16 September 2010

Samson and Jesus: studies in contrast

by Dan Phillips

Judges and kings all foreshadow Christ, one might say — yet, in some, the foreshadowing is by way of contrast. Was there a greater than Samson, in this way?

One might say that Samson  was dedicated to God from the womb (Judges 13:7), as was Christ (Luke 1:35), but there the similarity ends. Samson's dedication was external and formal, Christ's was internal and real.

Samson's outer strength belied a great and fatal weakness within; Christ's outer meakness belied literally infinite power within. Samson exerted his strength to suit his passions, which were made to serve Yahweh's purpose (Judges 14:1-4). Christ veiled his strength, that He might consciously fulfill Yahweh's purpose (Philippians 2:5-11). And so Samson started strong and finished his life in weakness, but for one vengeful burst, while Christ started weak and will continue an eternal career of power, because of one concentrated burst of self-humbling (Philippians 2:8b-9).

But the real contrast occurred to me in my reading today. I'm reading through Judges in Hebrew and Matthew in Greek, and my hap was to light on Judges 16 and Matthew 27, reading of the respective ends of Samson's and Christ's lives.

For one thing, Samson was arrested against his will due to weakness, complete loss of power, through his own idiocy (Judges 16:18-21). By contrast, Christ exerted a brief glimpse into His own undiminished reserves of infinite power (John 18:4-6), after which He willingly allowed Himself to be arrested and, ultimately, put to death (John 10:18).

Samson died as a result of his own personal foolishness, while Christ died in the wisdom of God. Samson's lifelong eye-problems (Judges 14:3) led to his eyes being bored out. Worse, in a damning indictment we read that Yahweh had departed from Samson and he did not even know it (Judges 16:20b). By contrast, the righteous Christ died, innocent from any personal sins (as even Pilate admitted; Matthew 27:23), bearing the sins of others; and because of that imputed sin, God the Father turned from Him — and, in agony of soul, He knew it (Matthew 27:46).

Samson died in an act of personal self-revenge, killing many others in his death (Judges 16:28-30). In Christ's death, He saved others.

Let us focus a bit more on that. In words thick with unintended irony, the leaders of Israel taunted Christ, urging Him to save Himself, come down off the cross, promising that they would then believe in Him (Matthew 27:42). But had He done so, had He exerted His own strength in self-vindication, surely He would have judged and damned them, temporally and eternally. But what is more, even if He had not done so, and even if they had believed in Him — it would then have been to no avail. They would have been eternally wed to their sin, with no atonement for their souls. Their faith would have been in vain. They would have been lost.

So, to sum this very brief meditation: does Samson point to Christ?

Absolutely.

But mostly by way of contrast.

Dan Phillips's signature

77 comments:

Thomas Louw said...

Is this the only one who points to Christ in this way, In contrast?
What about? Adam.
Maybe I'm off the point.
But I have never looked at Samson in this way, "a pointer to Christ"
Awsome

Dave L said...

So what do you make of Hebrews 11 v 32, where Samson is listed as a hero of faith?

Frank Turk said...

Is this a literal reading of Judges? Or a figurative reading of Judges?

Paul said...

+1 to what Dave L said.

thenightskyonline.com said...

Dan,
Great post! I've never considered Samson in this light before. Very encouraging. Everyone always compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. I think this comparison was really interesting.

Thanks for sharing!

Joe said...

For a different view on this:

Samson as Christ: The Marvelous Opener of the Gates

http://www.amazon.com/Samson-Christ-Marvelous-Opener-Gates/dp/1615793127

Spatulaguy said...

Great study! Just reminds me of what a professor of mine once said: The Bible is all about Jesus. Even when it's not about Him directly, it's still about Him.

Also, typo alert! The fifth paragraph says Solomon, when it probably should say Samson, no?

DJP said...

Frank - is your question literal? Or is it about fly-fishing in the Sierra?

(c;

D Hoff said...

