Who Was Samson? Bible Story and Meaning
- Hope Bolinger Author
- Updated Oct 12, 2023
Samson was a biblical figure known for his incredible physical strength, as described in the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. He was chosen by God to be a judge and leader of the Israelites at a time when they were oppressed by the Philistines. Samson's legendary strength was attributed to his Nazirite vow, which included not cutting his hair.
His most famous story revolves around his relationship with Delilah, who was persuaded by the Philistines to discover the source of his strength. After multiple attempts, Delilah convinced Samson to reveal the secret of his uncut hair, which led to his capture by the Philistines. They blinded him and imprisoned him. In a final act of strength and sacrifice, Samson prayed to God for his strength to return one last time, and he pulled down the pillars of a Philistine temple, killing himself and many of his enemies.
Samson's story is often seen as a symbol of God's intervention and the consequences of breaking vows, as well as a tale of heroism and tragic downfall.
Samson's Exceptional Strength
Samson's extraordinary strength is a central theme of his story. It is believed to have been a divine gift from God, stemming from his Nazirite vow. According to the Bible, Samson's incredible physical prowess was manifested in feats like defeating a lion with his bare hands, slaughtering a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, and carrying the city gates of Gaza for miles. These remarkable displays of power symbolize God's intervention and Samson's role as a judge and leader of the Israelites during a period of Philistine oppression.
"Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done." (Judges 14:6)
The Life of Samson in the Bible
Birth and Angelic Prediction
- Birth of Samson was predicted by an angel (Judges 13:2-7)
- Samson's parents make a Nazirite vow for him (Judges 13:8-14)
Marriage to a Philistine Woman
Capture and Escape at Lehi
- Samson allows himself to be bound by the men of Judah but breaks free (Judges 15:9-15)
Encounter with the Jawbone of a Donkey
- Samson defeats a thousand Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:14-17)
- Samson finally reveals the secret of his uncut hair to Delilah (Judges 16:15-17)
Capture, Blinding, and Imprisonment
Samson Was Violent and Proud.
Samson ignores the rules of his Nazarite vows.
- He eats honeycomb out of the carcass of a dead lion he slew (Judges 14:9)
- He attends a wedding feast, where alcohol is present. Although the text does not indicate whether or not he drank, this article says he still sinned during that occasion when he kills 30 Philistines when his wife, Timnah, tricks him out of a wager (Judges 14). Whether killing them came from a sound mind or a mind under the influence of alcohol, he sinned.
- Later on, his wife cuts his hair, which causes him to lose the great strength he’d been renowned for (Judges 16:20).
Known for violent acts and a bent for revenge, Samson also commits several other atrocities. He ties the tails of 300 foxes together, fastens ablaze torches to them, and sets them loose in Philistine fields (Judges 15:4-5).
When the Philistines retaliate and burn Samson’s wife and father-in-law, he attacks them viciously and kills many of them (Judges 15:7).
Later, he kills a thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15:16)
Samson Loved Delilah, Who Betrayed Him.
Sin has consequences. For Samson, it came in the form of Delilah, a Philistine woman with whom Samson fell in love. The Philistines used this to their advantage and bribed her with 1,100 shekels (about three years’ worth of wages) to divulge the secret to Samson’s strength so they could overcome him (Judges 16:5).
Perhaps the most famous part of Samson's story revolves around his relationship with Delilah, a Philistine woman who was tasked with discovering the secret of his strength. After multiple attempts and persistent coaxing, Samson finally confided in Delilah, revealing that his strength resided in his uncut hair. This vulnerability proved to be his undoing as Delilah betrayed him to the Philistines, who subsequently captured and blinded him.
Samson Cried Out to God at the End of His Life.
Humiliated and now a slave to a Philistine grinding grain, Samson cries out to the Lord (Judges 16:28). He prays for strength one last time when the Philistines call him out to entertain them at their temple.
Placing both hands on pillars supporting the temple, he pushes the two supporting ones apart and kills himself and thousands of Philistines in the process.
And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. (Judges 16:30)
What Can We Learn from Samson?
Although the story ends sadly with Samson’s death, we can derive several applications from his life.
1. We cannot abuse any gifts God has given us.
God gifted Samson with incredible strength, but he often abused it, using his might to show off rather than bring glory to God. He learns the hard way that the Lord can give and take away gifts at a moment’s notice.
2. Sin leads to consequences.
Samson didn’t see the immediate payout for some of his sins until much later, but it tends to catch us at the worst moments. When we feel like acting on impulse, like he had, we need to remind ourselves of the truth of the Scriptures. We will encounter many Delilahs in this world who will try to find our greatest weakness and exploit it.
3. Even at our lowest, God can still use us.
Derived of all strength and humiliated beyond measure, God returns Samson his strength for one last showdown. Although Samson dies in the process, he ends up killing more of Israel’s enemies than he ever had during his boastful, revengeful days.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/rudall30
This article is part of our People of Christianity catalog that features the stories, meaning, and significance of well-known people from the Bible and history. Here are some of the most popular articles for knowing important figures in Christianity: