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Samson's Potential & Failure

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1.        The Context

a.        Philistines

Dominion: “at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel” [14:4].

§        Divine action: “the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines” [13:1].

§        Method: inter-marriage and trade.

b.        Israel

Israel: “children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord…” [31:1].

§         Tolerance, compromise and a ‘don’t rock the boat syndrome: “said to Samson, What is this that you have done unto us?” [15:11].  

§         Judah is in danger of extinction because of its close relationship with the Philistines.

2.        God’s Answer

a.        New Life

New life from God:

§         Divine choice: “there was a certain man…” [13:2].

§         Divine action: “barren…you shall conceive…” [13:5].

§         Divine initiative: the absent feature of “cried to the Lord…” [10:10].

b.        New Lifestyle

New lifestyle: “no razor shall come upon his head…” [13:5].

§         Distinct intellectually: “drink not wine…put a difference between the holy and the unholy” [Lev.10:10] and so that “you may teach the children of Israel” [Lev.10:12].  

§         Distinct socially: “eat not anything unclean…” [13:4].

3.        The Potential

This life and lifestyle has potential: “the Spirit of the Lord began to move him…” [13:25].

§         תָּ֙חֶל  - “began” [13:25], hiphil imperfect, ‘to bore through’; ‘to pierce’; ‘to begin’;

§         לְפַעֲמֹ֖ו  - “move” [13:25], qal infinitive construct, ‘to thrust’; ‘to impel’; ‘to stir’;

§         Contrast Samson and Israel: Israel is characterised by inter-marriage, cultural integration and assimilation.

a.        Evidence [14:6].

One evidence of this fact: “came to a vineyard of Timnath…” [14:5].

§         Danger: “a young lion roared against him” [14:5].

i.        The Victory

God was with Samson: “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him” [14:6].

§         תִּצְלַ֨ח  - “came mightily” [14:6], qal imperfect, ‘to have an overpowering force’;

§         יְשַׁסְּעֵ֙הוּ֙  - “rent” [14:6], piel imperfect, ‘a cleft or split, for example, in a hoof’; in the piel ‘to tear apart’;


Samson’s potential for greatness; Samson’s potential to do great things for God in his day.   

§         So that the agenda set for him in [13:5-7] may begin to be fulfilled.


1.        The First Test

Samson “went down to Timnath” [14:1] and there we see the first test.

§         יֵּ֥רֶד  - “went down” [14:1], ‘to descend’; ‘to decline’

a.        Samson’s Desire

In Timnath: “I have seen a woman…get her for me to wife” [14:2].

§          Woman: “a daughter of the Philistines” [14:1].

§         רָאִ֥יתִי  - “seen” [14:2], qal perfect, ‘use perception of sight to view objects and make judgements’;

b.        Possession

Samson’s lust drives his need to possess: “get her for me to wife” [14:2].

§         קְחוּ־אֹותָ֥הּ  - “get her” [14:2], qal imperative, ‘to take’; ‘to grasp’; ‘to take from, to, out of’;

i.        Determination

Samson’s determination: “Get her for me; for she pleases me well” [14:3].

§         אֹותָ֣הּ  - “her” [14:3], direct object marker plus 3rd feminine singular, first for emphasis,

§         קַֽח־לִ֔י  - “get her for me” [14:3], qal imperative,

§         יָשְׁרָ֥ה  - “pleases me well” [14:3], ‘to be level, straight’; ‘to be right’; >>> ‘miss right’.

§         בְעֵינָֽי  - “pleases” [14:3], literally ‘in my eyes’;

2.        The Problem  

a.        Parental Authority

His parent’s direction: “is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren…” [14:3].

§         הָעֲרֵלִ֑ים  - “uncircumcised” [14:3], mark of the covenant: “this is my covenant…every man child among you shall be circumcised” [Gen.17:10].

§         Parents’ concern for God’s order and agenda: “a Nazarite unto God…begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” [13:5].

b.        Word of God

Inter-marriage with non-Israelites is forbidden: “when the Lord thy God bring thee into the land…” [Deu.7:1].

§         Destruction: “smite them, and utterly destroy them…” [Deu.7:2].

