Judges 13-16

Three major themes from Samson's life will be used to organize our reflections on Judges 13-16.

Judges 13-16 Playing around with GodIntro: Special Birth (13)

Samson was born at the time of the great Philistine oppression (1089-1049 B.C.).

Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years. (Judges 13:1, NASB).

A. Listening to God (13-14)
Responding to Authority
B. Consequences of Life
Disciplining His Children
C. Desires not Restrained
Dealing with Lust

Samson actually judged 20 years (16:31) so he probably started at the age of 20. This oppression ceased when after Samson died. After killing the five Philistine lords and many other nobles, Samuel followed up and smashed the Philistine's control over Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 7).

Samson's birth circumstances were fully discussed in chapter 13. The Lord wanted us at least to recognize that God was behind Samson's strength rather than some exercise club that he belonged to or some special honey that he ate. The background information also gives us special insight into the training Samson received from his parents. Or perhaps we should say, the 'lack of training.' His parents probably did real well on keeping the 'special requirements' of the hair and abstinence of alcohol, but they but missed out on the basics!

Let's look at how Samson's response to God was shaped by his response to his parents.

A. Listening to God (13-14)

Responding to Authority

Samson did not listen to his parents. For that matter, he didn't listen to God either. The question is, "Why didn't he listen to his parents on such a key issue as marriage?" Or perhaps even better, "Why did his parents give in to his request to marry a heathen wife?"

From Samson's life decisions, we can gain a pretty good picture of the flaws that developed from poor parenting. His father and mother had no problem in knowing the Lord. They both experienced the glorious presence of the 'Angel of the Lord.' (1) His father even asked for specific instructions from the angel on raising him.

Their parenting problems were rooted in not being willing to enforce the basic rules of life. Samson got what he wished. He did what he wanted. Is this not the pattern we see repeated all through his life? He was basically a very spoiled child. As is common with spoiled children, Samson wanted others to dote on his perceived needs rather than devoting himself to serving God and others. This translated down to a willingness to disobey God whenever he felt the need or desire.

For example, he took honey from the carcass of a dead lion (14:8-9). He flagrantly disobeyed the rules of cleanliness which prohibited contact with dead things. Furthermore, he disobeyed God and married a pagan woman. To be true, his parents actually did reject Samson's first request to marry this Philistine. They counseled him on what God wanted.

Then his father and his mother said to him, "Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?" But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, for she looks good to me." (Judges 14:3, NASB).Samson knocks down pillars

But their counsel was weak and rejected. They made this decision trivial by not supporting it with God's clear command (3:5-7). Instead they made it sound more like an issue of preference. They suggested that the Israelite women were plenty in number. Perhaps the word 'uncircumcised' could be used to suggest his parents were intimating that his request was not pleasing to God, but it could have just been a cultural or religious term. Whatever the case, Samson was not looking for God's will. As with spoiled children, they only need to persist in asking, and they will get what they want. His parents ended up giving him what they knew was not good. As we will note later, this became one of Samson's core problems.

God had a great plan for Samson and the Israelites. He wanted Samson to deliver the Israelites from their Philistine oppressors once for all. We can see this by the great strength God had gifted Samson with. If Samson could do such tremendous deeds, what would he do with an army behind him?! But he couldn't listen to God because his eyes were too overpowering. He didn't care what God wanted. All through his life we see that he was 'self' focused. In his fighting, he only thought of his revenge. He never thought about his brothers' oppression.

God showed His marvelous wisdom as he worked through Samson's fleshly desires to accomplish His greater goals. The victories were not so great as they could have been. Samson paid for his disobedience at a great cost. But still God accomplished his will by crushing the great Philistine oppression. After Samson killed the five lords of the five Philistine chief cities, Samuel led Israel to defeat them.

From the following verse, one might draw the conclusion that God wanted Samson to marry a Philistine. This is not right.

However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel. (Judges 14:4)

The phrase "of the Lord" did not mean that this was God's will for him. If this was so, any Christian could say they could marry a non-Christian. But we have many clear scriptures warning us not to do this, both in the OT and NT. This phrase shows that Samson rejected his main call for his life, but that God had engineered another way to use Samson to accomplish His own plans. This 'alternative' plan does not mean it was best for Samson but that it was the way God was using to defeat the Philistines. We should never think we can outsmart God. We need to be faithful to the One who has gifted us and use these gifts as He has purposed.

In the end we do see Samson's name written in the hall of faith. He believed God would strengthen him and God indeed did do that. Unfortunately however, his faith in that area of his life did not work with a commitment to obey the Lord and use the amazing strength to accomplish God's will. He couldn't listen because his eyes were speaking to loudly.

My daughter made a wise observation the other day. She was commenting on how our car radio comes on and off at erratic times. She said it has a mind but no ears. That was Samson. He had a mind to make decisions but no ears to listen to what others were telling him to do.


  • Specially gifted children are fine, but they need regular discipline. When children are specially gifted, they often stand out from the crowd. They either are rejected or very much liked. In either case, the tendency is to favor them. If the child is rejected, then you want to 'make it up' to the child by rewarding him. If the child is accepted by others, then the parent will easily look over their flaws. Specially gifted children need even more focus on character training because they will be influential people in one way or another.

  • We must not ignore the affect parents' training has on a child. We are not saying that this makes the child unaccountable for his own decisions. Not at all. However, the parents will either make it hard or easy for the child to do evil. Through good training the child will fear evil and so normally choose good.

  • In this case we saw that because the child was not trained to obey their parents, he did not learn the value of authority. He made his own judgment the basis for making important decisions in his life. The child's perspective toward God is shaped mostly in the cradle. Next

Biblical Foundations for Freedom

Paul J. Bucknell

(1) The 'Angel of the LORD" is used in the Old Testament with a close affiliation or identity with God. This special appearance of God is commonly understood to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.