(ssam' ssuhn) Personal name meaning, “Of the sun.” Last of the major judges over Israel about 1100 B.C. (Judges 13:1-16:31). The son of Manoah of the tribe of Dan, Samson was a legendary hero who frequently did battle against the Philistines who, at that time, “had dominion over Israel” (Judges 14:4).
Before his conception, Samson was dedicated by his parents to be a lifelong Nazirite (Judges 13:3-7), a person especially devoted or consecrated. Part of the vow included letting the hair grow and abstaining from wine and strong drink. Samson's legendary strength did not come from his long hair. Rather, it came through the “Spirit of the Lord” who would “come upon” him to enable him to perform amazing feats of physical strength (Judges 14:6,Judges 14:19;
Judges 15:14; compare
Judges 16:28-29). Although a Nazirite, Samson did not live a devoted life. More frequently, he was careless in his vow. He secretly disobeyed the prohibition of approaching a dead body (Judges 14:8-9), had immoral relations with a Gaza harlot (Judges 16:1), and with Delilah (Judges 16:4-20).
Samson is portrayed as a headstrong young man with little or no self-control. None of his exploits show him as a religious enthusiast. In fact, every major crisis in his life resulting in clashes against the Philistines were brought on by his relationships with Philistine women. Samson's fascination with Delilah finally wrought his downfall. The lords of the Philistines offered her eleven hundred pieces of silver from each of them to find out the source of Samson's strength. In her first three attempts, Samson gave her false answers. However, he did not seem to equate the Philistines binding him each time with betrayal by Delilah. Finally, she coaxed the truth from him, and Samson was captured.
Ultimately, Samson proved little more than a thorn in the flesh to the Philistines. He never really freed Israel from the dominion of the Philistines. In his death, he killed more Philistines than the total he had killed during his life (Judges 16:30). He is listed with the heroes of faith in
Hebrews 11:32, because his strength came from God and because in his dying act, he demonstrated his faith. See Nazirite; Judge; Judges, Book of; Spirit.
Darlene R. Gautsch