Judges 13:1-7, 24, 25
The thirteenth chapter begins with the familiar, “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord.” It is the first of four chapters that tell us the story of Samson, another of the judges.
Samson’s life story is one that can be adapted to suit a child, while at the same time it can be a mystery that fascinates an adult. He was a Nazirite from the womb, a lifelong separation that God determined for him. Nazirite vows, usually temporary, meant that a man would abstain from wine or any strong drink, never touched a dead body and did not cut his hair, an outward sign of his consecration.
Samson was amazingly strong, and we are given some of his feats of strength. He killed a lion with nothing but his bare hands. He killed thirty Philistines and took their clothes. He caught 300 foxes and tied torches to their tails. He killed 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey, and he pulled down a city’s gates and hauled them away. People tried to restrain him with ropes, but ropes were no match for Samson’s strength.
Eventually the Philistines were able to overpower Samson and they brought him out to entertain them. The building where they gathered must have had a flat roof on which many of the people stood to watch Samson. With his hands around two of the pillars, Samson pulled down the building, killing himself and 3,000 Philistines.
Samson was a judge, but he was not a leader. He was a lone wolf, never organizing people and troops to confront the Philistines.
Samson’s physical strength was greater than any other man, but he was as weak as any man has ever been when confronted with women.
In some way, Samson’s life parallels that of Israel with godly living at times and living for self at other times. Let’s look at what Scripture tells us leading up to the birth of Samson.
Israel had lived 40 years under the oppression of the Philistines, yet we do not find them crying out to the Lord for deliverance. Sometimes people live in misery so long that they accept it as their way of life. We do not have to live in bondage to sins, but we do have to make a decision for Christ Jesus and the liberty only He gives to all who submit to His lordship and ask for His forgiveness.
Out of all the people in Israel, God saw a childless couple whom He chose to be Samson’s parents. The angel of the Lord, or Christ Jesus, came to Manoah’s wife and told her she would give birth to a son. He told her that she should drink wine or strong drink during her pregnancy, and she should not eat anything considered unclean during her pregnancy.
He also told this woman that her child would “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” The Lord had a specific purpose for Samson’s life, and He would use this man according to His plan for Israel. God would use other people to bring about Israel’s deliverance.
Verses 24 and 25 make it clear Samson was blessed and the Spirit of the Lord “began to move him.” His physical strength was great because God gave him strength.
Scripture tells us that when Samson died, “his brethren and all the house of his father came down.” Surely there was great sorrow as they pulled his lifeless body from the rubble. At times he had honored his parents and nation, and at other times he had followed his own lustful desires.
What do we make of all these things we have read? I believe Samson could have done better and so much more than he did, but then I am reminded that he would “begin to deliver Israel,” and know that God is infinitely wise and I am not. What did God think of Samson? Apparently, God saw faith in Samson’s heart and preserved his name in Hebrews 11:32. “For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org