Ark of the Covenant - Bible History Online
Bible History

Naves Topical Bible Dictionary

samson Summary and Overview

Bible Dictionaries at a GlanceBible Dictionaries at a Glance

samson in Easton's Bible Dictionary

of the sun, the son of Manoah, born at Zorah. The narrative of his life is given in Judg. 13-16. He was a "Nazarite unto God" from his birth, the first Nazarite mentioned in Scripture (Judg. 13:3-5; compare Num. 6:1-21). The first recorded event of his life was his marriage with a Philistine woman of Timnath (Judg. 14:1-5). Such a marriage was not forbidden by the law of Moses, as the Philistines did not form one of the seven doomed Canaanite nations (Ex. 34:11-16; Deut. 7:1-4). It was, however, an ill-assorted and unblessed marriage. His wife was soon taken from him and given "to his companion" (Judg. 14:20). For this Samson took revenge by burning the "standing corn of the Philistines" (15:1-8), who, in their turn, in revenge "burnt her and her father with fire." Her death he terribly avenged (15:7-19). During the twenty years following this he judged Israel; but we have no record of his life. Probably these twenty years may have been simultaneous with the last twenty years of Eli's life. After this we have an account of his exploits at Gaza (16:1-3), and of his infatuation for Delilah, and her treachery (16:4-20), and then of his melancholy death (16:21-31). He perished in the last terrible destruction he brought upon his enemies. "So the dead which he slew at his death were more [in social and political importance=the elite of the people] than they which he slew in his life." "Straining all his nerves, he bowed: As with the force of winds and waters pent, When mountains tremble, those two massy pillars With horrible convulsion to and fro He tugged, he shook, till down they came, and drew The whole roof after them, with burst of thunder Upon the heads of all who sat beneath, Lords, ladies, captains, counsellors, or priests, Their choice nobility and flower." Milton's Samson Agonistes.

samson in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(like the sun), son of Manoah, a man of the town of Zorah in the tribe of Dan, on the border of Judah. #Jos 15:33; 19:41| (B.C. 1161). The miraculous circumstances of his birth are recorded in Judges 13; and the three following chapters are devoted to the history of his life and exploits. Samson takes his place in Scripture, (1) as a judge --an office which he filled for twenty years, #Jud 15:20; 16:31| (2) as a Nazarite, #Jud 13:5; 16:17| and (3) as one endowed with supernatural power by the Spirit of the Lord. #Jud 13:25; 14:6,19; 15:14| As a judge his authority seems to have been limited to the district bordering upon the country of the Philistines. The divine inspiration which Samson shared with Othniel, Gideon and Jephthah assumed in him the unique form of vast personal strength, inseparably connected with the observance of his vow as a Nazarite: "his strength was in his hair." He married a Philistine woman whom he had seen at Timnath. One day, on his way to that city, he was attacked by a lion, which he killed; and again passing that way he saw a swarm of bees in the carcass of the lion, and he ate of the honey, but still he told no one. He availed himself of this circumstance, and of the custom of proposing riddles at marriage feasts, to lay a snare for the Philistines. But Samson told the riddle to his wife and she told it to the men of the city, whereupon Samson slew thirty men of the city. Returning to his own house, he found his wife married to another, and was refused permission to see her. Samson revenged himself by taking 300 foxes (or rather jackals) and tying them together two by two by the tails, with a firebrand between every pair of tails, and so he let them loose into the standing corn of the Philistines, which was ready for harvest, The Philistines took vengeance by burning Samson's wife and her father; but he fell hip upon them in return, and smote them with a great slaughter," after which he took refuge on the top of the rock of Etam, in the territory of Judah. The Philistines gathered an army to revenge themselves when the men of Judah hastened to make peace by giving up Samson, who was hound with cords, these, however, he broke like burnt flax and finding a jawbone of an ass at hand, he slew with it a thousand of the Philistines. The supernatural character of this exploit was confirmed by the miraculous bursting out of a spring of water to revive the champion as he was ready to die of thirst. This achievement raised Samson to the position of a judge, which he held for twenty years. After a time he began to fall into the temptations which addressed themselves to his strong animal nature; but he broke through every snare in which he was caught so long as he kept his Nazarite vow. While he was visiting a harlot in Gaza, the Philistines shut the gates of the city, intending to kill him in the morning; but at midnight he went out and tore away the gates, with the posts and bar and carried them to the top of a hill looking toward Hebron. Next he formed his fatal connection with Delilah, a woman who lived in the valley of Sorek. Thrice he suffered himself to be bound with green withes, with new ropes, but released himself until finally, wearied out with her importunity, he "told her all his heart," and while he was asleep she had him shaven of his seven locks of hair. His enemies put out his eyes, and led him down to Gaza, bound in brazen fetters, and made him grind in the prison. Then they held a great festival in the temple of Dagon, to celebrate their victory over Samson. They brought forth the blind champion to make sport for them, end placed him between the two chief pillars which supported the roof that surrounded the court. Samson asked the lad who guided him to let him feel the pillars, to lean upon them. Then, with a fervent prayer that God would strengthen him only this once, to be avenged on the Philistines, he bore with all his might upon the two pillars; they yielded, and the house fell upon the lords and all the people. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life." In #Heb 11:32| his name is enrolled among the worthies of the Jewish Church.

