Probably the most notable judge for Israel was the 12th judge, Samson, who came to lead the Israelites after a 40-year captivity under the rule of the ruthless Philistines. Samson led God’s people to victory over the Philistines where he lost his own life after 20 years as judge of Israel. Samson, whose name means “sunshine,” was born sometime between 1045 BC and 1000 BC, during a dark period of Israel’s history.
Samson was born a Nazirite, meaning he was “separated” or “set aside” for God. This meant that he was not to drink wine or fruit of the vine. He couldn’t go near or touch a dead body, human or animal, nor could he cut his hair. Though he was set apart for special service to God (Judges 13:5), Samson ignored his Nazirite vow of godly devotion and relied upon his own strength and abilities rather than upon God’s. Although God empowered him with supernatural strength to begin the deliverance of the people of Israel from the Philistines (Judges 13:5), it was his weakness for the Philistine women that did him in (Judges 14:1–3, 16:1–22). His passion for women was more important to him than God’s expressed will (Deuteronomy 7:3).
The Spirit of God came upon him many times, giving him great strength to fight the Philistines, the oppressors of the Israelites. This in spite of the fact that Samson was a womanizer and a vengeful man. Samson’s life illustrates the necessity of saying “no” to fleshly temptation, God’s use of even flawed, sinful men to accomplish His will, the consequences of sin, and the mercy of God.