Judges 13: Judge Samson - the Early Years


 Mention the name “Samson” and what comes to your mind? What words describe him?

Our impression may be mainly negative but the account of his birth indicates clearly that he was very special to God, a God who intervenes directly into the events leading up to, including, and following his birth. Let’s read the story.

 Judges 13:1-7, 24-25


 “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (v.1). Israel as a nation was far away from God. They had been in a period of relative peace with other nations and as a result had drifted into an easy going lifestyle - a lifestyle that led to compromise with sin and idolatry. So God withdrew his protection and his people once again found themselves occupied by a foreign nation. God “delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years”. And then God, full of grace, chooses a person by the name of Samson to begin to bring about deliverance for his people from the Philistines.

“A certain man by the name of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless” (v.2). God in his grace reaches down into this couple’s lives. An angel of the Lord appeared to her with the message that she will conceive and have a son (v.2-3). With such a divine announcement to a woman who could not have children, Samson and his mother join an elite company; Sarah/Isaac (Gen.11:30;16:1), Rebekah/Jacob and Esau (Gen.25:21), Hannah/Samuel (1Sam.1:2), and Elizabeth/John the Baptist (Lk.1:7). Something special is going to happen!

2.      A SEPARATED LIFE (v.4-23)

 The angel of the Lord appears with a special message. This whole event is special; not only will Samson’s birth be a miracle but also the fact that it was the Lord himself who announced the birth – that makes it special. Samson will play a very special part in the purposes of God. He will be a Nazarite; one who is separated and dedicated to God. And this vow was to be for the whole of his life (v.7). God gave him two restrictions: no wine (v.4) and no razor to cut his hair (v.5). An additional restriction for a Nazarite vow was to touch a dead body (Num.6:6). Such outward actions were to indicate an inner dedication to God and a vow to be set apart to serve him.

And what was this service in particular?

God’s purpose for Samson was to begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines (v.5). This deliverance would go beyond Samson’s own lifetime. It would continue into the time of Samuel (1Sam.7:10-14) and would not be completed until the time of David, king of Israel (2Sam.5:17-25;8:1). Samson’s part in subduing the Philistines was just the beginning, but it was important nonetheless. It was the task God had given Samson to do. This is a timely reminder to us today to be faithful in following the Lord even if we don’t see instant results. We might just be beginning an important job that others will finish.

The introduction of Samson in the book of Judges brings us to a new stage in the life of Israel as a nation. It is now the Philistines who take central stage as Israel’s major enemy. They were a people originally forced out of their homeland in Greece and the Aegean Sea and who by Samson’s time had established five main cities – Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gath. They were militarily strong because they had learned how to manufacture iron. But their two most effective weapons were trade and intermarriage (1Sam.13:19-21). In both ways they gained a stranglehold on the Israelites; slowly choking them to death by compromise and assimilation. Israel was being seduced by the culture of the Philistines. There is no cry of pain, no groaning under the oppression (as on previous occasions). Things were going too well for them. It was a time of affluence. Because there was no national repentance, there was no national deliverer. The people were slowly but surely losing their identity.    

It is into this world of Israel assimilating into Philistine life and apathetic towards the things of God, that Samson is born. But whereas in the past the other major judges led a repentant people against the enemy, Samson by contrast will fight alone. The pressures that Samson faced make him a contemporary figure. Christians in NZ face the danger of assimilation, of being slowly and imperceptibly squeezed into the mould of the world around us.

The pattern for the Christian life is one of separation, as in the example of Jesus. We are not to assimilate with the world but neither are we to do the opposite and isolate ourselves from the world. Jesus sets the pattern by his life and in his prayer in John 17:5-19. 

Read John 17:13-19

 We need to be people who will refuse to be either isolated from the world or assimilated with the world but who will live according to the truths of God’s word  (Philp.2:15-16).

Read Philippians 2:14-16

 3.      A STIRRING OF THE SPIRIT (v.24-25)

 Samson was from the tribe of Dan and at that time his tribe still had unconquered territory, they were still wandering in their inherited land. They had not settled into it (Judg.18:1). Samson must have grown up with his tribe’s yearning for a permanent and settled territory. Thus his visits to the various tribal events must have stirred his heart, and God’s Spirit began preparing him for his role as Judge and leader against the Philistines.

As we continue on next week with the life of Samson, we will see that Samson’s life in a way typifies the life of Israel as a nation as a whole. Israel as a nation; born by special divine provision, consecrated to the Lord from birth and endowed with unique power among the nations but going astray chasing after the Canaanite gods. Samson typified that way of life.

But in the end we will also see that Samson still accomplished the purpose announced by the angel of the Lord who visited his parents before his birth – to begin the deliverance of Israel. What assurance for each one of us; at times overwhelmed with immensity of the task ahead of us, and the awareness of our own short comings and failings – yet God in his grace uses us – he uses you. Let’s be true to his word; living in the world but not assimilated with it, neither isolated from it, but set apart in it - living according to God’s Word.