Timnah: Life of Samson Overview

Life of Samson Overview

 

Welcome to the Holy Land and the biblical site of Timnah which is located at this site called, “Tel Batash.” Let’s see the Bible come to life as we look at some of the key events from the Scriptures that took place here.

 

Location

Timnah is located about halfway between Joppa (a coastal town on the Mediterranean Sea) and Jerusalem.

The Tel is about 10 acres in size. It is in a rich agricultural area alongside the Nahal Sorek stream.

 

Historical Background
  • Timnah is mentioned 10 times in the Bible. Today, biblical Timnah is called Tel Batash, which is very little visited and undeveloped. It's hard to access as it's located in the midst of farm fields. The life of Samson takes place in the period of the Judges, which is about 1400 BC.

 

  • Samson is a very interesting Bible figure that presents some significant challenges to understand. His life is a blend of God’s sovereignty and Samson’s human choices. Many decisions Samson made were sinful and foolish. However, despite his sinful and foolish choices, God still used him to accomplish His sovereign purposes.

 

  • However, it appears Samson’s choices negatively affected what he could have accomplished for God had he been more obedient and wise.

 

  • Samson’s life seems to reveal a very immature believer who follows their sinful desires rather than walking in the Spirit and exemplifying wisdom and maturity.

 

  • In order to understand Samson, we have to understand something about the book of Judges. The period of the Judges takes place in a period of Israel’s history when they were a very spiritually immature people. Their two famous leaders, Moses and Joshua, had died and now they were on their own.

 

  • A lot of weird and bizarre things happen in the book of Judges and there’s one phrase repeatedly used, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

 

  • Samson is listed in Hebrews 11, the hall of fame faith chapter, as a person who had faith.

 

  • Samson had a supernatural birth and purpose.

 

  • Like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, the mother of Samson was barren and was unable to have children.

 
Timnah, Zorah, Lehi & Samson in the Bible

 

  • God visited Samson’s parents through an angel.

Judges 13:2-5: There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. Now, therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

 

  • God ordered Samson to be consecrated by being a Nazirite from birth (meaning separated or dedicated).

This was a unique vow, applicable during the Old Covenant of national Israel, whereby a non-Levite (Samson was a Danite) could dedicate his life to full-time service of God. This vow required that their hair not be cut, no alcoholic beverages were to be consumed, and no touching of anything dead was allowed (Judges 13:5; Num. 6).

 

  • God also provided Samson with unbelievable superhuman strength to be used against the Philistines, providing Samson's vow of submission was faithfully kept.

 

  • When Samson is grown, he comes down here to Timnah from Zorah, seeking an occasion against the Philistines.

Judges 14:1-4: Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. So he came back and told his father and mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now, therefore, get her for me as a wife.” Then his father and his mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me.” However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time, the Philistines were ruling over Israel. 

 

This verse has caused much debate and appears very difficult to understand. Didn’t God forbid Israelites to marry foreign women? And why would Samson desire an unbelieving wife whom it appears he was just attracted to because of her outward beauty.

 

First of all, God only prohibited the Israelites from marrying Canaanite women from the seven nationalities that made up the Promised Land.

 

The Philistines likely had conquered and settled, or had been transplanted to that location, and were not part of the people group of Canaan. So the Philistines did not originate from the Canaanite groups infected by the Amorite sins as mentioned in Genesis 15:16. The Philistine land was considered separate from the Canaanite land as mentioned in Exodus 13:17, and the people group was distinguished from the Canaanites as mentioned in Joshua 13:1-6.

 

Additionally, Boaz married Ruth who was a Moabite, from whom the lineage of David and Christ came.

 

So there is no direct conflict with God's commands and His possible moving in the heart of Samson to be attracted to a Philistine woman. However, even if it were sinful of Samson and arose wholly of him, and God simply allowed it for His own purposes, it could still be something "of the Lord." Whether God is actively doing or passively allowing, He is working. That is simply how God operates in a sinful world. Humans sin, and God works despite that sin.

 

  • Samson demonstrates his superhuman ability by killing a lion with his bare hands.

