Sampson, the Deliverer Who Couldn't
Few stories in the Bible have captured our imagination more than the story of Samson. His story is found in Judges 13-16. He was a man of great strength when the Spirit of God would come upon him. However, he was also a man of great weakness. As we will show in this chapter, Samson, like Saul, was an Old Testament pentecostal.
We will not take the time to deal with the unusual circumstances surrounding his birth, except to say that he was certainly called of God. God raised him up as a judge, or deliverer, in Israel for 20 years some time during the 40 years of the Philistine oppression. Yet Samson, for all his strength, did not deliver Israel from the Philistines. Instead, we find him fraternizing with them and attempting to marry a Philistine woman. In that sense, Samson failed in his calling as a judge in Israel. And yet we find from the start that this was all a part of the plan of God.
Samson is best known for his battle in which he killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. The story is found in Judges 15. This is the chapter that proves Samson to be an Old Testament Pentecostal. But before we discuss that chapter, let us look at the background material that the Bible gives.
God’s Will and Plan for Samson
Judges 14 begins the story of Samson’s exploits as a young man. From the beginning we find that it is the story of Samson’s love life.
1 Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 So he came back and told his father and mother, I saw a woman in Timnah one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife. 3 Then his father and 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. 4 However, his father and his 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.
Many find it difficult to comprehend the mind of God here. By the standard of God’s law, it was most certainly unlawful for Samson to marry a Philistine woman. Samson’s parents were right in this. He should not be “unequally yoked.” And yet the author (Samuel) tells us that Samson’s parents were ignorant of the mind of God in this.
It is not that God condoned the violation of His law. God’s law always defines His will (thelema, Rom. 2:18). It is always the will of God to refrain from sin, as defined by the law of God. However, God had a plan (boulema, Rom. 9:19) that was hidden to most, including Samson and his parents.
Samson was called as a judge to deliver Israel. That was God’s will (thelema) for his life. Samson violated that will by making alliances with the Philistines, instead of throwing off their yoke. But on the other hand, Samson did fulfill the plan (boulema) of God for his life. The plan called for Samson to be a type of pentecostal and never actually deliver Israel from the yoke of the Philistines. Hence, his life would foreshadow the type of leaders and prophets that we would see during the Pentecostal Age.
Samson’s parents understood only the will of God. They did not understand His plan, at least not at first. They did not know that Samson was called to be a type of pentecostal. Had they known this, they might have realized that since the pentecostal offering is always mixed with leaven, Samson himself would manifest the leavened character of Pentecost.
God SoughtLawful “Occasion”
In Judges 14:4 we read that God “was seeking an occasion against the Philistines” by having Samson seek a Philistine wife. This tells us God’s purpose, but it does not impart much in the way of understanding. As we read the story, though, we find that Samson’s love life always ended with a major conflict with the Philistines. Samson killed 30 Philistines in 14:19. Then in 15:15 he slew 1,000 of them. Finally, in 16:27 he kills 3,000 Philistines, but dies doing it. All of these slaughters are a direct result of his love of Philistine women.
But what does all this have to do with us? He is a type of the Church under the pentecostal anointing. Like Samson, the Church also has great strength every time the Spirit is given. When true revival breaks forth, the flesh (“Philistines”) dies. Like Samson, the Church is called by the will of God to deliver the people from the bondage of the flesh; yet the Church has violated that call by fraternizing with the flesh. Like Saul, they have built great edifices and denominational organizations in which to put their servants and hold them captive through fear. But when men then cry out to God for denominational abuses, God sends a revival with a revelation of truth. This lasts for a while, until men denominationalize that revival, and the cycle begins again. Hence, we see that fraternizing with the Philistines becomes the occasion for another outpouring of the Spirit.
Samson’s love life began with his attempt to marry the Philistine woman of Timnah. He then moved on to fornication with a harlot in Gaza (16:1-3). He finally ended up living with Delilah (16:4-20). One can see from this progression how the leaven of Pentecost grew over time. This is also the story of the Church. It started out attempting to marry the flesh in a lawful manner; then it committed fornication with the Great Harlot of Rev. 17. It ends up living with “Delilah,” whose name means “languishing, or oppression.”
