Samson was miraculously born when the Philistines were oppressing Israel. He was from the tribe of Dan near Philistine territory. As a Nazirite, his devotion to God was signified by his long hair.
Samson judged Israel twenty years. The Bible often says “the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power” (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14). His strength was legendary and fearsome among the Philistines!
Samson’s feats of strength include killing a young lion with his bare hands, carrying a set of city gates 40 miles, and toppling a temple. His strength made him formidable in battle. On one occasion, he killed 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone!
However, Samson had a weakness – his love for Philistine women. His marriage to a woman from Timnah caused a great deal of strife. He risked his life by spending the night with a prostitute in Gaza. But his ultimate downfall was his relationship with Delilah.
The Philistine rulers bribed Delilah (whom Samson loved) to discover the source of his strength. Because of her incessant nagging, he revealed his secret. The Philistines shaved his head, captured him, and put him to work in prison.
The rulers gathered to offer a sacrifice to their God. Samson was brought out to perform for them. He asked God to strengthen him again, and pushed apart the pillars that supported the roof. This was his final and greatest blow to the Philistines.
You can read Samson’s full story in Judges 13 – 16.
A Better Samson
Samson seems unlikely to be a preview of Jesus in any way. Yet he gives us insight into Jesus’ ministry, by way of both contrast and comparison:
Contrast – Samson was immoral and foolish. His weakness for Philistine women caused him to compromise his character and the secret of his strength. But Jesus was neither immoral nor foolish. He never succumbed to sinful desires, sexual or otherwise. And although people claimed to believe in Him, He “would not entrust Himself to them” (John 2:24).
Comparison – Samson’s bouts with the Philistines preview the conversion of the Gentiles. Isaiah predicts that Messiah will lead His reunited people against their enemies: “They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia…they will lay hands on Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites will be subject to them” (Isaiah 11:14).
Prophecies like this can be understood in two ways. First, there will be a physical fulfillment when Jesus punishes His enemies at His second coming. Second, there is a spiritual fulfillment as Jesus “conquers” the Gentiles by converting them through the preaching of the gospel.
Just as Samson conquered the Philistines, so Jesus is “conquering” the Gentiles. And just as Samson “killed many more when he died than while he lived” (Judges 16:30), so Jesus’ greatest act of “conquest” was His death on the cross.
New Testament Perspective
Samson is an Old Testament person but we must see him from a New Testament perspective. His glaring character flaws show us our need for a better leader. And his acts of war against the Philistines demonstrate “God’s incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted” not just in Samson, but “in Christ when he raised him from the dead” in conquest over His enemies (Ephesians 1:19-20).
How does Samson remind you of Jesus? Leave your thoughts with a comment below!
(Feel free to share this post with a friend! Or follow my blog to receive new posts!)