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Samson – Stupid or Arrogant? (Or Both?)

April 5, 2007

As I continue through the book of Judges, I have finally gotten to the story of Sampson.  Sampson defines the phrase “interesting character”.  He is chosen before birth as a Judge for Israel, and his parents raise him as a Nazarite – one set apart by God.  However, he quickly proves to be an ungrateful cad – he marries a woman who is a part of the very nation God wants to get the Israelites out from, he touches dead bodies, a clear violation of the vows that God had instructed him to take, and he is recorded as having sexual interest with three different women, and having sex out of wedlock with two of them.

Now, we all know what happens when he meets the third woman, Delilah.   Delilah, in the pay of Samson’s enemies, keeps trying to get his secret out of him.  He lies to her three times, and each time, the weakness he suggests is tried on him.  Now I know that at this point, I would walk away and have nothing more to do with this woman – everything that I’ve told her has ended up in the hands of my enemies!

However, Samson incredibly TELLS her his secret, and then allows himself to fall asleep in her house.  You keep yelling at the text, saying “Samson how STUPID are you, anyway?!”

After thinking about it, though, I think that Samson wasn’t stupid.  No, he had a far worse problem, one that all of us face.  Samson was arrogant.

Samson never gave the source of his power, God, much thought at all.  From Judges 16:

When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

Samson wasn’t naive.  He knew his information was getting into the hands of his enemies.  He’s been judging Israel for 20 years – this likely puts him somewhere between 35-40 years old.  He wasn’t the smartest person in Israel, but he wasn’t stupid.  He knew that Delilah was selling him out, and yet he tells her.  Why?

1.  Sex.  Samson wants to keep having sex with her, and she’s going to dump him if he doesn’t tell her.  Sexual desire can make you do strange things.

2.  Arrogance.  Samson had ALWAYS defeated his enemies.  He has torn gates off of cities.  He has defeated 2000 Philistines at once.  His strength had never left him.  So, he begins to take it for granted.  He assumes that this is his own power, not God’s gift, and he never counts on God taking it away.  Remember – it wasn’t that that hair had magical power – it was the fact that the hair was the most visible symbol of his dedication to God.  His cutting it off was a signal that he was forsaking God – he was no longer identifying with the God who had given him everything, he was assuming that he would have his strength no matter what.

Samson identified cutting off his hair as a weakness, and he revealed it last.  However, there is no indication in the text that he or his parents had ever been told that shaving off his hair would cripple his strength – only that he was to be a Nazarite, and that he was to obey God’s commands for Nazarites, which included keeping his hair long, not drinking wine, and not touching dead bodies.  After a prolonged period of arrogant disobedience of God’s commands, including portions of his Nazarite vows, God decides to judge him.  While Samson knew this was something in him that made him special, he did NOT think that disobeying God in this way would bring God’s judgement.

Notice Samson’s words: “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.”  His assumption is that everything is fine.  He doesn’t think that cutting his hair off will weaken him.  He surely knows that it has been cut off, because every other time he told Delilah a bogus weakness, it was tried, and he broke free.  He knows that if he has a secret, this is it.  However, he doesn’t think that God will leave him over this.  God proves Samson wrong here, though, and leaves Samson – leaving him to judgement at the hands of his enemies.

This gives me pause.  Everything I have received is from God.  I know this to be true, but I have arrogantly done things in my own strength on many occasions.  This is a sobering reminder that God may leave us if we begin to think that the things he has given us are coming from our own talents and efforts.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2007 10:44 pm

    Dude, that was a really good post!

    I’ve always been intrigued by Samson, but I never thought of it from the angle of his arrogance. Samson was given as much favor as any of the greatest judges, but he kind of squandered it (though, in the end, like the perfect epic hero, he redeems himself by crushing the temple)

  2. April 20, 2007 12:19 pm

    Excellent post!

    I am listening to the bible on CD and just got finished listening to the story of Samson, and was thinking to myself, why in the world didn’t he leave Delilah alone when she proved she was untrustworthy? I believe you hit the nail right on the head. Samson thought he was invincible and would have the favor of God on his life regardless of what he did and God proved him wrong. In the end of Samson’s life we see something that is missing in his earlier days…Humility.

    Thanx for your insight!

  3. Damon permalink
    June 21, 2007 11:45 am

    It’s great to have someone elaborate on the stories of the Bible. At first glance, one might wonder, “Why did God leave Samson?” But upon reading your explanation, it is clearly laid out in the arrogance paragraph. Thank you!

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