The closing scenes in the history of Samson painfully exhibit the feebler side of his life. In the last chapter, in particular, his character appeared glorious – al-though uncommon. But at the beginning of this chapter, we find him behaving in an un-Godly manner. Nevertheless, in Hebrews 11:32, the Lord has assured us that Samson – despite all his faults and sins – was still a hero of faith!
Samson went down to the Philistine fortress of Gaza. No doubt he intended to inflict some kind of injury upon his and his people’s life-long foes. However, the wanderings of a lustful eye led to his turning aside into the abode of a “strange woman.” The report of his being in the town soon spread, and a group of the Philistine inhabitants lay in wait for him at the city gate – hoping to seize him in the early morning as he left town. Perhaps being suspicious of foul play, Samson arose at midnight and hastened to the city gate. Wrenching off the massive doors – along with the posts and bars – he carried them away in triumph before his enemies had even awakened from their sleep. O that all who indulge in fleshly lusts would see themselves to be marked for ruin by their spiritual enemies, just as Samson was surrounded by the men of Gaza!
Sometime after this marvelous deed, Samson again fell into the snares of one who “flattered with her tongue.” Her name was Delilah. She was a Philistine woman, dwelling in a neighboring valley close to where Samson lived. More than once, he had already been brought into mischief and danger by the love of wicked women; but sadly, he did not take warning. The Philistine princes had eventually learned that they could not prevail against Samson unless he could be made to deprive himself of his own strength by unfaithfulness to his God. Therefore, perceiving Delilah’s influence over her Hebrew lover, the five princes of her nation endeavored to bribe her – by the promise of a large sum of money – to draw from Samson the secret of his strength. Delilah made three attempts to discover the secret. Each time, she had men waiting in an adjoining room – ready to fall upon him if he really did lose his strength. And each time, Samson baffled her. But the third time, he came dangerously close to the real secret; for he spoke to her of the connection of his strength with his hair. At last, he gave in to this evil woman, and opened all his heart to her. However, he told her that if his hair was cut, his strength would depart from him (verse 17); when, in reality, verse 20 makes it clear that Jehovah had departed from him. The great strength of Samson was not tied up in his uncut hair. Rather, it was a result of the abiding presence of God with him – but only as long as he strictly adhered to the rules of his Nazarite vow, which included the prohibition of cutting his hair.
Delilah had Samson’s hair shaved off while he slept. And then, with barbarous exultation, the Philistine leaders seized and bound their now-helpless enemy. They put out his eyes and chained him with brass fetters, in case his former strength should return. Having committed him to prison, they forced him to perform labor that was usually done by animal-power – the grinding of corn. Here we are warned that we must watch carefully against all fleshly lusts; for all our glory is gone, and our defense is departed from us, when our separation to God – as spiritual Nazarites – is profaned. But blessed be the name of the Lord! The history does not stop here, for the sacred text expressly tells us that “the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.” Samson’s afflictions drove him to Godly sorrow and deep repentance. His hair was a symbol of God’s Covenant with him; and as it grew back again, it was a reminder that the Lord’s grace and mercy was being poured out upon him! By the loss of his physical sight, the eyes of Samson’s understanding were opened; and by depriving him of bodily strength, Jehovah was pleased to renew his spiritual might. The Lord sometimes permits His children to wander wide and sink deep, yet He recovers them from the pit of eternal destruction at last.
In Samson’s last deed of faith, he sacrificed his own life for his people – herein picturing our Savior Himself! The blind hero was brought in to provide amusement to the jeering crowds of Philistines who thronged the temple of their idol Dagon, feasting and reveling in supposed triumph against the God of Israel and His now-apparently-powerless servant Samson. But the humbled and repentant Nazarite asked to be led close to the central pillars of the building, so that he might lean upon them. Then he lifted up a prayer to God, begging that in his capacity as a forgiven and restored servant and representative of Jehovah, the Divine gift of superhuman strength might be restored to him just “this once” – so that with one stroke, he might fulfill his God-given mission against the oppressors of his country, and provide the promised deliverance to his own people of Israel. The effects of Samson’s death pictured those of the death of Jesus, Who voluntarily laid down His life among transgressors – thereby overturning the foundation of Satan’s kingdom, and delivering His people. Although the sin of Samson was great, and he justly deserved the judgments which he brought upon himself; yet he found mercy of the Lord at last! And every repentant sinner shall obtain mercy likewise, who flees for refuge to our Savior, Whose blood cleanses from all sin!
Thus ends the period of the Judges. But already, at Shiloh, a different reformation was in the works! Immediately after Samson’s death, Samuel was about to lead Israel to repentance and ultimate victory over the Philistines. However, this narrative continues, chronologically speaking, in 1 Samuel 7.
Lord Jesus, we praise You as our Savior-Deliverer, Who far outshines the imperfect pictures that we behold in Samson! Amen.
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illustration by Gustave Doré, 1866 | Wikimedia Commons