Samson, Part I

Judges 13-16  

By Kathleen Fucci

At first glance, Samson would arguably be one of the most powerful, yet self-centered, impetuous … even tragic of all the Old Testament heroes. His life reads a bit like a fable, a bit like an action thriller and a lot like a melodrama.  And yet, upon closer examination, and especially in light of New Testament truths and revelation, Samson’s life becomes one of the most vivid examples of spiritual warfare we are given in Scripture. His life is an object lesson for all of humanity.  His life is like an arrow that pierces the apples of our own eyes, tears them wide open and allows us to SEE both the magnitude and the power of our call in the Lord, and the potentially devastating effects of being deceived by the enemy into doing what seems right in our own eyes.

Samson's birth is foretold by not one but two theophanies, that is, visible manifestations of God to human beings. The first visible manifestation is to a barren woman, the woman who would become Samson’s mother. The second is again to Samson's future mother, and her husband, Manoah.  

Both times, the being who appears is called the Angel of the Lord, but when pressed to name Himself, He says, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful.” The word “wonderful” is the Hebrew word paily (paw-lee’), which means secret, remarkable, wonderful.  Paily is from the word pala' (paw-law') which means to distinguish or separate as great, wonderful, hidden, marvelous, wondrous, too high to be seen.[1]

This manifestation appears to be the pre-incarnate Jesus Himself.  So the two of them hastily prepare an offering to this One who is called “wonderful,” paily.  Then, the Bible says, this wonderful One does a wondrous, pala' kind-of-thing.  He ascends to heaven visibly in the flame of the fire from the offering.  And because they now know they have seen God with their own eyes, the two conclude they will surely die. But they decide quickly that they probably won’t die because what would be the point of a theophany to tell them they were going to have son, if in fact the theophany itself would kill them?

From the outset, the theme of Samson’s life will be a microcosm of the theme of the life of all Israel during the time of the Judges. It can be symbolized by … an eye.

The eyes will become central to Samson’s undoing, and in fact the undoing of all Israel. Collectively, their eyes will not be focused on God, or give weight to His perfect will and His instruction. They will not see as God sees. They will not understand as God understands.

The irony will be that the God, whose name is “secret” and who is too marvelous and high to be seen, will make Himself visible throughout Israel’s entire history. He will reveal Himself again and again. And yet, they will not truly see Him. They will not understand Him, His perfect intentions, His desire to protect them. They will not grasp the power available to them in relationship with Him, even though the history of His exploits on their behalf will get longer and longer and longer. They will not perceive the nature of the battle they are fighting with evil. And instead, they will settle for a relationship with that evil, groping around in the dark, blind to their true inheritance and the magnitude of His promises to them. 

In Samson’s case, the Lord whose name is marvelous and too high to be seen will make Himself visible twice to his parents, and announce hinneh (hin-nay’) “Behold (See! Observe!) you shall conceive and bear a son.  And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”[2] (Jgs 13: 5)  

But Samson will be visionless when it comes to the importance of his own call, blind to the potential he has been given by God to deliver Israel from her enemies.  His eyes will be focused inward, on himself. Those eyes will look upon God’s enemies with desire, not contempt, totally imperceptive to his enemies’ deceptions, all the way until those enemies literally gouge his eyes out. His physical blindness will be a metaphor for the condition of all of Israel.  

This is the diagnosis of ancient Israel’s problem: All of Israel, every person, is doing what is right in his or her own eyes. They do what is evil in God’s eyes, but it seems right in their own eyes. This is spiritual blindness. We’re going to discover how the enemy works to  blind us, to blind whole nations to the truth and love of our God. After all, this is not a problem unique to ancient Israel.

Increasingly, our world lives under the same politically correct mantra the Israelites lived under at the time of the Judges, and that is:  Everyone has the God-given freedom to do what is right in his own eyes. There are no moral absolutes. There is no absolute moral authority.  No one has the right to say there are moral absolutes, because determining right and wrong is a personal freedom and a personal decision.

This is called self-idolatry.  We’re living in it, and it does not end well, as the whole world could see if we paid attention to Israel’s example during the period of the Judges.  Along with their eyes, their understanding becomes so darkened it will eventually take an atrocious occurrence, an absolute barbarism, to register with them the depth of their depravity and the idiocy of attempting to become their own moral compasses.  

All this seems a bit negative, doesn’t it?  We’re studying a book that is all about the cycle of sin, and though there is repentance and peace between cycles, Israel’s society becomes weaker and weaker.  Even the judges, who are the best of the best, and are raised up to be deliverers, themselves become more and more depraved.  

These are sobering things. But we have cause for reverent celebration and humble gratitude. As students of the Word, we can be instructed by these examples. Fully understanding and heeding the lessons in the text will lead us into living the way God intended for us to live.

And it is a glorious, power-filled, awe-inspiring life He wants for us – a life filled with vivid vision, insight, determination and conquest, of upward focus on His Kingdom purposes to the glory of His Holy Name.

We were born for this, as was Samson.  Samson’s failures, as well as his strengths, are there for our instruction. Using Samson’s life as a template, we must first uncover how the enemy works to blind us.

[1]Strong, James and John R. Kohlenberger, III, The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Red Letter Edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), H6383, H6381.  [2]Ibid., H2009.

Continue to Samson, Part II