In spite of this, God has a purpose in mind. As with Samson’s parents, many people can see the leaven in the Church, but most do not comprehend that plan of God for the Church. They see only that the Church has a certain fascination with the flesh that always seems to get it into trouble. But God has purposed that the Church be leavened in the pentecostal era. God has purposed that those under the pentecostal anointing have a love affair with the flesh, even as they follow God. God has purposed that when the flesh reaches a prescribed level of oppression and threatens the Church, then God pours out His Spirit in revival to beat back the flesh for a time.
The overall purpose for this is so that God has a lawful occasion against the flesh. God does not even judge the Philistines unless He has lawful occasion to do so. Whenever the Philistines threatened Samson, he cried out to God, and God delivered him. In the end, when Samson was blinded and oppressed by the Philistines, God granted him one final surge of strength, by which he brought down the entire temple of Dagon. It killed 3,000 Philistines—and himself.
Samson was not a picture of an overcomer. An overcomer finds the path to life and victory, even if he fails repeatedly. Samson died in the house of Dagon, even as Saul died in the end, overcome finally by the Philistines. So also, the Church under Pentecost will not inherit life in the first resurrection, but will “die in the wilderness.” This does not mean they are not Christians. Far from it. It is simply ordained of God that the Church as a whole is pentecostal in nature, having its wheat mixed with leaven. The Church will have to wait until the second resurrection to receive its inheritance “with the unbelievers” (Luke 12:46) in the general resurrection from the dead (See The Purpose of Resurrection.)
In Judges 14:5-9 we find Samson killing a young lion with his bare hands. After a time, as he passed that place, he found a swarm of bees had nested in the carcass of the lion. Samson took some honey from the carcass and ate of it, even giving his parents some of it. However, he did not tell them that the honey had been rendered unclean by its contact with a dead body.
As we will see shortly, this dead lion came to represent Jesus Christ who was to die to bring forth the “honey” of the Promise. It is comparable to Canaan, the Promised Land, which was called the land flowing with milk and honey. It also carries the same theme in the story of Jonathan in 1 Sam. 14:27, when he tasted of the honey and then found himself under Saul’s curse of death.
Samson later used this incident to formulate a riddle for the Philistines to try to solve. He made a bet with them for 30 changes of garment that they could not solve the riddle: “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.” (See Judges 14:14.) The Philistines had seven days in which to discover the answer to the riddle.
These seven days represent the seven days of the feast of Unleavened Bread (the week after Passover). This is evident when we compare this with the events of Judges 15, that took place “after a while in the time of wheat harvest” (15:1), or Pentecost. In other words, the riddle probably took place during the seven days of Unleavened Bread just seven weeks before the time of Pentecost. At least, this is what it signifies prophetically.
At any rate, the Passover riddle contains the secret to obtaining the real “honey,” the Passover’s promise of justification. This was not something the Philistines could discover, because they represent the flesh. The fleshly mind cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit. To the carnal, such things remain a riddle, or “foolishness,” as Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:23,
23 But we preach Christ crucified [the dead lion], to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles [“Greeks”] foolishness.
On the fourth day of the feast, the Philistines came to Samson’s betrothed wife and threatened her, saying in Judges 14:15,
15 ...Entice your husband, that he may tell us the riddle, lest we burn you and your father’s house with fire.
In New Testament terms, this simply shows how the carnal mind attempts to solve the riddle of justification. The “Philistines” demand to know the secret of justification in an unlawful manner. They do not want the truth to be spoken in love (Eph. 4:15), but rather in fear of hellfire and brimstone. Indeed, that is how this teaching developed in the first place in the early church. Read the writings of Augustine, the “champion of eternal torments.” He and others believed that if the church threatened sinners with the worst possible punishment, this would frighten them into salvation and serving God.
