How the life of the world’s first super hero parallels the history of his people.
A certain man of Zorah named Manoah from the clan of the Danites had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean because you will conceive and have a son. No razor may be used on his head because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines” (Judges 13:2-5). The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson (sunshine) He grew and the Lord blessed him. And the spirit of the Lord began to stir in him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol (Judges 13:24-25).
The story of Samson is one of the most popular of the children’s Bible stories because Samson was a real live super hero, the world’s first. We all know how he killed a lion with his bare hands (Judges 14:6) slew 1000 Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass (Judges 15:14-16) and wound up in the clutches of Delilah (languishing) (Judges 16). She betrayed him to the Philistines by convincing him to cut his hair and they put out his eyes and imprisoned him. Later at a great feast honoring their god Dagon for helping them capture Samson, they brought him out of prison to perform for them. He had his guard lead him to a place between the central pillars of the stadium and asking the Lord for strength pushed the pillars over, collapsing the whole building and killing himself and all the Philistine leaders (Judges 16:23-30). No Saturday morning cartoon ever had more drama, action, and victory over seemingly overwhelming odds.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
But the story becomes even more fascinating when we search the Scriptures for clues to its deeper meaning. In Numbers 6:1-8 the Lord gave Moses directions on the proper way to execute a special vow of separation called the Nazirite vow. As the angel had instructed Samson’s parents, people taking the Nazirite vow could not cut their hair, drink any wine, or partake of any food or drink derived from grapes. Normally the vow was voluntary and kept for a period of time to demonstrate a commitment to God, after which the person returned to a normal life. But 3 times in Scripture the Lord designated a yet to be born child as a life long Nazirite. All 3 were born to previously barren women: Samson, Samuel (1st Samuel:1) who anointed David as Israel’s king, and John the Baptist (Luke 1), who proclaimed the coming Messiah. Our Lord Jesus, by the way, was a Nazarine (from Nazareth) but not a Nazirite.
So have you figured out why Samson’s supernatural strength failed when Delilah betrayed him to the Philistines? That’s right, by letting her cut his hair he violated the Nazirite vow. His commitment to the Lord was broken and his strength gone because “the symbol of his separation to God is on his head” (Numbers 6:7). While languishing in prison, he recommitted himself and grew his hair back, permitting the Lord to restore his supernatural power for one last feat of strength, fulfilling his life’s purpose to begin Israel’s deliverance from the Philistines (Judges 13:5).
Where is Palestine?
As an aside, the Philistines pronounced their name with a hard P, not with the soft PH or F sound we’re used to, making it sound more like Palestine. When the Romans conquered Israel they re-named the land Palestine (Land of the Philistines) on their maps as an insult to the Jews. This insult has continued through the centuries and that’s why some call Israel Palestine to this day. The Romans were just one of a long line of Gentile nations refusing to acknowledge Israel’s right to the land, but some Palestinians use this connection with the Philistines as a basis for a claim to the land pre-dating the arrival of Joshua and the Israelites.
Is That You Lord?
Then Manoah inquired of the Angel of the Lord, “What is your name so that we may honor you when your word comes true?” He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” (Judges 13:17-18) The Hebrew word pele translated beyond understanding in the NIV is rendered Wonderful in the King James. It’s the same word used in Isaiah 9:6. For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful (pele), Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I think Isaiah used these 5 titles to hint that the Messiah would personify the Trinity, being all God and all man. Mighty God and Everlasting Father are self-evident and Counselor is the name given the Holy Spirit in John 14:25. Prince of Peace always refers to the Lord Jesus, and I believe Wonderful refers Him as well. 5, the number of grace, indicates that the Messiah came to demonstrate God’s Grace. If I’m right, the angel appearing to Manoah was the Lord Jesus in one of His many Old Testament appearances.
But to me the most remarkable lesson is the way in which Samson’s life parallels the history of Israel. Both were set apart from birth, foretold by an angel, called to begin the deliverance of God’s people, supernaturally empowered against overwhelming odds, sought after strange women (false gods), blinded for disobedience, called upon the Lord, and brought judgement upon His enemies.
Now you know the adult version.