The Real Man of Steelon April 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm
The Man of Steel
As a child I grew up reading Superman comics and watching the series on television. As I grew older I found out that there was no Superman but there was a real “Man of Steel”. His name was Samson. Most of us only know the part of the story that involved Delilah. However, there was much more to the life of Samson. This article will reflect on the events of how Samson’s parents talked to the angel of the Lord before his birth, the events of his life before he met Delilah, his downfall, and then his eventual death.
The Birth of Samson
Samson was the son of a man named Manoah who was from the tribe of Dan. An angel of the Lord appeared to Monoah’s wife and told her that she was going to conceive a child. The angel told her that she could not drink any wine nor strong drink. Nor could she eat any unclean thing (Judges 13:7).
Manoah’s wife came to him and told him what the angel said. She was excited because she was barren and could not conceive a child. Manoah did not believe his wife and said “Oh my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.”
God listened to Manoah’s request and the angel came to his wife again but Manoah was not present. Manoah’s wife ran to get him. When he came he asked the man was he the one that appeared to his wife and the man answered, “I am.” He told Manoah the same thing he told Manoah’s wife. Manoah asked, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”
Manoah then placed a young goat on a rock and offered it to the Lord. They watched as the angel ascended to Heaven in the flame. Manoah said to his wife that they were doomed to die. Manoah’s wife gave birth to a boy and named him Samson (Shemesh in Hebrew). Samson grew and the Lord blessed him. While Samson was in Mahaneh Dan which is between Zorah and Eshtaol, the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him.
The first reference to Samson’s adult life came when Samson requested permission from his father to marry a Philistine woman (Judges 14:2). By marrying a Philistine woman Samson would have occasion to confront the Philistines who were ruling over Israel at the time.
Judges 14:5 gives us the first account of Samson’s strength. Samson, his father and mother were on their way to Timnah to request permission from the Philistine woman’s father for marriage. While he was alone, Samson was confronted by a young lion. Considering the average lifespan of a lion today is believed to be 15 years, the young lion would be around 5 to 7 years old and weigh about 350 to 400 pounds. The spirit of the Lord came powerfully over Samson and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands.
At some point later and after securing permission to marry the Philistine woman, Samson came back to the place where he had torn apart the young lion. He saw bees and honey inside the carcass of the lion and scooped some of the honey out of the carcass and ate it.
During the 30-day marriage feast Samson posed a riddle to the 30 men chosen to be his companions (we call them groomsmen today). The riddle was, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” Samson bet the men that they could not solve the riddle in seven days. If they solved the riddle in the seven days he would give them 30 linen garments and 30 sets of clothes. If not, they would have to give him the same. After three days the men were unable to solve the riddle.
On the fourth day the men confronted Samson’s wife and threaten to burn her and her father’s household if she didn’t tell them the answer. Samson’s wife went to him in tears and said, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” After pressing him he told her the answer. Before sunset on the seventh day, the men successfully answered the riddle.
Samson was angry. He knew the men coaxed his wife into telling them the answer. Judges 14:19 states, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle.” Afterwards Samson returned to his father’s house and his wife was given to one of his companions.
Samson gets Vengeance on the Philistines
When Samson returned to see his wife he was told that she had been given to one of his companions. Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them” (Judges 15:3). He went out and caught 300 foxes and tied them together tail to tail. He then released them into the Philistine fields with a lit torch attached to each pair. The foxes burned the Philistines shocks and standing grain along with their vineyards and olive groves.
The Philistines learned that Samson had done this and retaliated by burning his wife and her father to death. In Judges 15:7 Samson says, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” He then proceeded to viciously attack and slaughter them. Afterwards, he went to stay in a cave in the rock of Etam.
Three thousand men from Judah came to Samson at the Rock of Etam. Samson allowed them to take him into custody after they promised to turn him over to the Philistines instead of killing him. When Samson came near the Philistines at Lehi they began shouting at him. The spirit of the Lord came upon Samson again. The new ropes that were used to tie him up were easily broken. He found a jawbone of a donkey and struck down a thousand men. From that time on the place was called Ramath Lehi (Jawbone Hill).
The Downfall of Samson
This is the most famous part of the story of Samson. The start of his downfall came when he met a Philistine woman named Delilah who was from the Valley of Sorek. Delilah was approached by the rulers of the Philistines. The rules asked her to find the secret of Samson’s strength. If she did this she would receive 1,100 Shekels of silver from each of them (about $200 to $400 US dollars today from each ruler).
Delilah asked Samson what was the secret of his strength. Judges 16:6-14 describes how Samson toyed with Delilah. He first told her that if he were tied with fresh bowstrings that had not been dried he would lose his strength. After Delilah tied him she called the Philistine men to bind Samson. Samson threw the men off without any problem.
Then Samson said, if he were tied with fresh ropes that had never been used he would lose his strength. Again Delilah tied him and called for the Philistine men and again she found out that this wasn’t true. Once again Samson told her that by weaving the seven braids of his head into the fabric on the loom and tightening it with a pin, that he would lose his strength. Once again Delilah found this not to be true.
After several more attempts Delilah finally worn down Samson and he told her his secret. She put Samson to sleep in her lap and sent word to the Philistine rulers to bring everything including her payment. As Samson lie subdued, Delilah had his head shaved. Once finished she called out that the Philistine men were upon Samson as she had done many times previously.
Samson believed that he would shake them off has he had done many times before but he soon realized that the Lord was no longer with him. The Philistines seized Samson and blinded him. They took him to Gaza and bound him in bronze shackles. He was made to grind grain in prison. The Philistines did not notice his hair was growing back.
The Death of Samson
The Philistines worshipped Dagon. Dagon is believed to have been the god of fertility and crops. He was also believed to have figured prominently in the death and afterlife beliefs of the Philistines. The Philistines praised Dagon for turning Samson over to them and called out for Samson to entertain them (Judges 16:25).
The rest of Judges Chapter 16 tells us how Samson asked the servant to place him between the main two pillars of the temple. The temple was crowded with people including the rules of the Philistines. In his final words Samson pleads with God to allow him the strength to bring down the pillars and die with the Philistines. In his final act Samson brought down the entire temple onto the Philistine people and himself.
Samson ruled Israel for 20 years and his actions, especially his final action began the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines. He was a man who had great strength, the strongest in history, but his weakness was just as great. Many say that Samson’s weakness for women was a stain to his existence but if you look at his entire life and what his actions led to, you can say that it was necessary to lead Israel from under Philistine rule. Despite his weakness, Samson was the “Real Man of Steel” and his judgments against the Philistine rulers and their people lead his people to freedom.