Then Samson prayed to the LORD,
“Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please God, strengthen me just once more and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on one and his left on the other, Samson said,
“Let me die with the Philistines!!”
Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than when he lived.
Judges 16:28-30 NIV
When you think of biblical heroes and their stories in the Bible, the first story that’ll come to most of our minds is the story of the testosterone and Spirit fueled life of a man by the name of Samson.
If you’ve never heard of Samson and his exploits, he may as well have been considered a real life Incredible Hulk, performing feats of next to impossible strength and brutally smiting his enemies by the thousands with relative ease.
Unlike the comic book heroes however, Samson’s great strength didn’t come from some sort of mutation, an unknown alien heritage, or some life changing event that pushed him over the edge. Samson’s power lied in his special calling to rule over ancient Israel as judge, and a special vow made between his mother and God well before his birth.
Before Samson was even conceived the Angel of the LORD appeared to Samson’s mother as a man and told her she would birth a son. The boy would grow to take lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines, a nation whom they’d been under rule and oppression of for forty years. The only stipulation on the boy’s life was that he was to be dedicated to God as a Nazarite from the womb.. meaning he was to be set apart as a man who didn’t drink any alcohol, avoided corpses, and never cut hair as a sign of his oath to God.
Thankfully his mother obliged and as Samson grew into the his purpose, just so long as he followed up on his part of the vow, he would have God’s blessing and physical strength that would go unmatched in all of the ancient world.
Samson’s great feats of strength
For most of his life, Samson would make good of his vow and in turn have plenty of opportunity to shock his enemies with his and victory unlike anything they had ever seen.
In his lifetime Samson:
- Was attacked by a lion and rather than running away fought back with his Hulk-like strength and tore it apart with his bare hands as if it were a young goat. Upon inspection a little while later he found that bees had nested in the lion’s corpse and took it upon himself to enjoy some of the honey that they were producing. This technically violated part of his vow as he not only touched, but ate, from a rotting corpse. (Judges 14:5-6)
- Struck down 30 grown men and stole their clothes after losing a bet. (Judges 14:19)
- Caught 300 foxes, tied them together, attached torches to them and sent them into a wheat field to destroy the Philistine’s wheat harvest. This isn’t necessarily a feat of strength as much as it was a testament to Samson’s instincts as a hunter and as an athlete, as foxes are fast, small animals that would either have to be baited into capture or outran. (Judges 15:1-6)
- Tore through ropes that he was willingly tied up with and killed the 1,000 Philistines who were set to take him prisoner equipped with only the power of the Holy Spirit and the fresh jawbone of a donkey. A fresh jawbone. By “fresh” the only thought that comes to my mind is him ripping the jaw right off of a live donkey one of his captors was riding on and brandishing it right there on the spot. With his strength and shortness of temper this very well may have been the case. (Judges 15:11-17)
- Ripped off the entire Gaza city gate, posts and all, lifted it to his shoulders, and carried them up a hill (note: it does not say that “the Spirit of the LORD came upon him here” showing that even outside of the power of God, Samson was still a force to be reckoned with). (Judges 16:3)
- Gave up his own life by tearing down an entire temple killing 3,000 Philistines in one shot thus killing more people in his death than he ever did in his life. And all of this wasn’t until after being tricked into giving up the secret to his strength to a Philistine woman he was sleeping with, captured and thrown in prison to be used as a slave, having his eyes gouged out, and being humiliated by his captors. (Judges 16:18-30)
In most of Samson’s great feats of strength there was usually one common factor – the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him whenever his strength was needed. So as heroic as Samson may have been, it wasn’t him who was all powerful but the Spirit of the Lord within him that gave him his strength.
Outside of the miracles that God used him to perform, Samson had more than a few major shortcomings.
He was a wild man, easily tempted and taken advantage of by women, slept with prostitutes, had an uncontrollable temper, destroyed things, and was fueled by vengeance… things that most wouldn’t consider very becoming of a great man of God. His final prayer wasn’t even a prayer of repentance for his crazy life but a request for his strength back for the purpose of getting revenge on his enemies. So ridiculous strength aside, Samson was simply a very human man who just so happened to have a huge calling put on his life.
While it’s true that Samson was a far cry from being perfect, there’s one line in the text separated by parentheses lets me know that God knew exactly what he was doing in choosing such a violent and lustful man to be a leader in Israel during that time.
While adventuring in a Philistine territory called Timnah, Samson spotted a young Philistine woman whom he fell in love with and wanted to make his wife. Now in this period of time an Israelite getting married to anyone other than a fellow Israelite was taboo, as the Philistines worshipped gods other than the one true God and were also regarded as their enemies as they were ruling over them. So of course when Samson told his parents that he wanted to get married to a Philistine, they questioned why he couldn’t just go find himself an acceptable wife among their own people. Samson’s response was that she was the right one for him, which was followed by this quote in parentheses:
“His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.”
This proves to me that God knew exactly the man who Samson would be. He knew he would grow to be a violent woman chaser, and used it to put Samson right where he wanted him to carry out his life’s mission even when he was at his worst.
This is true even up to Samson’s death.
The death of Samson
The Philistines had finally thought they had the victory. They exploited Samson’s weakness for beautiful women by paying a girl named Delilah to seduce him into giving her the secret to his incredible power. When first asked Samson lied to her; going through different scenarios as to what gave him his great strength. She figured out he was lying of course, as she would do whatever he said would make him lose his strength yet he would still take out the Philistine men who were after him with ease. She finally broke down and cried, questioning his love for her, and got him to crack and give up his secret: his Nazarite vow to God.
So while Samson slept Delilah cut his untouched hair, a final act of disobedience that caused his great strength to leave him. This left him vulnerable to being captured by his enemies who took full advantage of his weakened state. His eyes were gouged out, he was made a prison slave, and was eventually brought into the temple of the Philistine god Dagon to be humiliated in front of a massive crowd of people. All hope in Samson carrying out his purpose of freeing Israel from the oppression of their enemies had been seeming lost.
Little did these enemies know that when Samson was within their clutches and zapped of all of his strength, God was still hearing his prayers. Knowing fully well that that day would be his last he prayed a simple prayer for his strength to return to him one last time so that he could get done what needed to get done. God granted him his strength one last time, and with that strength he tore down the temple killing 3000 Philistines as well as himself.
God had allowed Samson to fall and be captured positioning him right where he wanted him to be to live out his purpose of liberating Israel from the hands of the Philistines… as well as showing that even in rebellion against him He is still listening to us and willing to redeem… a message that still gives us hope today.
We are all far from perfect and despite our own failings, God can and will still use us to accomplish his divine will. So to whomever this is for… keep your head up and keep trusting! If you’re still breathing it’s not over and there’s always hope for things to take the right direction.
What do heroes of the Bible have to do with health and fitness?
An article like this may seem a bit out of place amongst all of the recipes, workouts, and nutritional articles but think of it this way: what’s a strong body without a strong mind, heart, and spirit? I’ve recently been reading my bible a lot more and as a result have been motivated not only to work harder in the gym, but to improve aspects of all areas of my life. So as I go through and revisit a lot of the old passages I haven’t read in a while I’d like to share people and stories that have stuck out and inspired me as I go.
If you found this article inspiring be sure to give it a share! Thanks for the read.