Paradoxes of Samson (JUDGES 13-16)

Our lessons last week focused upon the life of Samson. Today we will conclude this series on Samson by considering six paradoxes of this great man of faith. These paradoxes should help us remember the key points in Samson’s life.

PARADOX #1: SAMSON WAS RELIGIOUS YET REBELLIOUS.
Since there was no one suitable to lead the Israelites against the Philistines, God saw fit to raise up a special man for the task. Samson was “a Nazirite unto God from the womb” (Jud. 13:5). A casual reading of that chapter reveals that the parents of Samson were God-fearing people. They were religious and undoubtedly reared their son to be religious also. However, even though Samson was brought up in a spiritually rich and wholesome environment, he later rebelled. When he was contemplating marriage, he was encouraged to seek a wife from among his own people. He rebelled against the wisdom of his parents and married a Philistine woman. His rebellious nature was further manifested in his illicit sexual encounters. The purity of life which should have characterized one separated to God by the Nazirite vow was mocked by his associations with the harlot in Gaza and also Delilah (Jud. 16:1-21). His rebellious attitude cost him dearly (Jud. 14:20; 16:21).

PARADOX #2: SAMSON WAS CONSECRATED YET CORRUPT.
Samson was separated to God from before his birth through the Nazirite vow or a divine modification of it. Thus, he was a consecrated man. However, Samson did not keep the vow as faithfully as he should have. He corrupted himself sexually as noted above. Additionally, he disobeyed God by cutting his hair. It is true that he did not personally cut his hair, but he allowed it to happen. He behaved in an irresponsible way.

PARADOX #3: SAMSON WAS KNOWLEDGEABLE YET NAIVE.
Samson’s intelligence and resourcefulness are demonstrated in several ways in the divine record (e.g., the riddle he posed, the manner in which he paid off his debt of thirty garments, his burning of the Philistine crops, the use of a donkey’s jawbone in battle, the removal of city gates to escape, as well as the destruction of the temple of Dagon). But, in spite of moments of brilliance, he often acted foolishly, even naively. His association with Delilah in Judges 16 is a source of constant amazement to me. His previous dealings with the Philistines should have taught him many lessons, not the least of which that they could not be trusted. Also, the first three attempts of Delilah to ascertain the source of Samson’s strength ended with her trying to strip him of that strength. Was he so naive to think that she wouldn’t test him again after he “told her all his heart” (16:7)? Why would Samson knowingly reveal such information to one who had demonstrated not once but three times that she could not be trusted? It truly boggles the mind.

PARADOX #4: SAMSON WAS AWARE YET APATHETIC.
Samson knew that the Philistines were nothing but trouble, but he dove into relationship after relationship with them. He knew better than to do this and was certainly aware of the danger he was putting himself in. But, his selfish impulses, combined with an outlook of indifference, ultimately lead to his demise. It appears that he simply didn’t care about the foolish risks he took in his life. One cannot help but wonder if this attitude emerged over the years as a result of trusting in his own physical strength instead of God who made that strength possible!

PARADOX #5: SAMSON WAS A LEADER YET A LONER.
Samson, as a leader of Israel, had little support from his brethren. Throughout the narrative of his life, he is seen as a solitary figure standing against the numerous, uncircumcised Philistines. On one occasion, his brethren even turned upon him to deliver him to the enemy for fear of their safety (Jud. 15:9-13). They were content with the situation as it was. They were content with being oppressed by the Philistines! How tragic that they did not rally behind Samson as the leader God had raised up for them!

PARADOX #6: SAMSON WAS FORCEFUL YET FEEBLE.
The physical strength which Samson possessed is the quality that stands out in the minds of most people. His “Herculean” feats astound young readers and amaze older ones. He is sometimes pictured as a massive, powerful specimen of muscular physique. However, the source of his strength is often overlooked. It is not to be found in the bulk of his body or even in the length of his locks of hair. His strength was found in “the Spirit of the Lord” which “came upon him mightily” from time to time (e.g., Jud. 13:25; 14:6,19; 15:14). His uncut hair was symbolic of his obedience and he did need it to be strong, but his strength itself certainly wasn’t in his hair–it was in the Lord! It should be noted that it was when Samson was with an ungodly associate that he relinquished the source of his strength. This man of great force was reduced to a feeble boy in the presence of Delilah. It is still true today that ungodly associates cause many people to relinquish the source of their strength. As Paul proclaimed – “Evil companions corrupt good morals” (I Cor. 15:33).

If I only had a few sentences to sum up Samson’s life, I’d use a quote from Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch: “Samson, when strong and brave, strangled a lion; but he could not strangle his own love. He burst the fetters of his foes, but not the cords of his own lusts. He burned up the crops of others, and lost the fruit of his own virtue when burning with the flame kindled by a single woman.”

There are other lessons from Samson’s life that could be analyzed, no doubt. But, no matter how long we could continue to enumerate them, they will do little good if left unapplied to our lives. Don’t be too quick to criticize Samson and his character flaws. We often share many of these same paradoxes. Here are just a few applications for Christians to reflect upon and ask themselves:

Am I guilty of rebelling against the Lord’s will? We are called to be sanctified, or separated to God, but many Christians try to befriend the world. One cannot be a friend of the world without becoming an enemy of God (James 4:4). No man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). We cannot hold God’s hand and pat Satan on the back–it just won’t work!
Am I growing in knowledge of the Holy Scriptures daily? Am I striving to become more wise (Matt. 10:16; James 1:5)? Or, am I still as naive as I was when I first obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Am I zealous to do what I know is right or am I afflicted with a spirit of apathy and selfishness (Rev. 3:15-17)?
Am I being the kind of leader that God expects me to be for my family and Christian brethren? Am I endeavoring to work with others (and not against them) for the cause of Christ?
Am I allowing myself to be led into sin by corrupting influences? Am I choosing my companions wisely or carelessly?

Dare we sit here in judgment and condemn Samson for his failures? I think not. Especially since, when all was said and done, Samson was faithful! The only way in which I can explain why Samson is listed in Hebrews 11 as a great man of faith is because of his repentance! Samson’s overall life could arguably be described as one governed by faith in Jehovah. But, it is obvious that he was a sinner. Of course, this is true of us, as well as all those who found their way into the list of Hebrews 11. All had blemishes to overcome, but all overcame them to live lives dedicated to the service of God. Many of them were far from perfect, but they were faithful! When one considers the failings of these heroes, let him remember that divine approval of an individual in one aspect of his life does not necessarily imply that there is divine approval of that individual in all aspects of his character and conduct.

As one reads Judges 16:28-31, Samson’s repentance should be evident. Samson had faith in God. He asked for Jehovah to remember him. Samson had enjoyed fellowship with God. He asked God to strengthen him one more time. No doubt Samson remembered the times he and the Lord had reaped victories for the cause of Israel against the Philistines. Samson’s final act was for God, and that’s why he is a great man of faith!

But, what about you and I? Our history is being written too, so to speak. The decisions we make in our lifetime and the way in which we serve God will ultimately determine whether we too will be great men and women of faith. What do you think would have happened to Samson had he died before he restored his fellowship with God? He would have been lost! However, because of Samson’s repentance, the Lord accepted him again, allowing him to do his greatest work in his death. God has the same grace for His people who will return to Him today.

#judges