Samson, who is probably the most famous person in the book of Judges, is part of an exclusive group in Scripture: those whose births are announced by angels. God sent an angel to tell Samson’s parents that their yet-to-be-born son would have a special calling on his life — he would become a judge and deliver Israel from the Philistines who had oppressed them for forty years.
From the cradle, Samson was set apart for this special ministry as a Nazirite. The Nazirite vow involved total abstinence from three things: alcohol (including beer, wine, and anything that came from a vineyard), touching dead or ceremonially unclean things, and getting haircuts. So Samson was to live a life of constant sobriety, never being under the influence of any spirit but the Holy Spirit. He was to be always clean and holy, ready to do the Lord’s work at a moment’s notice. And the outward sign of Samson’s ministry was long hair. Judges 13:24-25 says that as Samson grew up with this special lifestyle, God blessed him and the Holy Spirit began to empower him.
Chapter 14 begins Samson’s lifelong struggle in the area of women. He fell in love with a Philistine girl. Remember, the Philistines were the enemy of Israel, but God was arranging for Samson to enter Philistine society so that he could be close enough to inflict damage (v.4). The special empowering of the Holy Spirit to kill a lion bare-handed (v.5-6) is a hint at how God would use Samson in the future.
On his way to marry the Philistine girl, Samson saw that a swarm of bees had built a hive in the carcass of the lion he had killed. He compromised his Nazirite vow to retrieve the hive’s honey (he had to touch the dead lion), then made a foolish deal with the Philistines based on a riddle about the honey. His new wife pressed him for the answer to the riddle, and when he finally told her, she betrayed him. God used Samson’s anger to kill thirty Philistine men. That was the beginning of his work as a judge.
God is sovereign, and it was His prerogative to turn Samson’s weakness for Philistine women, his reckless regard for the Nazirite vow, his foolish wager, and his short fuse into something good for Israel. In the end, it was “mission accomplished” when it came to defeating the Philistines. But did the end justify the means? The next two chapters will answer the question, but know for now that Samson had set a destructive trajectory for his life. His anger, his compromise, and his lust for revenge and women would eventually leave him broken. The better path is always to live a clean and holy life, to be content with God’s will, and to obey Him completely.