Images of the Savior (14 - Samson)
We have finally come to the last and quintessential judge of them all, Samson; and in his life, we will find definite confirmation of both those related truths which we have been at some pains to demonstrate â€“ first, that, as the incorrigible hard-heartedness of the people becomes ever clearer, and their distress becomes ever more hopeless, the judges display ever more poignant a gospel-picture of what the coming promised Messiah would do to save his people from all their enemies and free them from their evil ways; but second, that even in so doing, they prove by their many failures and faults that they themselves are insufficient for so great an accomplishment as they point ahead to by their lives and ministries. This Samson is undoubtedly the greatest judge of all, and in terms of the sheer power he has been granted from the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he is unrivaled. So, too, are the multitudinous types which adorn his ministry unparalleled. But at the same time, his faults are more glaring than those of all who went before him, so much so that, at the end of his life, they plunge him to his own ruin, which is a thing we have not yet seen in any judge before him. But now, let us turn to the history.
Before we enumerate the many ways in which Samson is a type of the Savior, it would be good to consider the appearance of the Savior himself, as the Angel of the Lord, before Samson's miraculous birth (Judges 13:1-20). How amazing is the condescension of our Savior, that he would stoop to reveal himself to his wayward people yet again, and make so comfortable a promise to them! And this time, the way in which he does so is perhaps more suggestive than at any other time before: for, the man of Zorah, Manoah by name, did not at first know who it was that spoke to him, but then the Angel came again, and revealed himself to a woman, Manoah's wife; and when he followed her to where the Angel was, his eyes were opened, and he knew that it was very God to whom he was speaking. Only this is how it happened: at first he was dull of heart, and asked after the Angel's name but was refused the request; then, when he offered up a sacrifice to God, at the Angel's behest, a flame leapt up from the Rock where it was offered, and the Angel ascended to God in the flame, and Manoah's eyes were opened, and he knew that he had seen God face-to-face.
In these many ways, then, Christ is not only appearing to his people, but he is also foreshadowing the way he would reveal himself to them fully; for in that he appears to declare to a woman naturally incapable of bearing a child, that she would be the mother of a promised savior; and in that he appeared as a man of no glorious appearance; and in that, he appeared another time first to a woman, who ran to bear report of his return to the man who first saw him; and especially in that, as soon as he went up in the flame of the sacrifice, then the man's eyes were opened â€“ even in all these ways he was signifying what he would one day do to save the world. First, he would send news by an angel that the Savior would be born of a virgin; then, when he came, he would have no glorious form, so that no one would recognize that he was very God; but after he offered himself up as a holy sacrifice to God, and so became the Rock of salvation, he would reveal himself a second time, first to the women, that is, to Mary Magdalene and those with her, who would run and fetch the disciples; and at that time, their eyes would be opened to understand the mystery of the gospel. And just as he ascended in a flame to heaven, so he would ascend to God, pleading evermore for his people on the basis of his atoning sacrifice, as the flame which leapt clear up to heaven foretold.
Let us just enumerate in brief some of the ways in which this Samson was a type of this coming Christ: first, an Angel came to his parents at the first, to tell them of his soon miraculous birth (Judges 13:2-4). Second, he was a Nazirite from the womb, just as it was said of Jesus, â€œHe shall be called a Nazareneâ€ (Judges 13:5-7; Mat. 2:23); and so he was sanctified to the Lord all his life, for the purpose of saving the people. Third, it was said of the child that he grew in body and in the blessing of the Lord (Judges 13:24), just as it was said later of the Lord Jesus, that he grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). Fourth, when he became a man, the Spirit began to stir him near the border of Dan (Judges 13:25), even the tribe where idolatry had been introduced into the nation, and near to where the Philistine captors were, just as, when Jesus entered his public ministry, the Spirit drove him out to the wilderness, on the border of Israel, where the people's enemy was, that he might enter into combat with him for their sakes (Mark 1:12-13).
Fifth, Samson was pleased to take a wife from the heathen, even though it was to the chagrin of his people and his parents (Judges 14:1-4), just as Jesus would later take a Bride from all the nations of earth, although the Jews would stumble at this. Sixth, when he went to take his bride, a roaring lion rushed upon Samson; and the Spirit came upon him, so that he tore the lion with his bare hands. Then, from the carcass of the lion he brought forth honey, and gave it to his parents (Judges 14:5-9). This was a picture of the gospel, when Christ, by the power of the Spirit, singlehandedly destroyed that lion who walked about seeking to devour God's people (cf. 1 Peter 5:8); and he brought sweet nourishment to the people even out of that lion he overcame, and who had sought to destroy them. So the tearing of the roaring devil, at the Cross, proved to be for the sweet pardon and spiritual nourishment of the people.