samson in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

SAM'SON (sunlike), son of Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, and for twenty years a judge of Israel. The circumstances attending the annunciation of his birth are remarkable. Jud 13:3-23. See Manoah. He was distinguished for his gigantic strength, and is the Hercules of the Hebrews. Contrary to the wishes of his parents, who were observers of the Law, Ex 34:16; Deut 7:3, he married a woman of Timnath. a Philistine city. On his way to that city he slew a lion, Jud 14:5-9, and afterward found in the carcass of the beast a swarm of bees, and he ate of the honey himself and took some to his parents. This occurrence gave rise to an enigma, which he propounded at his marriage-feast, promising a valuable present to any who would solve it within seven days, provided they would make a like present to him if they failed. Unable to solve the riddle themselves, they resorted to Samson's wife, who, by the most urgent entreaties, had obtained from him a solution of it. By cruel threats they extorted from her the secret, and told it to him. But he knew their treachery; and, though he kept his word and made them the present, it was at the expense of the lives of thirty of their countrymen. He also forsook his wife, who had been thus false to him. See Riddle. On returning to Timnath with a view to a reconciliation with his wife, he found she had married again, and he was not permitted to see her. He immediately caught three hundred foxes, and, fastening a firebrand to every pair of them, let them loose upon the fields and vineyards of the Philistines, and spread fire and desolation over the country. The Philistines, to be avenged, set fire to the house where Samson's wife lived, and she and her father were burnt in it. This wanton barbarity again drew upon them the vengeance of Samson, who came upon them and routed them with immense slaughter. Jud 15:1-8. He then took up his abode on the rock Etam, in the territory of Judah, whither the Philistines came to revenge themselves, laying waste the country on every side. Three thousand of the men of Judah remonstrated with Samson for thus exciting the resentment of the Philistines, and he consented that they should bind him and deliver him into their hands. This they did; but in the midst of their exultations he burst his bands and fell upon his enemies, putting a thousand of them to death and the residue to flight. Jud 15:9-19. It was on this occasion that he was miraculously supplied with water from a fountain opened on the spot - not in the jawbone with which he had slain the Philistines, but in the place where the bone was found and used. Jud 15:17, margin. His sensual nature betrayed him into an illicit connection with a woman in Gaza. His enemies meanwhile surrounded the place, expecting to kill him in the morning, but at midnight he arose and carried off the gates of the city. Jud 16:3. After this, Samson went to the valley of Sorek, where he attached himself to Delilah, a mercenary woman, by whom, after a variety of arts and stratagems, the secret of his great strength was discovered to lie in the preservation of his hair, for he was a Nazarite. Jud 16:17. The Philistines came upon him while he was asleep, removed his hair, bound him with fetters of brass, put out his eyes, carried him to Gaza, and threw him into prison. Having thus secured their formidable foe, the Philistine nobles assembled for a feast of joy, and, to add to their merriment, they proposed to have Samson brought. So a lad led him in and sat him down between the two main pillars of the house where the nobles and a multitude of people, both men and women, were assembled, besides three thousand persons upon the roofs of the cloisters around, beholding the cruel sport. Samson requested the lad who had charge of him to let him rest himself against the pillars on either side of him. This being granted, he prayed for strength, and, laying hold of the pillars, he bowed with all his might, carrying the pillars and the whole structure with him, and burying himself and the vast multitude within and around the courts in one common destruction. Samson is ranked with the heroes of the faithful. Heb 11:32-33. But we must, of course, not judge him from the standpoint of the N.T. He lived in the wild anarchical period of the Judges, when might was right, and he was just the man for that time.

