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5.  Samson

5.8 Samson A Type Of Christ

There is no doubt that we are intended to see Samson as a type of Christ. All the Judges in some way prefigured the Lord; for they were " saviours" raised up to deliver God's weak and failing people in pure grace, when according to God's own word, they should have received the due punishment of rejection (Neh. 9:27,28). He who delivered " them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:15) was typified by all those earlier deliverers of God's people from bondage (cp. Mt. 1:21). The " great salvation" of Heb. 2:3 which the Lord achieved was foreshadowed by the great deliverance wrought by Samson (15:18). He would have meditated upon the promises of the seed, that he was to deliver Israel from their enemies, and to possess the gate of his enemies. When Samson took away the gates of Gaza, he surely saw himself as being that seed. The way he openly " sought occasion" against the Lord's enemies was therefore perhaps a self-conscious desire to in some sense do what the promised seed would do. 

Consider the more obvious points of contact between Samson and Jesus which make Samson a type of Christ: 

- The birth of both of them was foretold by an Angel

- at a time when Israel had been handed over to their enemies.

- The record of Samson's birth frequently uses the phrases " the man" and " the woman" (e.g. 13:10,11), as if to send the mind back to Eden- with the implication that Samson was the seed of the woman, in type of Christ. " The woman" is a phrase nearly always associated in Scripture with the birth of someone who was to be a seed of the woman (1). " Of all that I said unto the woman, let her beware" , coming from the mouth of an Angel (13:13), surely confirms the Eden allusions.

- Both married Gentiles; both were betrayed for pieces of silver.

- The supreme strength and courage of Samson in fighting and killing the lion points forward to Christ's spiritual verve and fervour in destroying our adversary the devil, which is likened to a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8).

- 'Samson' means "the sun" -  linking with the Lord's title as "the sun of righteousness" in Malachi 4.

- The incident in Gaza is evidently typical of the Lord's work. There was Samson, " the splendour of the son" , 'compassed in' by his enemies (as Christ on the cross, Ps. 118:5,10-12) in Gaza ('fortified stronghold', cp. death). Then he arose in the darkness, rendered powerless the gates of death and carried them up 30 miles to a high altitude (cp. Heaven), to Hebron, 'the city of fellowship', where the tomb of Abraham was (Gen. 23:19), and where Gentile giants had once lived (Num. 13:22), conquered by faithful Israelites. Joshua had taken Hebron (Josh. 10:36) but Israel had not followed up his victory, and the Philistines had returned; Caleb then took it (Josh. 15:13), but again, by Samson's time, the Philistines were back. And Samson, although a type of Christ, was intensely aware of all this failure (cp. how he chose Gaza and Timnath, areas with a similar history, for his other exploits). It would seem that Samson killed the men at the gates, the leaders of the city, and then took the gates with him (16:3 cp. 2). The Hebrew used for Samson 'taking away' the gates is that translated 'possess' in the Genesis promises. Thus he possessed the gates of his enemies and slew their figureheads, as the Lord did through the cross. Samson obviously saw some specific meaning in taking the gates to Hebron and the tomb of Abraham. He surely saw that he was prefiguring Messiah's work of taking the gate of his enemies, as promised to Abraham. Or perhaps he saw himself as 'in' the Messiah, and sharing in what He would do in the future. Archaeologists have found tablets that refer to the power of Baal to possess the gates of all who oppose him; and Samson evidently wanted to show the superiority of Yahweh over Baal. The fellowship ('Hebron') which was enabled by the Lord's victory should never be undone by us; He died that He might gather together in one all God's people, to reconcile us all in one body both to each other and to God. To break apart the body is therefore to deny the essential intention of the cross. There are other points of contact with the Lord's passion. The men of Gaza laid wait in the gates of the city; they were therefore the rulers? But they decided to only kill him in the morning. The rulers of the Jews decided likewise.  

" Through death..."

