And the woman bare, a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.
And the spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan. between Zorah and Eshtaol.
In due time there was born unto the wife of Manoah a son, just as the Lord had promised them. It was surely an occasion of greatest joy. Not only had they as much as given up all hope of having any children, but now they had the assurance of the Lord that this son would live before His face, and that, in a very special way, he would begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines. This was to them a wonderful assurance, for in the younger generations those who remained faithful to the service of Israel’s God were hardly to be found. The Philistines had overrun the land, and the younger people stood in great admiration of their power. Even more, the Philistines were always ready to invite the young people of Israel to join them in the worship of their idols, and few any more refused. Philistines and Israelites everywhere were visiting together, worshiping together, and marrying each other. Few of the children of Israel even thought any more of resisting the domination of these heathen. It was easier to leave things as they were. But Manoah and his wife were different. They still feared the Lord and were overjoyed in the promise that their son would do so also.
From the moment of his birth, and, in fact, even before, this child was dedicated to the Lord. He was to be a Nazarite; and all of the while that he was being carried, Manoah’s wife was careful to keep herself from the fruit of the vine. Once the child was born, a razor was never brought near his head, for he belonged to God and not to man. But most important of all, from the moment of awakening comprehension, the child was instructed in the fear of the Lord. In the midst of the evil of that day the home of Manoah glowed with a spiritual light. It was like an oasis in the wilderness, and like an isle in a troubled sea. Day after day those two old people did their very best to guide their child, instruct him, and give to him an example of godly life. And what was even more wonderful, the child received it. He had the love of God in his heart and believed all that was taught him with faith. He was a source of constant joy to his parents.
Still, neither the child nor his parents were free from sin. It was perhaps quite natural that those two old people whose lives were so completely centered in their child were unable to resist the temptation to spoil him. This was even more . . . . so because they knew the child was at heart good and God-fearing. They were careful to keep him faithfully according to his Nazarite vows; but beyond that, they found it hard to deny him the pleasures that he wanted, nor was the child above taking advantage of this. As he grew older, Samson more and more dominated the home; and his parents appeared to be little more than his servants. It was a disturbing mar in an otherwise beautiful home.
In addition, neither was it possible to keep the child completely free from the influences of the day in which they lived. The boy was an outgoing child who found it easy to mingle with people. He could converse easily and had a pleasant touch of humor. As he became older, he roamed freely from home until he became a familiar figure in the territory of Dan around Zorah and the borders of the Philistines.
By the time Samson came of age, he was indeed a strange and enigmatic figure in the land. His appearance was unmistakable, with his long uncut hair marking him a Nazarite dedicated to the service of Jehovah. Nor can we doubt that this was evident also in his conversation. He was a man of faith who loved God and his chosen people. Accordingly he hated the Philistines and counted them his enemies. Whenever Samson talked to his fellow Israelites he was sure to remind them of their heritage before Jehovah, and. that the Philistines were a wicked people whom they all should treat as enemies. Even when Samson talked to the Philistines themselves he left no question but that he considered them to be antagonists of his God. But it was an easy-going day, and no one was inclined to get excited over what Samson said. Although many of the children of Israel may have agreed with him in private, no one was ready to show any outright opposition to such overwhelming power as the Philistines possessed. They just let Samson go his own way, hoping that he would not get into too much trouble. Even the Philistines were inclined to take him philosophically. They realized that he was really opposed to them; but he was an interesting character and fun to have around. The fact was that Samson was more and more to be found among the Philistines in spite of his expressed convictions, and they seemed to receive him rather freely.
At last the time came when disaster struck in the home of Manoah and his wife, at least in so far as they were concerned. Samson returned from one of his frequent journeys into the land of the Philistines with the announcement that he intended to take one of the daughters of the Philistines to be his wife. Even more, he wanted that his parents should go to her parents and make arrangements for their marriage. From the parents there went up a cry of anguish. For a long time they had been watching Samson’s more and more frequent visits in the land of the Philistines with dismay. Now it seemed that the worst was being realized. In their despair they answered Samson, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?”
