Samson was the strongest man in the Bible. But did you know he also had 5 weaknesses?
In this article, let’s discover:
- What made him the strongest man in the Bible
- His 5 weaknesses
- The 7 lessons you can learn from his experiences
But first, let’s get to know Samson and his story.
Let’s dive right in.
Who Was Samson and What Was His Story?
The meaning of his name
One is the Hebrew word Shimshôn which means “uncertain.” Another is shemesh which translates as “sun” or “little sun.”
The third term is shamam, which means “to destroy,” implying that Samson is a “destroyer.”
The last one is shamem which spells almost the same as the previous. It means “fat” or “robust,” signifying that Samson is the “strong one.”
Now, his birth and family background
Samson was born of Manoah and his wife, whose name the Bible doesn’t mention (Judges 13:2).
She hasn’t borne children. But an angel of God told her, “You shall conceive and bear a son” (verses 2-3, ESV).
If you were in her place, how would you feel? Wasn’t it a great privilege?
But it was coupled with some responsibilities (verses 4-7).
What were those?
His Nazarite vow
“Be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.” Also, “no razor shall come upon his head” (Judges 13:4-5, ESV).
“For the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb.” With this, he shall “save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”
Nazarite? What does it mean?
It was the name Hebrews used to refer to a devotee with a holy vow.
This vow included what we mentioned earlier. But in addition, “eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.” Also, “he shall not go near a dead body” (Numbers 6:4, 6, ESV).
Sounds like a lot of restrictions, right?
How do you think they would affect Samson’s life? Let’s see.
5 significant events in his life
1) He fell in love with and married a Philistine girl.
At Timnah, Samson saw one of the daughters of the Philistines (Judges 14:1).
He told his parents that he wanted the woman to be his wife. But they didn’t like her for him, knowing she came from uncircumcised Philistines (verses 2-3).
Still, Samson insisted, saying, “She is right in my eyes.”
Eventually, Samson’s parents agreed to go with him to Timnah.
There, he fell in love with and married the woman (verses 5 and 7).
To celebrate, Samson prepared a feast for her and the rest of the Philistines (verse 10).
But as they came, Samson gave them a riddle to solve within the seven days of the feast (verse 12).
After three days, they couldn’t solve it. So, they asked the woman to entice Samson into revealing the answer to the puzzle.
On the seventh day, the men reported to him with the answer: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” (verse 18, ESV).
But Samson doubted their honesty. He knew they persuaded his wife to tell them the answer.
2) He was determined to take revenge against the Philistines.
To take revenge, Samson burned some fields and olive orchards of the Philistines 1.
Meanwhile, you’re probably wondering what the riddle was all about. Let’s find out later.
Moving on, Samson stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam (Judges 15:8).
Meanwhile, the Philistines camped in Judah and spread out near Lehi, planning to get even with Samson (verses 9-10).
Later, three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave where Samson was staying.
They said to him, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?” (verse 11, NIV).
Samson answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.”
After which, they tied him up to be handed over to the Philistines. But Samson asked them not to kill him.
True enough, the men didn’t. “We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you” (verse 13, NIV).
And they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.
What happened next?
3) He visited a prostitute and almost placed himself at the hands of his enemies.
One day, Samson went to Gaza. There, he saw a prostitute and spent the night with her (Judges 16:1).
When the people knew he was there, they surrounded him and waited all night at the city gate. Little did he know they were planning to kill him in the morning (verse 2).
Good thing! Samson got up at midnight. Did you know what? He grabbed the doors, gateposts, and bar of the city gate.
And would you believe it? He carried them on his shoulder and brought them to the top of the mountain near Hebron (verse 3).
4) He met and fell in love with Delilah, putting himself in danger with the Philistines.
Samson went to the Valley of Sorek (Judges 16:4).
“Once more, his passions became his master” 1.
Why and how?
Samson fell in love with Delilah, a Philistine woman from that valley.
The rest of the Philistines saw this as an opportunity to trick him.
The plan to discover the truth about Samson’s strength
The Philistines asked Delilah for a favor (Judges 16:5, ESV): “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him.”
As a reward for her, each one of them would give her 1,100 silver coins.
If you were Delilah, would you accept this offer?
The first attempt
Delilah asked Samson how he could be bound (Judges 16:6).
He replied, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, then I will become weak and be like an ordinary man” (verse 7, MEV).
The Philistines did as Samson told Delilah. But he was able to split the bowstrings apart like a single thread is split apart at the touch of fire (verse 9).
Delilah felt disappointed that Samson deceived and lied to her.
The second attempt
Again, Delilah asked Samson how he could be bound (Judges 16:10).
Samson answered, “If they bind me with new ropes that have never been used, then I will become weak and be like an ordinary man” (verse 11, MEV).
As usual, Delilah and the Philistines did what Samson instructed. But he split apart the ropes on his arms like a thread (verse 12).
Again? Imagine how strong Samson was!
The third attempt
Disappointed for the second time, Delilah still asked Samson the same question.
