What is the deal with Samson? 4

http://bibleactionfigures.org/files/samson.jpgI have asked the question before but I thought I would solicit your comments yet again.  How is this guy anything more than a horny thug with violent tendencies? How is it that he is preserved in the canon as being a great leader of Israel? Can it really be that his sole divinely ordained purpose was to kill lots of Philistines (Judg. 14:4)?

What do you think?

UPDATE: The comments are going well. Please read them and add your own thoughts.


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4 thoughts on “What is the deal with Samson?

  • John

    Hi Chris

    I will again defend our friend Samson, though he was far from perfect. Hebrews 11.32 seems to be the clincher, as Mr Getz earlier pointed out. God apparently considered him a good character. He appears to be in the same group of people of whom Hebrews 11.38 says ‘the world was not worthy.’

    Perhaps God’s purpose for Samson was more limited. One might argue about Ehud that he was deceptive in approaching Eglon, certainly the ‘message from God’ was not of the nature that Eglon was expecting. May I humbly suggest that you may be expecting too much out of Samson. As far as the Biblical record goes, not all of the apostles of Christ had the same leadership abilities. Peter, James, and John seem to be a top three. I might use him (Samson) as an example of the one-talent man who did well and compare/contrast him with Matthew 25.24-28.

    He was certainly a colorful personality, as you have pointed out.


  • Chris Brady Post author


    Thank you so much for writing again, with a slightly different perspective as well. I still struggle with this because I do not think it is such a clear and simply case of God considers him good therefore we should. I think Jim is right, he is a bit of anti-hero.

    But let’s consider Heb. 11:32 for a moment. This is part of the so-called “Hall of Faith.”

    Heb. 11:32 (NRSV)   And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

    I don’t think this passage is actually saying that Samson was necessarily even a “good character” let alone an ideal (not your words, John, I know). It is simply stating that these men, at some point, exhibited faith in God and thus performed mighty deeds.

    Samson only calls out to the Lord twice (on a quick reading, I could have missed one) and only once in preparing for his mighty act of suicide wherein he killed those thousands of Philistines. The “spirit of the Lord” comes upon him in many, but not all, of his acts of strength, but is that really an example of Samson’s faith or God’s acting through him? So I don’t think that the Hebrews reference requires Christians or anyone else to see Samson as a good guy.

    And I don’t think I am expecting too much from Samson. I do think that the church culture I grew up in and, I would submit, the Jewish and Christian culture of the last 2,000 years, may have placed too much on him.

    If I read the book of Judges, trying to remove the filters of thousands of years of tradition and interpretation, I find a very disturbing book. Of course, many other people, far smarter than I have commented on this before now (Trible, etc.). So a reexamination of Samson is not, I think, out of the question. In so doing, reading his story without Hebrews or the Mishnah or the midrashim to interpret for me, what am I left with?

    …I think that will be a good article and perhaps even a book.

  • Adam Couturier

    I would have to agree with Jim. I think the entire book is meant to show the depravity of the people, as they “slip towards anarchy”. As the people go farther away from YHVH, their leadership does as well. It is quite a depressing book in my opinion.

    It seems to me that Christians want to put everyone in the H.B. up on a pedestal, but most every character has many tragic flaws (i.e. David or Abraham).

  • Jim Leous

    Dean Brady — Sorry for this less than scholarly reply, but Samson was the story I used to cite to my Mother when I was in grade school in order to get out of a haircut. “Why am I paying for Catholic school?” she would respond.

    She probably went along with the thug theory…