I'm not convinced Samson was such a bad dude. He is a model of faith according to Hebrews.

His killing of the Philistines was not evil and vengeful, it was his ministry. He was born in order to "begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines" (a job David would finish. Samson the Nazirite was David's forerunner, like John the Baptist the Nazirite was Jesus' forerunner).

His first marriage is not presented as a bad thing either. The implication seems to be that there were no righteous woman in Israel ("she is right [upright] in my eyes" may have moral overtones) - Boaz, in the days of the judges, married a Gentile also.

His visit to the prostitute in 16:1 isn't necessarily any different than the spies visit to Rahab. The description in Hebrew has no necessary sexual connotations. Going to a prostitute's house is what you did if you wanted to be inconspicuous. That seems to be the point, since he lay in wait until midnight. And then took the gate of the city.

His interaction with Delilah was foolish, but I think overall it's like David's sin with Bathsheba. Not the crown of a sinful career but a blot on a life of faith.

DJP said...

Thanks, Spatulaguy. That's actually pretty funny. I had the Solomon/Samson problem all the way through -- I guess all the work I've been doing in Proverbs has conditioned my fingers.

But I caught and corrected all of them after the first publishing.


Then i got an idea, and added that paragraph...

...and another Solomon/Samson error!

DJP said...

Hoff, that's a Herculean effort. And I think Hebrew wasn't your major.

Hoff: "His killing of the Philistines was not ...vengeful"

DJP: "Samson died in an act of personal self-revenge...."

Samson: "O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes."

Etc. etc.

Paul said...

On the other hand, Hoff is reading Judges in the light of Hebrews, whereas you are...?

Is asking God to vindicate the righteous by destroying your enemies necessarily wrong? (for the answer, read the Psalms)

undercovertheologian said...

I had the same question as Dave L and Paul...

DJP said...

LOL, well, these meta's still can surprise me. I never expected such wacky responses.

So I suppose 2 Peter 2:7-9 requires that we defend offering virgin daughters to violent mobs, and Hebrews 11:32 also requires that we defend (arguably) offering your daughter as a burnt-offering, adultery, and murder?

Yikes.

Those comments lead me to expect another kind of comment. I'll tell you if it happens.

Robert said...

Hoff,

Seriously? You want anybody who has faithfully read through this passage to believe what you're saying? Please go read the text again and see what it says. He had already broken the Nazirite vow himself by eating the honey from the lion's carcass after he killed it. And then he gave the honey to his parents without telling them it had come from a carcass, which made it unclean. He obviously was weak when it came to women and God worked through that.

Dan,

One thing that seems like a pretty strong contrast to me, too, is that the only time that the Bible clearly shows Samson to be counting on God to provide him with power is in his act of vengeance. Whereas we continually see Jesus in prayer throughout all of His life in order to faithfully serve God and the people around Him.

undercovertheologian said...

Dan I would have said the same thing as you (in fact when Judges was preached in the church that I'm part of they took that view too).
What surprised me was the re-reading through the Hebrews 11v32-34 passage that someone like Rupert Bentley-Taylor gave at the Proclamation Trust EMA 2010. That was what caused me to question my original reading.

Jon from Bucksport said...

I'm with Dan on this one. The O.T. shows us prophets, priests, kings and judges that point to the perfect prophet, priest, king and judge. And I am not even sure where the beloved Turk is coming from with his question. The fact that someone literally lived doesn't mean that they cannot, in Providence, point to Christ.
One of the primary paradigms for reading Hebrews has to be "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God" (Heb 11:16). That is that God in His unbelievable grace and mercy praises men who are so unworthy!
I loved the main point that Dan made of the contrast of the deaths. I also thing that Samson's ignorance of the Lord's departure is the climax of the account of Samson.

DJP said...

Honestly, I can't easy foresee anything anyone can say that will remove my shock that anyone would read the whole post and respond, "Wait, you're too harsh on Solomon. What about Hebrews' passing reference to him?"

