by Contributor David Voetberg
The title of this article may strike some as odd being that Samson is one of those Old Testament characters we typically think of as someone who almost never got it right. Could there really be a glimpse of the Saviour in the life of a man like Samson? Despite his many weaknesses and sins, the book of Hebrews actually holds him up as an example of faith in the Lord. Either way, the typological function of events & characters in Scripture doesn’t require that there be 100% correspondence & overlap in the foreshadowing that is taking place. If that were the case, would Christ have connected Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the fish with his own burial in the heart of earth? These three-day three-night excursions happened for two very different reasons. That is, Jonah was running from Nineveh & God in disobedience. But Christ obediently “set his face to go to Jerusalem” to carry out the will his Father sent him into the world to accomplish. Correspondence in biblical typology doesn’t require exact carry over on every level. Being that Jesus & his work of redemption are supreme over all people & the work of human hands, shadows of his person & work from the Old Testament will necessarily break down on one level or another. We may even say that this is part of the function of biblical foreshadowing/typology that find their fulfilment in Jesus. They do their job & serve their purpose as they point forward to the greater & more supreme Someone & Something. And where these Old Testament biblical characters fall short & leave much to be desired, Christ fills in every gap & makes up for every lack. They whet our appetites but He alone is the true champion in the narrative of Scripture.
In light of the brief argument above, I want to attempt to make the case that Samson plays the part of a Christ-like figure in the Old Testament drama of Judges 13-16. Though Samson himself, as we will see, was a little savior in Israel, he himself needed to be died for by the Messiah he foreshadowed.
After the death of Joshua & the people of Israel he had led into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, we see the next generation’s failure to stay true to Yahweh in the book of Judges. They turned aside from the living God to worship lifeless idols. Judgment for their sin came upon them through the means of surrounding enemy nations who rose up & ruled over them. Nevertheless, Yahweh was merciful to Israel and, time after time, He raised up deliverers to rescue them. There is a recurring cycle throughout the book of Judges that follows this general outline:
1. Israel rebels against Yahweh
2. Enemy raised up in opposition against Israel
3. Israel cries out for help
4. Saviour raised up to deliver Israel from enemy
If we listen closely, I believe this outline found in the book of Judges, points 1, 2 & 4 provide us with echoes of God’s prophetic declarations found in Genesis 3:15:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
God’s speech to the Serpent in the above quotation comes subsequently to Adam & Eve’s disobedience to God in The Garden. This disobedience in Eden corresponds with point one mentioned above (Israel rebels against Yahweh). The Lord then says that He is the one that will put enmity between Eve’s offspring & Satan’s offspring (here in Judges, Israel corporately fills the role of Eve’s seed, while their enemies represent Satan’s seed). There is correspondence here with point two listed above. This friction is felt as Israel is dominated by surrounding Gentile people groups. And lastly, God declares that the offspring of the woman would crush the head of the Serpent. This prophetic word corresponds with the numerous little saviours (or we might say, little seeds) being raised up for Israel’s deliverance, as mentioned above in point 4.
Some of the accounts in Judges that give us a picture of the pattern spoken of above take up more space & cover more detail, others less. But once we get to chapter 13, the author slows down to zoom in on the man Samson as almost 20% of the whole book of Judges is dedicated to recounting various events in his life & death as a ruler in Israel (As a side note, no mention is made of Israel crying out to Yahweh for help in this case). Samson, as a believer in Yahweh, was counted among Eve’s descendants who were caught up in the ongoing battle against Satan & his offspring (here, the Philistines). God worked mini victories over the Philistines through the man that anticipated the capital-V Victory to be revealed in the future coming of God’s Son into the world.
Below are 5 events from Samson’s life (& death) that, when taken collectively, serve to show us a reflection of the coming Saviour & Deliverer, The Lord Jesus Christ.
1.) Angel appearance bringing announcement of miraculous conception.
