Samson, the name invokes images of long flowing hair, bawdy misadventures, heroic deeds and surpassing physical strength. Most teachings about the man are decidedly narrow and negative. He has become a popular subject in art, literature, and cinema. Perhaps the most recognizable film version is the 1949 movie Samson and Delilah, starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr. The movie tries to present a certain religious aspect to the powerful hero, thanks to the Director Cecil B. DeMille.
Often overlooked in these representations is the recurring theme of the Samson narratives (Judges 13-16) that Samson received the Spirit of the Lord no less than four times. With these events of the Spirit, Samson became invincible in battle. From textual clues, we can determine that Samson was a man of massive proportions. These physical attributes were enhanced by the Spirit of the Lord. Under the influence of the Spirit, Samson fought and killed a lion (Judges 14:6), despoiled 30 Philistines (Judges 14:19) and slaughtered 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass (Judges 15:14). Therefore, single-handedly, Samson was able to defeat the Philistines, a dominant force in the Eastern Mediterranean basin.
Samson’s exploits under the compulsion of the Spirit had a legacy that lasts long after his death between the pillars of Dagon, the chief god of the Philistines (Judges 16:30). The Hebrew text of the Spirit of the Spirit coming upon him, particularly in 14:6, 19, and 15:14, is exactly the same construction as when the Spirit came down upon David (1 Samuel 16:13). This construction is peculiar to the Samson and David accounts. This forges a powerful link between the Danite Judge and the first true King of Israel.
Additionally, in the birth account of Samson the angel announces that Samson was to BEGIN the deliverance of Israel from Philistine power. This suggests that Samson was to start the war with the Philistines that David was to finish (2 Samuel 5:17-25 and 2 Samuel 8:1). The final defeat of the Philistines was a key part to David securing his Throne. Therefore, Samson was able to open the way for David, the progenitor of the messianic line, both historically and theologically. This means that Samson stood firmly in the background of the Christ, Jesus.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews also saw Samson as part of the background of Jesus. In Hebrews 11-12, we see a long historical recital which includes the “Heroes of Faith”. In Hebrews 11:32 Samson, and other Judges, are mentioned by name. However, Samson was known for the dramatic interventions of the Spirit, called Charisma, and being a Charismatic Leader. The author of Hebrews sees the accomplishments and successes of Samson and the other Judges, as a product of faith. Throughout this recital, we see a recurring theme centered on the phrase “by faith”. With this theme, the author is linking faith with the unlimited power of the Spirit. Moreover, in Hebrews 12:1-2, we read; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”. The argument that the author of Hebrews is making is simple; Jesus completes and perfects the actions and triumphs of Samson.
Even the modern Roman Church sees the connection between the Danite powerhouse, Samson, and the Messiah, Jesus. In her readings, in each cycle, on December 19, an excerpt from the birth account of Samson is read. This shows the lasting legacy of Samson, reaching over 1000 years between his death and the Cross, and still being felt today. Samson, this man of the Spirit and man of strength, upholds the foundation of the messianic line and plays a vital role in God’s plan of Salvation.