Samson at his death was Samson at his finest; and this was true of the Lord. Thus Samson was a type of Christ. The way he was betrayed for silver by the one he trusted means is an obvious link with the Lord's experience. The way he died with such a deep, deep sense of betrayal must have found an echo with the Lord. We must have all asked: 'Why, oh why, did Samson go on trusting her, when it was so obvious she was going to betray him?'. It may have been because she was an Israelitess (even if a renegade).The way she says " The Philistines be upon thee!" (16:20) and the way the lords of the Philistines came up to her (16:5) may suggest this. Their offer of money to her was exactly after the pattern of the Jews' approach to Judas. The way " pieces of silver" feature in both records leads us to wonder whether the correspondence was so exact that she also betrayed the helpless Samson with a kiss, as Judas did. It is suggested in Samson And Delilah that her betrayal of Samson was done in the spirit of some kind of loving teasing. She started to afflict Samson, and had the better of him. She may well have betrayed him with a kiss as she called the Philistine warriors in. We can reason on, and consider how she like Judas would have avoided eye contact, how Samson would have looked at her with a pain and disbelief and disappointment that is beyond words, altogether ineffable... and how she as Judas must have lived a wretched life afterwards, until her (premature?) death. Prov. 6:26,27; 7:1 make clear allusion to Samson and Delilah, and they suggest that Delilah was a " whorish woman" . In this case, her motivation for betraying Samson was fundamentally financial, apart from other lesser factors which there probably were. The bribe she was offered has been estimated in modern terms as around $500,000 (1997). And Judas likewise went to the chief priests and asked how much they would give him for betraying the Lord. Again, Samson was a type of Christ. This all indicates the unbelievable materialism which is in our natures: to betray a good man, even the Son of God, ultimately for pieces of metal.

I think it wasn't only that love is blind. In all such deep relationships there is a sense that we may know full well the weakness of the one we love, and what they will do to us in the end; and yet our nature has a tendency to overlook this. This is true not only of male:female relationships. The problem we have in understanding Samson (if we do have a problem with it) occurs again, in exactly the same form, when we consider the Lord's relationship with Judas. He knew from the beginning who should betray him. He knew that the one with whom He shared especially sweet counsel would betray Him (Ps. 55:12-14). And surely the Lord Jesus had reflected on David's experience with Ahithophel. And yet He spoke of how the twelve (including Judas) would sit on twelve thrones, sharing his glory (Mt. 19:28). He loved Judas and treated him as a close friend, even though he knew that this very close friend would betray Him. There is, to my mind, no satisfactory explanation of this apart from to realize the utter humanity of the Lord; that just like Samson, He could sincerely love a man whom he knew would betray Him. This same Lord is the same today and forever. He isn't a hard man. He loves and actively fellowships at the time with those whom later He knows will betray Him, even now. He doesn't just not bother because He knows they will later turn nasty. Lord, we salute you for this, your utter grace.  

