Samson was born to Manoah and his wife, who was barren. Israel had fallen into sin and was being overrun by the Philistines, a bad situation that just got worse and worse for 40 years. All of course because of the people’s sin. But God sent Samson to judge Israel and bring them freedom from the Philistines and to turn them back to God.
What we learn here in the text is that God can and does use sinners. I am glad, because “all have sinned” and if God did not use sinners then He would not have anyone to use. Of course, we also learn from the story of Samson the great and terrible price for sin. God uses sinners and He forgives sin, but the wages of sin is still death.
As Samson was appointed by God to deliver His people he was given by God great strength. The Spirit of the Lord would come upon him and he could do incredible feats, such as killing a lion with his bare hands. Other situations find him being betrayed and as a result burning down the Philistines wheat fields and even on one occasion when they tried to arrest him, he broke free from the ropes that bound him and with the jawbone of a dead donkey as a weapon he killed 1,000 Philistine men. Another time when they tried to trap him he tore the huge and heavy city gates off the wall and carried them to the top of a hill. As they say in the South, “All by his lonesome.”
He did have a weakness in the midst of the amazing feats of strength though. Women. Women who worshiped false gods. One in particular, a woman named Delilah, caught his eye. The Philistines knew of his interest in her and induced her to seduce him. She tried and tried to find out what caused his great strength and time and time again he misled her and would not tell her. He really was daft you know, loving this woman who over and over tried to get him captured or killed.
The secret to his strength of course was that he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. He had been set apart for this work and was a Nazarite. As a result of this vow he did not cut his hair. Eventually he told Delilah that the source of his strength was that his hair was not cut. So what did she do? He ended up with a hair cut, no strength, and a new set of chains to wear. When the vow was violated it says that the Spirit departed from him. There was no anointing any longer. He was like any other man.
He was captured, bound, his eyes put out, and he was made to work as a grain grinder, pushing a stone in a mill in a prison. At one point the Philistines were celebrating having defeated their enemy and capturing Samson so he was paraded in front of them and their gods were worshiped and exalted because he had become a prisoner. He asked a boy to help him lean up against the pillars of the pagan temple where this party was being thrown. He prayed for strength and vengeance and God answered. He tore the pillars down and the temple collapsed, killing around 3,000 Philistines. He died himself, but did so in an act that once again helped rescue Israel from their persecutors.
Samson teaches is that no one is above sin and no one can succeed without God and His strength. As he is mentioned in Hebrews 11, he had faith. He trusted God and leaned upon Him and died defending His people.
This man of faith judged Israel for 6 years and we read about him in Judges 11 and 12. He was born the child of a harlot and was rejected by his father’s other children. He was forsaken but not helpless. He commanded a band of raiders who were asked after an attack by the Ammonites to lead the army of Israel.
While he was a brilliant military leader and was used of God to free the people from this attack by Ammon, Jephthah is better known for making a rash vow. Have any of us ever done that? Have we made a promise to God, saying that if He will do something for us then we will do something for Him? This was what Jephthah did. He promised to God that if he was given the victory over the Ammonites then when he returned home, whatever came out of his house first would belong to the Lord.
That does not sound too bad until we realize what he meant. He made a vow – if God gave him victory then he would give God, as a sacrifice, whatever first appeared from his house when he went home.
Surely he thought it would be an animal of some sort that he could sacrifice to God. But instead, after God gave him the victory and he came home, the first thing to come out that door was his daughter! She was his only child, a young woman, still a virgin. And he had made a promise to God.
After telling his daughter, who knew how serious a vow to God was, she asked for two months to “bewail” this decision. She went to the hills and with her friends mourned her impending death. This is an incredible view of making a vow. Both Jephthah and his daughter knew that what he had promised God he had to pay!
After two months she returned home and was sacrificed. It became a custom in the land then for young virgin women to spend four days a year mourning for her because of this rash vow.
Several factors must be considered here for there are several lessons to learn, and Jephthah is listed in the Hall of Faith. First we must understand that Jephthah had a wrong view of vows, for provision was made to redeem a person who had been consecrated to the Lord by a vow. Once they were set apart for the Lord (not to be killed but set apart for some service) they would then be redeemed, or bought back, at a price set in Leviticus 27:1-8. So Jephthah was not required to sacrifice her! He apparently was ignorant of the Law in this case and actually did what was an abomination before God and sacrificed his daughter, killing her on an altar.
We must see how seriously he and his family took making a promise to God. Think about it – how often today do people lie and break vows? We think of marriage and divorce, but even the little things, the white lies we tell violate God’s Law. Jephthah took making a promise to God so seriously that he was willing to kill his only daughter to keep that promise. How seriously do we take making a vow to others or especially to God?
When we make a promise to God, we must mean it and keep it. We need to be sure that we understand what we are promising! We should not make promises just to get a favor from God. That is ignorant. God does not bargain with us. If we are facing a hard situation He desires that we pray and fellowship with Him and His people for strength and counsel and guidance. There is no need for rash vows that we will break or that will lead us into sin. Talk to God about it and let Him work all things out for our good and His glory – He promises nothing less.