It would be no less than if I wrote a post on the horror of David's complex sins in re Bathsheba, analyzing and applying it, only to be greeted by a brace of "But David's a type of Christ! He's a hero of faith!"

I say again: yikes.

David Regier said...

Dan, there are some deep things to chew on here, especially putting both the Hebrews and the Judges passages in light of Rom. 8:28.

Good thing I have a long, trafficky commute today to stew on it. I might even turn off the talk radio.

David Regier said...

Solomon again. Heh.

Gov98 said...

My uniformed guess is that there will be a number of people in heaven with a less solid faith than Samson.

Samson will be in heaven. He is amongst the cloud of witnesses.

None of this has any impact on what Dan is saying. This is really a great post, and is a sample of why I love DJP's postings.

Look Samson when you look at the way Dan presents is meant to be a picture to Israel.

God gave Israel the messiah Israel wanted (Samson was to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines), and we see that deliverance was temporary. We see then the contrast is God's choice for a messiah and man's. Man desires a strong man of valor to deliver by the sword. God desires Christ.

Samson, if people were paying attention is meant to remind us that Christ is an infinitely better deliverer. For he delivered once for all our sins. Samson, well Israel fell right back into oppression.

Canyon Shearer said...

Amazing! This is also quite convicting for me, because in my pride I thought I knew everything there was to know about Samson in, as has already been pointed out, his similarities (and there are many) to John the Baptist as the forerunner for the King.

But since I thought I'd figured that out, I didn't remotely consider Samson as an antitype for Christ.

Amazingly good exegesis. Thanks!

DJP said...

David RegierSolomon again. Heh.

Oh my gosh. I may be beyond hope on that.

My family (I'm proud to say) has inherited a little thing of mine where, when I grossly misspeak, I just fix it with a rewording prefaced by "And when I say ____, I mean ____."

Example: "Josiah, please go turn on the dishwasher... and when I say 'dishwasher,' I mean 'television.'"

So: when I say "Solomon," I mean "Samson."

In this meta.

You know, unless I don't.

DJP said...

PS - the briefer and more common version in my family is "by which I mean ____."

Thus: "Please pass the carburetor... by which I mean salad dressing."

Frank Turk said...

I just wanted to say it. It sounded like a good question in my head. I haven't derailed your meta in a lo-o-o-o-ng time.

DJP said...

True.

I thought you was mad at me.

|)c:

undercovertheologian said...

Fair enough if you're not persuaded - I don't think I am!

Rupert Bentley-Taylor was arguing (and I hope I do him justice) that God's concern for his people and bringing them out from under the Philistines meant that he raised up Samson. The incident with wanting to marry one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah was something he never intended to go through with for " it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity [a pretext] against the Philistines" (Judges 14:4). Hence the proposed marriage and the riddle and the killing of the thirty, the foxes, the burnings and the 1,000 - this is the deliverance of Israel from the hand of the Philistines.
His summary is something like: This is a sovereign God who acts for his people in a messy world.

DJP said...

Well, I don't doubt what you say about God. But I don't think Samson meant it all, so. God uses people for His purposes, with or without their willing devotion. God used David's sin with Bathsheba to bring about the incarnation, after all. But the use doesn't smear over the person's sin.

Steve B said...

I've usually taken the more traditional understanding that this highlights how God uses flawed vessels to still accomplish His purposes.

As a sort of anti-Christ (not in the colloquial sense), Sampson is definitely a study in contrasts. I think you see the same plot line in a lot of movies: the flawed, reluctant hero, tortured by his personal demons, who regains his faith/hope/courage etc at the end.

The anti-hero who has been a dirt-bad the whole movie, realizes a moment of nobility at the end, and sacrifices himself to stay behind and set off the detonator so everyone else can escape, killing bazillions of bad guys in the process.

Really more of an example of what NOT to do.