But Samson had long since ceased to fear the disapproval of his, parents. Their discipline had never been severe, and through the years he had learned how to get his way quite well. He did not argue with them. He did not show any anger. He did not try to excuse or explain himself. Quietly but firmly he merely repeated his wish as one who was accustomed to being obeyed, “Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.” Besides, he realized that his parents would never understand the true motives which he held in his heart.
Actually Samson was a very complex character who even today is not very clearly understood. The fact was that in Samson’s own mind his motives were not too clear. There was, of course, the surface motive which Samson had for wanting to marry this woman, and which he expressed to his parents very bluntly, “She pleaseth me well.” Samson was not one to deny himself anything he really desired. From his youth he had grown up demanding what he wanted, and he was not now about to change. He had met this girl; he liked her; and he wanted to marry her. In his mind this was perfectly clear, and reason enough. But for that reason also his parents were quite right. Although, they were not without blame for this weakness in Samson’s character, what they said was true. Samson did not belong with the Philistines. He belonged to the nation of Israel, and in the nation of Israel he should have found his wife. When he yielded like this to his baser desires, he was making himself guilty of a very serious sin. They were right, and Samson was wrong.
Nevertheless, there was also a deeper motive which lived in the heart of Samson. This was the reason which he had had in the first place for frequenting this heathen land. As we have said, Samson was basically a man of faith. He believed the Word and promises of God; he loved the people of God and accordingly hated the Philistines as aliens and enemies. And being the man that he was, he had often tried to express what he felt. Again and again he had gone out among the children of Israel and had tried to tell them that the Philistines were their enemies, whose basic desire was to destroy the nation of Israel. It had been a frustrating experience; for no one would take him seriously. They laughed and said that he was overly suspicious and had no proof for his claims. They all felt confident that if they would be good to the Philistines and not cause them trouble, the Philistines would be honest and fair in return. All of the troubles which they had had with the Philistines in the past were really only their own fault because they had provoked them so often. Samson could not convince anyone that the Philistines were not basically honest and true, and that a peaceful coexistence with them was not possible.
Finally, in his frustration, Samson decided that he had to go out among the Philistines and gather concrete proof that they were not honest and true, as everyone wanted to maintain. Again and again he went out into the land of the Philistines to observe for himself what they were like. Neither did it take him long to find enough to more than convince himself that he was right; these were a godless people who had no feeling at all for right or wrong, fairness or justice, honesty and truth. And yet, as much as he could tell for himself from watching them and listening to their speech, these were not the kind of things which he needed to convince his fellow Israelites. He had to have concrete examples of the deceitfulness of these Philistines. He had to have real instances from his own life, which he could point to and say, “Look, this is what they did to me; is that what you call honest dealings and truth?”
Thus it was that he finally decided to go all of the way and actually join himself to that heathen nation, so as to let them show whether their dealings with him would be straight or not. By this time he had met a girl which pleased him and with whom he might choose to live. He would marry her and live among the Philistines. The Philistines in turn would be forced to deal with him in real and concrete terms; and he would watch and judge them according to an unwavering standard of justice and right. Whenever they were dishonest with him, whenever they did anything to him that was not strictly honest and true, whenever in any way they failed to live up to what they claimed, he would not allow them to smooth it over or pretend that it was not important. He would hold them responsible. He would proclaim from the hills of Dan what had been done by the Philistines under the name of justice. Even more, he would punish them in just measure for everything they did amiss to him.
Samson was a man of faith. He loved his God above everything else, and that love was the deepest motivation that directed his life. He was also a man who could sin and did; the record leaves no doubt as to that. But underneath there was faith which moved him to live as he did.
In spite of their objections, Samson’s parents were not able to resist his will. Sad of heart his father went down into the very country of the Philistines, a country in which he had probably never been before. There, with a strange people whom he despised, he made arrangements for the marriage of his son. His heart was about to break, for he did not realize that it was underneath a true faith that motivated his son, nor that in this way the will of God and the prophecy made before Samson’s birth was being fulfilled.