The Fleshly Man Named Samson

Title: The Fleshly Man Named Samson

Bible Book: Hebrews 11 : 32

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Flesh; Worldliness, Overcoming



For the past few Sunday mornings, we have been looking at a list of biblical figures that are found in Hebrews 11:32. There the Bible says, “And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.”

The title of our series is “Unlikely Heroes,” and as we begin to study the lives of these six individuals in Hebrews 11:32, we learn that “Unlikely Heroes” is exactly what these six are.

In the July-August 2003 issue of Preaching Magazine in a sermon entitled “The Thrill Of Victory And Agony Of Defeat,” Gary E. Yates said…

One common denominator for these six is that they all overcame major odds at some point in their lives. Gideon destroyed the mighty Midianites with a fighting force of 300 men armed only with trumpets, torches, and clay pots. Samson pulled down the temple of Dagon when he was a has-been who had lost his strength. Jephthah became a leader in Israel even though his own family had disowned him. David defeated Goliath when he was a bigger underdog than (anyone). Faith overcomes overwhelming odds because God isn’t limited by percentages and probabilities.

Thus far, we have focused on the first name in the listing as we studied “The Fearful Man Named Gideon.” In spite of his timidity and his hesitations, God used Gideon to bring a great victory to Israel over the Midianites. We looked at the second name in the listing as we studied “The Feeble Man Named Barak.” Today we’re looking at the third name in this listing, and we’re going to consider “The Fleshly Man Named Samson.”

Samson probably fits the profile of what we would expect in a hero better than any that we have seen so far. His superhuman strength makes us mindful, not just of a hero, but of what we might call a super-hero.

The past few years have brought several movies based on comic book super-heroes. None of the movies and sequels have been more successful than those based on the Spiderman character. In the first movie, Spiderman’s alter ego, Peter Parker, has a conversation with his Uncle Ben where Ben tells him something that he repeats at the end of the movie. In the last scene, Peter Parker says, “I will never forget these words, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’.”

A preacher named Gary D. Robinson said…

“It’s a pity that real-life super-hero, Samson, never read Spider-Man comics. He was given supernatural strength to be a leader. Instead, he became a loner who usually acted irresponsibly. He was a man of great physical strength whose gifts blinded him to even greater spiritual dangers. Only at the end, when he lost his two eyes, was he finally able to see.” (From Preaching Online)

In order to understand Samson and his unlikelihood as a hero, we must go to Judges chapter 13. And as we go there…

I. Let’s Consider The Account Of Samson’s Family – His History

A. Notice The Adversity They Experienced

1. This Involved The Bondage

(Judges 13:1) And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.

Samson may have been a contemporary of Samuel, and he may have begun his role as a judge during the time of Eli the priest.

Matthew Henry said…

The first verse gives us a short account, such as we have too often met with already, of the great distress that Israel was in, which gave occasion for the raising up of a deliverer. They did evil, as they had done, in the sight of the Lord, and then God delivered them, as he had done, into the hands of their enemies. If there had been no sin, there would have needed no Saviour; but sin was suffered to abound, that grace might much more abound. The enemies God now sold them to were the Philistines, their next neighbours, that lay among them,

(Judges 14:4) But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

(Judges 15:11) Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.

The word “dominion” and the word “rulers” both come from the Hebrew term (4910) mashal, which is a primary root word meaning to rule. It is also translated as “governor, reign, rule, have power.”

2. This Involved The Barrenness

(Judges 13:2-3) And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. (Notice the double emphasis of this condition) {3} And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.

Matthew Henry further said…

His parents had been long childless. Many eminent persons were born of mothers that had been kept a great while in the want of the blessing of children, as Isaac, Joseph, Samuel, and John Baptist, that the mercy might be the more acceptable when it did come. Sing, O barren! thou that didst not bear, Isaiah 54:1. Note, Mercies long waited for often prove signal mercies, and it is made to appear that they were worth waiting for, and by them others may be encouraged to continue their hope in God’s mercy.

B. Notice The Angel They Encountered

1. This Angel Had A Marvelous Promise

a. They Would Have A Son

(Judges 13:3) And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.

b. They Would Have A Savior

(Judges 13:5) For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

begin – Hebrew 2490. chalal; a primary root word that means properly, to bore, i.e. (by implication) to wound, to dissolve; to begin (as if by an “opening wedge”).

