One of the most fascinating narratives in the Old Testament is that of the man Samson. From the reading of Judges, chapters thirteen through sixteen, we will see an average man with life struggles and common emotion; a witty man with an excellent sense of humor. Samson had a love for God and His people, so he despised the Philistines who burdened Israel. The difference between Samson and every other person is his strength, which we will consider later in this article.

Although the conception of Samson was prophesied by the Angel of the Lord to his parents, they are given little additional information. Three things are told to them: 1) they would bear a son; 2) he will be a Nazirite to God; 3) he will “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5). Samson’s most interesting feature, his super strength, is not mentioned by the Angel.

Samson was to be a Nazirite. A Nazirite, according to Numbers 6, was either a man or a woman who took a vow to separate themselves to the Lord for a certain period of time. During this time they could not eat or drink anything that was produced from the grapevine (wine, vinegar, grape juice, grapes, or raisins). Such who took this vow could not cut their hair for the full length of time that they had consecrated themselves to the Lord, nor could they go near a dead body (no exceptions). Samson’s case was unique, in that he was chosen by God to be a Nazirite throughout his entire life, unlike most Nazirites who choose for themselves to take the vow, and that vow lasting only for a time, not a lifetime. In fact, in Samson’s case, he is named a Nazirite while in the womb, therefore, his mother had to take the responsibilities of the vow until she bore him.

Do you have a picture in your mind of this Samson? Is he a little taller than most men? Maybe you even picture him as a giant. Is he more muscular than any man you’ve ever seen? Does he look like a god among men; an image like the mythological Hercules? If so, I would challenge you that Samson looked like every other man in physique. The Bible never gives us any indication that Samson had any more muscular definition than the average male who does not attempt any body-building activities. The biblical text makes note that Samson’s strength comes directly from God’s divine involvement (Judges 14:6; 15:14), and that it was evident to the eyes that his physique did not explain his strength (Judges 16:6). So then, contrary to common belief, Samson does not seem to be blest with enormous muscles, but only by the divine strength of God would he be the known as the famous strong man.

Now that it is established that Samson’s source of strength was the Spirit of God, a new question can be presented: why did God do this for Samson? The answer is in the words of the angel in Judges 13:5, “he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” God would use one man to remind Israel who their God is. Likewise, God would use one man to show the Philistines who the God of Israel is. Read through the pages of Judges 13-16 and you will see the will of God being accomplished against the Philistines through Samson. Even through the poor decisions that Samson sometimes made, God still accomplished His will.

Speaking of poor decisions, the most well-known choice of Samson was that of telling Delilah of the only thing that would separate him from God’s strength. Breaking the Nazirite vow which separated Samson from God would have a devastating effect on Samson’s relationship with God; Samson would be breaking a very high commitment to God. Many might recall the actions of Delilah, how she had Samson’s head shorn while he was sleeping, thus breaking his Nazirite commitment and losing the incredible strength he once enjoyed. Through a foolish mistake, he was made weak, and the Philistines took no time to seize and torment him; putting out his eyes, binding him with bronze chains, and enslaving him with hard labor in prison.

God said that he would use Samson to “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines,” and God accomplished His will not just through the life of Samson (Judges 15:3-5, 8, 15), but also through ending the life of Samson (Judges 16:28-31).

Hebrews 11:32 names Samson among the concise list of people who did tremendous things because of their faith in God. The writer goes on to say of some of these individuals: “out of weakness were made strong” (v. 34). This is certainly something that could be said of Samson. I suppose that Samson learned more during his time of weakness in prison than any other time when he was strong. The narrative of Samson exhibits to us one of the most essential truths of God: we are strong while we continue living by faith. Samson demonstrates this fact through the physical, but the application for us is through the spiritual. When life overtakes us with worry, care, and anxieties, we find ourselves barely dragging through life. Looking back at Samson, we see that it is only through trust in God that he was made strong again, and able to overcome that which he was not strong enough to overcome himself. This life is too difficult to live without faith in God, and a heavenly eternity is impossible without first a life of trust in God on this temporary soil. Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear! We could have the strength of God with us, but we may often opt out.

Samson demonstrated to us that poor decisions in life have a disastrous effect on our life of faithfulness to God. This is why we are told to stay awake, alert and careful while on this earth. Ephesians 5:14-17 “Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.’ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” God teaches us to walk in wisdom and thus minimalize the number of bad choices we make. Ultimately, Samson teaches us to rely on the strength of God to save. Many will put their trust in other forms of strength (Isaiah 31:1), but God makes those strengths stand or fall at His command (Obadiah 1:3-4). He is in control, whether we trust in Him or not. May the narrative of Samson urge us to live by faith in the God of strength and rely not on any other source.

Article by Tanner Campbell.