You can't escape the fact that, despite his life and sin, at the end, God DID still answer Sampson's prayers. And maybe that means that there's still hope for all us Sampson's out there.

Lynda O said...

"Rupert Bentley-Taylor was arguing (and I hope I do him justice) that God's concern for his people and bringing them out from under the Philistines meant that he raised up Samson. The incident with wanting to marry one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah was something he never intended to go through with for 'it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity [a pretext] against the Philistines" (Judges 14:4).' "

I would understand that as a case of the two wills of God. The preceptive will of the Lord, the Mosaic law, clearly forbade intermarriage with non-Israelites. Samson did what he wanted to, in his own sin and lust, against God's clearly stated law. But God's decretive will understood what Samson was going to do, and God in His sovereignty had His own purposes to be accomplished. God always uses the wicked, sinful acts of man to His own glory. After all, wicked men hung Jesus on the cross, and even though they were doing God's will they still did so with evil intent and were responsible for that sin. In the same way, the Assyrians and Babylonians, in their wickedness were doing God's will -- chastising His people Israel -- yet responsible for their own evil deeds. It's the same thing here with Samson and the daughter of the Philistines.

DJP said...

Nicely-put, Lynda O.

trogdor said...

There is a world of difference between "God is sovereign and even uses our sin for good" and "his sin is good in and of itself and shows true faith". Some of these comments read too much like the latter.

See also Pharaoh and Balaam.

Paul said...

Clearly, Samson sinned. Clearly, Samson is an example of faith (Hebrews 11:32). God uses all things for good, but that doesn't excuse sin.

So the question is, in what ways should we imitate Samson and in which ways should we not?

I like the post and it makes some useful points, but I just wanted some perspective on how we do see Samson as a man of faith, in spite of his flaws. To that end, I welcome Hoff's questioning of the received wisdom on Samson, although there are details I'm not convinced about which you've pointed out well.

Dan, you said that Samson *mostly* points to Christ by way of contrast, which implies that Samson was *mostly* a bad guy. I don't see how that fits with him being held up as an example.

Brad Williams said...

Paul,

The same way that Lot is a good guy and the same way that I am a good guy. I am a good guy, not by my works, but because I have believed God's promises and it has been accounted to me for righteousness. The very fact that men like Samson or Lot can be accounted righteous after the wickedness they have wrought is a great encouragement for a sinner like myself. Samson and Lot are heroes, not simply because of their deeds of righteousness, but because their faith in God moved God to justify them.

What, Lot righteous? The man offered his daughters to a rape mob and then slept with them himself in a drunken stupor! Yet, he is accounted righteous despite his spectacular failures. How is he a hero of the faith? Because he is a person who demonstrates the great hope that faith in Christ Jesus offers: forgiveness. Have I done the same acts as he or Samson? No, but I have felt my heart tormented by what goes on in Sodom, even the Sodom that lives in my own soul.

Paul said...

Brad - that's good news, perfectly true and something to rejoice in. But Hebrews seems to be saying more than 'God forgives messed up people who have faith in Him'. The author (let's not dive into that debate) gives illustrations of all these people's faith, from Abraham to Rahab - it's faith in action.

To be clear - I'm not arguing for justification by faith plus works or anything abominable like that. I'm just trying to see what the author of Hebrews would have written about Samson, had he had the time and space. Verse 33 suggests he stopped lions' mouths by faith, so God seems to have been pleased with that incident. What else?

DJP said...

...Apollos...

Brad Williams said...

Paul,

The point is that faith makes a hero, not works. God is not impressed with stopping the mouths of lions. He loves a faithful heart. There is a reason that the author didn't go on commending Samson. He had made his point. The works simply point to the value of faith. Samson wasn't "mostly" bad. He was 100% depraved. We are to emulate his faith. That's why he comes out a hero.

Sir Aaron said...