He instructed, “Weave seven locks of my hair into the fabric on the loom and fasten it with the pin.” By doing so, “I will become weak and be like an ordinary man” (Judges 16:13, MEV).
What do you think would happen? Would Delilah be smarter this time?
Well, she tricked Samson to sleep and did as he told her. But still, when he got up, he pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web (verse 14).
Can you believe it?
The fourth attempt
This time, Delilah cornered Samson with a threatening question.
She asked, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies” (Judges 16:15, ESV).
Do you know what? Samson finally gave up.
He said, “No razor has touched my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I were shaven, my strength would leave me, and I would become weak and be like all other men” (verse 17, MEV).
What a revelation!
So, Delilah told the Philistines she finally discovered Samson’s secret. As they came, they brought the money for her reward.
But first, she tricked Samson to sleep on her knees. Then, she asked for a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair (verse 19).
As Samson woke up, he could not break free.
Now, his enemies won. Even worse, the Lord had left him (verse 20).
Finally, the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. Then, they brought him to Gaza, chaining and imprisoning him (verse 21).
Fortunately, although his hair had been shaven, it began to grow back after some time.
5) He determined to get even with the Philistines once and for all.
The Philistine rulers gathered in the temple of Gaza to celebrate and offer a sacrifice to Dagon, their god (Judges 16:23-24).
Later, they called Samson from the prison and placed him between the two pillars of the temple (verse 25).
“The temple was full of people” and “about 3,000 more were on the roof” 1.
Samson must have been feeling nervous and frightened now that he was blind and weak, don’t you think?
Good thing, he knew the structure of the temple for he had been here before.
Yet, he called out to God, “Lord God, remember me, I pray! Please strengthen me just this once” (Judges 16:28, MEV).
With this, he wanted to take full revenge against the Philistines for his two eyes.
But not only that. It was also to get even with them for the humiliations he suffered at their hands 1.
So, how did he do it? We’ll find out in a bit.
What Made Him the Strongest Man in the Bible?
“Physically, Samson was the strongest man upon the earth” 2.
Here are 5 instances to prove it:
1) He killed a lion with his bare hands.
If you can remember from the story earlier, Samson gave the Philistines a riddle. It had something to do with a lion.
Samson and his parents were on their way to Timnah to see the Philistine woman he wanted to be his wife.
Approaching the vineyards, a young lion came toward him roaring (Judges 14:5).
If you were Samson, would you attempt to fight against the lion? Or would you run to escape and scream for help?
But did you know what?
The Spirit of the Lord strengthened him. And although Samson had no weapon, he tore the lion in pieces as if it were only a young goat (verse 6).
Can you imagine that?
After seeing the Philistine woman, Samson went back to see the dead body of the lion. Now, there was a swarm of bees and honey inside it (verse 8).
Would you believe it? He scraped it out into his hands and went on eating it (verse 9).
Returning to his parents, he shared some honey with them. But he didn’t tell them he had scraped it from the carcass of the lion.
According to the dictionary by Merriam-Webster, it is a “dead body,” especially of a “meat animal.” You can compare it to a human corpse.
2) He won over 30 Philistines.
Samson became so angry when the Philistines learned the answer to his riddle because his wife told them.
He went down to Ashkelon and struck down 30 men. He took their clothes and gave them to those who figured out his riddle (Judges 14:19).
3) He captured 150 pairs of foxes.
Samson took a young goat and visited his wife (Judges 15:1).
But the woman’s father didn’t want Samson to enter her room, knowing he hated her. So, he gave her daughter to Samson’s companion and told him to take her younger sister instead (verse 2).
Samson answered, “This time, I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them” (verse 3, NIV).
So, what did he do?
Samson captured 300 foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. Then, he fastened every pair of tails with a torch (verse 4).
He lit the torches and let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines. Together with the vineyards and olive groves, he burned up the shocks and standing grain (verse 5).
4) He killed 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey.
The men of Judah tied Samson with two ropes and brought him to the Philistines (Judges 15:13).
As the Philistines met him at Lehi, the Spirit of the Lord strengthened him. And the ropes on his arms became like burned flax and the ties on his hands melted (verse 14).
Then, Samson saw a fresh jawbone of a donkey. He used it to strike down a thousand Philistines (verses 15-16).
After killing them all, he threw the jawbone away and called that place “Ramath Lehi” (verse 17, NIV).
5) He destroyed the temple of Dagon and killed 3,000 people.
Earlier, we talked about Samson wanting to take revenge against the Philistines for the last time.
Let’s continue from that scene.
After praying to God, Samson grasped the two middle pillars of the temple, one on his right hand and the other on his left (Judges 16:29).
While in this position, he shouted, “Let me die with the Philistines” (verse 30, ESV). And he pushed the pillars with all his strength.
Finally, the temple fell upon the rulers and all the people in it. He killed more than he had killed during his life.
What a tragic death!
With this, do you think the Lord has forgiven Samson?
What Were His 4 Weaknesses?
1) He would lose his strength if his hair was cut.
As you have seen from his story, Samson was extraordinarily strong.
