Summary: Samson was on the road to ruin because he fraternized with the enemy, wasted his strength and was deluded by pride.
The story of Samson begins much like the story of the other judges of Israel. The nation was in misery because of the domination of a rival country that was oppressing them. That nation was the Philistine nation. (Interestingly, the word Philistine is where we get our word “Palestinian,” so this story, and the clash between these two nations, is as modern as today.) The Philistines were originally from the area now known as Greece and the islands of the Aegean Sea. They were forced out of their homeland around 1200 B.C. and decided to look for a new home. They initially attacked Egypt, but were repulsed. From there they went further up the coast to what is now Israel and settled along the sea. They were a seafaring people and fierce fighters. They had become skilled in the technology of making iron and used it to make chariots and swords. It gave them a distinct military advantage. The Israelites were so subjugated that they even had to go to the Philistines to get their axes, plows and other farm implements sharpened. Blacksmiths were not allowed in Israel, and no one was allowed to own a sword.
The interesting thing is that this is the one place in the book of Judges where we do not read about the people crying out to God to deliver them from their oppression. That is primarily due to the most important weapon the Philistines used: intermarriage. The Philistines conquered their enemies by assimilating them. They enticed them with their gods. They gave their daughters to them in marriage. They were patient as they watched the religion and culture of Israel disappearing as they became more and more one with the Philistines. Israel had actually become comfortable with this silent form of enslavement which had continued for forty years.
For this reason, God had to break through. He miraculously appeared to Manoah and his wife and told them that they were about to have a son. God’s purpose was that his Spirit would be upon Samson so that he would deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines. God, in his mercy, was going to deliver Israel even before she asked. The instructions from God on how to raise the boy were that he was to be a Nazirite his entire life. We first read about being a Nazirite in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy. The word Nazirite comes from the Hebrew verb nazir: “to separate, consecrate, or abstain.” If someone wanted to make a special vow to the Lord, they would separate themselves to the Lord and temporarily observe certain practices: 1. They were not to drink wine or other fermented drink. They could not even eat any part of the grape. 2. They were to grow their hair without cutting it. 3. They were not to touch a dead person or even go near a corpse. This was a special type of vow meant to be temporary for a specific purpose, but in Samson’s case it was to be a life-long observance.
God had a special purpose for Samson’s life. He had plans to use him in a powerful way. God was not only going to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Philistines, he was going to purge them of the Philistine gods. But, as you know, Samson’s life was a huge disappointment. He never really fulfilled God’s plan for his life. He was wild and uncontrollable. In spite of the outward sign of his long hair, there was no other indication that Samson was a man of God. He had gone through the ritual of dedication, but it had never become a reality in his life. The Spirit of God came upon him, but it never seemed to affect the way he lived. Samson walked down the road to ruin and never seemed to see the signs along the highway.