Joshua had led the Israelites into the Promised Land, Caanan, and under his leadership they had conquered most of the land. But, as we see so often, once the strong leader died the people strayed.
8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim:
12 And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger.
13 And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
14 And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.
15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lordhad sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.
16 Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.
In an attempt to bring His people to repentance, God allowed other peoples to afflict the Israelites. They would repent, and He would send a judge to deliver them, but once the crisis had passed and the memory blurred they went right back to their idolatrous ways. Only when a strong leader was guiding them were they faithful. Otherwise, every man did what was right in their own eyes. It was a time of chaos, with six invasions recorded by other nations, as well as the ongoing civil strife.
The time of the judges lasted about 480 years, and our subject today was one of the last of them. It has been supposed that he might have been the trigger that led to the Philistine invasion that captured the Ark and led to the death of Eli, the high priest. This man was a Nazarite from birth, a rare lifetime member of this sect, and is known for his feats of strength.
An angel told Manoah and his wife that they would finally be able to conceive, and that this son would be a deliverer of his people. To accomplish this, he must be a Nazarite for the entirety of his life.
Most Nazarite vows were temporary, but his was to be permanent. The Nazarite vow was this:
- Abstain from wine, wine vinegar, grapes, raisins, intoxicating liquors, vinegar made from such substances, and eating or drinking any substance that contains any trace of grapes.
- Refrain from cutting the hair on one’s head; but to allow the locks of the head’s hair to grow.
- Not to become ritually impure by contact with corpses or graves, even those of family members.
This would require great diligence on behalf of the boy’s parents, as well as personal dedication once Samson was of age to understand. Samson would grow to despise this vow, and it led to his downfall. He wanted to be like “any other man”, at the cost of what made him a leader.
When Samson grew to manhood and wanted to get married, instead of looking for a wife in his people went into the whorish women of the Philistines. The seductive dress and actions, the painted faces and bejeweled flash of the Philistine women attracted his fancy more than the quiet beauty of the chaste Israelite girls.
His parents were not happy, but they did not stop him. It seems like they possibly indulged this young man more than they should. There seems to be a petulance in Samson unbecoming a true man.
So he is betrothed to a heathen, and she is not loyal to him. Samson makes a wager with some of the men of the town that they cannot figure out a riddle he would tell. You see, on the way to this party he had come across the carcass of a young lion. The cat had attacked him on an earlier trip, but Samson slew it with his bare hands. Now the body had become home to a bee hive. Samson defied his vow here by taking some of the honey and eating it, honey that was housed in a dead body.
I want to be like any other man.
So he tells the men the riddle:
“Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.”
And they cannot figure it out, so they threaten his fiancee and her family. She begs Samson to tell her the answer, he does, she tells the men he had wagered with, and at the climax they know the answer. Samson realizes his beloved had betrayed him and he is overcome with rage.
“You want your new garments, I’ll get them for you.” He goes out, finds thirty Philistines, kills them, strips them of their clothes, then goes back to the waiting men and throws the bloody clothes at their feet. Then he goes back to Mommy and Daddy to sulk.
Later, after he’s cooled off, Samson decides to visit his wife, only to find out that she has been given away to one of the groomsmen. Oh boy…… payback 2.0.
He goes out and starts catching foxes, tying their tails together and setting them on fire. The resulting burning chaos leads to great destruction of the towns crop fields and vineyards, and leads to the Philistines killing his former wife and her family.
Samson 1, Army 0
As a result of Samson’s rampage of destruction, the Philistines demand he be turned over or they would destroy his tribe. The men of Judah tie Samson up with rope and hand him over to the Philistine garrison, around 1,000 men. Traversing the hills, they reached a narrow pass and Samson snapped the ropes, grabbed his trusty jawbone axe, and went to town.
The narrow pass prevented the Philistines from surrounding him and actually hampered their attempts to kill him. They also were wearing hot, heavy armor while he was dressed for travel. I personally believe there were more than 1,000 soldiers there, and the ones that weren’t killed fled, possibly causing some men to fall from the hillside path in the panic and helping Samson rack up that kill count.
Regardless, one man kicked a garrison in the teeth and lived to tell about it.