Micah 7 is a prophecy shot through with Messianic allusion (2). Christ openly quoted Mic. 7:6 concerning himself and His men in Mt. 10:35,36. Mic. 7:1 is alluded to in Mt. 21:19; 7:4 in Mt. 7:16. There are many references to Christ's betrayal and arrest: " They all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net" (7:2 = Jn. 8:59; 10:31,39; 11:8). " The prince (Herod) asketh (for a sign, Lk. 23:8), the judge (Pilate) asketh for a reward; and the great man (Caiaphas he High Priest) he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up" (7:3), i.e. hatch their plot together. Because of this, " the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh" (7:4 = Lk. 19:44). " Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide (reference to Judas- Ps. 55:13): keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom" . This begins a reference to Samson's experience with Delilah. " I will look unto the Lord (Samson first used the Yahweh Name when he cried in his final suffering) God will hear me (cp. " Hear me this once" )...rejoice not against me, O mine enemy (the Philistines mocking Samson): when I fall, I shall arise (Heb. elsewhere used about the resurrection); when I sit in darkness (Samson sitting in blindness in the prison), the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him (Samson's thoughts, surely), until he plead my cause (" Remember me!" )...he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. Then she that is mine enemy (Delilah, symbol of the Philistines to Samson) shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me (as Delilah did?), Where is Yahweh thy God? mine eyes shall behold her (is this Samson imagining the judgment, with restored eyesight?)" . If these connections are valid- and it is hard to deny this- then Samson died full of vision of the resurrection, judgment and the final manifestation of his forgiveness which he would then receive. Paul likewise has plenty of these references in his final writings in 2 Tim. 4. One question remains: why are there these Samson references in a prophecy of the Lord's betrayal? Surely Samson was a type of Christ. It could be that the Lord Jesus was being warned, prophetically, of how a particular woman could be his undoing, as she was Samson's. The way the Messianic Proverbs warn the Son of God against a particular woman lend weight to this. Or it could be that in the same way as Delilah betrayed Samson, so Judas was to betray Jesus, and He would go through the same gamut of emotions. This would be why this prophecy of His betrayal is described in terms of Delilah's betrayal of Samson. 

You will recall the words of Heb. 2:14,15 about Jesus: " through death he (destroyed) him that had the power of death" . This is exactly the idea of Jud. 16:30: " Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life" . Through his own death, Christ destroyed the power of sin, epitomized in the dead Philistines. Perhaps there is an allusion in Hebrews 2 to this passage. Heb. 2:15 goes on to say that Christ delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" . Now that's packed with allusions to the time of the judges- Israel in hard bondage to their Philistine masters, living in fear, until judges or 'deliverers' like Samson delivered them from their oppressors. The same great relief which Israel felt after Samson's deliverances of them, can be experienced by us spiritually. The sins, the doubts, the fears which we all have as we analyze our spiritual standing, should melt away when we recall the great deliverance which we have received. In practice, Samson must have become a larger than life figure. We get the impression that the Israelites had a problem relating to him due to his fantastic physical strength; his wives likewise must have felt distanced from him, knowing that he had a spiritual inner being which they had no access to. We too can feel distanced from Christ as we perceive more and more the supreme spiritual strength which he had. Yet in all his ways, Samson sought the glory of God, and means of overcoming Israel's Philistine enemies. Even his first marriage with a Philistine woman was " of the Lord, that he (Samson) sought an occasion against the Philistines" (14:4). Here we see his all consuming desire to actively seek conflict with the powers of sin which debilitated and crippled Israel. As we see the forces of sin so strong in our own lives, as well as in the new Israel generally, we too should have the zeal which he had in seeking an occasion against our own flesh. It is easy to think that we are just asked to passively resist temptation whenever it arises. But the example of Samson and the Lord Jesus was of active warfare against the flesh, going on to the offensive rather than being only on the defensive.  

There are several other parallels with the Lord's death, following through Samson as a type of Christ:

- The Jews wanted the Lord's death because they saw Him as their destroyer (Jn. 11:50). And the Philistines likewise (16:24).

- The way they made sport of Samson (16:25) links with how the Lord was mocked, and was even the song of the drunkards (Ps. 69:12).

- The Lord's silence was due to His complete humiliation (Acts 8:32,33). That extreme humiliation can be entered into through a consideration of Samson's ineffable shame. He was given women's work in prison, grinding at the mill, in order to rub the point in (Ex. 11:5; Mt. 24:41). 'Grinding' was some kind of figure of speech for the sex act (s.w. Job 31:10). The " fetters of brass" with which he was bound would have recalled his games of bondage with Delilah, and the same word is translated " filthiness" in a sexual context (Ez. 16:36). The word used for 'prison' means literally 'house of binding'- n extension of Delilah's house, they would have joked. One can imagine how the story of how Delilah enticed him would have become the gossip of the nation.

