We all know the basic story of Samson and Delilah from Judges 13-16. We all know that eventually long-haired Samson tells her the secret to his strength and she hands him over the Philistines, who eventually take him captive by plucking his eyes out and enslaving him. Then God grants him a final request and he takes out all 3000 men and women in the coliseum and he goes with them.
All this is true, but there is a common misconception that I think we tend to miss. The common misconception is that Samson was destined for greatness no matter what he did—faltering only when he met Delilah—but that's not entirely true.
Samson’s story begins in Judges 13:1-5, in which an angel appears to a barren woman, saying, “you will conceive and give birth to a son. Now please be careful not to drink wine or beer, or to eat anything unclean; for indeed, you will conceive and give birth to a son. You must never cut his hair, because the boy will be a Nazirite to God from birth, and he will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.”
There are some rules of engagement when someone is either born or becomes a Nazirite. Those rules are found in Numbers 6:1-21. In addition to never cutting his hair, these rules include abstaining from alcohol (and all grape products, actually), and never touching a dead body.
Now let's jump back to Samson beginning in Judges 14. Samson was a man that was used by God and at times acted solely on his desires; in other words, what he wanted, is what he wanted. This is evident throughout his life, as Samson's destruction actually culminated with Delilah, not because of her. Let's roll through the numbers.
1. Samson wanted to marry a woman that didn't worship the one true God.
"Samson went down to Timnah and saw a young Philistine woman there. He went back and told his father and his mother: “I have seen a young Philistine woman in Timnah. Now get her for me as a wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Can’t you find a young woman among your relatives or among any of our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines for a wife?” But Samson told his father, “Get her for me, because I want her.” Now his father and mother did not know this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. At that time, the Philistines were ruling over Israel." (Judges 14:1-4)
This wasn't a Nazarite vow, but it could be implied since the Nazarite vow states to be consecrated to the Lord. This does, however, give us a view into Samson's selfish and lustful nature.
2. He touched a dead body (violated a rule of the Nazarite vow).
"Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother and came to the vineyards of Timnah. Suddenly a young lion came roaring at him, the Spirit of the LORD took control of him, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. After some time, when he returned to get her, he left the road to see the lion’s carcass, and there was a swarm of bees with honey in the carcass. He scooped some honey into his hands and ate it as he went along. When he returned to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it. But he did not tell them that he had scooped the honey from the lion’s carcass." (Judges 14:5-6, 8-9)
Clearly, Samson officially broke the Nazarite vow that says not to go near a dead body during the time of consecration. What makes this situation worse is that he gave some honey from the dead lion's belly to his parents; in short, he got his parents caught up in the transgression as well. Then he seemed to make light of this when making a riddle to the Philistines (v12-14). He committed a similar offense in Judges 15:15.
3. Samson had an addiction to lust.
"Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went to bed with her. Some time later, he fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the Sorek Valley." (Judges 16:1, 4)
Samson liked to have sex with women who he wasn't married to, and women that he wasn't supposed to be in relationships with (such as those who didn't believe in God).
4. Samson was a liar and deceiver.
"Samson told her, “If they tie me up with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I will become weak and be like any other man. He told her, “If they tie me up with new ropes that have never been used, I will become weak and be like any other man.” Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have mocked me all along and told me lies! Tell me how you can be tied up.” (Judges 16:7, 11, 13)
One may think he had to lie to keep from telling her the true source of his power, which actually came from God and not from his hair; his unshaved head was the sign of him being in covenant with God. However, looking at another perspective, he wouldn't have been in a situation where he had to lie if he didn't bed with unbelievers. Samson put himself in these kinds of situations that led to him compromising. This ultimately cost him his life, since he told Delilah his secret. We know the rest of the story from there.
Samson was born a Nazirite; he had to observe and follow the Nazirite vow. Samson, however, committed multiple sins. That's to be expected since all fall short of the glory of God. The glaring issue here is he committed sins and didn't repent. He also didn't repent for breaking the Nazirite vow on a few occasions. In short, he used his life to pursue what he wanted, despite God's instructions and he didn't repent for his transgressions.
In retrospect, his story is very familiar. It reminds me of the lives of individuals set apart to be a tool for God, yet we chose to use God's gifts and talents to follow our dreams, our passions, our desires. How many times have we walked into situations knowing beforehand that we would compromise somewhere down the line? How often did we find pleasures in things and didn't repent? In doing so, we lose sight of God in the temporary pleasures that we enjoy, not realizing that our pleasures become addictions that we depend on. I say ‘we’ because I too have been guilty of being like Samson. Samson was no different and his story paints a dark reality of what happens if we don't submit ourselves to the Lord. Delilah was the icing on a cake filled with Samson's selfish pursuits and sins. The next time we hear the story of Samson, think of the equation God's gifts and talents + selfishness and what that will ultimately equal.