Question: "What should we learn from the account of Samson and Delilah?"
Answer: The story of Samson and Delilah, recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Judges, has been the delight of scores of writers, artists, and composers for hundreds of years. When Samson dallied with Delilah in the Sorek Valley of ancient Philistia, he never imagined that their sordid relationship would be projected on huge movie screens some 30 centuries later.
A quick overview of the story of Samson and Delilah begins with the announcement of Samson’s birth by the angel of the Lord (Judges 13:1–24). In fact, Samson is one of the few in Scripture whose birth was divinely preannounced to his parents (Judges 13:3). He shares this honor with Isaac, John the Baptist, and Jesus. Samson, whose name means “sunshine,” was born sometime between 1045 BC and 1000 BC, during a dark period of Israel’s history. Seven times this nation had turned from God and now found themselves under the oppressive rule of the Philistines.
Samson was born a Nazirite, meaning he was “separated” or “set aside” for God. This meant that he was not to drink wine or fruit of the vine. He couldn’t go near or touch a dead body, human or animal, nor could he cut his hair. Though he was set apart for special service to God (Judges 13:5), Samson ignored his Nazirite vow of godly devotion and relied upon his own strength and abilities rather than upon God’s. Although God empowered him with supernatural strength to begin the deliverance of the people of Israel from the Philistines (Judges 13:5), it was his weakness for the Philistine women that did him in (Judges 14:1–3, 16:1–22). His passion for women was more important to him than God’s expressed will (Deuteronomy 7:3).
During his wedding to a Philistine woman, Samson was deceived and humiliated by his wife and wedding guests (Judges 14:1–15). Angered, Samson got his revenge by personally killing 1,000 men (Judges 15:1–20). But, in the end it was his passionate obsession for Delilah that led him to reveal to her the secret of his strength. His hair was shorn by Delilah, and, as a result, he was captured, blinded, and forced to grind grain for his enemies. Eventually, while in prison, Samson’s strength did return, and he died while destroying the temple of the Philistine god Dagon, killing thousands of Philistines (Judges 16:1–31).
With the Spirit of God upon him (Judges 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14), Samson was a powerful man with supernatural strength. The story reveals that he was also very intelligent with an unusual sense of humor. While he had almost unlimited potential to deliver his people from the Philistines, his story ends in needless tragedy. He not only failed to deliver his people, but killed himself. Disobedience, defeat, disgrace, and destruction were his fatal cohorts. Despite his having the Spirit of the Lord upon him, his sexual yearnings of the flesh controlled his life (1 John 2:16). He was courageous before men but weak when it came to women (Proverbs 5:3; 6:32; Matthew 5:28).
There are many valuable lessons we can glean from the story of Samson and Delilah. Though born with unbelievable potential, Samson forfeit his life because of sin. The lesson for us is that, the deeper we allow ourselves to be influenced by the glamour and allurement of sin, the more blind we become. This extraordinary story tells us that Samson was spiritually blind long before his eyes were gouged out (Judges 16:21). We must accept the reality that sin can seep deep into in our lives. We must know that sin has a blinding, numbing impact upon us. Otherwise, we find ourselves ensnared by it, just as Samson did.
All sin, especially sexual sin, comes with its own dire and sometimes deadly consequences. Sin binds us, then it blinds us; then it slowly and inexorably grinds away at us (Judges 16:21). In truth, sin will take us farther than we may intend to go. It will hold us longer than we may intend to stay. Furthermore, sin will cost us more than we intend to pay. We must heed the stern warning: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
We learn that God can use the wicked as well as the righteous to accomplish His will. We also discover that our own righteousness or wickedness will not deter God from doing His will. Though God punishes wrongdoing, He may wait in delivering the punishment.
Samson also demonstrates that he was a shallow, vengeful man who pouted when things didn’t go his way. Most telling are his references to “I have a right to get even” (Judges 15:3, 11). This, too, was the same mindset of the Philistines (Judges 15:10). It’s strikingly akin to the world’s mindset today and contrary to the teachings of Christ (Matthew 5:38).
However, despite all of Samson’s weaknesses, he did turn back to God before he died (Judges 16:28–30). God in His sovereignty used Samson to fulfill His purpose. In reality, Samson’s death did much to impede the oppressive actions of the Philistines. Samson’s destruction of the temple of Dagon was a major factor in their downfall at Mizpah by Samuel and the children of Israel some 100 years later (1 Samuel 7:7–14).
Perhaps the greatest lesson we learn is that God would rather forgive than judge. In the final analysis, God saw Samson as a man of faith. This is evidenced by the fact that he’s listed among those in the hall of faith (Hebrews 11:32). When we read through the list of names recorded there, we find that no one in the “hall of faith” was perfect. Samson was the strongest man to ever live, but it was God who gave him the strength. More importantly, Samson let himself be used by God. In fact, God could have used him without making him the strongest man. He’s willing to meet us right where we are right now and to take us where He wants if we will let Him (James 4:8).