§         Relationships: “thou shalt make no covenant with them…” [Deu.7:2].

§         Marriage: “neither shalt thou make marriages with them…” [Deu.7:3].  

c.        Narrator

In the narrator’s eyes ‘Samson represents the nation’:

§         This person – uniquely set apart, called, and gifted for divine service – not only fraternises with the enemy, but he also seeks to live among them.


Divine diagnosis of Samson’s philosophy: “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” [17:6].

§         The marriage symbolises Israel’s willingness to coexist peacefully with the Philistines.  

§         Selfish desire and lust take control: powerful, merciless and destructive

§         Samson/Israel: ‘If it feels right, it is right’; no absolutes; relativism.

§         The great battleground of our time is the battleground for authority.

§         He was unafraid of a venture into the pagan world.

§         He was undaunted by potentially compromising situations.

  1. THE TESTS   

1.        The Spiritual/Secret Test  

a.        The Corpse

The object: “he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion…” [14:8].

§         יָּ֣סַר  - “turned” [14:8], ‘to turn aside’; ‘to depart’; ‘change in direction from course or path’;

§         מַפֶּ֣לֶת  - “carcass” [14:8], ‘downfall, destruction, ruin’;

b.        The Attraction

The attraction: “behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey…” [14:8].

§         עֲדַ֧ת  - “swarm” [14:8], ‘congregation’; ‘community assembly’; ‘socio-religious group’;

§         דְבָֽשׁ  - “honey” [14:8], ‘the sweet viscid product of bees collecting pollen’;

c.        The Prohibition

The prohibition is clear: “whosoever touches the carcass of them shall be unclean” [Lev.11:24].

§         Contact with a dead body is particularly defiling for a Nazarite: “all the days…he shall come at no dead body” [Num.6:6].

d.        The Outcome

For a person who operates by his senses, these bees and their honey will test his spiritual mettle: “he took thereof in his hands…” [14:9].

§         יֵּ֤לֶךְ הָלֹוךְ  - “went on” [14:9], qal imperfect plus qal infinitive absolute, ‘to go, walk, travel’;

§         אָכֹ֔ל  - “eating” [14:9], qal infinitive absolute,

§         The whole phrase highlights the insensitive and uncaring nature of the act; his couldn’t care less attitude to the situation.

i.        Parents in Ignorance

This attitude leads to implicating others: “came to his father and mother and gave to them” [14:9].

§         יֵּ֙לֶךְ֙  - “came” [14:9], qal imperfect, ‘to go, walk, travel’;

§         יִּתֵּ֥ן  - “gave” [14:9], ‘give as a gift’;

§         הִגִּ֣יד  - “told” [14;9], hiphil perfect, ‘to report’; ‘to speak information’;


Samson’s perversity knows no bounds.

§         His parents had sanctified him, but now he desecrates them.

2.        The Public Test - Marriage

a.        The Feast

Samson follows the Philistine custom: “so used the young men to do…” [14:10].

§         כֵּ֥ן יַעֲשׂ֖וּ  - “used to do” [14:10], ‘it was the custom and practice’;

§         In Israel the custom would be for the feast to take place in the groom’s house: “they that were ready went in with him to the marriage” [Mat.25:10].

i.        The Nazirite Vow

The event: “made there a feast…” [14:10].

§         מִשְׁתֶּ֔ה  - “feast” [14:10], ‘to feast’; ‘to drink’; refers to a ‘seven-day drinking bout at the home of the brides parents’; >>> ‘eating, drinking, and playing games’;

§         Nazirite: “drink not wine nor strong drink…” [13:4].

b.        The Game

Samson put forth a riddle: “out of the eater came forth meat…” [14:14].

§         מֵהָֽאֹכֵל  - “eater” [14:14], ‘from the one who consumes’;

§         יָצָ֣א  - “came out” [14:14], qal perfect, ‘to leave an area’; ‘come out/go out’;

§         מָתֹ֑וק  - “sweetness” [14:14], ‘agreeable to the palate and tasty’;

Without knowledge of events, only known to Samson, the “companions” are faced with an impossible task: “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him…” [Psa.25:14].

c.        The Test

The focus of the test is on Samson’s relationship with the woman: “

i.        The Charge

The woman is charged by the Philistines: “entice your husband so that he may declare…” [14:15].

