The stories about Samson were most likely told when the Philistines subjugated the Israelite tribes of Dan. The Philistine sea people tried to expand into the interior of Canaan after invading from the Mediterranean Sea. The Philistines were a severe threat due to their expert metalwork and exceptional iron weaponry, leading Israel to lose more and more territory to them. The Israelites were consoled by the stories of Samson, which showed that God was with their people. Samson was an inspiring village hero and fighter who began the Israelites’ resistance to the Philistines, whom Samson was too much for but did not conquer. Samson’s story begins with the domination of Israel by the Philistines for forty years. The Israelites had fallen into unfaithfulness to their one true God. However, the Israelite’s unsuccessfulness was about to change (Newland 108-109).
Samson was special from even before his birth. A man from Zorah of the Danite tribes named Manoah had a barren wife, but an angel appeared to her saying that she would have a son (New American Bible Judges 13:2-5). The angel told Manoah’s wife not to drink wine or any strong drink, because her son was to be a Nazirite, or a man dedicated to God from birth that wouldn’t touch strong drink or cut his hair or beard (Newland 109). The angel also informed Manoah’s wife that her future son would “begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.” The woman named her son Samson (New American Bible Judges 13:5,24). Samson grew into a remarkably strong man and fierce warrior against the Philistines, though he did have a weakness- women (Newland 109). Samson wished to marry a Philistine woman he saw in Timnah and went down to Timnah with his father and mother. The Lord’s spirit came upon Samson when a young lion came roaring at him in the vineyards of Timnah, allowing Samson to tear the lion apart (New American Bible Judges 14:1-6). Samson performed other displays of strength like killing thirty Philistines, setting 300 foxes on fire in the Philistines’ fields after discovering his wife had been given to another, breaking his bonds when captured, and killing 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Newland 109).
Samson fell in love with Delilah, a woman in the Wadi Sorek. The Philistine lords told Delilah to find out the secret of Samson’s strength so they could defeat him, each offering her 1,100 shekels of silver. After Delilah pressed Samson for his weakness many times, he eventually told her of how he had never cut his hair and that doing so would weaken him. Delilah had Samson sleep on her lap and called for a man to shave his seven locks of hair. The Lord had left Samson, so when the Philistines came for him, he could not successfully escape. The Philistines gouged out Samson’s eyes and brought him to Gaza, where they bound him with bronze fetters and made him grind in the prison. However, Samson’s hair immediately started growing back (New American Bible Judges 16:1-22).
The lords of the Philistines got together, offered sacrifice to their god Dagan, and called for Samson as amusement, making him play the buffoon before them. Samson was put between the columns and called to God to strengthen him. Then, Samson grasped the middle columns that the temple rested on and pushed with great force. In doing this, Samson killed himself, the men and women that filled the temple, all the lords of the Philistines, and about 3,000 men and women on the roof of the temple, which was more people than Samson had killed in his lifetime. Samson’s family buried him in Manoah’s grave. Samson had judged Israel for 20 years (New American Bible Judges 16:22-31).