A Better View of Samson

by Michael Trofern

Many people have read the story of Samson in the Bible, but most people do not remember it the way it reads, but they remember it the way it has been explained to them in Sunday school or they remember the events in the movies about Samson. Let’s take a fresh look at Samson and see what the truth is. To begin with, Samson was dedicated to God from before his birth and was set apart from the average person because he was commanded to be a Nazirite all his life. A Nazirite was someone who set aside a period of time in which he dedicated himself to serve God and God only, much as a monk or a nun, but only for a set period of time. During that period, the person was not allowed to drink fermented drink of any kind, and they were not allowed to cut their hair during that time. Perhaps because they were not to beautify themselves, to look attractive to others because they were set apart for God. Even Samson’s mother was commanded by the angel to not have fermented drink:

“No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth . . . Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.” (Judges 13:5,7)

So it was not an unusual thing for a man to have long hair, it showed that he was dedicated to God alone. But most people were not Nazirites all their lives, whereas Samson was and he knew it. His strength was in the fact that he was dedicated to God’s service, and his long hair was just an outward sign of that dedication.

Now as you read the story of Samson you will notice that when Samson uses his supernatural strength, it says, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power” (Judges 14:19). When Samson became involved with Delilah the Philistines bribed her to find out “the secret of his strength” (16:5). Why did they believe there was some secret to his strength? Because Samson was skinny! Yes I said skinny, if he looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger they would have believed that his strength came from his big muscles. But they knew he had some other power giving him strength. What’s more, this is exactly what one would expect from God, knowing how he works. Take for example the story of Gideon who went to fight an army of 135,000 men with only 35,000. But God told him he had too many men and he ended up defeating that army with only 300 men, the reason being that God wanted Israel and everyone else to know beyond any doubt that it was God who gave Gideon the victory. Three hundred men against 135,000 are God’s kind of odds, so when we come to Samson he must have been skinny, because the only way he could perform his feats of super- human strength was when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power! Only by being skinny would all the people know beyond any doubt that it was not Samson’s strength, but God who did it. If you believe most interpretations of the story, Samson had a major problem with women, having sex with numerous women. A man who was set apart to God was not promiscuous, or “had a problem with women.” That is not what the Bible says. It says,

1 Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 2 When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”3 His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” 4 (His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.) (Judges 14:1- 4)

Now at this point in the story Samson had not only never had sex with the girl, but he had never even spoken to her, and told his parents to talk to her parents about the marriage. Everything is proper and nothing is wrong with anything that has happened thus far.

What’s more, it was God himself who put in Samson to be attracted to Philistine women. Would God cause Samson to go a-whoring after many women, especially Philistine women? Certainly not. Samson merely desired to have a Philistine wife. Now let’s continue with the story:

5 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. 6 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. (Judges 14:5-7)

This passage proves that Samson had never even spoken to the woman, and when he did, it was in the presence of his father and mother and probably also in the presence of her father and mother.

He traveled to Timnah with his father and mother, so how could he have killed the lion and not told them? Apparently, the lion charged at him and he ran to draw the lion away from his parents, then he killed the lion out of sight of his parents. The story continues:

8 Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass. In it was a swarm of bees and some honey, 9 which he scooped out with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass. (Judges 14:8-9)

Here we have Samson and his parents and probably several other people going to Timnah for the wedding. Samson ducks between some bushes and goes to the lion’s carcass and returns with honey which he shares with the others.

10 Now his father went down to see the woman. And Samson made a feast there, as was customary for bridegrooms.

To make a long story short, Samson tells the men there a riddle. If they don’t solve it they owe him thirty sets of clothes, and if they do solve it he owes them thirty sets of clothes. The problem is, the riddle is impossible for them to solve. So they press upon his bride to get the answer from Samson, which she is finally able to get after much pleading. When the men tell Samson the answer as if they had thought of it, Samson knows how they got it and burned with anger.

19 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he went up to his father’s house. 20 And Samson’s wife was given to the friend who had attended him at his wedding. (Judges 14:19-20)

Samson went to another town and took the garments he needed to fulfill his end of the bargain. During that time, his parents must have returned home, and Samson returns there as well. Samson probably thought his wife had returned with his parents because they were now married, but she was not there so he probably thought she was angry at him and decided it was good for both of them to cool down, since he was probably angry at his wife for telling the men the answer to the riddle.

Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. But her father would not let her go in. 2 “I was so sure that you thoroughly hated her,” he said, “that I gave her to your friend. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.” (Judges 15:1-2)

If Samson was hot for sex why did he wait a few weeks or longer before going to his wife with a peace offering? After Samson found out that his wife was given to someone else, he was enraged and took vengeance upon the Philistines. The Bible then says that Samson led Israel twenty years, apparently before he even met Delilah. In the mean time, Samson did visit prostitutes, as the Bible says, but how many years went by before that happened?

And in those days going to a prostitute was not as bad as it seems to us, because most of the men had several wives and concubines. Gideon had seventy sons because he had many wives and even a concubine, yet the Bible never says a word of condemnation about it, nor have I ever heard a teacher condemn it, only the great things that Gideon did. And the great prophet Samuel was the son of a man with two wives! Samson would have married an Israelite but God put it in him to desire Philistine women and his first relationship with a Philistine woman was disastrous, so he was very hesitant about another relationship, but he eventually did have another relationship because the Bible says “he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah” (16:4). She was not a prostitute like the movies portray. It never says Samson was whoring with Delilah, but that he met her and fell in love with her.

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