This is ever the tendency of the Philistine mind. It has also become the mind of a great portion of the Church, which has a strong attraction for Philistine “women.” But this is an unlawful means of learning or teaching the truth. Faith and fear are opposites.
So Samson’s betrothed wept and prevailed. Samson told her the secret; and she then told her Philistine brethren. Samson thus lost the bet, so he had to pay off his debt.
19 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of clothes to those who told the riddle.
The Philistines were “saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). That is, they learned the secret of justification: the honey that comes out of the Lion of Judah. Their reward is that they will be clothed with the “change of garments” from above. They will receive that glorified body. But because they learned it in an unlawful manner – by threats of hellfire and brimstone – they were judged according to their own words.
It seems that most preaching in the Church today has the same fixation. Even as the Philistines used fear tactics to learn the riddle of justification, so also today do many preachers attempt to save men through fear of hellfire. It is a typical Philistine tactic, and the story of Samson tells us what God thinks of it. Yet He speaks in parables, so that the Church will not understand.
Many of us were motivated by fear when we first came to Christ. Hopefully, we have since learned to view Him as our loving Father, who disciplines His children by His righteous law, rather than torturing the disobedient child by the law of the Philistines. A more complete study on the Fire of God is given in the first few chapters of our book Creation’s Jubilee.
Samson’s Pentecost Experience
As we mentioned earlier, Judges 15 deals with the time of wheat harvest, or Pentecost (15:1). By this time Samson had had time to cool down a bit, and he decided to go back to Timnah with a gift. Today, we would give her flowers, but in that culture Samson gave her a kid (young goat or lamb).
When he arrived, he found that his betrothed had already been given to another. Samson had another temper tantrum. Knowing that he had “occasion” against them for their breach of promise, he burned up their wheat crop.
4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes [jackals] and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail, and put one torch in the middle between two tails. 5 When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain [i.e., wheat] of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks [sheaves] and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves. 6 Then the Philistines said, Who did this? And they said, Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his companion. So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire.
The fact that these events occurred at the time of the feast of Pentecost gives them much meaning to us today. The day of Pentecost is characterized by fire. It is the day when God descended upon Mt. Sinai with the appearance of fire. It is the day the tongues of fire appeared on the heads of the 120 in the upper room.
There is also an element of judgment pictured in this fire. It is judgment upon the flesh. It is pictured in the two loaves of bread baked with leaven. The Church under Pentecost is also to inherit the second resurrection, which is associated with the “lake of fire,” because they will be “saved yet so as through fire.”
Thus, we see that the fire of Pentecost has both good news and bad news. It is good news for those who are led by the Spirit; it is bad news for the carnally minded.
So also with the story of Samson. The fire is bad news to the Philistines, for this fire becomes a judgment unto them. If we interpret this story with the knowledge that there is a difference between the overcomers and the Church, we get a deeper understanding of the mind of God.
The 300 jackals, or “foxes,” remind us of the 300 overcomers in Gideon’s army, who brought God’s judgment to the Midianites. (See The Barley Overcomers, pp. 15-19.) They are the ones who are “caught” by God and used to dispense the fire of the Holy Spirit to the world. When these receive the fullness of the Spirit at the time of the first resurrection, they will judge all flesh and bring the Spirit to all men.
After burning the Philistine wheat at Pentecost, Samson slew an unspecified number of Philistines (15:7, 8) and then went to the rock called Etam. The Philistines then sent an army to Judah to take revenge and encamped in the valley of Lehi (“jawbone”). The Judahites became very concerned, and so 3,000 went to him and convinced him to come down and surrender.
14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it.
Notice that there were 3,000 Philistines in the army sent to take Samson, and there were 3,000 Judahites who went to bind Samson and hand him over to the Philistines. This is a number often associated with Pentecost. At Mt. Sinai during the time of that first Pentecost, the people fell into idolatry by worshipping the golden calf, and as a result, 3,000 men were subtracted from the church. In the New Testament, on the day of Pentecost 3,000 men were added to the Church. In the Old Testament the physical sword was used to kill the flesh to death. In the New Testament, the spiritual sword was used to kill the flesh in order to bring life.
