There are strong allegorical similarities between Samson, the nation of Israel, and Christians today. You may be surprised to find that we are all quite a bit more like the temperamental, wildly violent, Old Testament anti-hero than we realize…or would like to admit.
The story of Samson is found in Judges 13-16, and takes place during a time when God was punishing the Israelites – giving them into the hand of their enemy, the Philistines. While pregnant, Samson’s mother was told by an angel that her child was going to be set apart for God’s purpose. Samson’s parents, being faithful and God-fearing, honored the LORD’s instruction and raised Samson as a Nazirite, a Jew especially dedicated to the LORD. God gave Samson amazing strength, by his hair, and he was to be the beginning of Israel’s deliverance from the oppression of the Philistines.
However, when Samson became an adult he went astray. He operated completely independent of God, hardly acknowledging God’s existence. He became arrogant, overly confident in his own ability and his physical prominence over men.
Now, the Jews had long been instructed that they should be a people set apart – consecrated to God. They were expressly forbidden to intermingle with their pagan neighbors or engage in their sinful practices. However, Samson, showing no regard for God’s demands fell deeply in love multiple times with Philistine women.
This infatuation of Samson with the Philistine women is a literal manifestation of the attraction we all have to the beautiful monster that is sin. Sin demonstrates in Samson’s story that it is beautiful, sexy, sweet, and alluring. Sin also demonstrates in Samson’s story that it is powerful and dangerous – easily capable of overcoming even the strongest of men. Over and over Samson is fooled by the wicked Philistine women, and over and over the desires of his heart lead him into peril.
What is represented in Samson’s love for these women is that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremaiah 17:9). It is sick and can not be understood or trusted. The heart of every person is deceiving and these deceits choke out the Word of God, and cause us to stray from the faith. The Bible instructs that we are to lean not on our own understanding, but to submit our lives to the Lord, and put our dependence in Him.
Ultimately Samson’s chasing his desires leads Him far from God and to his ruin. His Philistine lover, Delilah, pressures him into sharing the secret of his strength and then cuts off his hair leaving him weak and betrayed. He is then turned over as captive to the Philistines who gouge out his eyes and put him in shackles. In all of this, Samson becomes literally blind, weak, betrayed, alone, and enslaved.
The story of Samson is an allegory for the Old Testament nation of Israel and is incredibly similar to the plight of Christ’s Church, and the struggle of many Christians today. The nation of Israel in the Old Testament, and the Christian body today, are strong, independent, and long set apart for God. However, Israel was, and Christians now are, constantly backsliding, proudly following the sinful desires of the human heart, seeking to delight in revelry with unrighteous pagan neighbors, and consistently disregarding God’s instruction. This has consistently led people away from God and into adulterous and idolatrous pursuits, which, as in Samson’s story, end in spiritual blinding, weakness, loneliness, enslavement to the enemy (sin), and ultimately death.
But there is redemption in this story. Samson, blind and imprisoned is broken by the LORDs discipline made manifest in his life. By this, Samson’s self-righteous spirit is broken and Samson develops a repentant heart. Samson then puts his dependence on God. Samson’s hair begins to grow back, and as his hair was symbolic of the strength of God in him, so too was his hair growing back symbolic of the growth of his relationship with the LORD. At the final feast when Samson is brought out to perform for the Philistines celebrating his capture, Samson finally clearly “sees” God as the source of his strength and deliverance. The LORD grants Samson’s final prayer, giving him the strength to glorify God in destroying the temple and killing his Philistine persecutors.
The final portion of this story is symbolic of how The LORD breaks the spirit of the proud and self-righteous. He makes the blind see (Exodus 4:11). He delights in the repentant and contrite sinner. He heals the broken hearted. He strengthens those who place their faith in Him. He releases those bound from imprisonment, and the LORD has His day of vengeance over the wicked (Isaiah 61).
So, maybe we are all a little more like Samson than we realize. Where are you at in your Samson story?
If you enjoyed this discussion from the book of Judges, you might also enjoy my other post about the The Levite and His Concubine – Judges 19.
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.