Bible Study Discussions with Gary Panell
Question: Was Samson's strength really in his hair?
Answer: The story of Samson is found in the book of Judges in the Bible. The history starts at chapter 13; I will just quote some of it so you get the background to this question. "Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
"Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, 'Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.
"Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.'
"So the woman came and told her husband, saying, 'A Man of God came to me, and His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God, very awesome; but I did not ask Him where He was from, and He did not tell me His name. And He said to me, 'Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now drink no wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.'
"Then Manoah prayed to the LORD, and said, 'O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.' And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of God came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field; but Manoah her husband was not with her.
"Then the woman ran in haste and told her husband, and said to him, 'Look, the man who came to me the other day has just now appeared to me!' So Manoah arose and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said to Him, 'Are You the man who spoke to this woman?' And He said, 'I am.'
"Manoah said, 'Now let Your words come to pass! What will be the boy's rule of life, and his work?' So the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, 'Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. She may not eat anything that comes from the vine, nor may she drink wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean. All that I commanded her let her observe.'
"Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, 'Please let us detain You, and we will prepare a young goat for You.' And the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, 'Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the LORD.' (For Manoah did not know He was the Angel of the LORD.)
Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, 'What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass wemay honor You?' And the Angel of the LORD said to him, 'Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?'
"So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on-- it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar--the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.
.So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol."
This gives you the background of the man Samson. His strength was really the power of the LORD and as the Holy Spirit moved upon him as we will see. It was a matter of obedience that the parents and Samson did in allowing him to be a Nazirite. A Nazirite was a person who would be very careful never to drink any fermented drink, not even to eat raisins. He was not to touch anyone who had died, or was he to eat anything unclean, like pork, etc. But most of all he was not to ever cut his hair. You can image how long it would be by the time he became a man.
The LORD did marvelous miracles through Samson even though Samson was very spoiled and very disobedient to his parents and to God. He took a Philistine wife which was disobedience, but God used it anyway. In this case he left his new wife in a rage because she gave away his riddle that he had given. This also caused him to lose his 'bet' with the men he had told the riddle to. As a result he went down and killed thirty of the enemy to get their clothes. God gave him the strength to do this. (Chapter 14 of Judges)
When he decided to go back to his wife, the Philistines had given her to another man which angered him so he "went and caught three hundred foxes; and he took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. When he had set the torches on fire, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up both the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves." (Judges 15:4-5)
You can image how unhappy this made the Philistines and he fought against them and it says he "attacked them hip and thigh with a great slaughter." (Judges 15:8) Even Samson's own people the Jews were upset with him because the Philistines came against them in order to get Samson. His own people tied him up with new ropes and gave him to the Philistines.
"When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting against him. Then the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands. He found a jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it." (Judges 15:14-15)
Samson, with God's power, was certainly an Old Testament 'Superman' with superhuman strength. He was given this power by God, but because he was proud and disobedient, we will see God took his power away.
"Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. When the Gazites were told, 'Samson has come here!' they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. They were quiet all night, saying 'In the morning, when it is daylight, we will kill him.' And Samson lay low till midnight; then he arose at midnight, took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two gateposts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron." (Judges 16:1-4)
To make a long story short, Samson went from bad to worse compromising his faith. It says, "Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, 'Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.'" (Judges 16:4-5)
You may know the rest of the story, this is where he gives Delilah, little by little, the secret of his strength. She deceives him into finally giving the truth to her. "Then she said to him, 'How can you say, "I love you," when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies.'
"And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart, and said to her, 'No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man."
"When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, 'Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart.' So the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hand. Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him." (Judges 16:16-19)
"And she said, 'The Philistines are upon you, Samson!' So he awoke from his sleep, and said, 'I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!' but he did not know that the LORD had departed from him." (Judges 16:20) And there is the real answer to your question. God was the one who gave him his strength and God was the one that took it away when he disobeyed the Nazirite vow he had made to God.
You may know what happened to him next, and it is not pretty. "Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison. However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.
"Now the lords of the Philistines gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice. And they said:
'Our god has delivered into our hands Samson our enemy!' The destroyer of our land, and the one who multiplied our dead.'
"So it happened, when their hearts were merry, that they said, 'Call for Samson, that he may perform for us.' So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed for them. And they stationed him between the pillars. Then Samson said to the lad who held him by the hand, 'Let me feel the pillars which support the temple, so that I can lean on them.'
"Now the temple was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there--about three thousand men and women on the roof watching while Samson performed. Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, 'O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!
"And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said,
'Let me die with the Philistines!' And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life.
"And his brothers and all his father's household came down and took him, and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had judged Israel twenty years." (Judges 16:21-31)
So his strength was from the LORD GOD OF HEAVEN when he believed and obeyed Him, when he disobeyed he lost the strength, not just because his hair was cut, but because of pride and disobedience. When he trusted again in the LORD his strength came back one last time.
We will see Samson in heaven even though he lived a carnal life, he was still a believer. We can learn from his mistakes, but we can also learn from his faith in God. In the New Testament 'Hall of Fame for Believers' his name is recorded. "And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson." (Hebrews 11:32)
Thanks for the question,
Gary T. Panell
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Keywords: samson, old testament, story