Brad:

To totally derail the meta, I've always held a lot of curiosity over that particular story about Lot. I've always wondered if Lot was in a drunken stupor or just unconscious. And I've always believed the story totally blows the prohibitionist argument (on wine) out of the water.

Oh, and DJP, good post. I've always thought of Samson and thought of myself. At least with respect to his weaknesses, that is.

D Hoff said...

Yes Samson asked to be avenged on the Philistines, but like someone said this is no different than the Psalms. God honored his prayer, it wasn't wicked.

And his eating honey from the lion was not breaking the Nazirite vow. Nazirite's were not required to be vegetarians (John the Baptist ate honey also, with [presumably dead] locusts). The prohibition is against dead human bodies (I think, I'm open to correction here). If he ever broke this it was when he killed the Philistines with the jawbone. It never says he personally drank wine at the wedding either.

Dan: What about the Hebrew? The only Hebrew I referenced was 16:1 ("came to", it's very generic, and not any more explicit or suggestive than the spies sexless vist to Rahab). He went there not for sex but to take the gates of the city, in partial fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 22:17.
And also 14:3, "upright", which can have moral connotations depending on the context. Besides, 14:4 gives the explanation that he was seeking to fulfill his mission - to move against the Philistines. He wasn't being driven by lust (you could say the "he" refers to God and not Samson, but it still points toward an intentionality. I don't think you can just assume that Samson's a dunce and God was using Samson's dumb and blind lust).

I'm not saying he's perfect. But it's not like everything he did was wrong.

He is like Christ perhaps mainly in that he brings salvation to Israel by his death (17:30), not mainly by way of contrast.

Jesse said...

Dan,
Other similarities:
Miraculous birth prophesied by angels
Birth was designed to free his people from captivity
Scripture describes his birth, then largely skips over his life until the point God uses him to deliver his people
He died after being arrested by his own people, and handed over to the occupiers as punishment.

I'm not saying Samson was a good guy or anything. He was obviously (or so I thought until reading other comments above) as wicked as Sodom. Yet since you are reading in Hebrew, he was described in 13:5 as a "savior" for his people.
I appreciate your post because it brings out the contrasts. I had always focused on the similarities.

D Hoff said...

PS: Dan, you said
"Honestly, I can't easy foresee anything anyone can say that will remove my shock that anyone would read the whole post and respond, "Wait, you're too harsh on Solomon. What about Hebrews' passing reference to him?" "

But the text in Kings explicitly charges Solomon with sin, and even if it didn't it's pretty obvious that Solomon violates, pretty much item for item, the requirements for kings in Deuteronomy.

I'm just saying that with Samson it takes several assumptions to come to the conclusion that we was a total bum.

donsands said...

Excellent. What a contrast. It simply magnifies the awesomeness of Christ.
Thanks.

"Samson's lifelong eye-problems (Judges 14:3) led to his eyes being bored out."

Man. Think about that. What would it be like to have my eyes dug out of my face?

Brad Williams said...

D Hoff,

The violation of the honey eating episode was that he took it from the carcass of a lion, not the honey itself. He tried to take something sweet from something forbidden. Seems like a pattern.

Brad Williams said...

Sir Aaron,

If I get into trouble, it's your fault. I go with drunken stupor because I assume total unconciousness would prohibit him from doing the deed.

trogdor said...

I never thought the meta for this post would go this direction. Admittedly, it is interesting that Samson is briefly mentioned in Hebrews 11, since so much of his life was the antithesis of the chapter. That passage is all about living in light of eternity and the unseen (of course best exemplified by Jesus, 12:1-3), whereas Samson's entire life, up until his 'deathbed conversion' moment of repentance, was all about living for today and for what was right before his eyes.

For almost his entire story, there is nothing commendable about him. He was concerned only with satisfying his own lusts, and had no regard for God, even claiming credit for what was obviously divine. It wasn't until he was broken, blinded, and humbled that he exhibited the slightest bit of faith - and it was a greater victory than his entire previous life put together.

