In our last study we surveyed chapters 13-16 of Judges in order to get the entire adventures of Samson before us. In this essay we will do an analysis of Samson based on the four chapters. I want to assess the meaning of his life as a judge in Israel, and I want to look at his character.

Samson’s life as a judge. The first point to be made is that Samson was a real judge. The angel of the Lord personally involved himself with Samson’s parents so that they would prepare him properly for the task (ch. 13). The Spirit of the Lord came on Samson on several occasions to empower him for the task (14:6, 19; 15:19). And the author of Judges tells us that Samson judged Israel for 20 years (15:20).

But second, Samson was a unique judge. He never led Israel’s armies in battle. And he never governed Israel. Rather he simply carried out certain exploits against the Philistines, which usually included killing many of them. So Samson, though a real judge, was quite unique as a judge.

Third, Samson accomplished very little with his supernatural power; and thus he accomplished little as a judge. Look at his deeds! He killed a lion with his bare hands (14:6). He killed 30 Philistines at Ashkelon to get the garments he needed to pay off a wager he made at his wedding feast (14:19). He captured a bunch of jackals and used them to burn the crops and groves of the Philistines (15:4-5). He slaughtered an unknown number of Philistines after they killed the woman he almost married and her father (15:6-8). He killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass when they came to get him (15:14-17). And he killed perhaps several thousand Philistines along with himself when he pulled down the temple on them (16:23-30).

These are rather small results considering the supernatural power that Samson was given. Indeed it seems that Samson may have wasted his divine gift. In the end his accomplishments as a judge in Israel amounted to the killing of several thousand Philistines. That was it. He didn’t seem to do anything else well. And all of that killing added up to essentially nothing. Israel remained under Philistine domination, and no one was helped. Although Samson had the strength to lead his people to victory over the Philistines, it didn’t happen.

Samson’s character. The second thing we want to look at is Sampson’s character. And as soon as we begin to observe it, we begin to see why he failed as a judge.

We can approach Samson’s main character failing from more than one angle. So let’s begin by listing surface things. First, Samson was captive to his testosterone. He liked the ladies, and he always seemed to gravitate to inappropriate women. Even the woman he chose to marry was a Philistine rather than a woman from Israel. And that led to a whole series of conflicts during which Samson killed many Philistines to no good end. When Samson did the feat of carrying off the city gates at Gaza, he was in the city to visit a prostitute. And then the Philistines finally were able to gain control of Samson because of his love for another Philistine woman, Delilah. The text does not identify her as a Philistine, but the details of the story indicate that she was. So Samson spent much of his energy in liaisons with, and conflicts resulting from, inappropriate women.

Second, Samson was a murderer. In the series of exploits recorded in these chapters, he killed a lion and thousands of Philistines during his life, and an unknown number when he pulled down the pillars of the Philistines’ temple. Samson was a killing machine! Apart from the carrying away of the gates of Gaza, we have no record of Samson’s ever doing anything with his supernatural power except kill. And the feat of carrying away the gates had no noble end.

Third, Samson was a fool. He showed no wisdom whatsoever. He foolishly rejected the advice of his parents in the matter of his wedding. He foolishly revealed the secret of his riddle to his bride, even though he hardly knew her. He foolhardily murdered 30 Philistines just to pay a gambling debt. He recklessly began a minor war with the Philistines with no one to battle them but himself. And he foolishly revealed the secret of his strength to Delilah. Samson was a fool.

All right, on the surface of things, Samson was lustful, a killer, and a fool. But all of those things are symptoms of a larger, more serious problem. Samson’s main character failing was his failure to obey the Lord. The Lord chose Sampson for special ministry as a judge; but he never fulfilled that role in any consequential way, because of his rebellion against the Lord. Samson was to be a Nazirite from birth. And the Holy Spirit came upon him. That meant he was given the potential to lead the people of Israel to deliverance. But he made gods of things other than the Lord. And he ended up wasting his gift and forfeiting his calling

What about us? How do we avoid the mistakes of Samson?