- The utter exhaustion of Samson from their afflictions (prodding with sticks?) is revealed when he asks the lad " Suffer me..." (Heb. 'allow me to rest / take a break'). The Lord's physical exhaustion, driven to the limit of human endurance, must be imagined.

- The Philistines didn't kill Samson immediately; they wanted to prolong the agony of his death. It was evidently their intention to kill him. Perhaps it was their plan to torture him and then finally torture him to death at the feast to their god- cp. the Lord's planned death at Passover. The great sacrifice which they planned to offer (Heb. 'kill') was probably Samson (16:23).

- Samson dying between the two pillars is broadly similar, as a kind of silhouette, to the Lord's death between two other crosses. The way the lad (also a Hebrew? for they spoke the same language?) " held" Samson's hand is significant, for the same word is translated 'to strengthen / encourage'. Perhaps the lad strengthened Samson as the repentant thief did the Lord.

- The final effort of Samson, both to speak and to act, bowing himself (Heb. 'stretching himself out to his full extension') with all his spiritual and physical energy: this was the final effort of the Lord. Again, we see in both how we are lead to a final crescendo of spiritual effort at the end of probation, although this may be articulated in various forms.

- The way the body was taken up by brave Israelites after Samson's death recalls the action of Joseph and Nicodemus. 

Samson's Awareness Of Christ

There is reason to think that to some degree, Samson would have appreciated all this- that he was a type of Christ. Samson may have recognized the strength of the future Saviour when he gave his riddle to the Philistines. He meditated upon that dead lion with the sweet honey in it, and formulated his comment: " What is sweeter than honey? What (or, Who?) is stronger than a lion (Heb. 'the strong one'- this is one of Samson's many word plays)?" . 'Who is stronger than the strong one?' was an idea picked up by the Lord Jesus in, I suggest, conscious allusion (Mt. 12:29); although it is masked in the English text. He was the strong one who was stronger than the strong man of sin. Through His victory, the roaring lion of the devil lays dead. And in his skull is sweet honey; did Samson see in this the same meaning as David did in Ps. 119:103? Did he so understand the nature and method of the Lord's work that he appreciated that the Lord's victory over all His people's enemies would be through the power of God's word, lying there in the place of the mind of the beast He overcame? Yet Samson killed the lion himself; surely he felt that to some degree he was the strong man who had overcome the beast,  through his application to God's word. His frequent references and allusions to God's past revelation, both in his words and actions, would indicate that he was a man of the word. And yet despite this, he fell so miserably. Proverbs contains a number of Samson allusions (16:32; 25:28). But the most powerful are in 7:1,5,22,25-27, where the young Israelite is commended to God's word, because this will keep him from falling to the wiles of the Gentile woman, who throws down strong men into the way of miserable death. Solomon evidently writes with allusion to Samson; that here was the man who loved God's word, and yet went so astray with women. And tragically enough, Solomon himself did just the same! He realized and lamented the tragedy of Samson, as a lover of the word who fell for the Gentile woman; and then, with all his wisdom, he did the very same thing! Here, for all to see, is the crucial difference between knowledge and faith.  

However, due to the weakness of the flesh, Samson was a man who never quite made it, spiritually. In his time of dying he must have had a strong desire for salvation in the future seed. The way he pleads with God to remember him for good at the end, as he bows himself with all his physical and spiritual might, was picked up years later by the repentant thief. In a similar plight, he likewise pleaded, this time with the Lord Jesus, to be remembered for good, even though he was unworthy. And could it be that after the pattern of many others (e.g. Paul, Jacob) we all come, at the end of our mortality, to a peak of appreciation of the Lord Jesus, of our own sinfulness and His saving grace, and of our desperation for His salvation? 


(1) See Andrew Perry, The Doctrine Of Salvation (Sunderland: Willow, 1993).

(2) For a fuller exposition, see H.A.Whittaker, Bible Studies pp. 94-99 (Cannock: Biblia, 1987).