That verse is partly a celebration of the great final victory, yes, but it's more a lament of Samson's wasted life. He had been given a specific calling - destroy the Philistines - and all the power necessary to carry it out. Instead of fighting them, he spent his life trying to impress them, being friends with them,marrying them, and only fought them when his own foolish, shortsighted plans went awry.

So no, I don't buy this talk about how Samson was generally a good, faithful guy with a few flaws. Every aspect of every story we know about him was bad, up until his final repentance. He was prideful and lustful, and cared nothing for what God had specifically called him to.

Paul said...

Brad and Trogdor - the problem with saying that we should emulate Samson in his faith, possibly displayed in a deathbed conversion... is that Judges doesn't describe either of these things. As Dan has pointed out in the meta, Samson's last actions are no more exemplary than the rest of his life; at least if you think that Judges paints Samson as bad.

If Judges had Samson confessing his sin a la David, or some kind of clear repentance, your reading would make sense. But since it doesn't, perhaps we're reading our ideas of a godly/ungodly life into the text of Judges.

Like Hoff says, the text in Judges doesn't pass comment explicitly on Samson's life, and the only part of the Bible which does is Hebrews 11. That should give us pause for thought before we write all of Samson's life off bar some invisible, actionless faith/repentance he may have experienced; which would make a rubbish example to the readers of Hebrews.

trogdor said...

Are you serious?

s.driesner said...

Samson foreshadowed Christ in that he was used of God to deliver His people, yet he demonstrated the insufficiency of any savior other than Christ. The salvation Samson brought was temporal and fleeting, whereas the salvation that comes from Christ is eternal and complete. God did not shield Samson from the consequences of his sin, but He still accomplished his intended purposes through Samson. Samson's faith was ultimately in God as evidenced by his dying prayer, which is why I believe Samson was mentioned as an example of faith in Hebrews 11.

JS Allen said...

Wow, I'm surprised by the meta, too. I've always read it exactly the way DJP relates. Saying that Samson is contrasted with Christ doesn't mean Samson was the devil. It just means that when you contrast Samson and Christ, you want to be as far from the "Samson" end of the spectrum as possible.

Paul said...

Trogdor - The Bible can be surprising. I'm quite happy to be shown from the Bible that I'm wrong but no one from the 'Samson was a loser' camp has shown me how to take encouragement from Samson's faith a la Hebrews.

Robert said...

I'm confounded. I guess next I'm going to hear about how great Gideon was and how the Bible never says anything bad about him. At some point, we have to exercise some form of discernment, or else we'll need to read through another passage in Hebrews...Hebrews 5:12.
When we see Samson clearly breaking the Nazirite vow...then intermarrying with the Philistines, taking credit for what God had done, asking God to avenge him instead of deliverance for Israel, etc., how are we supposed to take that? Well, Samson is shown as exercising faith in Hebrews, so he must have been OK.

JTW said...

Thanks Dan, that was excellent.

Jesse said...

Paul,

I am from the "Samson was a loser camp." In a comment above I pointed out how I see Samson pointing to Jesus, which is one place I am encouraged by the narrative, although not by Samson. Ultimately, Samson lived in an age where Israelites were practically pagan, and literally faithless. In the midst of that, God chose this man to deliver Israel. He was lustful and sexually immoral, he married a pagan, and yet when it came down to it, Samson fought the Philistines while the Isralites fought Samson. In that sense, much like Jephthah, he is an example of faith, but not a model of faith.

trogdor said...

Can you take any encouragement from the thief on the cross?

Jesse said...

Paul: or to paraphrase Dale Davis, Samson may have been a lustful ogre, but he was God's ogre, while Israel as simply pagan.

Paul said...

Jesse - thanks for the helpful comment, I had read your earlier comment but had forgotten it - I wouldn't have classified you as in the 'Samson was a loser' camp but somewhere in the middle. Things to learn, things to avoid.

verification: verses

Brad Williams said...