Another time, Samson sneaks into Gaza and spends the night with a prostitute. The city guard hears this and lock the gate in order to trap and kill or capture Samson. When Samson gets done with his business he goes to leave and finds the gate shut. Imagine the surprise on the guard’s faces when he grabs the 10×20 timber gate and rips it loose, carries it a ways, then dumps it on the ground. Is it any wonder why they didn’t make an attempt on him?
But this incident again shows Samson’s disdain for his calling. His fondest wish was to be a normie. He despised the burden of responsibility placed on him, even though the responsibility came with a blessing of supernatural strength. Again, I believe his parents’ coddling instilled this in him.
The downfall of many a man. A sly, manipulative woman. That’s what our hero runs into now.
Samson always had a weakness for the sleazy Philistine women, and Delilah was the queen of sleaze. A Philistine agent, she is tasked with bedding the judge and finding out how to neutralize him. This she does. She coaxes him into slowly revealing where the source of his strength lies.
He teases her by telling her that tying him up with various types of binding materials will do the trick, and then maddens her with his ability to drive off his attackers despite her measures taken.
Samson, I believe, thought that she was only fooling around with him. I don’t think he believed that Delilah was earnest in her intent, and he came perilously close to the edge when he told her to tie his hair in a loom. Samson is coming very close to telling her the true source of his strength.
You see, this was the last vestige of his vow that had not been broken, the only thing keeping him from being cut off from God’s favor. Even though Samson wanted to be like any other man, he still respected his calling enough to hold onto this.
Weary and vexed by this woman, tired of not being able to fit in with the very people he had been taxed to defeat, Samson succumbed. He told Delilah that if his hair was shaven, his power would leave, and he sealed his fate.
I’m sure Delilah laid it on him after that, in order to lull him into a stupor. Probably gave him wine as well. Then, once Samson had drifted into slumber, she went to work. This deceitful woman shaved his head, thus severing his last tie with his covenant and exposing him to harm.
Once she was done, her fellow conspirators rushed Samson and bound him with chains, plucking out his eyes in the process. He was then taken to a prison and tied to a grinding mill, forced to provide nourishment for the people he was sworn to destroy. It is here, in his lowest ebb of hope, where most would give in to despair, that Samson latches on to his calling.
Stripped of the facade, he sees Delilah and her ilk for what they really are: distractions. While he’s been playing with these women, his people have been suffering under the Philistine yoke, and it is time for that to stop. He resolves to take whatever opportunity presents itself to strike down the heathen.
His hair begins to grow, but now what was once an outward experience only becomes a heart felt calling.
“Just give me one more chance, and I will avenge the wrongs done to both myself and my people.”
After who knows how long, possibly many years, the Philistines decide it is time to parade the former champion of the Israelites. The elite of their society are having a party and they call for Samson. Dragged from the mill, he is led through the crowd at the idolatrous temple by a young lad, which shows the utter contempt for Samson at this point.
He is led to the center of the building, near two pillars that support the building’s roof. Sensing his opportunity to at last strike a blow against the Philistines, he braces himself against the two pillars and cries out to God. Then he begins to push.
His muscles cry out as he pushes them to the limit, and then beyond. His ears pop with the strain, and then he feels it. The rush that he had taken for granted for so long, returned to him at last. Power surges through him and he feels the massive pillars begin to collapse.
Guests who had been mocking and spitting on Samson begin to comprehend what they are seeing, and some start for the exits, but it is too late. With a mighty roar the columns explode outwards and the roof collapses, burying the leadership of a nation in rubble.
Don’t let your calling become a curse. Embrace what you have been designed for. Don’t seek to be “just another guy”. There is a plan for all of us, we just need to find it and live it.
Be a mighty man. Don’t be distracted by the pretties of this life. Fulfill your purpose, whatever that might be. For me, it’s raising my children to be responsible, dedicated people who make the world a little brighter by their presence. It’s staying faithful to my wife and being the rock of my home. It’s mentoring young men and showing them there is a better way to live than what they see surrounding them. Fill in the blanks for your life, and embrace it.
Don’t wait until the end. Don’t be just like any other man.