If it’s not exactly a death-wish, what else would describe Samson’s attitude to the Philistines? Couldn’t he find a prostitute in the land of Israel? Of course, but he has to go and find one in an enemy city, and he must have done that to invite danger (vv.1-2). His heaving off the city gates and lugging them up a hill is one more opportunity to show his contempt of the Philistines, through a vain display of strength. Why do it? And why were the Philistines so set on taking him alive? Did they plan to match Samson’s ridicule of them by making him a living spectacle as their prisoner?
And why oh why Delilah? There were pretty women in Israel. And why didn’t he ditch her after the first episode of her betraying him? Instead, he lies to her about thongs, new rope and the power of the loom to take his strength (vv.6-14). Why do it? He’s teasing her, and more than that, he’s teasing the Philistines, goading them to anger. Actually, he’s playing with his own life. He might just live to regret it.
Samson knows that the Philistines are going nowhere. Neither is Delilah, and neither is Samson. ‘She prodded him day after day until he was tired to death’ (v.16). Samson was never the patron saint of patience. So when Samson is thoroughly fed-up with her and tells Delilah about the secret of his strength, she is sure that this is the honest answer (v.19). The trap has been set, but it’s hard not to think that Samson walked into it himself.
His head is shaved, and his strength is gone. There is no Spirit of God to empower him as the enemy comes – ‘he did not know that the Lord had left him’ (v.20). Powerless, alone, overpowered, blinded and imprisoned, he is a picture of wretchedness. It’s a misery of his own making. Sex, danger and power. Hardly new stuff, is it? And it’s been the downfall of many a professed servant of God for centuries.
Why, Samson? Why does he do it? And why, Jesus? Why did He do it? Why did Jesus give Himself to His enemies? Why was He taken, bound, humiliated and wounded? There seems no wisdom in how Samson behaved. There is a world of wisdom, divine wisdom, in how Jesus allowed himself to be taken. Samson was proud, impatient, rash and vain. Jesus was humble, patient, wise and gave glory to God in in His obedience, ultimately in His willingness to die for the sins of lost people. And, just as Samson’s hair grew again (v.22), we believe in resurrection grace, the grace of God that comes from the prison of Jesus’ tomb to bring new life. This is our real leader. Let’s rejoice in Him.