Samson, the Avenger

The Incredible Hulk comes to mind when I read the story of this next judge for Israel. Samson was strong like the Hulk and his biggest weakness was losing his temper. When the Hulk’s blood pressure reached a certain level, or in times of extreme anger, he turned into this strong green creature. One of the famous quotes from the television series I watched when I was a little girl was: “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

This quote comes to mind as I read the story of Samson because, I must admit, I’m not a big fan of this judge of Israel. But God chose him before he was even born to be used by God to lead the people of Israel, so I have to see the good in Samson’s life, even though he comes across as more FULL OF HIMSELF than FULL OF THE SPIRIT.

When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at the time. – Judges 13:24-25; 14:4

Samson might have been a little spoiled by his parents. When a young Philistine woman caught his eye, he demanded his parents get this young woman for him. When they tried to change his mind and choose an Israelite woman instead of a pagan Philistine woman, Samson demanded “Get her for me! She looks good to me” (14:3b). Samson’s SELFISH NATURE would be his downfall but God would be sure to accomplish His good through Samson’s temper tantrums and foolish behavior.

As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it easily as if it were a young goat….Later, when he returned to Timnah for the wedding, he turned off the path to look at the carcass of the lion. And he found that a swarm of bees had made some honey in the carcass. He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. – Judges 14:5-6a, 8-9a

Samson was physically strong but HE WAS A PLAYER and his own games resulted in destruction. During his wedding celebration, he created a riddle related to the honey and the lion in order to gain material wealth for himself and brag about what he believed he had accomplished with his own strength. He made a bet with the Philistine men in the wedding party, challenging them to solve his riddle. When they could not, Samson’s bride tormented and nagged him until he shared the answer with her. She in turn explained the riddle to the other men and Samson now owed them each the clothing he had hoped they would be giving him. Instead of taking the loss himself, Samson went out and killed thirty men, taking their belongings and clothing to give to the thirty men he owed a prize.

Furious with how this wedding celebration had ended, Samson went home to his parents and left his bride behind. Later he returned to collect his bride but his father-in-law had given her in marriage to the best man. In anger (more like a good old-fashioned temper tantrum), Samson tied the tails of 300 foxes together in pairs, attached lit torches to each pair, and set them loose in the Philistine grain fields, vineyards and olive groves (14:19-15:5).

When the Israelites heard of how Samson was attacking the Philistines, they asked him to stop. Samson was picking a fight they were not prepared to finish for him so, in fear, they handed him over to the Philistines. When Samson arrived at the camp, the Spirit of the Lord again came powerfully upon him. He snapped the ropes, grabbed the jawbone of a recently killed donkey and killed 1,000 Philistines with it. Then Samson cheered for himself:

“With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve piled them in heaps!
With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve killed a thousand men!”
– Judges 15:16

Here is where I see Samson’s biggest problem. He thinks HE is winning the battles. He sees himself as the HERO in his stories, but he is missing who the true Hero is. He does not recognize that his battles are won when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him. He thinks he is AVENGING himself but God is using this AVENGER to bring trouble to the Philistines, who were oppressing God’s people.

Samson judged Israel for 20 years during the time of the Philistine domination but He did not follow the laws of God. Chapter 16 tells us of a night he spent with a Philistine prostitute – a night that ended with Samson tearing down the town gate of Gaza.

Samson then fell in love with a Philistine woman named Delilah and he, THE PLAYER, began to play games with her. Over and over again, Delilah would ask Samson what the source of his strength was. He would give her a wrong answer and she would attempt to hand him over the Philistines. Even though her lack of loyalty to him was obvious, Samson enjoyed the game and so he continued to give her wrong answers. Delilah nagged and tormented Samson until he was sick to death of it (16:16) and Samson foolishly gave in to her.

“My hair has never been cut,” he confessed, “for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as anyone else.” – Judges 16:17

And that is exactly what Samson became – weak and unable to save himself. The PLAYER had been PLAYED. Delilah shaved his head and the Philistines captured him. Samson thought the source of his strength was due to the presence of his hair, but his failure to acknowledge God in his life was really the reason he lost his strength. His strength was never in his hair. The Lord left Samson to suffer the consequence of his games.

When Samson realized the foolishness of his ways, he prayed to the Lord. The Philistines had gouged Samson’s eyes out, leaving him a blind servant forced to grind grain in prison. One day they brought him out as a source of entertainment and leaned him against the pillars of the temple. Samson asked God to remember him again and to give him one more opportunity to destroy Israel’s enemy. Pushing the two center pillars with the strength he now realized was from the Lord, Samson caused the temple to crash down on all the Philistine rulers, killing everyone in the temple including Samson (Judges 16:28-30).

Praise the Lord! He has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
The Lord gives his people strength.
– Psalm 28:6-7-8a

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