Surprise! The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord…back into the hands of the Philistines for Israel!
The Birth of Samson
A certain man named Manoah and his wife (unnamed) are the parents of Samson. There isn’t much info on the parents, at least not as far as I can see (interesting post here). They are a childless family so in my mind they had little status. An angel visits and tells her she will have a son who will be a Nazirite from birth, she must have no fermented drink or eat unclean food. She tells Manoah about the angel’s visit, but he’s not so sure. My first reaction was a bit suspicious. Perhaps she’s telling you this because she met someone who will allow her to get pregnant. I’m reading between the lines (dangerous), so I’ll stick to the narrative. The angel visits again and repeats the words for Manoah to hear, though he still doesn’t get the part about the visitor actually being an angel! The angel refuses to eat, but suggests a burnt offering for God then ascends in the smoke as it burns away quickly. Manoah and his wife are astounded and he whines, “We are doomed to die!” (Judges 13:22), but his wife calms him down.
“The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson.” (Judges 13:24) No particular fanfare, no wisemen, nothing overly special except that Manoah and his wife knew this was a special child.
Samson’s Marriage and The Riddle
Chapter 14 describes Samson’s desire for a Philistine woman in marriage, the feast, a riddle and Samson’s first super-hero activity (not necessarily a good thing!). His parents disapproved of the choice, after all, they’ve been under the rule of the Philistines for 40 years at this point. Apparently the wedding still happened and during the feast Samson provided a riddle for 30 linen garments and fine sets of clothes. The bride’s “companions” (hired wedding party for the foreigner?) thought this would be fun so they agreed, but couldn’t figure out the riddle.
Out of the eater, something to eat;
out of the strong, something sweet. Judges 14:14
They were baffled so they threaten the bride to tell them the secret. She cried the whole time of the feast (seriously), so Samson gave her the answer. In turn she told the companions so Samson had to pay up!
The the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Judges 14:19
Samson was ticked! He returned to his parents home and his bride was given to one of his “companions.” Not a good week after all.
Samson’s Vengeance on the Philistines
Chapter 15 begins, “Later on…” Samson calmed down, took a young goat and went to visit his wife; however, her father refused to let him go into her room. That was a mistake…Samson is seriously mad now! He captures 300 foxes, ties their tails together in pairs, attaches and lights a torch on each pair, then launches them into the Philistine village. “He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.” (Judges 15:5)
The Philistine response, as you might expect: “So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death.” Samson was enraged even more! He killed several of the Philistines then went and hid in a cave. Ultimately the Philistines and 3,000 men came to capture Samson, but he routed them with the jawbone of a donkey, striking down 1,000 men.
“Samson led Israel for 20 years in the day of the Philistines” (Judges 15:20)
Samson and Delilah
The NIV Study Bible notes include the point that Samson had some character flaws, no joke. Chapter 16 begins with Samson visiting a prostitute. Great start O leader of Israel! The people realize Samson is there, so they plan to attack him, but he gets up in the middle of the night, rips out the city gate and deposits it (along with its posts) on top of the hill that faces Hebron.
Later, Samson falls in lust with Delilah and the leaders entice her to trap Samson. He might be strong, but wisdom and Samson are not associated with reality. “Tell me the secret of your great strength” became her daily request. Three examples are provided, but apparently she kept on “nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it” (Judges 16:16), so he gave in and told her the truth.
So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” Judges 16:17
The Lord left him.
The Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and turned him into a grain grinding animal, but his hair begin to grow again.
The Death of Samson
The Philistines were certain their god (Dagon) delivered Samson into their hands, so they brought him in to be a spectacle during their celebration in their great temple. Samson prayed to God for strength to deliver one final blow to the Philistines. He was led to the pillars that supported the temple, pushed them down and thus destroyed the temple, killed more Philistines than before, but also died in the rubble.