The story of Samson must likewise be viewed in a New Testament context. In those days there was a physical slaughter of Philistines. But in the New Testament, we find a different method of killing the flesh. The physical sword has only the ability to kill and destroy. The sword of the Spirit (the Word of His mouth) has the ability to kill the flesh in a different manner that is constructive and rehabilitative.
Thus, the fire upon the wheat is “bad news” in the O.T., but “good news” in the New. We must not lose sight of the progression of history. In the Passover Age (O.T.), the way of dealing with sin is by death and destruction in a physical manner. In the Pentecost Age (33 AD to 1993 AD), we find a more merciful sword (of the Spirit and the word of our mouth). It kills the flesh, not the body.
It is pictured as the jawbone of a donkey. As we will show in our next chapter, donkeys and wheat are the two main pentecostal symbols in the Old Testament. When Samson kills the Philistines with the jawbone, it is a pentecostal prophecy of the slaying of the flesh by the gift of tongues. It is the sharp sword that comes out of one’s mouth, and by it the disciples slew 3,000 on the day of Pentecost.
As we enter the Tabernacles Age, we will see the overcomers wield that Sword of the Spirit in absolute righteousness for the first time in history (since Jesus Christ). It will be used to bring all flesh under His feet. That will be the ministry of the overcomers. All “Philistines” will be overcome and will serve their Creator, bowing their knees to Jesus Christ, accepting Him as their King, and His Word as their only law.
The Captivity of Samson in His Blindness
Judges 16 tells the story of how Samson was finally overcome by the Philistines. Samson had been called to be a Nazarite (Judges 13:5). He was not to drink any wine or grape juice, nor was he to shave his head. (See also Numbers 6.)
The law of the Nazarite applied to those who were going to “separate themselves unto the Lord” (Num. 6:2). Samson did the opposite. He separated himself unto the Philistines in his repeated attempt to marry Philistine women.
One’s hair is one’s covering (1 Cor. 11:15). Israel was supposed to be covered only by God Himself. Because they had refused His covering, preferring to be covered by man, God removed His covering from them. You might think of man’s covering as a wig – a fleshly covering.
Samson had apparently braided his hair into seven locks (Judges 16:19). This spoke of a time when those in the Pentecostal Age would be covered by the Seven Churches. It would be an age when men would demand to be ruled by men, rather than by God. (This is clear from the story of Saul.) And so we see Samson with seven locks of hair covering his head.
Such fleshly rulership is no match for the wits and wiles of Delilah. She is finally able to overcome Samson, even as we see in the church today. Over the past 40 Jubilees (33 to 1993 AD), while men slept, the Seven Churches under Pentecost has been shorn. In 1993 the final lock of the Laodicean Church was shorn, completing the time of the era of Pentecost.
20 . . . But he [Samson] did not know that the Lord had departed from him. 21 Then the Philistines seized him, and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.
This physical act of blinding Samson was only the final outworking of his spiritual blindness that had plagued him for many years. Even so, God still has His plan intact. Like Samson, the blind Pentecostal Church will yet be used of God to “bring down the house” upon the 3,000 Philistines.
God asks, “Who is so blind, but My servant?” (Is. 42:19). The blind servant theme is paramount in Isaiah. God Himself blinded their eyes (Is. 44:18; John 12:40) in order that He might be obligated by Law to release them from captivity. The divine law reads in Exodus 21:26,
26 And if a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it; he shall let him go free on account of his eye.
Samson appealed to God for the sake of his blinded eyes, and God heard him, for He had taken the responsibility for the blindness of the Church under Pentecost. Likewise, the blind Church shall also appeal to God, and He shall release them from the captivity of the flesh. This was God’s purpose in blinding them--that He might have mercy upon them.