.

              An enquirey by the Philistines uncovered that Samson was mad at what the father of the intended bride had done in giving her as wife to Samson's best man, so the Philistine officials set that family's house on fire, killing the father and Samson's intended bride.  This had an even worse affect on Samson, and he killed a great number of Philistines in his anger.  Then he went to dwell in a cleft in a rock.

              The Philistines, lords over Israel at this time, sent a military force to get Samson or slaughter his people.  The Israelites, frightened at the large Philistine force, went to where Samson stayed, to take hold of him and deliver him to the Philistines if they could, to avoid bringing harm on themselves and their land.  Samson agreed to be bound and taken to the Philistines so long as his own people agreed not to kill him, which they did.  So they handed Samson over to the enemy.  But then God's spirit fell on Samson and he broke the bonds on his wrists and hands almost without effort.  Spying a fresh heavy jawbone from a dead ass he seized it and killed 1000 Philistines with it.  To succesfully use a horse bone to prevail against 1000 armed men, it was surely the power of God.

              Now Samson was a wanted man among the Philistines, and they kept using his weakness for women to try to capture him.  He went to visit a harlot in Gath and the Philistines waited to ambush him as he exited the gate in the morning.  But he caught wind of the plan, and charged out of the shut city gate at around midnight.  He ripped out the entire city gate and carried it off to a far away hill and dropped it there.  They did not catch him that night.

              Finally a harlot named Delilah was offered 1100 pieces of silver by the lords of the Philistines, and was able to get his secret from him because he became intimate with this untrustworthy woman and abandoned his good judgement.  He admitted to her, even after learning she was deceitful and not worthy of his trust, that the source of his great strength was his uncut hair.  So she cut off his hair in his sleep, then told her countrymen that they could seize him.  He leaped up to fight them when they came, but his strength was gone and they captured him and stabbed out his eyes.  They took him blinded to prison.  There he lived as a captive and worked grinding grain - but his hair began to grow back.

              There came a feast day to the false Philistine grain god Dagon, and a great many of the Philistines were assembled in the large temple area celebrating and making merry.  They called for Samson to be brought out to be seen - this former terror of their land who was now a blinded stumbling hulk.  They had him perform in such a way as to please the crowd.  Samson finally got the attention of an attendent and asked to have his hands placed on two different pillars so that he could recover for a moment.  Pretending to rest, he cried out to God that his strength might be returned to him one last time so that he could avenge himself on the Philistines for the loss of his eyes.

               I'm sure there was a moment of doubt throughout all who watched as the broken giant of a man stood tall one last time and began to push outward on the pillars that supported the roof above so many of their heads.  And well so, for the pillars buckled outwards as God did grant Samson his former strength for this one last act.  The roof fell on the heads of the assembled Philistines, and more died at Samson's death than he had killed in his lifetime - around 3,000.  Essentially the same number as in the 9/11 attacks three thousand years later, when those two towers buckled like these two pillars had. 

             His people came and found Samson's body, and buried him with his father between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol.  I believe his burial place will be found one day, because the scriptures mark it's location to a degree not seemingly necessary to the story.

              Samson is a study in misuse of the special power of God, but also of God's mercy to his repentant fallen sinners.  And to the enemies of His chosen people it should be yet another reminder that God disciplines what belongs to Him, and there is hell to pay if you try to step into His place to punish what He has set apart for Himself. 

              Nations that imagine they will one day harm Israel should really take the time to study the history of all the nations that have ever dared to do this.  It is true that God has at times used foreign nations to punish Israel for becoming unfaithful to Him, but even for these nations which are used as tools it usually works out very poorly for them to have been involved.  For instance:  1) Babylon's king Nebuchadnezzar was punished so severely that he left a testimony to God's power which is included in the Bible in the Book of Daniel.  Babylon was destroyed by Cyrus the Mede chosen by God by name in ancient scriptures of Isaiah written long before Cyrus's birth.  2) Rome, who destroyed the Jews who killed Jesus (and through Pontius Pilate, were involved in crucifying Jesus) became filled with Christians, who eventually dominated the nations religeous culture.  Even some of their Emperors were eventually Christian.  3)  Nazi Germany tried to anihilate the Jews, who had no hope against this powerful war machine except to trust in God to defend them.  They were saved by a coalition of largely Christian nations, including one who's coinage says "In God We Trust".  Germany was a greatly destroyed country after this war, and their war recovery years were difficult despite their great vigor as a people. 

              The best way to treat Israel is as a brother and the cherished apple of a very, very mighty God's eye.  Love what God loves.  Hate what God hates.  Praise God ever and always.


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