“There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, ”Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. (Judges 13:2-3)
“And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”….And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-the Son of God. (Luke 1:30-31, 34-35)
Both Manoah’s wife & Mary were in similar predicaments concerning having children. Though the nature of their situations were different, child-bearing was beyond the realm of possibility for both of them previous to The Lord’s miraculous intervention. Manoah’s wife was barren. Mary was a virgin. Conception was not an option or a possibility, humanly-speaking. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. An angelic messenger came to deliver the good news of these miraculous conceptions to both women. The words spoken to them bear a similar resemblance:
“Behold… you shall conceive and bear a son.”(Judges 13:3)
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.” (Luke 1:31)
The news of these miraculous conceptions delivered by angels also included references to the roles these sons would fill in Israel, which leads us to the second point of connection between Samson & Christ.
2.) Son to be born would be saviour of Israel
“For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son…he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”(Judges 13:5)
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”(Matthew 1:21)
Samson participated in a small-scale rehearsal of the salvation event that the future Messiah would accomplish on the big screen of the universe. Samson crushed the heads of some of the Serpent’s offspring & thereby saved God’s people from the oppression of the enemy for a time. But Jesus Christ would later “save to the uttermost” his people who were under the wrath of God & chained by Satan’s shackles in slavery to sin & death. Christ would substitutionally bear the iniquity & punishment of His people & deliver the decisive death blow to the Ancient Serpent upon Calvary, which will ultimately lead to his eternal ruin as described in Revelation 20. Samson is an echo of the future Conqueror who would save both Samson & all of Yahweh’s children throughout history.
3.) Delivered up by fellow countrymen into the hands of Gentiles
“And they (men of Judah) said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines”…So they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock. (Judges 15:12-13)
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Matthew 20:18-19)
4.) Betrayed by friend for a reward of silver
“And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.“ (Judges 16:5)
“Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.“ (Matthew 26:14-16)
Samson was betrayed by a lover named Delilah. Jesus was betrayed by a disciple named Judas. They both proved themselves to be in cahoots with Satan as they surrendered their friends over to the enemy for that which they valued more than their friendship: money.
5.) Victory over enemy accomplished upon death of deliverer
“And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.”(Judges 16:29-30)
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”(Hebrews 2:14)
The means that brought about Samson’s own death also served as the means by which Israel’s enemy was defeated. When he went down, he brought the enemy down with him. Victory for Israel came at the cost of his own life. Christ too, defeated the Serpent & sin through the means of His own death. Satan was beat at his own game. As Augustine once said, “The cross was the devil’s mousetrap.”
Samson reached out his arms for placement on the pillars. His right hand grasping one pillar. His left hand grasping the other. And bowing with all his strength, he brought down the temple (house, ESV) of Dagon & thousands of Philistines with it. Jesus, in similar fashion, stretched out his arms before death as well. Not to take hold on pillars, but to be taken hold of by the nails which would fasten him to the cross. His right hand took one nail. His left hand another. His feet too were pierced through and held to the cross. As his strength failed, he bowed his head in weakness and gave up his spirit (John 19:30). Jesus, like Samson, brought down a house. He bound the strong man & plundered his dwelling. Christ tore down that which The Serpent had erected. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”(1 John 3:8) But Jesus, like Samson, brought down the house at the cost of His own life. In crushing the enemy, Christ Himself had to be crushed for a time. His heel had to be bruised. And after his sufferings, like Samson, he was buried by those who cared for Him. Samson’s body eventually saw decay after he had gone the way of all the earth. He who had begun to save Israel did not finish the job completely. No sinful human being ever could. They can paint striking pictures, but only The God-Man can bring about an eternal, irreversible redemption for the progeny of fallen Adam.
As I mentioned above, Samson needed the Messiah he foreshadowed. And although Samson’s body saw decay, in the end he will rise again because of the greater Samson who was crushed in death & rose again. And we will rise with him.
Jesus died in weakness, but he was raised victoriously and incorruptibly.
And he will come again, conquering.