Part 3 Samson
This is the third in a series that examines references to prisons and prisoners in the Bible. This time we will look at Samson whose life we can read about in Judges 13-16.
Samson is a tragic figure in the scriptures. His birth was the result of a special promise from God to his previously childless parents, Manoah and his wife. They were told before Samson’s birth that he would be a unique individual, set apart for God to be an instrument to deliver His people, Israel, from the oppression of the Philistines. Likewise his life was to be characterized by certain restrictions, identifying him as a very exceptional person. This information was made known to the child’s parents directly from the angel of the Lord, a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God.
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.
Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Judges 13:3-5
Manoah and his wife took these instructions very seriously and both were filled with awe at the thought of the tremendous responsibility that had been given to them. There is no indication in the scriptures that Samson’s parents were delinquent in the way in which they raised him. Despite having God-fearing parents, being favored by the Lord and being gifted with super human strength Samson still managed to mess up his life through poor choices, being controlled by his passions and simple stupidity. It is a story that is sadly often repeated today. So many of the souls trapped in the jails and prisons of our country are there because they simply made dumb decisions in life that led them in the wrong direction.
Despite so many unwise actions the Lord continued to use Samson as a tool to accomplish His purpose of bringing judgment on the Philistines, Israel’s mortal enemies. Even his self-destructive attraction to Philistine women turned out to fit into the Lord’s greater purpose.
And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.
And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.
Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
Ultimately, Samson’s misadventures landed him in a Philistine prison. It was here that God finally accomplished the ultimate fulfillment of the promise given to Samson’s parents before his birth. After having his eyes gouged out he was put on display as a freak show for his captor nation’s rulers and dignitaries. With the most influential people among the Philistines present Samson brought down the temple of the pagan god, killing himself and three thousand of Israel’s oppressors.
Had Samson had better judgment he would have probably died at an old age as an honored and respected warrior that conquered the Philistines on the field of battle. Instead he died a violent and ignoble death as a humiliated prisoner and side show entertainer for the enemy. Samson could not escape the consequences of his poor behavior. Nonetheless, Samson’s inability to make wise choices could not thwart God’s intention to use him as a means to accomplish His greater purpose for Israel. It is a lesson for all of us that God can take even our foolishness and use it for His glory.