Samson was the promised child to an unnamed barren woman, the wife of Manoah. God appeared to the woman and told her that she was going to have a son; quickly, she reports this to her husband who seeks the man who had told her this. Once he finds him they both Manoah and his wife learn about God’s plans for the boy. The woman is told what not to do to prepare for the son who will be a Nazirite. Samson, the product of God’s promise to the childless couple, is born with many interesting traits that make his story, found in Judges 13-16, a story that has been talked much about in churches from Sunday school lesson to expository sermons. Samson we will see has many good, and some bad, characteristics that make him an example of how God uses people and how people tend to get in the way of what God wants to do by their “dumb” actions and decisions.
The first observation of Samson’s life is that God had chosen him to be possessed by the Holy Spirit. Not very many people in the Old Testament had such a gift. Samson is unique in that he is in the company of people like Moses and David who had a special link to God through the Holy Spirit. This link was rare to most people including the priests of the tabernacle who could only enter the Most Holy Place once a year, but Samson was able to have the Spirit of God throughout his life from the time he was born to his death, with only one interruption to that possession. We can see this in 13.25 where “the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him” (NASB).
The reason for the Holy Spirit’s ability to so fully dwell in Samson is that he was a Nazirite. From even before his birth he was set apart for his calling. This is seen in the Lord’s instruction to the mother “not to drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing” (13.4) during the time she was carrying Samson in her womb. His Nazirite calling continued after he was born, and he grew up not being allowed to shave his head, drink wine, or touch any unclean thing. By not doing these things Samson’s life was fully saturated with the Holy Spirit to do what He needed Samson to do. The fact that Samson was born a Nazirite is a little unusual; normally to be a Nazirite you would have to make a vow. In this case I don’t see that happening. I know Samson had a choice as to whether he wanted that or not, but usually a Nazirite is one who chooses to live that way by making a vow, known as a Nazirite vow.
Samson’s most well-known trait was obviously his extraordinary strength. Because Samson was set apart by the Nazirite vow, he was thus able to be possessed by the Spirit. The manifestation of the Holy Spirit, however, is quite a bit different than usually seen in the Bible. Generally, when the Spirit of the Lord would come on people they would have some sort of ecstatic experience such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, and so on. However, Samson is unique in the gifting of the Holy Spirit. Because of the oppression by the Philistines, God raised up Samson not to be a prophet, but a leader with a strength not matched by anyone. God knew that the situation didn’t necessarily need a prophet like we would think of; but God sent Samson to Israel to help the nation. Most people would look down on Samson in today’s church because he was not spiritual in the context they would think of, yet he had more of the Spirit than the average person. His spirituality however, was more practical; God needed someone to do a job that required the gift of strength, and Samson fulfilled that job perfectly. Notice also that his strength was apparently not natural; it came only when the Holy Spirit came upon him. This is seen in Judges 14.6 19, and 15.14; all of them say, “the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily,” or more literally, “the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (NASB).
Samson also had a problem of loving the wrong women, and because of his passion for those women, he lost what might have been a long and bright future. First he fell in love with a Philistine woman. His parents were definitely concerned with his choice, but the Bible tells us that his love was from God (14.4). After that relationship failed due to the deception of the Philistines, Samson is next seen making another bad decision in that while he was in Gaza he found a harlot and had relations with her. Shortly after this episode he falls in love with Delilah; this love will turn out badly for Samson because his new lover will turn against him and deceive him into telling her the secret of his strength, which leads to his destruction.
Samson is finally shown as being very naive in that he doesn’t see that Delilah is trying to deceive him. Twice he falsely tells her how she can get the secret of his strength, and finally after he is “annoyed to death” (16.16) by her constant asking, he tells her. The rest of the story most of us already know. However, the other way he is shown as naive is that after Delilah had shaved his head and his strength had gone, the Bible records that “he did not know that the LORD had departed from him” (16.20).
How tragic his story ends; here was a man chosen before his birth to judge Israel, and through his life he has a special relationship with the Holy Spirit and a unique strength. Yet, because of repeated poor judgments, his life is significantly shortened and the Bible records that he “judged Israel twenty years” (16.31).
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