Samson was born during a tense time in Israel's history when the nation was at war with its enemies, the Philistines.
Samson's parents had been having a hard time conceiving. An angel told them they were finally going to receive some good news. Not only would they have a baby but also the little guy would grow up to be the deliverer of Israel. Manoah and his wife were given clear instructions by the angel on how to raise their son to be a Nazarite. This was a strict order of Israelite men dedicated to serve God. They had to totally abstain from alcohol, never touch a dead body or cut their hair.
Just as the angel predicted, Samson was born and his awestruck parents raised him exactly as they had been instructed.
Samson grew up to have immense strength in all but one aspect of his life—he had a weakness for beautiful, foreign women. Instead of finding a nice Israelite girl, the muscle man headed straight for enemy territory. In the hills of Philistia he met a woman he wanted to marry.
He turned a deaf ear to his parents' objections about this girl not being an Israelite, and brazenly made preparations to marry her.
In the run-up to the wedding, Samson was repeatedly caught up by the Spirit of the Lord and performed superhuman feats. When a lion tried to attack him, he tore the beast to pieces with his bare hands.
When it was time for the wedding to take place, Samson headed back toward Philistia and indulged in a unique culinary adventure. He discovered the carcass of a lion inside which a swarm of bees had set up camp. Samson helped himself to some honey straight from the honeycomb and shared some of the good stuff with his parents.
During the pre-wedding feasting, Samson used his encounter with a lion carcass and honey treat to illustrate a riddle. He tested the riddle on his thirty groomsmen. There were high stakes involved. If they were unable to solve the riddle they had to give Samson thirty items of linen and garments. Conversely, if they figured out the answer, Samson would have to provide them with the same prize.
Samson’s cryptic clue, based directly on the lion incident, went like this:
"Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet."
Needless to say, the groomsmen had no clue how to solve the riddle. Frustrated, they told Samson's new bride that they were going to torch her and her father's house unless she found out the answer to the riddle.
Samson caved under pressure from his bride who was understandably terrified. He gave her the answer and straightaway she went and told the groomsmen, leaving Samson with the burden of finding thirty garments.
Incensed at how his riddle had backfired, Samson headed straight for the coastal city of Ashkelon. There he single-handedly killed thirty Philistines and took their clothing. He then headed back to present his groomsmen with their reward.
Back at the wedding, the bad news had continued to pile up, however, as Samson then discovered his father-in-law had taken advantage of Samson’s absence by giving his daughter's hand in marriage to one of the groomsmen! He wouldn’t even allow Samson to see his bride, but offered her younger sister in marriage instead. Samson refused. Further incensed at this latest turn of events, he decided to seek revenge on the Philistines.
Samson vented his fury on the Philistines by catching three hundred foxes. He then tied them in pairs by their tails, attached blazing torches to them and set the frenzied foxes loose in the Philistines’ grain fields and olive groves. The fields were immediately set ablaze which naturally dealt a devastating blow to the Philistines.
Enraged, the crop owners turned on the woman Samson was supposed to marry and her father, burning them to death.
Samson then went out and killed even more Philistines after he learned of the death of his beloved and her father. The Nazarite then found shelter in a cave called the rock of Etam.
Meanwhile, the Philistines assembled their army and marched on the tribe of Judah demanding that three thousand of their men hand Samson over to them.
Samson struck a deal with the men of Judah. He agreed to be bound with rope and handed over to the Philistines on condition that he would not be killed.
To make sure he was securely bound, the men of the tribe of Judah tied Samson with two brand new ropes. But just as the Philistines were about to take possession of the bound Samson, the Nazarite surprised them. Flexing his muscles, he snapped the two new ropes that had restrained him. Samson had no weapons, but he soon improvised. Finding the jawbone of a donkey he used it to slaughter one thousand Philistine troops.
As much as he hated Philistine soldiers, Samson still had a thing for Philistine women. He started his post-battle celebrations with a visit to a prostitute in the city of Gaza. Catching wind of Samson's presence, his enemies tried to ambush him by waiting at the gate of the city. This plan backfired when Samson simply lifted off the gate and carried it all the way to a distant hill.
Another beautiful Philistine woman, Delilah, soon entered the picture and Samson fell head over heels in love again. Here, his enemies saw another opportunity. They bribed Delilah to persuade Samson to share the secret of his strength.
Delilah used her charm on Samson until he confessed that binding him with fresh bowstrings would render him powerless. One night, as Samson slept, Delilah tied him with bowstrings but as soon as he woke up Samson easily broke free. Samson then told Delilah that new ropes were the answer. But that didn't work either. Delilah kept trying to find the secret to his strength, but Samson persisted in tricking her. He then told Delilah that if his hair were ever woven into a loom, his strength would leave him. Sure enough, while he slept, she wove his hair through a loom but, as soon as Samson awoke, he broke free and destroyed the loom.
Delilah wouldn’t give up but continued her nagging, gradually wearing Samson down. Finally, he lost his resolve and the truth came out. Samson confided that, as a Nazarite, a razor had never touched his head but if he were ever to cut his hair, he would lose his entire strength.
And so it was that as Samson slept Delilah cut his hair. When Samson awoke, he found himself powerless to stand against his enemies when they came for him. He was captured, his eyes gouged out and he was forced into prison labor, turning a millstone to grind grain. The Philistines were jubilant that finally Samson was captured.
Some time passed and the Philistines were holding a vast banquet in honor of one of their deities, Dagon. As part of the entertainment, it was decided to bring the bound Samson to the temple where the feast was being held. They took enormous pleasure at the pitiful sight of their former enemy.
The blinded Samson, whose hair had grown long once again, asked to be tied between the two supporting pillars of the temple. He prayed to God to give him strength one final time. God granted his request and Samson strained at the pillars with all his might until they fell and the entire temple was brought crashing down. Three thousand guests at the feast perished along with Samson in a dramatic end to the dramatic life of this biblical hero.
It certainly appears that Samson indulged in many gruesome deeds although he did live during a violent period in earth’s history. He also clearly failed to live up to the high standards his parents had so stringently applied to his upbringing as a Nazarite. Despite Samson’s wayward life, God never gave up on him and brought him at last to victory.