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 pre-announced 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 7:1-3).
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).
Delilah lived in the Valley of Sorek, which lay on the border between the territories of the ancient Philistines and the Israelite tribe of Dan. The rulers of the Philistinesbribed Delilah to discover the secret of Samson’s strength and betray him into their hands.
“And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.” Judges 16:5
Delilah informed the Philistine rulers of Samson’s secret and then waited until Samson was asleep, and she called for someone to come shave his head. She woke him with a cry: “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” (verse 20). Samson stood up to fight, “but he did not know that the LORD had left him” (verse 20).
Samson 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. Despite his having the Spirit of the Lord upon him, his sexual yearnings 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).
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).
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.