Samson, Israel’s Strong Judge

Judges 13-16

The most famous judge of Israel was probably Samson, the strong man of the Bible. This unusual judge was the son of Manoah and belonged to the tribe of Dan, near the seacoast where the Philistines lived. God’s Angel appeared to Manoah’s wife to say they would have a son at last, but he would be a Nazarite to God from the day he was born until he died. This meant he should not go near a dead body, his hair should never be cut and he should not drink wine or eat anything made from grapes, not even raisins. The angel told Manoah’s wife something else special about Samson - - he would begin to deliver Israel from the wicked Philistines who had captured them about twenty years earlier.

God did not use Samson to lead His armies like Gideon and Barak, however. Instead He gave him great strength so that he could fight the Philistines alone. Samson had a great weakness, too - - he loved Philistine girls. In spite of God’s warnings, he let evil women influence him to sin again and again.

Samson first showed his great strength when he tore a vicious lion apart with his bare hands. Samson was on his way to visit the Philistine girl he later married when the big cat came roaring at him, taking him by surprise. But God’s Spirit came upon him and helped him overcome the lion.

Later Samson got so mad at his father-in-law that he burned up all the crops of the Philistines. He caught three hundred foxes, tied their tails together and put a burning torch between each pair of tails. Then he turned them loose in the fields. Soon their blazes had destroyed the Philistine’s grain, vineyards and even their olive groves.

Another time, Samson killed 3,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. How do you think the Philistines felt about Samson after all of this? He was making them look foolish by going in and out of their city whenever he pleased. They tried to trap him inside their walls once by locking the gates. But that didn’t work. Samson just pulled the huge gates off the hinges and carried them up a hill. How they wished they knew what made him so strong!

About this time Samson fell in love with a Philistine woman named Delilah. Delilah begged Samson over and over to tell her his secret so she could tell her people. But he would not give her the real reason.

First he told her if he were bound with seven bow-strings (like those used on a guitar or harp), he would be as weak as any other man. So Delilah tied him up with the Philistines waiting nearby. However, they were wasting their time. When Delilah shouted, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” he quickly broke the bowstrings. Another time Samson told Delilah to tie him up with new ropes - - but the same thing happened again. After that he told her to braid his hair into the cloth on the loom. Of course, he got away then, too.

Delilah kept begging Samson until he told her the truth - - that if his hair were cut, he would be like any other man. So while Samson slept, Delilah cut his hair and then woke him with “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” once more. This time the gleeful Philistines captured him, put out his eyes, and made him grind in the prison like a dumb ox.

Poor Samson! Foreign women were his downfall! His hair grew back, though, and his strength returned without anyone knowing about it. One day when thousands of Philistines were gathered in the temple of their idol Dagon, they brought the blind Samson out to make fun of him. But Samson had a plan. Pretending to need a place to lean, he got his guide to lead him to the great pillars, which held up the temple. Then, praying to God to give him strength one last time, he pushed the middle pillars apart - - and brought the temple of Dagon down upon the jeering Philistines with a thundering crash!

So we see that Samson killed more Philistines in his death than he had in all of his life!

Talking it Over:

1. Ancient drawings help us know more about the wicked Philistines who lived near the Mediteranean Sea. They carried long sharp spears and wore strange headdresses of feathers which stuck straight up. Their idol god Dagon looked part like a man and part like a fish. How was Dagon different from the true God?
2. Delilah told Samson he would tell her his secret if he truly loved her. People today often try to get others to “prove their love” in wrong ways.
3. What caused Samson to recognize his need for God in the end?

Memory Verse:
“With her enticing speech she caused him to yield; with her flattering lips she seduced him.” Proverbs 7:21
How was Delilah different from Ruth?

Text by Betty Belue Haynes, originally published in Bible Talk Times. Used here with the kind permission of the author. Users are free to reproduce for use, but not for publication.