Summary: This part of the series examines Samson as a hero of faith. It explores his terrifying rampage, torrid romance, torturous retribution, and timely repentance.
Do I need to give more examples? I do not have time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.
— Hebrews 11:32 NCV
In Will Smith’s latest blockbuster he plays an unlikely superhero named John Hancock. Far from your average, ordinary, everyday superhero, Hancock is a misunderstood maleficent who causes more collateral damage than the criminals he’s trying to stop. Unlike other fictional superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Spider-man or Captain America who instinctively understand that with great power comes great responsibility, Hancock is a reckless, irresponsible, inebriated jerk who disappoints and disenchants the citizens he is supposed to be protecting.
In other words, he’s a lot like Samson. Samson was the original superhero. Blessed with ridiculous super-human strength, Samson was chosen by God as one his divinely appointed judges and commissioned to save his people from the oppression of the Philistines. Like Hancock, however, Samson’s weakness seemed to overshadow his strengths. Samson was a childish, womanizing brute and why God chose him is somewhat of a mystery. But he did. And somehow, someway Samson managed to get his name listed among the greatest heroes of all time.
Once again, Samson’s story is set during the period of the judges and, once again, “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years” (Judges 13:1 KNJV). Israel certainly didn’t merit the Lord’s mercy, but God granted it anyway. He appointed a new leader and judge over Israel whose life was full of contradictions and character flaws. In fact, when we are first introduced to Samson, he is in the midst of a…
Samson’s super-strength first manifested as he and his parents were walking through the vineyards of a neighboring town known as Timnah. “Suddenly,” the Bible says, “a young lion came roaring toward Samson! The Spirit of the LORD entered Samson with great power, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands. For him it was as easy as tearing apart a young goat” (Judges 14:5-6 NCV). I have a feeling that this Animal Channel encounter came as a surprise to even Samson himself because he kept it from his parents, who apparently ran for dear life when they first caught a glimpse of their feline friend and failed to witness the massacre that followed. However, this experience also gave Samson his first taste of power—and that power went straight to his head.
When they finally reached Timnah, it turns out that Samson was actually there to meet and marry a girl—a Philistine girl to precise. While showboating in front of her friends at the reception, Samson said to them, “Let me tell you a riddle. If you solve my riddle during these seven days of the celebration, I will give you thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing. But if you can’t solve it, then you must give me thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing” (vs. 12-13 NLT). Well, Samson tells them the riddle and several days go by. As the Philistines grow more and more puzzled by his conundrum, they decide to threaten his blushing bride and convince her to tell them the answer. She coaxes it out of her trusting husband and reports back to the Philistines. So, before sunset on the last day of the feast, they find Samson and give him the answer to his little brainteaser. Immediately Samson knew that his wife had betrayed him, so he storms out of the celebration fuming with rage. And, the Bible says, “He went to the city of Ashkelon, killed thirty men, took their clothing, and gave it to the young men who had told him the answer to his riddle. But he was furious about it and abandoned his wife and went back home to live with his father and mother” (vs. 19).
Several months later, not realizing that the wife he abandoned had decided to instead marry the best man from their wedding, Samson traveled back to Timnah to talk to his ex-wife. When her father told Samson that she was married to his friend, he again set out to wreak havoc on the Philistines. “So Samson went out and caught three hundred foxes. He took two foxes at a time, tied their tails together, and then tied a torch to the tails of each pair of foxes. After he lit the torches, he let the foxes loose in the grainfields of the Philistines so that he burned up their standing grain, the piles of grain, their vineyards, and their olive trees” (Judges 15:4-5 NCV). In retaliation the Philistines killed his ex-wife and her father and Samson vowed, “Since you’ve acted like this, I won’t stop until I get my revenge!” (vs. 7 NIV). Then the Bible says, “So he attacked the Philistines with great fury and killed many of them” (vs. 8 NLT).