What are the parallels between Samson and Jesus?
Because of the parallels between Samson and Jesus, we required the salvific work of Jesus Christ to be done for us, as we were unable to rescue ourselves. The story of Samson teaches us another important lesson, which is that in the end, God will be praised, even though it may be as a result of our errors and gaffes.
The story of Samson is widely regarded as one of the most remarkable and well-known stories in the Old Testament. Between the years 1090 and 1070 B.C., he served as one of Israel’s judges. This was during the period between when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and when God finally granted the Israelites their request by appointing Saul as their king. It was a time when the faithfulness of the people of God was out of control and spiraling downward.
The story of Samson, which can be found in Judges 13–16, is a very interesting one to read because not only does he possess supernatural strength, but he also uses that strength to wreak quite a bit of havoc on Israel’s enemies, who are the Philistines. In addition to this, we have one of the relatively few opportunities to delve into the specifics of the life of one of Israel’s leaders, making this event quite special (outside of the other well-known leaders like Moses and Joshua).
The majority of Samson’s tale is marred by tragedy, unfortunately. He messed up, and he messed up a lot! Despite this, there are a great number of instructive lessons that we can glean from his life and the relationships he has had.
It is in our human nature to lionize or even idolize the “heroes” (or more often “anti-heroes”) of the Old Testament. However, the most important thing that we can take away from the stories of men like Samson the strong, Solomon the wise, Elijah the fire-caller, and David the giant-slayer is that no matter how smart, fast, strong, old, etc. anyone is, they will never be able to outrun the consequences of their sin,
Because of this, we required the salvific work of Jesus Christ to be done for us, as we were unable to save ourselves. The story of Samson teaches us another important lesson, which is that in the end, God will be glorified, even though it may be as a result of our errors and gaffes.
But if we go beyond the surface and examine Samson’s life in the context of the rest of Scripture, we begin to understand how it fits into the redemptive timeline rather than just being a good standalone story that teaches morality. In other words, we begin to see how it is not just a good story that teaches morality but also how it fits into the grand scheme of things (as it is often portrayed).
That is to say if the entirety of Sacred Scripture either looks ahead or backward to Jesus, then the story of Samson also points in that direction. Even though it did take place, and some lessons can be taken away from it, it doesn’t make much sense until we connect the allegorical “dots” to see how Samson’s life was a clear foreshadowing of Jesus’s. Only then does it make sense.
In what ways, then, does the narrative of Samson point to Jesus? There are quite a few different routes to take.
A Reflection on Samson’s Life about Jesus
- An angel, just like the one who announced Jesus’ birth to Mary, appeared to Samson’s mother before he was born (Luke 1).
- It was a miracle that Samson was born to an infertile mother, just as it was a miracle that Jesus was born to a virgin mother (Luke 1).
- In the same way that Jesus came to save the world from the consequences of their sins (Matthew1:21; Hebrews9:28), the mission of Samson was to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Philistines.
- Samson was a Nazarite. He took certain vows, whereas Jesus was a Nazarene because he lived in Nazareth. Samson was a Nazarite because of the specific vows he took (Matthew 2:23).
- In a manner very similar to that of Jesus (Luke2:52; Matthew3:16), God blessed Samson and the Holy Spirit moved within him.
How the Life of Samson Compares to Jesus
- In contrast to Jesus, who exemplified humility and meekness (Philippians2:8; Matthew5:5), Samson was haughty and violent.
- Jesus perfectly followed the law of God, in contrast to Samson, who disobeyed it willfully (Matthew 5:17).
- Delilah was successful in getting Samson to give in to her temptations, but the devil was never successful in getting Jesus to give in (Matthew 4:1-11).
- Jesus gave himself up willingly, in contrast to Samson, who was captured against his will (1 John 3:16).
The Unmistakable Parallels Between Samson’s Death and the Crucifixion
Make sure to read Judges 16:23-31 first if you are unfamiliar with the story and want to learn more about it. Imagine that Samson was standing within a colonnade that was holding up the roof of a large house where thousands of his enemies had gathered to celebrate their victory over Samson, Israel, and Jehovah God. Samson would be standing within the colonnade. His arms were stretched out from one column to the other in a display of weakness and humiliation as drunken Philistines looked on and jeered at him. He was stuck in the one location he had always dreaded being in.
Therefore, for Samson to exact his revenge, he prays to God for strength just one more time. Samson prays to God, and in response, God gives him the strength to push out the two pillars that he is chained to, which results in the collapse of the entire building.
This act of self-sacrifice resulted in the deaths of not only the person who performed it but also the thousands of other Philistines who were present at the party. Because of this, Samson’s death was able to accomplish more against Israel’s adversaries than his life ever could have. After that, Samson’s relatives disposed of his body by placing it in a tomb.
Now, turn your attention away from Samson and look behind him; the shadow of a cross can be seen cast by his arms as they are stretched out between the columns. Imagine Jesus hanging there on the cross, gasping for air and pleading with God for help while bearing the burden of all of humanity’s sins on his shoulders. He was fulfilling his destiny.
Jesus displayed an unfathomable combination of strength and humility as he was being put to death, while his enemies jeered and jeered at him. But while Samson gave his life to destroy his adversaries, Jesus gave his life to demonstrate the love of God and to give his adversaries new life (Romans 5:6-11). In contrast, the death of Jesus provides spiritual deliverance to all people for all times, whereas the death of Samson provided physical deliverance to a certain group of people for a brief period of history (John 3:16).
It may make sense to see the cross itself bridging the gap of sin that separates God and humanity in pictures, but in reality, it was Jesus who did that. The cross wasn’t even involved. The bridge from death to life was formed by his outstretched arms that hung from the ceiling with nails in his hands. Only faith in Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, can bring about salvation. He alone is the only way (John 14:6).
Jesus’ body is nowhere to be found because he rose from the dead in victory over sin, death, and hell (Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 15), and he is still alive today, sitting at the right hand of God the Father and making intercession for those of us who believe in him. The remains of Samson’s body will remain in the ground until the final resurrection at the end of days (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus has never actually died; he has always been alive, even before the beginning of time (Colossians 1). This concept illuminates one of the most fascinating aspects of how the story of Samson leads us to Jesus, which is the fact that Jesus was a character in Samson’s story!
What exactly does this entail?
The book of Judges makes it abundantly clear that the “angel of the LORD” who appeared to his mother, who was called “awesome” and “wonderful,” and who “went up in the flame of the altar,” identified himself with the well-known name of God: “I am.” This is something that we learn in a very clear way from the book of Judges (Judges 13:11).
It was none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ himself who served as the forerunner of Samson’s birth and the one who performed a miracle on the childless woman who would later become Samson’s mother.
In a staggering number of ways, the story of Samson directs our attention to Jesus. This demonstrates that no amount of human effort or ability can save us; we are completely dependent on Jesus Christ. Because of his death, we now have the opportunity to spend eternity with him.