It’s a shame that many people can’t become spiritually broken without some type of tragedy happening to them. Samson is a classic case in point. He was Israel’s strongman. He was the champion of the tribe of Dan and the slayer of Philistines. He was a man of faith (Hebrews 11:32-33) who served as one of Israel’s Judges in Canaan for twenty years during the era before Israel had a king (Judges 15:20). He was fearless and daring, a true legend in his own time. Unfortunately, however, he was also unbroken, narcissistic, quick tempered, and downright scandalous.
When the Angel of the Lord (an Old Testament, pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus) appeared to Samson’s then barren mother, Manoah, and told her that she was going to conceive and give birth to a son, the Angel instructed her that the child should be a Nazarite from the womb (Judges 13:5). This meant that Samson was to live his life under the Nazarite vow that was a part of the Mosaic law (Numbers 6:1-8). Anyone taking this vow was required to separate himself from everything involving the fruit of the grapevine. This included all alcoholic beverages, vinegar, wine, grape juice, fresh grapes, and even raisins. A Nazarite was also supposed to keep far away from the dead bodies of not only people but also animals. Oh, and yes, he was supposed to let his hair grow uncut as well. Typically, someone taking this vow would uphold it for thirty days. According to the Angel of the Lord’s word to Manaoh, though, Samson’s vow was to last for the duration of his life.
But the fact is that Samson thought little of ignoring his Nazarite vow. For example, he ate honey from a nest some honey bees had built in the carcass of a lion he had killed earlier (Judges 14:5-9). He even gave some of the honey to his father and mother without telling them that he had broken his vow to get it by reaching inside the carcass of that lion.
Furthermore, Samson could not contain his lust for non-Jewish women. His trouble with such women began when he got engaged to a Philistine girl from Timnah. This engagement violated the Mosaic law’s prohibition against Jews marrying women from idolatrous races (Deuteronomy 7:1-3).
Samson was actually fortunate that the girl’s father married her off to Samson’s best man before her marriage to Samson could be consummated (Judges 14:1-20). As you might guess, though, Samson didn’t see it that way, and he got his revenge by setting the Philistines’ grain fields, vineyards, and olive groves on fire (Judges 15:1-5). That, in turn, led the Philistines to burn both the father and the girl to death for causing them trouble with Samson (Judges 15:6).
They tried to arrest Samson to put him to death too, but he used the jawbone of a freshly dead donkey as a weapon to kill 1,000 Philistines. So much for the arrest party (Judges 15:15-17). Of course, Samson using that jawbone meant that he again violated his Nazarite vow about touching a dead body. I guess we can classify that victory as God hitting a straight lick with a very crooked stick.
Some years later, Samson went to the Philistine city of Gaza and had sexual relations with a harlot (Judges 16:1). The Philistines laid in wait to kill him the following morning, but he arose at midnight and easily escaped them with another miraculous display of strength (Judges 16:2-3). But Samson just couldn’t stay away from those forbidden women, and it wasn’t long afterward that he fell in love with another one. Her name was Delilah, and she would prove to be his undoing (Judges 16:4).
It was Delilah that betrayed Samson to her fellow Philistines by nagging him into telling her the secret of his strength, lulling him to sleep, and calling for a man to sneak in and cut off his hair (Judges 16:5-20). The lost hair symbolized Samson’s lost God-given strength, and that lost strength allowed the Philistines to capture him, bore out his eyes, and make him a chained, pitiable, object of public humiliation (Judges 16:21). And that was the tragedy that finally led to Samson’s spiritual brokenness and allowed him, with his dying act, to kill more Philistines than he had previously killed in total (Judges 16:22-31).
There are several spiritual principles that we can glean from Samson’s story, but here is perhaps the best one: Even if you are a servant of the Lord, you can’t dabble with sin and not eventually pay a price. Like a coiled rattlesnake, sin will eventually strike you and get you with its poison. As the old saying goes, it will take you where you don’t want to go, keep you there longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you can afford to pay. Consider this post a warning to any and all who think they can play around with sin and not get burned. Samson had to lose his eyes before he could see the truth. May we all learn from his tragic tale.