This chapter shows most clearly Samson’s great strength and his great weakness. We see his own awareness of his Nazirite vow, and yet his careless disregard for it. As Samson in part is a mirror in which Israel might see themselves (set apart to be holy and yet whose heart was repeatedly drawn to pagan women/idols), so this chapter has lessons too for us as God’s people today. But in part too he foreshadows the coming deliverer, whose death would destroy the enemies of God’s people, so there are lessons too about Christ.
The previous chapter ends with the mention of how Samson led Israel for 20 years, but this next story gives a far from flattering insight into his judgeship – drawn to Philistine women, driven by his lusts. The show of strength though is remarkable. Hebron was in the heart of Judah, 40 miles away; even if he didn’t carry them all that way, it seems this latest victory is as it were broadcast to all Israel. For the most part Samson seems to view his gifts as playthings for his own benefit, rather than gifts with which to serve God’s people, but here there is at least the faintest hint that he was thinking not just of himself but of the people he was to serve.
The fact that the rulers of the Philistines approached Delilah and offered such a vast reward shows how serious a threat to national security Samson was seen to be. The fact that Delilah is essentially motivated by greed shows how foolish and blind Samson is. Twice Delilah will say “You have made a fool of me”, but clearly Samson is the fool here.
Should he not have guessed what she was up to? Maybe he did, it seems it was weariness with her nagging that eventually makes him give up his secret, and a careless disregard for his vow. He had not lived up to it in any other respect, without cost to his strength, but he seems to know that if his head were to be shaved that would signify the abandonment of the vow and the loss of his strength. Faced with a choice between devotion to God and his love for Delilah, though, he chooses Delilah. Perhaps to be “as any other man” is what he longed for – as Christians can often today.
His betrayal and capture is tragic and sad. In his lack of awareness that the LORD had left him and presumption that he will be able to break free there is a sobering warning to us. It is a humiliating end, but then verse 22 raises hope that this is not quite the end.
How slow Samson has been to ever give credit to God in his victories, but his enemies are quick to credit Dagon for Samson’s defeat. Samson’s prayer in verse 28 shows more concern about the loss of his eyes than the damage to God’s reputation, but it is a prayer that acknowledges his weakness and dependence (where formerly he had presumed upon his strength).
Samson had been brought in to entertain the crowds, and his performance brings the house down, killing more in his death than the many he had killed in his life. In that his death foreshadows the deliverance and victory won by the Lord Jesus in his death – though in other respects how different Jesus was to Samson!