§         פַּתִּ֣י  - “entice” [14:15], piel imperative, ‘to persuade’; ‘to seduce’: “if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed” [Exo.22:15]. 

ii.      Test of Love

The challenge by the woman: “thou dost but hate me, and do not love me…” [14:16].

§         שְׂנֵאתַ֙נִי  - “hate” [14:16], qal perfect, ‘open hostility and dislike’; lack of love for an object ‘implying a refusal or shunning of relationship’;

§         אֲהַבְתָּ֔נִי  - “love” [14:16], ‘have an affection based on a close relationship, sometimes in comparison to other persons with a lesser relationship’;

§         תֵּבְךְּ֩  - “wept” 14:17], ‘crying and sobbing as a sign of mourning’;

§         הֱצִיקַ֔תְהוּ  - “lay sore” [14:17], hiphil perfect, ‘to constrain’; ‘to bring into straits’; ‘to compel’; ‘to insist emphatically on particular behaviour’;

d.        The Outcome

Samson is helpless when confronted with the love of a woman: “he told her because…” [14:17].

§         תַּגֵּ֥ד  - “told” [14:17], hiphil imperfect, ‘to report’; ‘to give an account of the facts’;

i.        Defeat

Conclusion: “she told the riddle to the children of her people” [14:17].

§         Defeat: “he gave change of garments unto them…” [14:19].

§         The defeat was the result of collaboration with the enemy.

e.        Exposure

Samson realises that his desecrating act has been exposed: “if you had not ploughed with my heifer…” [14:18].

§         Samson is angry because he has been cheated. Yet Samson remains totally insensitive to the theological implications of his own riddle and the guards’ response.

i.        Plans for Inter-marriage

Samson’s plans to marry fall apart: “he went up to his father’s house…” [14:19].

§         Conclusion: “Samson’s wife was given to his companion…” [14:20].


The great battleground of our time is the battleground for authority.

§         At the same time, authority is about relationship and control: ‘is it the woman or the secret’; ‘is it the Philistines or God’s Word; is it separation or association and assimilation’?

§         Samson suffered the tragedy of ‘unfulfilled desire’ and ‘bitter disappointment’.


Samson’s potential will never be realised because of he refusal to be under the authority of God’s Word and because of his worldly associations. Only by the intervention of God can anything good come out of this man’s life.

1.        God’s Purpose

God is in control: “the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines” [14:4].

§         יָדְע֗וּ  - “knew” [14:4], ‘intimate relational knowledge’;

§         תֹאֲנָ֥ה  - “occasion” [14:4], ‘a favourable opportunity for something to happen’;

§         מְבַקֵּ֖שׁ  - “sought” [14:4], piel participle, ‘to seek, look for’;

2.        Samson & God’s Providence  

The amorous desires of Samson provide the occasions for the beginning of conflicts between Samson and the Philistines.

a.        The Spirit of God

God’s intervention: “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him…” [14:19].

§         תִּצְלַ֨ח  - “came upon” [14:19], qal imperfect, ‘having an overpowering force’;

§         Samson was now taking the call of God seriously: “now I shall be more blameless than the Philistines…” [15:3].

b.        The Conflict Begins

Yahweh’s determination to stir up the relationship between Israel and the Philistines is bearing fruit: “he went to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men…” [14:19].

§         The booty according to God’s direction for Israel: “and took their spoil…” [14:19].

§         He gave the booty as a mocking gesture: “took their spoil and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle” [14:19].

i.        Conflict Continues 

Samson returns: “Samson visited his wife with a kid…” [15:1].

§        Slaughter: “he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter…” [15:8].

§        Judah’s complaint: “three thousand men of Judah…” [15:11-13].

§        Samson: “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him…I have slain a thousand men” [15:14-17].


God did not abandon his program because of Samson’s sin.

§         God is in control, and the story ends exactly where he wanted it.

§         God did not abandon Samson

§         If the Israelites do not have the heart to take action against the Philistines, God will cause the Philistines to take action against them.

§         Yahweh is provoking tension between Israel and the Philistines; making life uncomfortable with the enemy. 

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