Project Genesis

Jewish Texts

The Prophets and Writings

Lessons from Samson

Question: What are the main lessons to be learnt from the story of Samson?

Answer: Hi! Thanks for your question. To tell you the truth, I would never venture to make a suggestion on what is the main theme of any part of the Bible. As the Torah is infinite, it can have any number of “main” lessons. So I’m just confining myself to suggesting some things we can learn from the story.

  1. Self-control is strength. Unlike what Delilah seems to have imagined, Samson’s strength was not a result of some kind of magic or trick. It was a direct result of his being a nazir, dedicated from the womb to a special kind of service to G-d. A nazir has turned away from some of the normal pleasures of this world. Any of us who has tried to diet knows how difficult it is, and also knows that success in self-control gives a type of courage and strength that can be matched in no other way.

  2. Strength comes from G-d. Though people tend to describe Samson as ‘ha-gibor”, the mighty one, the narrative nowhere says that he was strong. It says a spirit of strength came over him from G-d, as if his strength were an unusual form of prophecy. I don’t know that he had big muscles, or needed them. The gemara in Sotah says that he was a cripple!

    1. This theme recurs through the Bible. Israel never ever lost a battle because of weakness, or won through their military might. They won when they deserved to, and lost when they didn’t deserve to win. (See the battle of Ai in the book of Joshua, and many other places too in the book of Judges.)

  3. The great importance of simplicity. Samson did his best to defeat the enemies of Israel, but he was not ultimately that successful, because the means he chose (marrying Philistine women) were not ones that are allowed. The theme also recurs throughout the Torah. We are supposed to serve G-d in the ways he prescribes, not in ways that seem to us to be better. There is lots of room for individuality and initiative in the Torah, but there is also right and wrong. Our most successful leaders succeeded by doing the right things, and when they failed, it was because they for a moment thought they knew better.

  4. The very great importance of separating ourselves from non-Jews. We are a nation that dwells alone (Balaam’s words). There are many instances of covenants between the Jewish nation and non-Jews, and it can be a beautiful thing. But it only works if Israel keeps its identity. Samson went to marry Philistine wives, and it is clear from the narrative that he was doing it on their turf, so to speak (even if the wives actually went through conversion processes). That never works out. We can see from the story that Delilah was actually more loyal to the Philistines than to him, and it was she who ruined him.

  5. Education of children begins from the womb. Even before a baby is born, the parents need to begin preparing themselves for the job of making sure that the influences on the child will be the best ones possible. Thus, Samson had to be a nazir “from the womb”.

  6. Samson chose non-Jewish wives because they were “good in his eyes”. Eventually his eyes were blinded. Hashem not only deals with us according to what we do, but does it in such a way that, hopefully, we can understandwhat’s happening.

  7. Listen to your wife. Manoach insisted on hearing again the prophecy; it seems he didn’t trust that his wife was relaying it properly. Actually, the prophecy came back to his wife again the second time. She was on a higher level than he. He should have been willing to listen.

Well, one could go on and on.

Best wishes,
Michoel Reach

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