The Real Story of Samson
When I was a kid, I loved Sunday school stories about Samson. I thought it was cool to go to church and hear about a really strong guy who fought a lot.
As I think back to those Sunday school lessons, I remember learning about the source of Samson's strength: his crazy long hair. (I imagined Samson with a mullet.) I also learned he was one of the Old Testament judges of Israel, and that he definitely liked the ladies a lot. This is the Samson of Sunday school. When I got older, I read Judges 13-16 and discovered the unrated director's cut.
I'd always imagined Samson looked like Governor Ahnold, but there's no evidence for that. In fact, if he were so huge and muscular, what would be so special about his super–human strength? Instead, try and imagine your algebra teacher … got it … that's probably more like it. Now imagine your algebra teacher ripping apart a lion with his bare hands during lunch period.
When Samson was born, God made it clear that Samson was to be a Nazarite and would one day take the Nazarite vow. This was God's way of marking people who were completely devoted to him. Some of the basics of the vow included not cutting your hair, not drinking wine or even eating grapes, and not going near anything dead. (Read more about this vow in Numbers 6:1-21.) Let's just say Samson had a little trouble keeping all the fine details of this vow.
Along with all his super strength Samson had a super weakness. He made a lot of bad choices when it came to the women he dated and married. (This is where the unrated editor's cut really kicks in). In Judges 14:1-3 Samson meets a Philistine girl, the daughter of his worst enemy. And despite his parents' protests, he insists on marrying her. But before the marriage, Samson pulls a "runaway groom" at the last minute and leaves his bride waiting at the altar. So how does Samson get over that relationship? He sleeps with a prostitute (Judges 16:1).
Later in Judges 16:4, Samson starts dating another Philistine named Delilah. In a behind–the–scenes twist, his new girlfriend is secretly paid off by the Philistine Mafia to discover the secret to his strength. Eventually Samson gives in and reveals the secret. Here's how Judges 16:16-17 describes it:
"She kept at it day after day, nagging and tormenting him. Finally, he was fed up—he couldn't take another minute of it. He spilled it. He told her, 'A razor has never touched my head. I've been God's Nazarite from conception. If I were shaved, my strength would leave me; I would be as helpless as any other mortal'" (The Message).
That was all she needed. Samson's new soulmate sold him out. In Judges 16:9 Delilah hired a barber for a super stealth midnight haircut while Samson slept. In an instant, Samson's strength was gone. He was quickly captured, had his eyes plucked out, and was taken away as a prisoner. But Samson would have his grand finale. He prayed to God for the strength to bring down the columns of a Philistine temple. In one final act of strength, Samson killed more Philistines than he did in his whole life. It is a heroic ending to a complicated and unedited story.