2. This Angel Had A Miraculous Presence

a. Notice The Distinctiveness Of His Personality

(Judges 13:11) And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am.

(Judges 13:18) And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?

secret – Hebrew 6383. pil'iy, pil-ee'; or paliy', paw-lee'; from H6381 (pala – separate, distinguish, great, difficult, wonderful); remarkable: --secret, wonderful.

He seems almost to say, “You want to know my name, but you can’t handle my name.”

The “angel of the LORD” was none other than the manifestation of God. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is “the express image” of God. This was a Christophany, or a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.

(Judges 13:21-22) But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD. {22} And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.

b. Notice The Demonstration Of His Power

(Judges 13:19-20) So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wonderously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. {20} For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.

The word “wonderously” is translated from the Hebrew word (6381) pala', which means to separate, distinguish; and by implication it means to be great, difficult, or wonderful. It is the root of the word that is translated “secret” in verse 18.

II. Let’s Consider The Account Of Samson’s Faith – His Heroism

The Bible says…

(Judges 13:24) And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.

blessed – Hebrew OT:1295. barak; To bless in the OT means “to endue with power for success, prosperity, (fruitfulness), longevity, etc.” (From the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

Not only did the Lord bless Samson, but the Bible also tells us in Judges 13:25 that “the spirit of the LORD began to move him.”

A. Notice How The Spirit Moved Him

1. Think About The Explanation Of The Spirit’s Moving In Samson’s Life

(Judges 13:25) And the spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

move – Hebrew OT:6470. pa’am; to thrust; to impel; to push; to beat persistently; to be disturbed

(From the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon)

This could suggest that his heart was moved before his hand was moved.

Adam Clarke said…

[The Spirit of the Lord began to move him] He felt the degrading bondage of his countrymen, and a strong desire to accomplish something for their deliverance. These feelings and motions he had from the Divine Spirit.

2. Think About The Examples Of The Spirit’s Moving In Samson’s Life

(Each of which are tagged by this statement, “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him.”)

a. He Killed A Beast Of Might (A Lion) 14:5-6

(Judges 14:5-6) Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. {6} And the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.

b. He Killed A Band Of Men (Thirty Men) 14:19

(Judges 14:19) And the spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father's house.

c. He Killed A Battalion Of Many (1,000) 15:14

(Judges 15:14) And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.

B. Notice How The Scripture Mentions Him

1. It Refers To His Noble Task

(Judges 14:4) But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament says…

Samson was acting under a higher impulse, whereas his parents did not know that it was from Jehovah, i.e., that Jehovah had so planned it; “for Samson was seeking an opportunity on account of the Philistines,” i.e., an occasion to quarrel with them, because, as is afterwards added in the form of an explanatory circumstantial clause, the Philistines had dominion over Israel at that time.

(Judges 15:20) And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

judged – Hebrew OT:8199. shaphat; means to act as law-giver, judge, governor (giving law, deciding controversies and executing law, civil, religious, political, social. (From the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon)

2. It Refers To His Notable Trust

(Hebrews 11:32-34) And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: {33} Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, {34} Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Matthew Henry said…

If Samson had not had a strong faith as well as a strong arm, he had never performed such exploits. Observe (1.) By faith the servants of God shall overcome even the roaring lion. (2.) True faith is acknowledged and accepted, even when mingled with many failings. (3.) The believer’s faith endures to the end and, in dying, gives him victory over death and all his deadly enemies; his greatest conquest he gains by dying. … Having done naming particular persons, he proceeds to tell us what things were done by their faith. He mentions some things that easily apply themselves to one or other of the persons named;

It would have been better if Judges 15:20 were the final word on Samson, but unfortunately the story continues. And it is in the 16th chapter of Judges where we really begin to see his unlikelihood as a hero.

III. Let’s Consider The Account Of Samson’s Failure – His Humanity

A. Notice The Carnal Aspects Of His Life

1. This Involved The Choices That Were Made

a. The Defiling Decisions

(Judges 16:1) Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.

Samuel Ridout said…

Samson goes down unto Gaza for the gratification of his own appetites; little caring what blot there might be left upon the name of God, and upon the name of his people, in so doing. He goes down there a victim to the flesh, and, beloved brethren, if one is a victim to the flesh within, it is only a matter of time (until) he will be a victim externally, visibly, too.

(Judges 16:4) And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.

