We now encounter one of the more familiar characters in the book of Judges – Samson. Israel once again did evil in the sight of the Lord, a recurring theme in Judges if you have not noticed. This time, God delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years. A man named Manoah who had a wife who was childless. The angel of the Lord appeared to her and told her she would give birth to a son. This child was to be set apart as a Nazirite, meaning she was to drink no wine, fermented drink, or unclean food while she was pregnant. Her son’s head was to never be touched with a razor. God was raising him up to deliver the people from the Philistines.
The woman told her husband the message of the angel of the Lord. Manoah prayed to God for help in learning how to raise this son, given the special instructions. God heard Manoah and appeared again to the woman. She went, got her husband, and took him to the angel who reiterated the instructions regarding the set apart regulations the boy would need to follow as well as the need for the woman to refrain from wine, fermented drink, and unclean food.
Manoah offered to prepare a young goat for the angel, but the angel declined the offer. The angel did tell them if they prepared a burnt offering to ensure it was to the Lord. Manoah took a young goat and along with a grain offering, offered the goat to the Lord. As the flame from the offering rose into the air, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground, realizing this was an angel of the Lord that had visited them. As God had promised, the woman bore a son and she named him Samson.
Samson went down to Timnah and saw a Philistine woman. Returning to his parents, he asked that they get her as his wife. They refused, given God’s commands to Israel not to intermarry with the surrounding nations. Samson insisted they get this woman as his wife. As Samson and his parents went down to Timnah, a young lion came to attack them. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson and he tore the lion apart with is bare hands.
At a later date when Samson journeyed again to Timnah to marry the Philistine woman, he came upon the carcass of that dead lion and discovered bees and honey in the carcass. He scooped up some of the honey from the dead carcass, an activity forbidden a Nazirite. He took the honey to his parents and they ate some of it, but Samson did not tell them where he had found the honey.
Samson held a feast in celebration of his marriage of the Philistine woman. Being rather brash, Samson told his companions a riddle, stating that anyone who could solve the riddle would be given 30 linen garments and 30 sets of clothes. If they could not answer the riddle, the men would have to give him 30 linen garments and 30 sets of clothes. After three days, the men could not figure out the riddle so they convinced Samson’s wife to coax the answer from him. After seven days of pleading, Samson caved and told his wife the answer and she then relayed it to the men. When Samson found out he had been tricked, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he went down to Ashkelon, struck down 30 of their men, stripped them of their clothes and gave those clothes to the men who had “solved” the riddle. Samson’s wife was given to one of the men who had attended the feast.
Later, at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and jouryeyed to visit his wife. Her father told Samson she had been given to another man. In response to that, Samson took 300 foxes, tied them tail to tail in pairs, fastened a torch to each pair of tails, lit the torches on fire and let them loose in the wheat fields of the Philistines, thus destroying their entire harvest, along with the vineyards and olive groves. In response, the Philistines burned Samson’s wife and her father to death. Samson attacked them and slaughtered many of them. He then stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam. The Philistines came down to where Samson was at, causing concern among the people of Judah. Three thousand men of Judah came to Samson, telling him to stop causing such a stir among the Philistines. Samson responded by telling the men of Judah he was simply repaying them for what they had done to him. They tied Samson up to a rock with two new ropes, leading him to the Philistines. As they approached Lehi, the Philistines came towards Samson. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson and his arms became like charred flax, causing the ropes to drop from his hands. Taking a jawbone of a donkey, Samson killed a thousand Philistines.
Being thirsty after such a slaughter, Samson cried out to God in his thirst. God opened up a hollow place in Lehi and water came forth. Samson led Israel for 20 years.