Paul,

I am under the notion that the entire Bible, from Genesis forward, is a book about faith in the One True God as our only hope of righteousness. So I read Judges in light of Genesis and the example left by Abraham, amongst other things in Genesis and the Pentateuch. In light of that, much of what Samson does has me pulling my hair out. I see a man, living rather selfishly, to whom God is continually faithful, just as he is to the rest of His people despite their sins. That is the entire point of the Bible, not just Judges.

You are trying to go back into the narrative and figure out which of Samson's actions are commendable by God and which aren't. That is very difficult, if not impossible, and it completely misses the point of Samson's example. I never said that he didn't do faithful things, that simply isn't the thrust of his story in Judges. Nor is it Lot's in Genesis. But the author of Hebrews sees their faith as commendable despite their wretchedness.

And having said that....

JS Allen,

When you say that we want to be as far from the "Samson" end of the spectrum as we can, well, I say, "Good Lord, I'm in his spectrum! Have mercy!" Samson isn't an idiot. He's a sinner, and until we can identify with that, we will not cry out to God for mercy like he did in his final, flawed hour.

Brad Williams said...

Gah!! For clarity, let me confess that I'm in the "Samson is a Loser" camp with both feet, both interpretively and literally. That is, I speak of that which I know because I'm in the loser camp with him. I confess that no sin overtook Samson of which I have not also been guilty. And I will confess further that if I had the physical strength he possessed, I would probably have been ten times the ogre he was.

Robert said...

I'm right there with you, Brad. I have my own battles with pride and am very thankful that I don't have to contend with that kind of power. We are all sinners...we all need the gospel...every single day of our lives. While we may exhibit faith, I can say for myself that I see where I don't exhibit faith in God more than where I do...and even then I feel it is so small in light of what it should be.

...me said...

...thank you, brad and robert; you lifted my spirits this evening with your reminder and encouragement: our help and salvation are in Christ Jesus!

Magister Stevenson said...

Dan, This was a great post. Samson was no Hercules--strong, dumb, yet good hearted. The scriptures do not give a pretty picture of him, even in light of what Apollos wrote in Hebrews. Thanks for the reminder that, while the scriptures point to Christ, not everyone is a Boaz.

Daryl said...

Samson is so confusing...

I liked your post Dan, but here's my confusion. And it's probably more about what we don't know and how and why God does stuff...

The whole story of Samson is full of sin and selfishness and in the midst of it, while doing or planning on doing selfish, sinful stuff, Samson keeps crying out to God to help him...and God does, over and over.

That's what I find so confusing.

But then again...God answers prayers and never leaves me and I'm no model of Christian virtue...

The whole story of Samson is so conflicted it seems, yet there he is, in the Hall of Faith, proving yet again that God chooses whoever he wills, without asking permission or anything...

Thanks be to God that he still works that way.

David Regier said...

Okay, I'm adding my $.02 after a full day of stewing on it.

If you can read the story of Samson with the Heb. 11 passage in view - giving full weight to the Christ/Samson contrast - without being undone to the bones by God's overwhelming sovereignty, then you've missed the story of the Bible.

Read it again in fear and trembling. Don't look to Samson for relief, but to Christ for salvation.

Scott said...

Thanks Dan for helping to lift the fog on my understanding of Samson. Care to do the rest of Judges?

:)

And a quick shoutout to Robert and trogdor for some very helpful comments to add to this meta.

Robert said...

Daryl,

I certainly don't see much indication of Samson continually crying out to God for help. In fact, there are only two instances where he is shown to say anything to God. In Judges 15:18, he sounds like the Israelites complaining to Moses when he tells God, "You have granted this salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?" The other is when he asks God to avenge him in his death.

That doesn't diminsh your point, but just wanted to make sure we're not giving Samson more credit than the Bible does. Most of the feats that Samson performed were due to the Spirit coming upon him and working through him of His (the Spirit's) own volition.