Delilah – Hebrew 1807. Deliylah, del-ee-law'; from H1809 (to slacken or be feeble; fig. to be oppressed); languishing (getting weaker):--Delilah, a Philistine woman.

b. The Dangerous Disclosures

(Judges 16:16-17) And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; {17} That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.

Samuel Ridout said…

Poor Samson is always telling his secrets. He is always anxious to talk about things that nobody ought to know but himself. Things that surely Philistines ought not to know about, he wants to tell them.

2. This Involved The Consequences That Were Manifested

(Judges 16:20-21) And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. {21} But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.

departed – Hebrew 5493. cuwr, soor; a primary root word meaning to turn off (lit. or fig.):--be [-head], bring, call back, decline, depart, eschew, get [you], go (aside), X grievous, lay away (by), leave undone, be past, pluck away, put (away, down), rebel, remove (to and fro), revolt, X be sour, take (away, off), turn (aside, away, in), withdraw, be without.

In his book “Manners & Customs of the Bible,” James M. Freeman writes…

Grinding a hand mill was the lowest kind of slave labor. Among the Greeks and Romans, slaves were sometimes compelled to do this as a punishment. It was doubtless considered equally degrading in the day of Samson, and for this reason the Philistines condemned him to it after they destroyed his sight. Fanciful illustrations and movies have shown Samson harnessed to a large wooden pole attached to a huge millstone that he turned by pushing the pole around a circle, but nothing of the sort is referred to in the Scriptures. Samson was reduced to humiliating slave labor, doing a woman’s work with an ordinary hand-mill.

Samuel Ridout said, “The last deliverer, Samson, though strongest of them all, is weakest; and himself needs more deliverance than he gives.”

B. Notice The Concluding Aspects Of His Life

1. His Account Brings With It A Return Of Strength

(Judges 16:22) Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.

(Judges 16:28-30) And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. {29} And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. {30} And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

strengthen – Hebrew 2388. chazaq, khaw-zak'; a primary root word meaning to fasten upon; hence to seize, be strong (figuratively – courageous / causatively – strengthen, cure, help, repair, fortify), obstinate; to bind, restrain, conquer. The word is translated elsewhere in the Old Testament as “aid, amend, encourage, be established, fortify, harden, help, be stout, take (hold), be urgent, behave self valiantly, withstand.”

He asked God to give him victory over that which had blinded him.

2. His Account Brings With It A Reflection Of Sadness

(Judges 16:30-31) And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. {31} Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.


A preacher named Brian Harbour said…

I was shocked when I heard the story and everyone else was shocked as well. A man died—a member of a church I formerly pastored. … It was not the fact that he died that was shocking. Everyone will eventually go through the valley of the shadow of death. Nor was it the way he died that was so shocking. He died of a heart attack—a common cause of death in our country today. The shocking thing was where he died.

He died in what I would call a porno place, a store which featured pornographic literature, videos, and even live models. An active member of the church, a married man, a Christian, had a heart attack and died in a porno place. As people discussed this event, the question which was often expressed—not always in exactly the same terms—was, “What was a person like him doing in a place like that?”

That question came to my mind when I read our text. Samson in prison. Samson humiliated before the Philistines. Samson the sport of their drunken entertainment. Then, this man of God, this judge who led Israel for twenty years, put his hands against the two central pillars of the pagan temple and brought down the building upon the Philistines—and upon himself. The biblical writer concluded sadly, “Thus he killed many more when he died than when he lived” (16:30).
What was a person like him doing in a place like that?
(From Preaching Online)

I’ve thought this morning of Brent. Later on, he got things right with God and got back in church, but my memory of him this morning was of seeing him in the local McDonald’s one Sunday night after church when several of our youth had gone out together. I was a teenage preacher then, and God was doing some great things in our area during those days.
Brent was there, but not with the church group. He was with the wrong crowd. And he was using language that embarrassed us. At one time he had been in church. He had a strong testimony. But, like Samson, he made some wrong choices. And the thing that I remember about that night at McDonald’s is my cousin making a statement something like this, “Didn’t he used to be somebody?”
These questions … “What was a person like him doing in a place like that?” and “Didn’t he used to be somebody?” are part of Samson’s legacy. What an unlikely hero he was at the last!
Can God use someone like that again? He did with Samson. He can forgive and strengthen again. Even though you may be an unlikely candidate, and even though you feel like you have messed up, God remembers you and He can use you again!
(Other possible closing illustration: Ray Von Hall swept away by something stronger than he was.)

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