Samson is a riddle. Many of his deeds can be seen as enigmatic or eccentric. He speaks in riddles and poetry. He uses the most unexpected of weapons. Why did he rip out and carry away the gates of Gaza? His motives, actions and words can be difficult for us to understand. As we journey with him we endeavour to get to know him, acknowledging that our estimations of his thoughts and deeds are just that – our estimations. We find weakness (wouldn’t anyone reading of our lives?), but we also find faith and God’s grace.
If God were to preserve a written record of your life, what would you want recorded? If I had any say I certainly wouldn’t be selecting my darkest hours. However, God has a message for us in what has selectively been written of Samson. Events in his life have been specifically chosen to tell us a story.
We have just a few of his life events to put together. They are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – small in size and oddly shaped. To understand what is happening and why, we are going to have to utilise our God-given faculty of imagination. The human imagination is susceptible to exaggeration and underestimation – there is inevitably a risk that we may misunderstand Samson. However, it is only through using our ability to imagine that we can begin to put the pieces together.
“…the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol..” Judges 13:24-25
When we first meet Samson, as a young man, he is being stirred and moved by God. This influence is ascribed to the work of God’s spirit or power. At critical points in Samson’s life we find God at work – doing exactly what is required.
Why did Samson need to be stirred and agitated at this time?
Samson, his family and the remnant of their tribe lived in the Camp of Dan (the meaning of ‘Mahaneh-dan’). They had no house. We might imagine it like some of today’s refugee camps or settlements. Many of the tribe had left and migrated to northern Israel. Those who remained hadn’t taken all the inherited land that had been given them; the Philistines occupied part of it. So God is stirring Samson from his tribe’s state of inaction.
There is no solution in being static. Sometimes God has to stir us up too.
We don’t know how old Samson is when we meet him in the record, but may assume he is a teenager or a young man as he lives with his parents and is looking for love.
He is often portrayed as going astray into Philistine territory. Maybe this is what causes all his problems? Yet is this an accurate view? The Spirit of God stirs him to a place called Timnah, which was actually part of his tribe’s allotted territory (Joshua 19:43). The Hebrew word ‘Timnah’ has been translated as having this very meaning – allotment or portion.
Throughout this story Samson roams freely in the land that God had promised his family. It was a land that Samson willingly received and fought for. He made the promised land a reality, showing no regard for man-made boundaries. We can do likewise in our lives now, being citizens of the promised Kingdom of God rather than the Kingdoms of Men. God had frequently termed the promised place ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ (for example, Exodus 3:8). Samson is the first person recorded as literally tasting that honey.
Samson has three relationships recorded in the Bible – none of them can be described positively. We find that God delivers him from all three situations. In Timnah, Samson sees the most beautiful woman he has ever set his eyes upon – a Philistine. His only desire is to make her his wife. His craving for her is all consuming. Everything else is put aside. He must have her – even against his parents’ wishes and council.
We can all relate to Samson’s desire. There are times when we are destroyed by want. Samson’s desire for this woman highlights the desire that is born from what our eyes see.
Put simply – things look good and we want them.
The desire of Samson’s eyes is described in Judges 14:1-2.
“Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.”
In temptation, seeing is often the precursor to taking.
This pathway is found from the Garden of Eden and beyond. Eve sees and then takes of the fruit. Before the flood, the sons of God see and then take their wives – the attractive daughters of men. David saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof, before he took her.
See and take.
To see and take is rooted in our nature but God can help us overthrow this animal-like mentality. God can help us approach temptation with a filter of faith. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians – we walk by faith not by sight.
Jesus was able to completely sever the connection between seeing and taking. He was able to rip it apart, like Samson’s lion.