The Riddler

Jeff Munroe

READ : Judges 13:3-5, 14:1-19

Let me now put a riddle to you. (14:12)

The story of Samson not only contains riddles, it is a riddle. Although some think of him as a Hebrew folk hero, I prefer the words of one commentator who called Samson “an oversexed buffoon.” His story is the longest in the Book of Judges, and he is the final judge mentioned in the book. Rather than being the wonderful culmination of the story, he is more of a puzzling disappointment. Samson’s life was chaotic, and chaos follows for Israel throughout the rest of Judges.

Samson was consecrated by his mother to be a Nazirite, someone set apart to serve God. The rules for Nazirites are spelled out in Numbers 6, all of which have to do with ceremonial cleanliness. Usually someone kept a Nazirite vow for a short period of time. Samson was supposed to be a Nazirite for life.

Sadly, he broke every part of the Nazirite code. He was supposed to abstain not only from wine but from grapes, yet his troubles begin when he is in a vineyard and are exacerbated when he throws a week-long party. He is supposed to avoid dead bodies, but the plot thickens when he scoops honey out of the corpse of a lion (no wonder he would not reveal the honey’s origin). He is not supposed to cut his hair, and we all know how that turned out. There is no question Samson was miraculously gifted by God. But what did he do with those gifts?


Lord, may we not squander your gifts.