Biblical People

Biblical People: Samson

Another judge is Samson. His story begins even before his birth. An angel appears to a childless woman and tells her she’ll become pregnant and have a son. The angel says the boy will be dedicated to God, even before he is born. 

He then gives the woman special dietary expectations. Though we may assume these only apply while she’s pregnant, the text suggests they continue after his birth. The boy, who is to be a Nazirite, also has rules to follow, such as never cutting his hair.

What a grand start to life: dedicated to God even before birth.

Yet Samson fails to live up to the Almighty’s expectations for his life. He squanders his great beginning. Though God does use him to kill some of the nation’s Philistine enemies, this isn’t because of Samson’s right behavior.

Instead, God uses Samson despite his faulty character. He disrespects his parents, disobeys God, and doesn’t control his sexual desires.

Samson touches a carcass, though God prohibits it. Samson also likes foreign women, also contrary to God’s law. He marries a Philistine woman, but the seven-day wedding celebration doesn’t go well. It’s all because he challenged thirty of the men in attendance with a riddle. 

They can’t solve it and press his bride for the solution. She doesn’t know and plies Samson for the answer. With constant tears and pleading, she wears him down and he explains it to her.

She tells the thirty men, and they answer the riddle, winning the bet Samson made with them. To pay up, Samson kills thirty other men, takes their clothes, and gives them to the men at the wedding.

Then Samson abandons his new wife, and her father gives her to another. When Samson wants her back, it’s too late. In retaliation, he burns their crops. The Philistines blame the woman and her father for this and kill them. Samson escalates the conflict further, slaying many more in revenge.

Another time Samson hires a prostitute. 

Later he falls in love with Delilah. She proves to be his undoing.

The Philistines hire Delilah to uncover the source of Samson’s strength so they can capture him and stop him from killing more of their people.

She asks him to share his secret with her and he toys with her, giving false information, but each time he edges closer to the truth. He eventually reveals that the secret to his strength is that he’s never had a haircut. 

She calls for the Philistines to shave his head. Then they capture him. They gouge his eyes and throw him in prison.

His hair begins to grow back, and he asks God for one final burst of strength. God grants his request, and Samson destroys the Philistine temple by taking out one of its main supports.

The building crumbles, killing 3,000 Philistines and Samson along with them.

Whether little or much, have we made the most of the start we’ve been given in life? When we make mistakes, do we believe God can still use us?

[Read Samson’s story in Judges 13–16. Discover more in Hebrews 11:32–34.]

Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at