samson in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

(See MANOAH.) ("awe inspiring".) (Judges 13:6; Judges 13:18-20) or else "sunlike" (Gesenius): compare Judges 5:31, "strong" (Josephus Ant. 5:8, section 4). Judge of Israel for 20 years (Judges 15:20; Judges 16:31), namely, in the Danite region near Philistia. Judah and Dan, and perhaps all Israel, were subject then to the Philistines (Judges 13:1; Judges 13:5; Judges 15:9-11, "knowest thou not the Philistines are rulers over us?" Judges 15:20). His 20 years' office was probably included in the "40 years" of Philistine rule. At the time of the angel's announcement to his mother (Judges 13:5) they ruled, and as his judgeship did not begin before he was 20 it must have nearly coincided with the last 20 years of their dominion. However their rule ceased not until the judgeship of Samuel, which retrieved their capture of the ark (1 Samuel 7:1-14). So the close of Samson's judgeship must have coincided with the beginning of Samuel's, and the capture of the ark in Eli's time must have been during Samson's lifetime. Correspondences between their times appear. (1) The Philistines are prominent under both. (2) Both are Nazarites (1 Samuel 1:11), Samson's exploits probably moving Hannah to her vow. Amos (Amos 2:11-12) alludes to them, the only allusion elsewhere to Nazarites in the Old Testament being Lamentations 4:7. (3) Dagon's temple is alluded to under both (1 Samuel 5:2; Judges 16:23). (4) The Philistine lords (1 Samuel 7:7; Judges 16:8; Judges 16:18; Judges 16:27). Samson roused the people from their servile submission, and by his desultory blows on the foe prepared Israel for the final victory under Samuel. "He shall begin to deliver Israel" (Judges 13:5) implies the consummation of the deliverance was to be under his successor (1 Samuel 7:1-13). "The Lord blessed him" from childhood (Judges 13:24); type of Jesus (Luke 2:52, compare Luke 1:80, John the Baptist the New Testament Nazarite). "The Spirit of the Lord" is stated to be the Giver of his strength (Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6; Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14). Samson was not of giant size as were some of the Philistines (1 Samuel 17); his strength was not brute natural strength, but spiritual, bound up with fidelity to his Nazarite vow. An embodied lesson to Israel that her power lay in separation from idol lusts and entire consecration to God; no foe could withstand them while true to Him, but once that they forsook Him for the fascinations of the world their power is gone and every enemy should triumph over them (1 Samuel 2:9). Still even Samson's falls, as Israel's, are in God's wonderful providence overruled to Satan's and his agents' confusion and the good of God's elect. Samson slays the lion at Timnath, and through his Philistine wife's enticement they told the riddle; then to procure 30 tunics he slew 30 Philistines, the forfeit. His riddle "out of the eater came forth meat (carcasses in the East often dry up without decomposition), and out of the strong (Matthew 12:29) came forth sweetness," is the key of Samson's history and of our present dispensation. Satan's lion-like violence and harlot-like subtlety are made to recoil on himself and to work out God's sweet and gracious purposes toward His elect. Deprived of his wife, Samson by the firebrands attached to 300 "jackals" (shual), avenged himself on them. The Philistines burnt her and her father with fire; then he smote them with great slaughter at Etam. Then under the Spirit's power with an donkey bone (for the Philistines let Israel have no iron weapons: 1 Samuel 13:19) he slew a thousand Philistines. This established his title as judge during the Philistine oppression ("in the days of the Philistines": Judges 15:20). (See DELILAH for his fall.) By lust Samson lost at once his godliness and his manliness; it severed him from God the strength of his manhood. Samson set at nought the legal prohibition against affinity with idolatrous women (Exodus 34:15-16; Deuteronomy 7:3). Parting with the Nazarite locks of his consecration was virtual renunciation of his union with God, so his strength departed. Prayer restored it. The foes' attribution of their victory over "Samson the destroyer of their country" to their god Dagon provoked God's jealousy for His honour. A Philistine multitude, including all their lords, congregated in the house, which was a vast hall, the roof resting on four columns, two at the ends and two close together at the center; 3,000 men and women on the roof beheld while Samson made sport. Samson by pulling down the house slew at his death more than in his life. Type of Christ (Colossians 2:15; Matthew 27:50-54). Fulfilling Jacob's prophecy of Dan, his tribe (Genesis 49:16-17). A token that Israel's temporary backslidings, when repented of, shall issue in ultimate victory. Samson, the physically strong Nazarite, prepared the way for Samuel, the spiritual hero Nazarite, who consummated the deliverance that Samson began. Samson wrought what he did by faith, the true secret of might (Hebrews 11:32; Matthew 21:21). The Phoenicians carried to Greece the story of Samson, which the Greeks transferred to their idol Hercules. The Scholion on Lycophron (Bochart Hieroz. 2:5, section 12) blends the stories of Samson and Jonah, and makes Hercules come out of the belly of the sea monster with the loss of his hair. Hercules was "son of the sun" in Egypt (shemesh) related to Sam-son). Ovid (Fasti 54) describes the custom of tying a torch between two foxes in the circus, in memory of damage once done to a harvest by a fox with burning straw. Hercules dies by the hand of his wife; but every fault is atoned by suffering, and at last he ascends to heaven. His joviality and buffoonery answer to the last scene in the life of Samson. The history is taken probably from the tribe of Daniel. (See TIMNATH.)