Samson was a judge in Israel and for 20 years helped people trust in God and obey His commands. However in the last part of his life he disobeyed God, lost his supernatural strength and became a prisoner.
Samson’s story begins a long time ago in the land of Israel. The city of Zorah where his parents lived was close to a region ruled by the fierce sea warriors known as the Philistines.
For 40 years the Isrealites had not obeyed God and been bullied and harassed by the Philistines as a result.
One day the Angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of a man called Manoah who was from the tribe of Dan. The Angel said ‘Even though you have no children, you will soon conceive and have a son! Don’t drink any wine or beer and don’t eat any food that isn’t kosher. Your son’s hair must never be cut, for he shall be a Nazirite, a special servant of God from the time of his birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.’
The woman ran and told her husband what the Angel had said to her. Manoah prayed, ‘O Lord, please let the man from God come back to us again and give us more instructions about the child you are going to give us.’
The Lord answered his prayer, and the Angel of God appeared once again to his wife as she was sitting alone in a field.
So she quickly ran and found her husband and told him, ‘The same man is here again!
Manoah ran back with his wife and asked, ‘Are you the man who talked to my wife the other day?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied
‘Be sure that your wife follows the instructions I gave her. She must not eat grapes or raisins, or drink any wine or beer, or eat anything that isn’t kosher.’ ‘What is your name?’ Menoah asked. ‘My name is a secret,’ the Angel replied. Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered it as a sacrifice
As the flames from the altar were leaping up toward the sky, the Angel ascended in the fire!
Manoah and his wife fell face downward. ‘We will die,’ Manoah cried out to his wife, ‘for we have seen God!’
But his wife said, ‘If the Lord was going to kill us, He wouldn’t have accepted our sacrifice or told us these wonderful things and done these miracles.’
Just as the Angel promised she had a baby boy and they named him Samson. The Lord blessed him as he grew up. They followed God’s instructions and never cut his hair.
The Lord’s power began to strengthen Samson while he was living in Mahaneh Dan which is between Zorah and Eshtaol.
To find out what happened next go to part two of this story ‘Samson and his riddle’.
One day Samson went down to the Philistine town of Timnah,
He noticed a young and attractive Philistine woman.
He went back home and told his father and mother, ‘There is a Philistine woman down at Timnah who caught my attention. Get her for me as my bride. I want to marry her.
His father and mother protested, ‘Why do you have to go to those heathen Philistines to get a wife? Can't you find someone in our own clan, among all our people?’ But Samson told his father, ‘She is the one I want to marry.’ His parents did not know that it was the Lord who was leading Samson to do this, for the Lord looking to overcome the Philistines who were ruling over His people.
So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother.
As he was going through the vineyards there, he heard a young lion roaring.
He tore the lion apart with his bare hands, as if it were a young goat. But he did not tell his parents what he had done.
Then he went on and talked to the young woman, and he liked her.
A few days later Samson went back to marry her. On the way he left the road to look at the lion he had killed, and he was surprised to find a swarm of bees and some honey inside the dead body.
He scraped the honey out into his hands and ate it as he walked along. Then he went to his father and mother and gave them some. They ate it, but Samson did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the dead body of a lion
His father went to the woman's house, and Samson gave a banquet there. As was the custom, the Philistines sent thirty young men to stay with him.
Samson said to them, ‘Let me tell you a riddle. I'll bet each one of you a piece of fine linen and a change of fine clothes that you can't tell me its meaning before the seven days of the wedding feast are over.
‘Tell us your riddle,’ they said. ‘Let's hear it.’ Samson replied, ‘Out of the eater came something to eat - out of the strong came something sweet.’
Three days later they had still not figured out what the riddle meant. On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, ‘Trick your husband into telling us what the riddle means. If you don't, we'll set fire to your father's house and burn you with it. You only invited us so that you could rob us, didn't you?’
So Samson's wife went to him in tears and said, ‘You don't love me! You just hate me! You told my friends a riddle and didn't tell me what it means!’ He said, ‘Look, I haven't even told my father and mother. Why should I tell you?’ She cried about it for the whole seven days of the feast and kept nagging Samson to explain the riddle. On the seventh day Samson gave in and told her
She immediately told the Philistines and the thirty men of the city went to Samson with the answer to his riddle.
‘What could be sweeter than honey? What could be stronger than a lion?’ they said gleefully. Samson was furious. ‘If you hadn't been told this by my wife you would never have come up with the answer.’ Now he owed them 30 outfits of fine clothes.
Suddenly the power of the Lord made him strong, and he went down to the Philistine city of Ashkelon, where he killed thirty men.
He stripped them of their clothes, and gave them to the men who had solved the riddle.
After that, Samson went back home, still angry about what had happened. His wife was given to the man who had been his best man at the wedding. To find out what happened next go to part 3 – ‘Samson’s revenge on the Philistines’
Some time later Samson went to visit his wife during the wheat harvest and took her a young goat. He told her father, ‘I want to go to my wife's room.’
He told Samson, ‘I really thought that you hated her, so I gave her to your best man at the wedding. But her younger sister is prettier, anyway. You can have her, instead.’
‘This time I'm not going to be responsible for what I do to the Philistines!,’ Samson fumed. So he went and caught three hundred foxes. Two at a time, he tied their tails together and put torches in the knots.
Then he set fire to the torches and turned the foxes loose in the Philistine wheat fields.
In this way he burned up not only the wheat that had been harvested but also the wheat that was still in the fields. The olive orchards were also burned.
When the Philistines learned that Samson had done this because his father-in-law, had given Samson's wife to his best man, they punished his wife and burned down her father's house.
Samson told them, ‘So this is how you act! I swear that I won't stop until I pay you back!’ He attacked them fiercely and killed many of them.
Then he went and stayed in the cave in the cliff at Etam.
The Philistines came and camped in Judah, and attacked the town of Lehi.
The men of Judah asked them, ‘Why are you attacking us?’ They answered, ‘We came to take Samson prisoner and to treat him as he treated us.’
So these three thousand men of Judah went to the cave in the cliff at Etam and said to Samson, ‘Don't you know that the Philistines are our rulers? What have you done to us? He answered, ‘I did to them just what they did to me.’
They told him, ‘We have come here to tie you up, so we can hand you over to them.’ Samson said, ‘Give me your word that you won't kill me yourselves.’
‘All right,’ they said, ‘we are only going to tie you up and hand you over to them. We won't kill you.’ So they tied him up with two new ropes and brought him back from the cliff.
When he got to Lehi, the Philistines came running toward him, shouting at him. Suddenly the power of the Lord made him strong, and he broke the ropes around his arms and hands as if they were burnt thread.
Then he found a jawbone of a donkey that had recently died. He reached down and picked it up, and killed a thousand men with it. So Samson sang, ‘With the jawbone of a donkey I killed a thousand men. With the jawbone of a donkey I piled them up in piles.’ The place where this happened was named Ramath Lehi which means ‘Jawbone Hill’
Samson became very thirsty, so he called to the Lord and said, ‘You gave me this great victory, am I now going to die of thirst and be captured by these heathen Philistines?’ Then God opened a hollow place in the ground at Lehi, and water came out of it. Samson drank it and began to feel much better. So the spring was named Hakkore meaning ‘Caller’ as Samson had called to God for help.