God blessed him with that special ability whose symbol was his hair. For this, his family was advised never to razor it (Judges 13:5).
Meaning, that same hair would be Samson’s weakness when lost.
2) He couldn’t control his lustful desires.
As we have learned earlier, Samson was physically “the strongest man upon the earth.” But in “self-control, integrity, and firmness, he was one of the weakest of men” 2.
He could “choose the right or the wrong as he pleased.” But instead of taking hold of God’s strength, he “permitted the wild passions of his nature to have full sway” 3.
For instance, God planned that Samson would save Israel from the Philistines, their enemies (Judges 13:5).
For this, “utmost care had been taken” since his birth “to surround him with the most favorable conditions for physical strength, intellectual vigor, and moral purity” 3.
But when he grew up, Samson fell in love with three Philistine women and married some of them (Judges 14–16). He couldn’t resist the temptation.
Also, as part of his Nazarite vow, Samson should never “approach a dead body” (Numbers 6:6, MEV).
But he came near the carcass of the lion he killed. He even scooped and ate the honey out of it (Judges 14:8-9).
3) He had a bad temper.
From our sneak peek of Samson’s life, you’ve seen how much he hated the Philistines.
When they reported to him the answer to his riddle, Samson didn’t believe they guessed it themselves because he knew his wife revealed it to them. To take revenge, he killed thirty of their men (Judges 14:19).
4) He gave in to the temptation of revealing his source of strength.
Delilah enticed Samson to tell her the secret of his unusual strength—not just once nor twice but thrice. Yet, all these attempts failed because he didn’t tell the truth.
But on the fourth try, Samson finally gave in. He told Delilah that he would lose his strength if his hair was cut (Judges 16:17).
7 Things to Learn From Samson’s Weaknesses and Failures
1) Sin brings about consequences.
Samson sinned when he revealed to the Philistines the source of his strength. Specifically, he violated the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:5).
Consequently, Samson fell into the hands of his enemies.
As you’ve seen from the story, they seized him and gouged out his eyes. Then, they brought him to Gaza and imprisoned him (Judges 16:21).
What is its implication?
Every action has its corresponding consequence. What you sow, you will reap (Galatians 6:7). Also, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, ESV).
2) Guard your temper.
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28, ESV).
As such, Samson’s intemperance teaches us the value of patience.
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (verse 32 of chapter 16, ESV).
3) Ask for God’s forgiveness and turn away from sin.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV). In other words, to be tempted is normal.
And as humans, we are all inclined to sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV).
But Samson teaches us an important lesson.
In suffering and humiliation, he “learned more of his own weakness than he had ever known before.” His afflictions “led him to repentance” 4.
“If we confess our sins,” God is “faithful and just” to “forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9, NIV).
By turning away from evil, “your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19, ESV).
But you don’t have to do it alone. God will help you get through it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
4) Don’t abuse the gifts He has given you.
What is your God-given talent?
It may be the gift of preaching. Or you may be good at singing or playing instruments. Or it may be wisdom and intellect.
Whatever it is, how do you use it?
In the case of Samson, his gift was incredible strength (Judges 1). But he abused it and used it to show off instead of bringing glory to Him (chapters 14–16).
What can you learn from this?
“Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy” (1 Timothy 4:14, MEV). Use it “to serve others” as “faithful stewards of God’s grace” (1 Peter 4:10, NIV).
5) He created you with a purpose in life.
Has there been a time in your life when you felt worthless? No direction. Can’t determine your purpose. Wondering why God created you in the first place.
Just take it from Samson’s story.
Even before his birth, God had a plan for him—to deliver Israel from the Philistines (Judges 13:5).
Like Samson, you too have a purpose.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
6) God uses you for His mission even if you think you don’t deserve it.
Do you sometimes feel unworthy to testify for God because of your weaknesses? Thinking you are so poor and sinful to serve and glorify Him?
You would probably feel the same if you were Samson, who lacked self-control and kept on sinning.
But there’s always hope.
Even though you may stumble, you will not fall, for God upholds you with His hand (Psalm 37:24).
Forget those things that are behind. Move forward to those that are ahead (Philippians 3:13).
7) You need His strength to overcome the challenges along the way.
Walking with God doesn’t mean life will be perfect.
“The very ones whom God purposes to use as His instruments for a special work, Satan employs his utmost power to lead astray” 5.
“He attacks us at our weak points, working through defects in the character to gain control of the whole man; and he knows that if these defects are cherished, he will succeed.”
True enough, as humans, we have no power to overcome temptations all by ourselves. But “help is at hand and will be given to every soul who really desires it.”
Lastly, we can do everything through Christ Who strengthens us because nothing is impossible with Him (Philippians 4:13; Luke 1:37).
What Have You Learned?
Did you enjoy this article?
What have you learned from Samson’s story?
Do you have similar experiences?
Let us hear from you.
- Siegfried Horn, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, 1979, 974-75
- Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 567.3
- Ellen White, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, volume 2, 1007.1
- Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 566.3
- Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 568.2