Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”
He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.
Samson is a Bible Character whom many would likely be familiar with, for his story was extremely dramatic. His story contained a little bit of all that literary devices that would make him a perfect tragic hero – there is nobility – though not by birth, bit at the climax of the story Samson was the judge of Israel, the leader of the people. There was hamartia (tragic flaw), there was peripetia (reversal of fortunes due to hero’s hamartia) or a downfall, there was anagnorisis (realisation that his downfall was caused by his own tragic flaw), and there was a carthasis. To make the story perfect, Samson died a hero, saving his people and killing more men than he ever did when alive. In this study we will examine Samson’s downfall through an understanding of his hamartia.
Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” – As much as I would like to insist that Samson was really dumb, he was really simply just too proud and confident of himself. He wasn’t dumb, you know, he knew that the woman would betray him again. After all, she had done it three times before, and he knew she would do it again. It was utter foolishness to let himself be in a situation like that, where he was utterly vulnerable and his secret behind his power exposed, but really, instead of being truly foolish, Samson was merely blinded by his pride and complacency. He has forgotten that there are consequences if he told her his secret. He has forgotten what will happen should he somehow lose his hair. He has forgotten – or perhaps he never had – the feeling of not having power, and thus, being used to it, he fell into temptation, he became too relaxed and he placed himself in a situation in which he never should have.
But he did not know that the Lord had left him – Samson was an extraordinary man specially blessed and empowered by God in order to lead and save the Israelites. Yet he forgets his own identity as a Nazrite [Judges 13:7]. He forgets that his power was given him by God in order to save the Israelites. A lot of talented people think that without them, God cannot work, forgetting that it was God who gave them their talents in the first place, and more often than not, for a specific reasons. Yet they use their talents in the wrong ways or simply stop using their talents at all while they engross themselves in their power and greatness, forgetting their true identity. Their pride swells up to the extent that even when God has left them, they do not know. How frightening is that! Its like a master archer in a battlefield knowing that as long as he still has his arrows, he will get his enemy before they can reach him, and being so proud and confident that he ventured deep into enemy territory. Enemies come at him from a distance, and he knows for sure that he will defeat them. But as he tries to reach for his arrows, he couldn’t find them – pride is a beast that devours its dwelling place. Without his arrows, he will surely die – yet if he were just a little less arrogant, a little more vigilant, a little more rooted to the ground, he would have known that his arrows were depleted. If he had remembered his identity as an archer, he would have checked that all important item that makes him an archer – his quiver of arrows. If he had remembered his role as an archer, he wouldn’t have ran out of formation and entered the front lines. If Samson would just recall his identity as a Nazrite, he wouldn’t have gotten close to the Philistines or trusted the women. He wouldn’t have found himself in a plight where he was unable to escape.
Our confidence in our own strength would often lead to complacency. When talented people get complacent, they fall into great temptations, forgetting who they are, and forgetting God along the way. The best and only place to put our confidence in is in the Lord. Not ourselves.
To make it even more poetic, Samson was actually blinded when the Philistine finally caught him as his strength left him. It was perhaps when he truly was blinded that he stopped being spiritually blinded by his own pride, and he began to see and remember who he was, and he began to see his flaw and recognised his downfall was a result of his own flaws (anagnorisis). His hair grew back, his carthasis came when he destroyed the two central pillars and he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
We may live in more modern times, but in life there are plenty of tragic heroes in a smaller scale. In fact, we are all tragic heroes of our own life stories. We were blessed with many things by God, and have an identity in God’s kingdom which makes us privileged, but we forget our identity, forget God, and take our blessings for granted, falling into sin. It is often only when we suffer that we remember our identities in God, and it is when we understand that we have sinned, and when we remember God and strive to walk in his path once again that we gain an epiphany.
We may not be Samson, we may not be a judge of Israel and we may not have his strength or his hair, but in our own ways, we can choose not to carve our own downfalls as he did. We don’t have to be a tragic hero. If we would only cling on to God and never let go, never losing sight of our identity and what’s truly important.