The story of Samson brings up images of a beast of a man. A man that slew 1,000 people with a blunt object, and in a final push of intestinal fortitude a man who detached pillars of structure causing the death of about 3,000 enemies of the God who taught what was right and wrong in life, but there is more.
Before we open the text, we remember that Samson has fought with the Philistines who were an occupying force. This is the same Philistines that David later stood toe to toe against when he slew Goliath. In Samson’s time they ruled over Israel as explicitly evidenced in Judges 13:1, 14:4, and 15:11. In order to fully understand this we have to understand the morality of the Philistines as driven by Dagon their god. As an example of social justice under Dagon, we observe Samson’s wife and father-in-law, who were Philistines themselves, being burned to death because Samson set a grain field on fire after his wife was taken from him and given to his best man. Not necessarily the perfect picture of doing the right thing by your fellow man, I suppose. Of course contrary to what our God commanded in Deuteronomy 24:16: “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.” Furthermore, we should look at how Samson perceived his acts of violence in his own words as recorded in Judges 15:18 where Samson says to The LORD “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant. . .” The text surely places Samson as one who believed that what The LORD said was right, was right.
But then, he had a flaw, and his story is unfortunately remembered for his flaw more than his passion for justice. He was seduced by Delilah who found the key to his great strength, and he was taken into custody by his enemy. They gouged out his eyes, threw him in prison, BUT the hair of his head began to grow again. With all of that background, we enter the text in Judges 16:23 and following: “Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, ‘Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.’ And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, ‘Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.’ And when their hearts were merry, they said, ‘Call Samson, that he may entertain us.’ So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, ‘Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.’ Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained. Then Samson called to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.’ And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other.”
We must remember that Samson was more than just a strong guy who lived a long time ago. He was a man that was knowledgable. His wit is evidenced in his riddles to the Philistines in Judges 14, but more importantly he was a judge over Israel for twenty years. He was the man that people would come to help decide what was right in situations. When Samson’s flaw came to the surface with Delilah, he not only became a prisoner, but he alienated his people. His sin caused a vacuum in leadership. There was more on the line than just a hair cut. He lost his throne of leadership that caused God’s justice to be manifest to God’s people. This is huge when we look at this passage, but that wasn’t the end for him.
When Samson was taken to Dagon’s temple to entertain his enemy. He pleaded with God for one more chance to do justice, even if it meant his demise. He knew that he was under the reign of a God that was bigger than himself. He knew his life was subject to his God. This wasn’t just an idea in his mind, it was a force that has been used many, many times over the centuries of mankind’s existence. Men who have fought for the cause of right and wrong, and the intentional subjugation of their own lives come from this idea. It is powerful beyond measure, and found plainly within the text of Scripture.
Imagine the scene with me. The same people, the lords of the Philistines, that tried several times to bind this man are in the temple of their god, Dagon. They are preparing a “great sacrifice” to Dagon, and saying “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” They believed that they have won, there was no one who would stand in their way while the delighted in doing their evil deeds. They mocked the man who once did, but then. . . He began to speak “O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” The place probably went silent, as all wanted to hear what he said. Perhaps, some murmured to other’s asking what he said for clarity. Then this beast of a man lays his hands on two pillars that were holding up the roof and began to squeeze every last bit of intestinal fortitude that he possessed. He laid it all out, he gave it all he had, and the roof came down upon them all.
Samson was a faulty human being, just as I am, and just as you are. However, he believed in a God that was not, is not and will never be faulty. He served a God that was his God. We see this when he uses the word “Adonai” which is rightly translated “my lord” right before the word Lord in our English Bibles. He is saying my lord, The LORD, and in doing so makes it personal. Sampson was not doing this for God, he was doing this for His God, and in his death he praised his God. He let out a burst of broken praise to our God, and placed his life in line with his words.
Samson was a man’s man, but he served God with every fiber of his being. He was broken, but still gave what he had. He was blind, but made it work. He sinned against The LORD, but in the end he forcefully gave his life into the hands of The LORD. He, quite literally, pushed his demise into action. When he knew there was no way out, he praised God with his last breath.
We should rightfully look at the account of his life in admiration of his ability to stay the course and stand up for what is right even as a broken and sinful person. Let us not remember Samson simply as a strong man who was weak in the knees when it came to women. Let us remember him as a faulty human being that placed his God over his own life. Let us remember him as a man who praised The LORD in his life and his death. A broken nobility turned into broken praise to our God.
Make sure to sign up on BearingTheSword.com with your email to ensure you receive every study, and don’t forget to give us a like on Facebook!
Judges 16:30 – “And Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it.”