Scott,

I would recommend any Christian to work through Joshua and Judges. I taugh through these in Sunday School for 3rd-6th grade students and I think I probably learned more than they did. It is a very good study for any parent to do especially as it shows what happnes when we don't pass down the teachings of the Bible and compromise with the world around us. In fact, I'd say that it could even serve as a warning for those at BioLogos of what happens when we try to square things of the world with the things of God.

stratagem said...

Looked through these comments yesterday after reading the post. It is quite a contrast between Samson and Christ, that's for sure. Samson was a hero of the faith at certain times, mostly due to his courageous fighting for Israel that he didn't shrink away from out of cowardice. But, he was totally despicable at lots of other times and tended to rely on his own wit and strength. In other words he's a lot like the rest of us. That's why we need to model Christ, who got the hero of the faith part correct and also left out the despicable part, and rely upon him alone for salvation rather than our own strength.

Daryl said...

Strat,

That's right. If any of the Judges or other leaders in Israel cause us to look at them as an example, rather than Christ, we're missing something big.

witness said...

David R. Thanks.

John said...

The embarrassing thing is that I am Sampson - only without the mighty works wrought by God. O wretched man that I am.

Dave L said...

Dan said: Honestly, I can't easy foresee anything anyone can say that will remove my shock that anyone would read the whole post and respond, "Wait, you're too harsh on Samson. What about Hebrews' passing reference to him?"

Given that mine was the first comment referring to Hebrews 11 v 32, I think you misunderstood what I was asking.

I can understand why you might think I was saying "Wait, you're too harsh on Samson", but I never said that. You read into my post something that wasn't there.

Maybe I can restate what I was trying to ask: "In the light of all the valid comments you have made about Samson, why do you think Hebrews 11 v 32 refers to him as a hero of the faith? Not just one of the faithful, but a hero?"

donsands said...

"Not just one of the faithful, but a hero?"

I wonder if hero is the right word for some of these men of faith?

And it's peculiar that the writer of Hebrews mentions "Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah", all from the bbok of Judges. Yet he doesn't mention Deborah, who was the more valient person then Barak. And Jepthah, who sacrificed his daughter. And Samson and Gideon. These four are all close in the book of Judges.
So perhaps this writer was just reading that book, and they came to mind in this way. I guess not.

Have a terrifci Lord's day, in His grace and forgiveness.

Daryl said...

It is interesting, isn't it, that often it is rightly said that Abraham's only qualification was his sin, which made him eligible to be chosen by God for forgiveness and to be given faith (which no sinner naturally has).
We have no problem pointing that out about someone like Abe, but suddenly it's hard to see Samson's complete selfishness and sin.

If ever there was an example of God's sovereignty in election this is it.

I wonder...if part of the thing is that we see ourselves in guys like Samson and King Saul and realize that too say that they were selfish sinners used by God, means that we too are selfish to the core.

What have we done well, really?

No more than Samson did. Nothing at all.

Mike Anderson said...

Good post Brother.

JS Allen said...

While we're on the topic, how did Rahab make it into the "heroes" of Hebrews 11?

boyd said...

Very interesting article. I enjoyed it. I have always thought it rather amusing the way many think of Samson as a "Hulk Hogan" type of man. Given God's nature he was more likely a weakly looking fellow. After all, if he looked like Victor Mature, why did they ask were his power can from?

Susan said...

Two days late to the party...but just have one thing to say:

Bravo, Trogdor, on your 11:36 a.m. comment. Truly convicting.

That is all. :)

Protoprotestant said...

Somehow, one way or another, Samson is a beautiful and wondrous picture of the person and work of Christ.

That he's such a disaster and yet one of God's people,

is sobering when one looks at the consequences of his actions, and yet gives hope that the love of God extends beyond what we can even imagine.

Moralisms aside, he's yet another of the awesome and yet imperfect typological representations of the Coming One.

Thanks for the post.