If you grew up in the church it is very likely that at some point in time you wanted to either be Samson or you wanted to marry one. Either way Samson was a pretty epic Bible character. He had huge rippling muscles (we assume), chicks swooned at the sight of him, and he was a one-man army! If he were offered a Panzer to go into battle with he would laugh and trade it in for a jaw bone and maybe a new suite!
However, that view of Samson might have been a bit too Hollywood. In fact, the heroic stories of his victories were only about 1/10th of his story. As it turns out, he was an absolute jerk! I’m talking so much so that Kanye West seems like Kermit the Frog comparatively.
Their are some people who are hard to write about because not much material exists in the Bible that shines the correct light on them. And then their are characters like Samson; who has so long of a rap sheet that it is hard to know where to start.
Samson was born at a time in Israelite history that was after Joshua had lead the battle into the promised land, but still at least 100 years before the famous King David. At the current time the Israelites were cycling between being in captivity and being free due to their refusal to obey the commands of the covenant. Here is the reoccurring theme in Judges….
Judges 3:7-8 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of ……. __insert name of random local nation here, or just assume it was the Philistines___
Now, once the Israelites would have enough of getting beaten on they would call upon the Lord and he would raise up a leader within them that would lead them back to freedom. Samson was the 13th freedom fighter in a list of 15 (if Eli and Samuel are included). However, for the book of Judges he is the last judge. And probably for a good reason. The book of judges is not pleasant book. In fact, it was written to show the progressive depravity of the Israelite nation and if you have not guessed it yet, the judges keep getting worse and worse….ending of course with Samson.
Like other stories in the Bible about great people, Samson was born to a couple that could not bear children. But an angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother and told her that should would bear a special son who was supposed to be consecrated to the Lord as a Nazarite. A Nazarite was a person who took a special vow not to eat anything unclean (per Exodus-Deuteronomy), drink wine or any other fermented drink, or cut their hair, touch a dead body, or become unclean in any other way.
His growing up years are skipped in the book of judges except to say that the Lord blessed him and that as a young man the Lord began to stir his heart. The next thing we read about our beloved Samson is at the start of Judges 14 and he has already turned into a demanding jerk who is bossing his parents around so he can marry a Philistine woman……….the country that currently had Israel in captivity. And if you don’t know anything about Israelite marriage customs, you can still assume that wanting to marry a woman from the nation that is oppressing your people is a bad idea.
Feats of Jerkery
On his wedding day he was scheduled to be wed to the beautiful Philistine woman that he made he father get for him, he did two awful things. First, we all remember the story about when he kills a lion on the way to propose to the Philistine woman, with his bare hands (Judges 14), but we often never hear the whole story. Later on his wedding day he was traveling to the wedding and he noticed that bees had made some honey in the carcass. Without hesitation he reached into the lion ate some honey and then brought it to his parents to eat without telling it was from the inside of a dead lion. Not only was that a break of his nazarite vow for touching a dead body but he also made his parents unclean now. Not cool!
At the wedding Samson the (no so) wise decided to have a riddle ready for the in-laws of his new Philistine wife. The wager was 30 linen garments and 30 sets of clothes. Not exactly what we call betting material in the 21st century. If you remember anything about Samson you know this is already a bad situation because he likes women who tend to not have his best interest in mind. After lots of nagging, he ends up telling his wife the answer to the riddle and like any good wife would do, she told her in-laws. Naturally, Samson knew she had told them was flaming balls mad about it. Here is his response….
Judges 14:18 “If you had not plowed with my heifer you would not have solved my riddle.”
Not exactly what you should call you new bride. To make matters worse, he went on a rampage and killed 30 of his new in-laws and took their clothes. Because that’s totally fair. He even left his new bride at the ceremony and she ended up being given to one of his close companions to marry. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he tried to go take her back months later thinking that he could just go take what was his property. As you could imagine, her father denied him flat out.
Samson responded the only way a jerk of his magnitude could, he freaked out and burned down a bunch of Philistine vineyards, olive groves, and grain fields. To make matters worse, once the leaders of the Philistines realized it was Samson’s ex-wife’s family that started all this, they burned her and her father to death. Way to go Samson, your plan seems to have worked really well, JERK!
Height of Jerk-ery
We all know the story of Samson and Delilah, at least a small bit. I’m assuming you only know part of it though. In judges 16 you can read that Samson developed a taste for Philistine prostitutes from the capital city of Gaza. Once again, you don’t have to be a genius to know that this was probably a violation of all Israelite laws and especially his nazarite vow. So Samson becomes a frequent visitor of Ms. Delilah and that is where trouble starts. Because surely a hooker that lives in the city that hates you is safe, right?
Yea right. She was no more safe for him than Evander Holyfield’s ear in a fight with Mike Tyson. She took a meager bribe from the Philistine men to find out where his strength lie and after enough nagging (haven’t we heard this before) he cracked like a big Hebrew egg. You know the rest of the story. She cut his hair and he was taken captive and had his eyes gouged out.