The Toxic Masculinity of Samson

A Privileged Life Wasted

Masculinity is a good thing according to the Bible. God made people in His image, both male and female. He gave each sex particular roles and attributes that define us as who we are – men and women. To say that either is inherently bad argues against the handiwork of God’s creation. What is more, Jesus came as a man. The perfect Lord clearly does not disapprove of men if He came as one.  This does not make men superior to women. It does, however, indicate there is nothing wrong in itself with being a man. Men are created in God’s image.  Women are as well, just differently than men.  Some of the greatest figures in the Bible are also men – from Noah to Peter.

There are also terrible examples of manhood in the Bible.  Rebellion against God rears its head in both men and women.  Toxic masculinity may be a badly applied buzzword in today’s culture, but there is such a thing in Christianity.  It is not pretty but iniquity never is.  It is when men take the roles that they are meant to have and responsibilities God gives us and turn them into things that are base and ugly.  It is taking the wonderful gifts of God and squandering them on serving oneself.  In the process, we not only hurt ourselves but the ones we are given charge over.  Our personal defilement never stays contained.  Samson is a clear example of this type of sin-drenched masculinity.

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Samson’s Toxic Masculinity

You may be in for a shock if you haven’t paid much attention to Samson since Sunday School.  Samson was not a good guy for most of his life.  Yes, the really strong guy with the long hair.  He royally screwed up his life.  He is not a flat out villain like Goliath, but his story is not a proud one.  He is unbelievably blessed by God and born of a clear act of the Lord.  He is gifted with great strength.  But when we read of him in the Bible, it is a story of a man serving his lusts, appetites, and disobedience.  In this way, Samson is a very early example of the sex-obsessed, booze crazed perpetual adolescent man we see in our culture today.  He has all the strength and ability of a full grown man but he acts like a spoiled child.  It is no wonder many have problems with male leadership.  Man often does a terrible job of it.  It is masculine because it is a man doing the damage in ways that are common to man.  It is toxic because it hurts everyone around him.  It is death to faith and holiness.

A Gift from God

Samson’s story starts with amazing promise.  His parents appear to be faithful and good people with one big problem.  They cannot have children and the days for doing so are likely long passed.  They are visited by an angel and told they would be blessed with a miracle child.  Not just any old baby, though.  This son would be a great man of God who would deliver Israel from their enemies.  He would be a judge alongside such great names as Samuel and Gideon.  This was great news.  He would be under a vow as a Nazarite from birth but he would be God’s champion.  What else could a barren Jewish family ask for, right?  A boy child to be a star for God is wonderful news and his parents faithfully raise Samson in the Lord.  They hold to the vows for themselves and for Samson.

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A Time where there is No King

The problems manifest quickly when Samson comes on the scene.  Samson is born in the time of the Book of Judges.  It is a time where each person did what was right in their own eyes and there was no king.  As a result, the story of Israel in these years is chaotic, uneven, unholy and filled with contention.  Similarities with today’s culture can be seen in Judges.  The only thing people have in common among themselves without God is sin and self-interest.  Once God is thrown off and objective morality is rejected, people tend to do whatever feels good to them.  They serve their emotions, urges, and impulses.  The results are messy and ugly.  Samson is supposed to be the leader to save the people from this ugliness.  The job of the Judge was to deliver God’s people from their own mess.   Instead, he is largely reflective of his culture.  The first mention of adult Samson we have is Judges 14:

Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.”

Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”

And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”

Do we see the immediate issues?  Samson is the would-be hero of Israel.  He is supposed to be set apart for service to God.  He is meant to honor his faithful father and mother.  Yet, we find Samson hanging out in a Philistine city, lusting after a Philistine woman and dragging his parents into it.  He appears to treat them as his servants in the process.

The Israelites were God’s holy people.  They are meant to stand apart to show the world, including the Philistines, God’s blessing on one people.  They were not meant to marry their arch-enemies.   A faithful Jew would never think of doing so.  You can imagine the pain over the idea when reading the objection of his parents.  Yet, Samson thinks very little of God’s rules and apparently of his parents.  He sees someone he lusts after so he takes them.  It is the basest of fleshly desires.  God uses Samson and even his fleshliness for his purposes, but it doesn’t excuse Samson.

It’s Just A Taste of Honey

Samson continues in his ways apparently without much thought.   Sunday School books often cover when he kills a lion and correctly so.  It is God’s power working through Him that allows him to defeat this wild beast.  They don’t often deal with his later actions.  He sees a beehive in the carcass of that lion.  He thinks nothing of eating the honey and giving some to his parents.  He was hungry, he had an urge, so he did it.  He does what is right in his own eyes.  Yet, when he does he breaks his vow to God not to touch dead things.  Like Esau who gives up his birthright for a bowl of stew, Samson violates God’s call on him for a taste of honey.  He then induces his parents to do so without their knowledge.  Samson is meant to lead people in holiness.  Instead, here his leadership defiles others.  This is one of the fundamental truths of leadership.  When we choose to disregard God’s call and His direction, the sin does not remain contained with us.  Our choices spread outwards and touch everyone around us.  The leader who is following his flesh taints those around him.  His failure does not remain contained.

