Samson, in Judges 14, is setting up for a wedding feast or as some called it, a drinking party, debauchery likely to follow. He is marrying a Philistine girl. This would be problematic of itself but I would give him the benefit of past and future Israelites who marry outside of Israel. He is at least equal in his choices to other well-known biblical men. Some commentators note that this was a moral issue on Samson's part and that the LORD simply used this character flaw for good. What good came of this attempted matrimony? Samson gives the Philistines who are friends and family of the bride, a riddle. Should they be able to solve the riddle Samson would award them with fine linens and garments. The garments were expensive and desirable, so the guests try awfully hard to arrive at an answer. They have just seven days of wild drinking and partying to figure it out. The story goes on to say how his fiancée is pressured by her friends and family to pull the answer out of Samson which she finally does after nagging him to death. Samson is given the answer and he immediately suspects foul play. The resulting situation is highly questionable for a man who is a type of Christ. Samson leaves the party in a rage, goes to Ashkelon, and as the NET bible says, murdered thirty men. It is now apparent that Samson had no fine linen or festal gowns to award anyone so he must go to another town and murder other men to rob them of their possessions which included fine linens and festal gowns. Not only does the story say he murdered thirty men, who I contend, were likely innocent bystanders and probably were at least well to do, but Samson was, so the story says, filled with the power of the Spirit of God and used this power in a very unfortunate way.
The story does not get any better. Samson, sometime later, goes to see his bride so he can bed her. When he finds out that she was given to another man, he catches three hundred jackals and ties their tails together so they can hold torches and run frantically through Philistine farm fields and burn down their crops. Poor jackals! The Philistines respond by burning the father and the bride to death. This is quite a story for a type of Christ so far, lies, theft, murder, animal cruelty, destruction of property, with the resultant hideous murder of two people in retaliation to all the above.
In chapter 15 we read that Samson kills another one thousand men. At least these were men of the Philistine military who had taken Samson. At the end of this episode, we read that Samson judged Israel for twenty years. The next chapter begins with Samson spending half of a night with a prostitute in Gaza which is quickly followed by his final showdown with the Philistines via Delilah who gains his trust which results in Samson's hair being cut off, his eyes gouged out, and imprisonment. When Samson becomes a showpiece for a Philistine party at their temple, he goes out with a spectacular feat of strength as he takes down the temple and kills all those who were in it.
Samson's story is filled with all of the things that we would imagine a type of Christ would not be. Yes, there are some interesting parallels with the defeat of enemies and such. As I said before, you can easily look these up from a variety of resources. But I wonder if rather than being a type of Christ, which to me is one who exemplifies everything that Jesus was and did in his life and through the cross, Samson is a type of Israel and even the Jewish leadership of Jesus' day. He started out as a person who could have been an excellent type but decided to follow his own road instead and in his story covers many of the bases that we would call the "world", senseless murder, theft, sexual immorality, drunkenness (maybe he did not really drink but based on the rest of life I wonder, as do other commentators), and does not seem like a good person in general. Is Samson one that should be held high then?
Samson is mentioned in Hebrews 11:32 as one of the people of great faith. My own view of several of these in this chapter of faith is that they become an amazing picture of God's grace. Yes, some of them stepped out in faith to follow God, but as a human being I read their stories and see the similarities to fallen humanity and that God chose instead to show them as examples of faith rather than detail how they did not follow faithfully. Abraham is said to have believed God even though we read several times that Abraham did the opposite and acted in ways that showed maybe he was not so sure of God. Thankfully, God is faithful to his promises and did bless all of humanity from a child given through Abraham's seed. David is mentioned alongside of Samson as well, David who murdered a man to gain this man's wife as his own. Gideon who doubted God a few times and asked for signs, God had to work hard for Gideon's faith. Moses led the fledgling Israel to the doorstep of their eventual land but could not enter himself because of his own raging disobedience. Yet, they are all included by the writer of Hebrews as people of faith, a certain act of God's grace for all of them and as such, for all of us. But I believe that Samson really stands out from the rest.
Samson is mentioned in Samuel as one who rescued Israel from oppression. This seems true enough, but does that make Samson a type of Christ? Maybe in the narrow sense that he is listed among the Judges who rescued the people and kept them in safety and peace while the Judge lived. Barak is listed as well, even though he shrunk away from his duties and a woman, Deborah, was the real hero of that story. You probably get my point here, I hope.
I struggle to see Samson as a type of Christ. I see him as a sad story of defiance. I see him as a type of all of us. We are all people who were made for a purpose, to worship, to live, and to love God. We were made to love each other. In these two acts we display the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of course, we all experience moments of these two primary acts of being, but we also experience and chose to live outside of these primary acts. We, like Samson chose to live contrary to our purpose. But, as with those noted in Hebrews 11, we are seen by God through his son's cross, as people showered by grace, mercy, and kindness. So, to Samson, I am sorry that I see you in such a light, but to God I am forever thankful for the full story made available to me of those who went before me and how you, God, have chosen to present them in the end. I realize that I am in the minority and that most of you reading this will disagree, possibly strongly, but I felt the need to write it down so thank you for reading.