Samson Triumphs in the Strength of Jehovah!
VINDICTIVE captors bore out his eyes and consign him to hard labor. Then they bring him out of the prison house into a pagan temple to provide amusement for the crowd. They parade him before thousands of onlookers and make sport of him. The prisoner is neither a criminal nor a commander of an enemy army. He is a worshiper of Jehovah and has served as judge in Israel for 20 years.
How did Samson—physically the strongest man who ever lived—end up in such a humiliating situation? Would his extraordinary strength save him? What was the secret of Samson’s strength? What, if anything, can we learn from his life story?
He Will “Take the Lead in Saving Israel”
The sons of Israel had a history of turning away from true worship. So when they “engaged again in doing what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes, . . . Jehovah gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.”—Judges 13:1.
Samson’s story began when Jehovah’s angel appeared to the barren wife of an Israelite named Manoah and informed her that she would give birth to a son. “No razor should come upon his head,” the angel instructed her, “because a Nazirite of God is what the child will become on leaving the belly; and he it is who will take the lead in saving Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:2-5) Before Samson was conceived, Jehovah determined that Samson was to have a specific task. From the moment of his birth, he was to be a Nazirite—one singled out for a special kind of sacred service.
She Is “Just Right in My Eyes”
As Samson kept growing, “Jehovah continued to bless him.” (Judges 13:24) One day Samson came to his father and mother and said: “There is a woman that I have seen in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines, and now get her for me as a wife.” (Judges 14:2) Imagine their surprise. Instead of freeing Israel from the hands of the oppressors, their son wanted to form a marriage alliance with them. Taking a wife from among worshipers of pagan gods was against God’s Law. (Exodus 34:11-16) Hence, the parents objected: “Is there not among the daughters of your brothers and among all my people a woman, so that you are going to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” Still, Samson insisted: “Get just her for me, because she is the one just right in my eyes.”—Judges 14:3.
In what way was this particular Philistine woman “just right” for Samson? Not in the sense that she was “beautiful, engaging, attractive,” suggests McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, “but right relative to an end, purpose, or object.” Relative to what end? Judges 14:4 explains that Samson “was looking for an opportunity against the Philistines.” Samson was interested in the woman for that purpose. As Samson grew to adulthood, “Jehovah’s spirit started to impel him,” or stir him to action. (Judges 13:25) So the spirit of Jehovah was the driving force behind Samson’s unusual request for a wife as well as his entire career as judge over Israel. Did Samson get the opportunity he was seeking? Let us first consider how Jehovah assured him of divine backing.
Samson was en route to his future bride’s city, Timnah. “When he got as far as the vineyards of Timnah,” the Scriptural account relates, “why, look! a maned young lion roaring upon meeting him. Then Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon him, so that he tore it in two.” This remarkable manifestation of strength came when Samson was alone. There were no eyewitnesses. Was this Jehovah’s way of assuring Samson that he as a Nazirite was capable of fulfilling his God-given commission? The Bible does not say, but Samson surely realized that such unusual power was not his. It must have come from God. He could rely upon Jehovah to assist him in the work ahead. Fortified by the incident with the lion, Samson “continued on his way down and began to speak to the woman; and she was still right in [his] eyes.”—Judges 14:5-7.
When Samson later went back to take the woman home, “he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion, and there there was a swarm of bees in the lion’s corpse, and honey.” Noting this, Samson posed this riddle to 30 Philistine groomsmen at his wedding: “Out of the eater something to eat came forth, and out of the strong something sweet came forth.” If they guessed the meaning of the riddle, Samson would give them 30 undergarments and outfits of clothes. If not, they would have to give the same to him. The Philistines were baffled by the riddle for three days. On the fourth day, they resorted to threatening the woman. They told her: “Fool your husband that he may tell us the riddle. Otherwise we shall burn you and the house of your father with fire.” How cruel! If the Philistines treated their own people this way, imagine the plight of the oppressed Israelites!—Judges 14:8-15.
The terrified woman pressured Samson into disclosing the answer. Displaying lack of love and loyalty to Samson, she promptly informed the groomsmen. They solved the riddle, and Samson knew why. He said to them: “If you had not plowed with my young cow, you would not have solved my riddle.” The opportunity that Samson had been waiting for now presented itself. “Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon him, so that he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of theirs and took what he stripped off them and gave the outfits to the tellers of the riddle.”—Judges 14:18, 19.
Was Samson’s action at Ashkelon prompted by a desire for revenge on his part? No. It was an act of God through his chosen deliverer. Through Samson, Jehovah initiated a fight against the cruel oppressors of his people. This campaign was to continue. The next opportunity arose when Samson came to visit his wife.