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Doubling Down on Debauchery

In the time that follows these early incidents, Samson careless and thoughtless behavior continues.  He makes a foolish bet over a riddle with Philistines during his wedding feast and then gives in when his Philistine wife begs him to tell her the answer to the puzzle.  It is worth noting Samson’s story is so bad that the wedding feast involving many Philistines barely rings alarm bells.  God’s leader is celebrating with God’s enemies and it seems to be a minor issue.  When Samson’s wife tells her people the answer to his riddle causing Samson to lose, he responds with anger and kills people in order to deliver the cost.  This bet and the results then snowball resulting in his wife first being married off to someone else.  The foolishness, pride, and distraction of this supposed Godly husband lead directly to him losing his wife.  Is there are a lesson for us husbands there, or what? What we value and focus our attention on reaps consequences in our marriages.

Samson response to this affront continues his reactive pattern.  Rather than repent, see his sin and honor his God and bride, he lashes out and attacks the Philistines.  There is no thought of his fault in drinking, feasting with enemies, marrying a foreigner, boasting or otherwise being a fool.  It is always someone else’s fault.  This directly results in the wife and her father being burned to death by the Philistines. This pattern of action and reaction in the flesh by Samson culminates with his famous killing of a thousand Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey.  This is a great victory for the Lord but it does not mean Samson is in good shape.  God is using Samson, despite Samson and Samson doesn’t see it.  He is still stuck on himself.  The battle was literally more than 1000 to 1 odds overcome through God’s deliverance.  Yet, Samson appears to learn nothing from it.  Immediately after God protected him from terrible odds, Samson is complaining against God because he is thirsty:

then he became very thirsty; so he cried out 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 hand of the uncircumcised?” 19 So God split the hollow place that is in Lehi, and water came out, and he drank; and his spirit returned, and he revived.

What a drama queen, right?  Certainly, God answers Samson and performs a miracle to deliver water, but Samson can you stop whining for a moment?  God just saved him, does Samson really think he is going to die of thirst?

It seems Samson is very thirsty, a fleshly need, and this drives his viewpoint of God.  This is not even the worst of it.  Samson is just getting started.  There is no sober reflection on his burned to death wife.  He is next found with cavorting with prostitutes and drinking alcohol.  He takes up with another foreigner, the infamous Delilah apparently in another relationship outside of marriage.  Samson has learned absolutely nothing from the costs of his mistakes.  People around him are hurting and suffering.  His leadership is terrible and yet, he keeps on throwing his life away on wine, women, and song.

Finally, Delilah and the Hair

We likely know the story of his hair and Delilah eventually cutting it, but there is so much more going on in this account than just a trim.  His toying with Delilah and his eventual haircut are a statement of how lightly Samson takes his relationships and his duty to God.  Delilah clearly is doing something nefarious.  Before his hair is shorn, the Philistines rush in at her call and try to overwhelm him.  She is clearly in league with God’s enemies.  Samson seemingly doesn’t care.  He plays with her and her schemes without seemingly objecting.  He certainly doesn’t care truly for her much less his role as a judge.  Love is not self-seeking.  Love is kind.  Love wants what is best for someone else, not what feels good to us.  Samson is a man whose life is entirely given over to feeding his lust…and it has consequences.  It always does.

Samson’s Final Straw

We can only get so far away from God in disobedience before serious painful consequences come down.  God is patient with his kids but his enemies are looking for their opportunities.  The last straw finally comes with Samson’s cut hair.  This is the climax of Samson’s wasted life.  Called as a judge, a great leader and a deliverer of Israel, God’s only requirements on Samson were that he follow his vows:

Don’t touch dead bodies

Don’t drink wine

Don’t cut your hair.

These are all easy to not do.  Samson’s lusts and disobedience lead him to do all three.  Delilah and the Philistines have no actual power over Samson to make him fall.  It is his own desire for things that throw away God’s blessings on his life.

For a taste of honey, he defiles himself and his parents.

For a drink of wine and a pretty woman, he feasts with God’s enemies and gets his wife killed.

For another pretty woman, he abandons God and gets his hair cut.

His life is in flames well before his eyes get poked out and he ends up in slavery.  His final condition is simply a literal representation of the life he has been living.  Blind and in slavery has been his spiritual life for years.  He was blessed mightily by God but with great power comes great responsibility.  Even Spiderman knows this truth.  The toxic leader never learns this.  He says with great power comes great power to fulfill lusts.  If he must abuse, manipulate and hurt others in the process, those are secondary concerns.

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Serve to Lead

Jesus is the completely opposite example of a leader.  He is fully man and there is nothing even a bit toxic about Him.  His leadership is based on agape – self-denying love.  It is leading from a desire to serve and bless others.  It is wanting good for those led more than wanting good for the leader.  He is the anti-Samson, from beginning to end.  Yet, for all the mistakes of Samson, he does get it for a moment at the very end of his life.  When he is chained and blind literally, he is finally freed from the self-serving slavery to his lusts and pride that destroyed him.  He appeals to God for one last momentous display of strength as he is a subject to the Philistines mockery.  One more time God, but this time not because he is mad or hungry or thirsty.  He is totally helpless and he asks for God’s power for a great reason – to show God’s glory.  Samson finally acts like the Judge, God’s leader, he was meant to be.  It is likely for this reason Samson is listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11.  Even if we only get it for a short time, a man who is submitted to God for God’s glory is a wonderful thing.


Love to all,


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