Now we come to the story of Samson, a man of renowned strength and a much needed Judge of Israel after 40 years of oppression at the hands of the Philistines. His mother, who was barren, receives an announcement from an angel that she is going to bear a son, and he is going to have a special destiny and purpose in God’s plan for Israel. Just like the other angelically announced children through the Old and New Testaments.
Samson’s mother returns to her husband and tells him what happened, and he reacts differently than John the Baptist’s father and more like Saint Joseph. He doesn’t disbelieve or doubt, but he does pray that the angel return and give them more details on what they’re supposed to do with this miracle they’re about to be given.
The angel appears to his mother again and she calls to her husband, who immediately comes to see him. Now we get to the part where people debate if this was an angel or a theophany (a direct appearance by God). The reason is the phrase “angel of the Lord” is used multiple times in the Old Testament, and is often accompanied by other symbolism and signs that makes it seem like it’s not an angel, but a phrase used to mean an apparition of God. When asked if he’s the person who told his wife she’d have a son, he replied with the divine name “I AM” just like Jesus would use that phrase multiple times during his ministry. He also refused the food and asked it be given as a burnt offering, and when he rose to heaven in the midst of the fire from the offering, then the father of Samson exclaims that they’re going to die because they seen God. So it seems like just with the appearance to Sarah, this wasn’t in fact an angel, but was God in person.
Samson had an eye for the wrong kind of women, famously with Delilah but she’s later in the story, this time it’s an unnamed Philistine woman. He sends his father to make a marriage deal with her father and they obviously object to their son marrying a woman from the Philistines. It’s more than just tribal factions here, they’re a Canaanite people and the oppressors of Israel for the last 50 or so years. After pressing them they relent and the deal is set, but on the way he kills a lion and then finds honey in its corpse on his return.
At the wedding festival he proposes a riddle to the men from his brides country. The riddle is pretty unfair, because it’s not even something you could figure out on your own, he hadn’t told anyone about the lion or the honey so he’s the only person who could possibly know the answer. That’s a rigged game if I’ve ever seen one.
That’s how he knows his wife had spilled the beans when he relatives know the answer after she begged him to tell her for days. The prize for whoever won the riddle challenge was 30 garments, so in rage when he was betrayed by his newlywed wife, Samson goes to a Philistine town and kills 30 men and takes their garments to give to the winners.
Apparently Samson had no idea that his wife had been given to another man during this incident, because he goes to see her with a gift and his father-in-law won’t let him because she’s been taken as wife by another man. The best man at his wedding no less!
I’m a renewed fit of rage, Samson burns down the fields and orchards of the Philistines and when confronted he slays many of them. This causes an uproar and the men of Judah come to him and say he’s going to bring reprisals down on all of them, because the Philistines are their masters. How quickly they had given in to the yolk of slavery again and were more upset with their countryman than their oppressors.
The men of Judah promise to not fight him, but to just hand him over to the Philistines. Really, what’s the difference here? Because any other man would’ve been as good as dead, but Samson was no ordinary man. He split the bonds that held him and slayed 1000 men. After that moment he became a Judge of Israel and he judged them for 20 years.
Now we jump forward those 20 years and the Philistines are doing everything they can to get rid of Samson. But he’s too strong and they can’t defeat him. Then he ends up defeating himself for them.
He falls in love with Delilah, and she is offered a fortune to find his secret and betray him to the Philistines. After he tells he the first time, and she then tries to bind him, he should’ve known she was up to no good. And he probably did know, but thought it was a game or fun. He forgot that he had a special calling, and a special purpose for his strength. He wasn’t supposed to use it to woo women and do bar tricks, it was to free the people from the Philistines.
But he’s putting all that in danger because he has become careless, or cocky, or is just blinded by love. Take your pick, but the moral here is that we aren’t supposed to toy around with temptation and morally comprised situations.
You play with fire and you get burned, that’s the lesson Samson learns here.
He plays with her a few times and then gives her the actual secret to his strength, that his hair had never been cut, and surprisingly (not at all) she cuts his hair and he is captured. They gouge his eyes out and make him grind flour at a mill like an animal.
After the humbling experience of being enslaved, Samson realizes what’s gone wrong and how he allowed hubris to blind him to his mission. He’s put on display during a religious festival of the Philistines and he prays that God would grant him strength once more. Then Samson pushed over the pillars of the temple and collapsed the whole building, killing more at that time than in his whole life.
Moral of the story, is dont be blinded by hubris, ambition, or self importance. Don’t play with temptations and entertain them, thinking you won’t fall into the trap.