(Quoted scriptures from NIV unless noted differently)
I recommend that you read Judges 13-16. These four chapters in the Bible tell us the famous and familiar story of Samson’s life. I have always found the stories relating to Samson to be very interesting, but also very puzzling.
Samson’s parents, Manoah and his wife, are childless but are visited by God and are told that they will have a son. They are given specific directions about how the woman is to conduct herself during her pregnancy, as well as how the child is to behave. Chapter 13:5b says “No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth…” When Manoah’s wife told him about the visitation from God, telling her that she would have a son, she told her husband (verse 7b) “’…the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.’”
I was curious, so did some research to find out exactly what a Nazirite was and in the Easton’s Bible Dictionary it says: ”Nazirite, the name of such Israelites as took on them the vow prescribed in Numbers 6:2-21 . The word denotes generally one who is separated from others and consecrated to God. Although there is no mention of any Nazarite before Samson, yet it is evident that they existed before the time of Moses. The vow of a Nazarite involved these three things, (1) abstinence from wine and strong drink, (2) refraining from cutting the hair off the head during the whole period of the continuance of the vow, and (3) the avoidance of contact with the dead. As to the duration of a Nazarite’s vow, every one was left at liberty to fix his own time. There is mention made in Scripture of only three who were Nazarites for life, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist (Judges 13:4 Judges 13:5 ; 1 Samuel 1:11 ; Luke 1:15.) In its ordinary form, however, the Nazarite’s vow lasted only thirty, and at most one hundred, days. This institution was a symbol of a life devoted to God and separated from all sin, a holy life.”
Samson’s parents apparently did a good job in his younger years of bringing Samson up according to the requirements given to them. But as Samson matured into adulthood, he had a weakness for women and the temptation of lust that he apparently did not do a good job of controlling and he ended up marrying a Philistine woman. Mistake #1 – this marriage was an error on the part of Samson, because Israelites were not supposed to marry foreigners. Mistake #2 is that his attraction to the Philistine woman was likely only physical. Judges 14:3 (KVJ) says: “Then his father and his mother said unto him, ‘Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?’ And Samson said unto his father, ‘Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.’” Mistake #3 we can see in that same verse. His parents were obviously not in favor of the union; but, he insisted and pushed them until they relented, practically speaking, going against their wishes. [Emphasis mine]
At the wedding feast he came up with a riddle (which apparently was not uncommon during that time) that he gave to his 30 companions. He offered each of them new clothing if they could solve the riddle before the seven days of the feast were up; and, if they could not solve it they were to give him 30 sets of clothing. They could not solve the riddle and went to his wife asking her to get the answer for them. After seven days of her crying and begging, he finally gave in and told her the answer. She of course, shared the information so that they could solve the riddle. Samson was so angry that he ended up killing 30 other men for their clothing so that just as he had promised, he could give the clothing to the 30 companions that solved his riddle. Then he just left and returned to his home, leaving his wife behind.
Eventually, Samson went back to claim his wife and found her father had given her to someone else. His anger boiled over at that point and he took vengeance on the Philistines. This resulted in the man and his daughter being burned to death by the Philistines. Samson again out of anger strikes out and single-handedly kills 1000 more Philistines. This tit for tat behavior obviously was fatal for many.
After this, Samson, apparently not having learned his lesson with the first woman, joined himself with a prostitute. (Judges 16:1) A woman and lust won out again. The Philistines found out that he was with this harlot and were going to kill him; but, Samson, because of the grace of God escaped them again.
At some point after that Samson fell in love with another Philistine woman named Delilah. The Philistines obviously still hated him because of what he had done to them in the past. So the rulers went to her and bribed her with a considerable amount of silver, to find out from Samson where his strength came from.
Three times Delilah asked him for the secret to his strength and three times he fooled her. Samson had to know what she was up to, because each of those three times, she herself did to him what he had told her would subdue his strength; and, each of those three times the Philistines showed up in her home to capture him. But, the “secrets” he shared with her did not work and he could not be taken captive. Once again, it appears that “love” and lust blinded him.
It says in 16:16-17 “With such nagging she prodded him day and night until he was tired to death. So he told her everything. ‘No razor has ever been used on my head,’ he said, ‘because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.’” This time, she herself did not perform the act required to subdue him – she had called the Philistines in and they cut Samson’s hair. Consequently his strength left him and he was overpowered and taken captive. They then gouged out his eyes and imprisoned him. We know that as his story ends, he regains his strength as his hair grows back. He then, in his own death, managed to kill more Philistines than he had when he was alive (Judges 16:30.)
In reading this familiar story again, I could not help but wonder why Samson gave into these two women – his first wife, then Delilah – when it was so obvious what they were attempting to do. Then, I finally realized that it really is no different in my own life, when things that I know are wrong and/or bad for me, tempt me. There are times I do give up and give in – almost always regretting my decision.
Our enemy knows our weaknesses and will use them to exploit us – nagging us and prodding us until we are “tired to death.” In that weakness we basically throw in the towel and give up, resulting in feeling defeated, angry and frustrated. Sometimes others can be caught up in our actions and/or consequences and suffer as a result as well (i.e. his first wife and her father.) It is never a good feeling.
But, like Samson, we can pray for God’s help to recover from our failures. Then we can go up against our enemies with confidence and renewed strength to defeat them. I believe that our humanness makes us easy prey for our enemies when we are out there alone; therefore, we need to always rely on God to be with us and be our strength.
Psalm 28:7a “The Lord is my strength and my shield…”
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Psalm 105:4 “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”
Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Written by Karran Martin – March 21, 2019