It is interesting that Samson’s life took a nasty turn very quickly. He had because of his first wife killed a lot of Philistines and destroyed a lot of their property which would have hurt their ability to attack and control Israel. He judged Israel for twenty years and it seems to have been a time of tranquility for them as well. The problems arise when Samson gets involved deeply with a woman Delilah.
Now I want to state that for me there is no fate in this story as it plays out. I think when we look at Samson we see a man desperately trying to find a woman he can trust and also be himself. His first wife betrayed him and after his death he does not remarry but instead find comfort in a prostitute but this is pretty typical for a man that has been burned by a woman, particularly a woman close to him. Delilah seems to be Samson trying once again to find a woman he can trust. This time however there is no remark that God was orchestrating things so Samson could pick a fight. He is on his own with this one.
That is why when Samson does give up his secret it is not a testimony to fate, but to the decisions of a man having consequences. Had he not given his secret he would have gone on judging Israel and being their champion and the Bible would have read differently. Because he does give up his secret it is on him that there is consequences for his actions. He is the one who ultimately breaks his vow to God and God for his part keeps his word that Samson’s strength is tied with the length of his hair. Samson’s decision is a personal one, can he trust Delilah whom he loves with his deepest secret? He ultimately decides to trust her but he probably should have come to the conclusion by now that he is a poor judge of a woman’s character. It is kind of tragic to me that Samson was just a pretty good guy trying to find love, perhaps in a place where he shouldn’t have been looking for it, and gets burned twice. This is not God, it is simply the nature of humanity sometimes.
Samson’s failure to keep his secret leads to his downfall. He ends up blind and grinding corn for a time long enough for his hair to grow completely back so perhaps a year or two. The Philistines are celebrating in a party honoring their god Dagon. They are in a good mood because it looks like Israel will once again serve them and their enemy Samson is in chains. They decided to bring him into the party to make fun of him. The text does not indicate that God set this up. To be honest, I think God simply can wait for a situation where he can act. Being eternal allows you to be that patient. In this case the Philistines, decided to put Samson where everyone can see him and that would be by the two central pillars of the building.
Samson’s prayer actually indicates something that most people miss. Samson prays that he would die with his enemies. He does not pray to be spared and this is interesting to me in that he had gotten to the point that death was preferable to him than life. He is a man with no more to live for than vengeance. He goes to God and asks for that vengeance. I am not so sure why God grants his request other than, by killing 3000 plus Philistines and probably the elite class of that society, the Philistines stop being a problem for the Israelites for a while. They really do not recover from this until the time of Samuel and King David. I do wonder if Samson had prayed to live on, what God would have done. The fact is God simply honored the fact that Samson once again had long hair as a source of his strength and that because of this he once again destroyed his enemies at the cost of his own life. It may simply have been from God’s perspective the covenant had been renewed so he was honor bound to give Samson strength this one last time.
The story of Samson is one where God only action is to give an individual a gift because of a dedication to him in a certain area of his life. The conditions of this covenant are laid out and as long as that part is honored the gift is never revoked. Even when Samson gets involved with three women that were less than moral in their character, God keeps his word to Samson. It is Samson’s choice to trust someone who he probably should not have trusted that becomes his downfall. It stresses the importance of our choices in molding our own destiny and the importance of responsibility on our part for the covenants we make with God and with God’s gifts to us.
Next: The Final Chapters of Judges.