Judges 14:5: Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done.

 

By failing to tell his parents, Samson neglects their wise counsel and guidance parents provide.

 

  • Samson breaks his Nazirite vow and touches the dead lion he had previously killed.

Judges 14:7-9: So he went down and talked to the woman; and she looked good to Samson. When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion.  So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion.

 

By touching a dead animal, Samson violates part of his Nazirite Vow.

 

  • Samson throws a party for his marriage, proposes a riddle, and then succumbs to his wife’s pressure to reveal it.

Judges 14:10: Then his father went down to the woman; and Samson made a feast there, for the young men customarily did this. When they saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him.

 

This customary feast was, literally, a “drinking party.” Although Scripture doesn’t indicate whether Samson participating in the drinking, it was very likely he did. If he did indeed drink, this was another violation of his Nazirite Vow.

 

Samson proposes a riddle, his wife deceives him into telling her, and she tells her kinsmen.

 

  • Then the Spirit of God comes upon Samson and he killed 30 Philistines.

Judges 14:19: Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house. But Samson’s wife was given to his companion who had been his friend. 

 

  • Samson seeks revenge because his wife had been given to one of Samson’s good friends. 

Judges 15:4-5: Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails. When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves.

 

  • The Israelites deliver Samson to the Philistines bound in new ropes, but Samson breaks the ropes like wax and kills 1,000 Philistines.

Judges 15:14-15: When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it.

 

  • God provides for Samson after he killed the 1,000 with a donkey jawbone.

Judges 15:18-20: Then he became very thirsty, and he called to the Lord and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant, and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it. When he drank, his strength returned and he revived. Therefore, he named it En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. So he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

 

  • Samson commits sexual sin with a harlot.

Judges 16:1-3: Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. When it was told to the Gazites (part of the Philistines), saying, “Samson has come here,” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, “Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.” Now Samson lay until midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.

 

From Gaza to Hebron is about 45 miles.

 

Even though Samson committed sexual sin with a prostitute, God had mercy on him and delivered him anyway.

 

  • Samson is defeated by the Philistines.

Judges 16:4-5: After this, it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. The lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him. Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”

 

Samson clearly had a weakness for women, which caused him to commit adultery and become impure and disobedient to God and his Nazarite Vow.

 

  • Delilah deceives Samson. 

Judges 16:18-21: When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.

 

  • When God’s name is mocked, and His glory is given to false gods, He chooses to once again use Samson for His sovereign purposes.

Judges 16:23-31: Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.” When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hands, Even the destroyer of our country, who has slain many of us.” It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars. Then Samson said to the boy who was holding his hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” Now the house was full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there. And about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was amusing them. Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus, he had judged Israel twenty years.

 

Places of Interest at Timnah, Zorah, Lehi (for more, see Google Map below)

 

  • Street

  • Residential home

  • Oil press

  • Observation tent

  • City gate

  • Nahal Sorek Stream

  • Samson’s tomb

  • Samson’s home town

  • Place God proved water for Samson

 

Devotional Faith Lesson from the life of Samson.

 

Weaknesses of Samson which destroyed his life and ministry.

 

  • Samson failed to listen to the counsel of his parents.

  • Samson was bitter and vengeful.

  • Samson had a weakness for women.

  • Samson broke many of his Nazirite vows.

  • Samson walked in the flesh instead of in the Spirit.

  • Samson had raw abilities but never refined them and submitted them fully to God’s control and lordship.

  • Samson paid a heavy price for his continual neglect of submitting to God.

  • We should develop our gifts, submit them to God, and be fully obedient in serving Him or we could copy the failures of Samson.

 

Strengths of Samson

 

  • Samson is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a man of faith. So, despite his many failures, he did have faith and believed in God.

 

Strengths of God

 

  • Samson failed in many ways, but God still used him.

  • Samson served during the period of the Judges, a time when Israel was a very spiritually immature people. This explains why Samson was so immature and why God still used him anyway.

  • God is sovereign and uses sinful people for his purposes.

  • Even in God’s garden of grace, broken trees produce fruit.

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