Seventh, Samson laid out a great marriage feast, and gave a riddle that all the Philistines were at a loss to understand, until his bride revealed it to them. And he promised to clothe them, if they understood this riddle, and it was only those who persisted and were importunate that learned the secret through the bride (Judges 14:10-20). So too, Jesus taught the mystery of the Gospel, and all who learn its secret from his Bride, the Church, and who persist to find it out, he will clothe with wedding garments, and bring to his great wedding feast (Rev. 19:6-9, Mat. 22:1-14). Eighth, the riddle's proper answer was a question that looked ahead very directly to Christ: â€œWhat is sweeter than honey?â€ â€“ that is, Christ, who sweetly provided all the nourishment of the gospel for us by his own broken body and shed blood; and â€œWhat is stronger than a lion?â€, also said of Christ, who tore the devil in single combat, and delivered us from his snare. Ninth, even as he killed other men, by the Spirit's power, to clothe those who found out the riddle (Judges 14:19), so too will Christ clothe all them who know the gospel, but will destroy all others when he returns.
Tenth, when the Philistines keep back his wife from him, Samson destroys their fields by sending three hundred foxes out, with torches tied to their tails (Judges 15:1-8). Now, as the fox is known to be a very clever animal, the truth is probably intended that no clever stratagems or inquiries of human wisdom will be sufficient to provide the spiritual food with which Christ alone feeds his bride; and hence, when the Philistines tried to keep the bride of Samson, and the foxes ravaged their food, it was a symbol that, when false teachers and impostors are introduced into the Church, they will not at all feed her with the pure bread of the gospel, but their cunning lies will rather destroy than nourish. But on that point, the reader may refer to Ambrose, who suggested something similar.
Eleventh, after this episode, then Samson was at war with the Philistines; and although he was bound with cords by his own tribesmen, at the Rock of Etam he snapped off his bonds, took the jawbone of an ass, and with it smote a thousand Philistines (Judges 15:9-17). This, too, looks ahead to the gospel; for the Christ was bound by his own people, and then the devils all thought that they could destroy him; but those bonds could not hold him, and instead he slaughtered them all, and put them to shame. Moreover, the unlikely weapon of a donkey's jawbone suggests the unlikely way in which Christ would win his victory: first, through humility, riding upon a donkey as he entered the city; and second, through his own death, as it was a dead bone that Samson used.
Twelfth, it happened that, after this, Samson thirsted greatly, and called out to God; and from the hollow place of Lehi, which means â€œjawbone,â€ and refers to that jawbone he had just used as a type of the body of Christ, God made a spring of living water to refresh him (Judges 15:18-20). This points ahead both to how Christ would cry out, â€œI thirstâ€ (John 19:28), when winning his victory on the cross; and also, to how it would be through his own death that the living waters of the Spirit would flow forth to give life to the world (cf. John 7:37-39).
Thirteenth, when the Philistines set an ambush for him, he tore off the gates of the city and carried them to a hilltop far away; so too the gates of hell would not prevail against Jesus, but he would make his Church stand strong against them, and batter them down (Mat. 16:17-18). Fourteenth, all the stratagems and devices by which the Philistines sought to snare him through Delilah were of no use as long as he had his hair, which was a type of the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Judges 16:1-14); and so were all the devices of the devil useless against the Lord, for he was strong to prevail by the anointing of the Spirit.
Finally and most importantly of all, we have a very instructive type of the death of Christ in Samson's death. For he seemed finally to be overcome, and they led him away weak, blind, and helpless to grind at the mill; then, when they had a great feast at their temple, they brought him in to mock and jeer at him. But they did not realize that his hair, which signified the Spirit's anointing, had grown back; and he called out to God, and stretched out his hands, and brought down the temple on the heads of them all, so that, by his death he destroyed far more of the Philistines than he had destroyed in his life (Judges 16:15-41).
How deep and beautiful a mystery is this death, which points ahead so poignantly to the death of Christ! For he, too, was led away, as it were weak and overcome; and while he was taken captive for a time, then it was that he was grinding out the bread of life for his own people, by his sweat and tears and sufferings; and the demons all saw it and rejoiced, and gathered together to mock him â€“ but suddenly, they were all destroyed, and that without remedy! And it was only then that they realized that he who they thought had been overcome and lost his power was actually filled with immense power of the Holy Spirit, sufficient utterly to overwhelm them. So through weakness and humility, Christ by his death overcame all the mocking devils, and put them to an open shame by the blood of his cross. And this typical death of Samson still stands as an outstanding foreshadow of that triumph-through-death that would one day come.
So we have seen that the life and especially the death of Samson were filled with more gospel types than those of any of the judges before him; and so too was Samson filled with greater power, sufficient to work a greater salvation than any of the judges had hitherto accomplished. But just as we said at the beginning, his weakness and failures were likewise greater than those of any other judge, and showed more certainly the need for the promised King to come and save indeed. For which of the judges ever showed greater moral failures, all through their lives? Samson disobeyed God's commands from the first, seeking out a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines, and then ensnaring himself with whores and prostitutes all his life, until his sins had finally overwhelmed him, and his whores plunged him into destruction. How desperately did the people need a King who would be pure and upright, and win the much fiercer battle against sin! In what wilderness of temptation would a greater Judge come, and take up arms against the enticer, and by his spotless purity win a victory that would be unstained and eternal? Thus does the gross moral failure of Samson's life underscore the need for a fitting antitype to accomplish in fact the salvation that he had so brilliantly foreshadowed. In this respect is Samson the quintessential judge; and oh, how ardently must the faithful have longed for a Savior to deliver no longer in shadows, but really! Praise be to God, that such a Savior has come and wrought a victory that is eternal and unfading and unspotted by any such failure at all.