of the sun, the son of Manoah, born at Zorah. The narrative of his life is given in Judg. 13-16. He was a "Nazarite unto God" from his birth, the first Nazarite mentioned in Scripture (Judg. 13:3-5; comp. Num. 6:1-21). The first recorded event of his life was his marriage with a Philistine woman of Timnath (Judg. 14:1-5). Such a marriage was not forbidden by the law of Moses, as the Philistines did not form one of the seven doomed Canaanite nations (Ex. 34:11-16; Deut. 7:1-4). It was, however, an ill-assorted and unblessed marriage. His wife was soon taken from him and given "to his companion" (Judg. 14:20). For this Samson took revenge by burning the "standing corn of the Philistines" (15:1-8), who, in their turn, in revenge "burnt her and her father with fire." Her death he terribly avenged (15:7-19). During the twenty years following this he judged Israel; but we have no record of his life. Probably these twenty years may have been simultaneous with the last twenty years of Eli's life. After this we have an account of his exploits at Gaza (16:1-3), and of his infatuation for Delilah, and her treachery (16:4-20), and then of his melancholy death (16:21-31). He perished in the last terrible destruction he brought upon his enemies. "So the dead which he slew at his death were more [in social and political importance=the elite of the people] than they which he slew in his life." "Straining all his nerves, he bowed: As with the force of winds and waters pent, When mountains tremble, those two massy pillars With horrible convulsion to and fro He tugged, he shook, till down they came, and drew The whole roof after them, with burst of thunder Upon the heads of all who sat beneath, Lords, ladies, captains, counsellors, or priests, Their choice nobility and flower." Milton's Samson Agonistes.
(like the sun), son of Manoah, a man of the town of Zorah in the tribe of Dan, on the border of Judah. (Joshua 15:33; 19:41) (B.C. 1161). The miraculous circumstances of his birth are recorded in Judges 13; and the three following chapters are devoted to the history of his life and exploits. Samson takes his place in Scripture, (1) as a judge-an office which he filled for twenty years, (Judges 15:20; 16:31) (2) as a Nazarite, (Judges 13:5; 16:17) and (3) as one endowed with supernatural power by the Spirit of the Lord. (Judges 13:25; 14:6,19; 15:14) As a judge his authority seems to have been limited to the district bordering upon the country of the Philistines. The divine inspiration which Samson shared with Othniel, Gideon and Jephthah assumed in him the unique form of vast personal strength, inseparably connected with the observance of his vow as a Nazarite: "his strength was in his hair." He married a Philistine woman whom he had seen at Timnath. One day, on his way to that city, he was attacked by a lion, which he killed; and again passing that way he saw a swarm of bees in the carcass of the lion, and he ate of the honey, but still he told no one. He availed himself of this circumstance, and of the custom of proposing riddles at marriage feasts, to lay a snare for the Philistines. But Samson told the riddle to his wife and she told it to the men of the city, whereupon Samson slew thirty men of the city. Returning to his own house, he found his wife married to another, and was refused permission to see her. Samson revenged himself by taking 300 foxes (or rather jackals) and tying them together two by two by the tails, with a firebrand between every pair of tails, and so he let them loose into the standing corn of the Philistines, which was ready for harvest, The Philistines took vengeance by burning Samson's wife and her father; but he fell hip upon them in return, and smote them with a great slaughter," after which he took refuge on the top of the rock of Etam, in the territory of Judah. The Philistines gathered an army to revenge themselves when the men of Judah hastened to make peace by giving up Samson, who was hound with cords, these, however, he broke like burnt flax and finding a jawbone of an ass at hand, he slew with it a thousand of the Philistines. The supernatural character of this exploit was confirmed by the miraculous bursting out of a spring of water to revive the champion as he was ready to die of thirst. This achievement raised Samson to the position of a judge, which he held for twenty years. After a time he began to fall into the temptations which addressed themselves to his strong animal nature; but he broke through every snare in which he was caught so long as he kept his Nazarite vow. While he was visiting a harlot in Gaza, the Philistines shut the gates of the city, intending to kill him in the morning; but at midnight he went out and tore away the gates, with the posts and bar and carried them to the top of a hill looking toward Hebron. Next he formed his fatal connection with Delilah, a woman who lived in the valley of Sorek. Thrice he suffered himself to be bound with green withes, with new ropes, but released himself until finally, wearied out with her importunity, he "told her all his heart," and while he was asleep she had him shaven of his seven locks of hair. His enemies put out his eyes, and led him down to Gaza, bound in brazen fetters, and made him grind in the prison. Then they held a great festival in the temple of Dagon, to celebrate their victory over Samson. They brought forth the blind champion to make sport for them, end placed him between the two chief pillars which supported the roof that surrounded the court. Samson asked the lad who guided him to let him feel the pillars, to lean upon them. Then, with a fervent prayer that God would strengthen him only this once, to be avenged on the Philistines, he bore with all his might upon the two pillars; they yielded, and the house fell upon the lords and all the people. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life." In (Hebrews 11:32) his name is enrolled among the worthies of the Jewish Church.
Smith's Bible Dictionary (1884) , by William Smith.