Upon returning to Timnah, Samson discovered that his wife’s father had married the woman off to another man, believing that Samson hated her. Samson was outwardly offended. He caught 300 foxes and tied them in twos with a torch between their tails. When freed, they set ablaze fields, vineyards, and olive groves, destroying Philistia’s three main crops for the year. The irate Philistines displayed cruelty. They considered Samson’s wife and her father responsible and burned them. Their barbaric revenge served Samson’s purpose. He, in turn, went smiting them with a great slaughter.—Judges 15:1-8.
Did the Israelites see that Jehovah God was blessing Samson and therefore unite with him to bring an end to the Philistine domination? Hardly. To avoid trouble, the men of Judah sent 3,000 men to arrest God’s chosen leader and surrender him to his enemies. This Israelite disloyalty, however, offered Samson an occasion to inflict further losses on his enemies. As he was about to be delivered to the Philistines, “Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon him, and the ropes that were upon his arms came to be like linen threads that have been scorched with fire, so that his fetters melted off his hands.” He then picked up the jawbone of an ass and struck down a thousand foes with it.—Judges 15:10-15.
Calling on Jehovah, Samson said: “It was you that gave this great salvation into the hand of your servant, and now shall I die of thirst and must I fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?” Jehovah heard Samson’s prayer and answered it. “God split open a mortar-shaped hollow . . . , and water began to come out of it, and he proceeded to drink, after which his spirit returned and he revived.”—Judges 15:18, 19.
Samson was single-minded in the pursuit of his objective, his fight against the Philistines. His staying at the house of a prostitute at Gaza was for the purpose of fighting against God’s enemies. Samson needed a lodging place for the night in an enemy city, and it could be found in the house of a prostitute. Samson had no immoral purpose in mind. He left the woman’s house at midnight, grabbed the city gates and the two side posts, and carried them to the top of a mountain near Hebron, which was some 37 miles [60 km] away. This was done with divine approval and God-given strength.—Judges 16:1-3.
The way the holy spirit operated in Samson’s case was unique because of the unusual circumstances. Faithful servants of God today can rely on the same spirit to empower them. Jesus assured his followers that Jehovah will “give holy spirit to those asking him.”—Luke 11:13.
Why Did Jehovah ‘Depart From Samson’?
It came about that Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah. The five axis lords of the Philistines were so eager to eliminate Samson that they enlisted her help. They approached Delilah and said to her: “Fool him and see in what his great power is and with what we can prevail over him.” As a bribe, each of the five axis lords offered her “one thousand one hundred silver pieces.”—Judges 16:4, 5.
If the silver pieces were shekels, the offer of 5,500 shekels was a huge bribe. Abraham paid 400 shekels for a burial place for his wife, and a slave sold for just 30. (Genesis 23:14-20; Exodus 21:32) The fact that the axis lords—rulers of five Philistine cities—appealed to Delilah’s greed and not to her ethnic loyalty suggests that she was perhaps an Israelite woman. In any case, Delilah accepted the offer.
Three times Samson gave Delilah misleading answers to her inquiry, and three times she betrayed him by trying to deliver him to his enemies. But “it came about that because she pressured him with her words all the time and kept urging him, his soul got to be impatient to the point of dying.” Samson finally revealed the truth—his hair had never been cut. Were it to be cut, he would grow weak and become like all other men.—Judges 16:6-17.
That was Samson’s downfall. Delilah maneuvered him into a situation to have his head shaved. Samson’s power, however, was not literally in his hair. His hair merely represented his special relationship with God as a Nazirite. When Samson allowed himself to get into a situation that affected his Naziriteship because of the shaving of his head, ‘Jehovah departed from him.’ Philistines now overpowered Samson, blinded him, and put him in prison.—Judges 16:18-21.
What a powerful lesson this teaches us! Should we not value our relationship with Jehovah as something very precious? If we compromise our Christian dedication in any way, how can we expect God to go on blessing us?
“Let My Soul Die With the Philistines”
Exultant Philistines thanked their god Dagon for Samson’s defeat. In celebration of their victory, they led their captive to the temple of Dagon. But Samson knew the real reason for his downfall. He knew why Jehovah had left him, and Samson repented of his having failed. While Samson was in the prison house, his hair had begun to grow luxuriantly. Now that he was in front of thousands of Philistines, what action would he take?
“Sovereign Lord Jehovah,” prayed Samson, “remember me, please, and strengthen me, please, just this once, O you the true God, and let me avenge myself upon the Philistines with vengeance for one of my two eyes.” Then he braced himself against the two center columns of the building, and “he bent himself with power.” The result? “The house went falling upon the axis lords and upon all the people that were in it, so that the dead that he put to death in his own death came to be more than those he had put to death during his lifetime.”—Judges 16:22-30.
For physical strength, Samson was without equal among men. His mighty acts were notable indeed. But most important, Jehovah’s Word counts Samson among those strong in faith.—Hebrews 11:32-34.
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What was the secret of Samson’s strength?