How far does free will carry us? Is there even such a thing? Samson was born into the Nazirite vow. It was predetermined by Yahweh that he would be a Nazirite. It was therefore forbidden of Samson to eat or drink of anything that comes from the vine. It was forbidden to cut his hair. It was forbidden to touch dead bodies, so if someone in his family died he couldn’t even prepare them for burial. These among others things listed in Numbers 6:1-21 were unlawful for Samson.
To have such a restrictive vow placed on him, can we say that he truly had free will? It could be argued that he could have chosen not to continue in the vow at any point when he did do what was forbidden on several occasions. He wasn’t supposed to touch a carcass. Yet, he acquired honey out of the carcass of a lion he killed a few days earlier. And then there’s the infamous episode of him allowing Delilah to cut his hair.
The Nazirite vow was allowed to be something temporary if the individual chose so. But Samson was bound to it for life and not by his choosing. Was this fair?
Well let’s look at why he was made a Nazirite. His father, Manoah, and mother could not have children. The Lord blessed her womb and she conceived and bore a child, Samson. While she was pregnant the Angel of the LORD appeared to her and said that she is not to drink wine and not cut her child’s hair because he was to be a Nazirite.
Is it possible that free will, as we call it, is an illusion? Or maybe it’s limited in its application. This would definitely make sense when we look at the world around us. The baby born does not have the free will to choose the family to whom she is born. She cannot choose her race or her sex. She has been “dealt a hand” that she must choose how to play. Even still the way she chooses to play her hand is a product of stimuli that are outside of her control. What is the worldview in the home she is raised? How she sees other’s reactions especially at a young age shapes her thought patterns. Her genetics help shape her emotional and mental makeup. So how much of her life is actually a product of free will?
I won’t pretend to be an expert in how much of our lives we actually choose and how much of it is predetermined by outside forces. But what I do know is that our actions carry some very real consequences. It’s a safe bet that Samson knew from the time he was a small child that he was forbidden to do some of the same things his peers would be doing. Why? Because God said so.
But is it fair? John MacArthur noted “It must be remembered that God is not subject to fallen notions of fairness, nor will he be tried at the bar of human reason.” God chooses what and whom He chooses to accomplish His will. This is not a blog defending Calvinism. While the Bible clearly speaks of predestination and election it is also clear that man has some responsibility. In many, many instances the Bible speaks on certain times where someone was chosen for a specific reason. Some would call it Election Unto Service, whereas Calvinism would be Election Unto Salvation. Election Unto Service would be God hardening Pharaohs heart during the time of the Exodus, God choosing Jacob over Esau, God choosing the Gentile king Cyrus to liberate the Hebrews, God using Ciaphas to crucify Jesus, and God choosing Samson to be a Nazirite before birth.
So what if Samson would have chosen his own path? Well, as mentioned earlier, he kinda did. He rebelled against God and he rebelled against his parents. I think it’s important to remember that not only was Samson a Nazirite, he was a Hebrew and he was not to be married to women who didn’t follow Yahweh. Samson married a Philistine woman, bedded a prostitute, and fell in love with Delilah who betrayed him to the Philistines.
An important observation is that Delilah is described as a woman who lived in the Valley of Soreq. In English, the word Soreq doesn’t appear anywhere else in scripture. But in Hebrew it literally means “the choicest vine” and is found in Genesis 49:11, Isaiah 5:2, Jeremiah 2:21. Basically, Delilah was the personification of the very thing Samson was supposed to stay away from. Not only was she “from the vine” but she was from the “choicest vine” and because of that Samson found her irresistible. No wonder he lost all his strength due to her. The writer of Proverbs gave a lot of advice against being given over to strong drink.
It’s been said that with great power comes great responsibility. Samson had a great responsibility given to him by God. And living up to that responsibility gave Samson great power from God.
In life we can rarely choose what happens to us. We can’t control our birth. We can’t change things that have happened to us. We can’t even change the plan God has for our lives. But we are responsible to how we react to these things. To choose God and His plan is life everlasting. Don’t let the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life distract us from God’s calling and anointing over you. Yes, Samson’s story ends with him defeating more of His enemies in his death than he ever did in life, but maybe if he’d stayed in Gods plan, we would be reading a different story. The story of a man named Samson that honored God and honored his parents and became an even greater warrior with more triumphs and a long life. Hopefully we can learn from Samson… God willing.
You can read the story of Samson in the Book of Judges 13-15.
Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good. Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! Psalm 119:33-40