Was Samson Filled With the Holy Spirit?

“And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him [Samson] in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.” – Judges 13:25

The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Samson is truly incredible. Samson is divinely conceived, divinely dedicated, divinely destined, and divinely blessed.

In the ancient world, when a leader was chosen, they were often installed to their office by being anointed with oil. The oil represented the flow of the Holy Spirit on, in, and through the leader. The prayerful hope was that the Holy Spirit, like oil, would flow on them, and then also flow down on the people under their leadership to bless them. A Bible dictionary says, “the anointing symbolized equipment for service, and is associated with the outpouring of the Spirit of God (1 Sa. 10:1, 9; 16:13; Is. 61:1; Zc. 4:1–14). This usage is carried over into the NT (Acts 10:38; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27).” (1)

Repeatedly throughout the story of Samson’s life, the anointing of the Holy Spirit in power is said to enable the man to have superhuman strength to break free of strong bonds, kill a lion with his bare hands, and slaughter dozens and thousands of men, causing everyone, even his own countrymen, to fear him.

●      Judges 13:25: “The Spirit of the Lord began to stir [Samson]…”

●      Judges 14:6: “Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him…”

●      Judges 14:19: “The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him…”

●      Judges 15:14: “The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him…”

Sadly, Samson was so insensitive to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in his life that, near its end, it is reported in Judges 16:20 that he was told, “‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ And he awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him.’”

The final anointing in Samson’s life from the Holy Spirit empowered him to push down the columns in the Temple of Dagon and, like a suicide bomber, he kills both his enemies and himself. Judges 16:28-30 says:

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.

The source of Samson’s strength was God, not his hair. So long as Samson did not get his hair cut, he remained strong. Once his hair was cut by Delilah, his strength left him. The hair was a symbol of God’s anointing and, when he disobeyed God and allowed his hair to be cut, God removed His anointing strength from the man. A theological journal says, “There was no magical tie between Samson’s strength and his hair, but there was a spiritual connection in that God gives strength to those who are dedicated to Him, and in Samson’s case, his dedicated head was the sign of his separation to God.” (2)

Speaking of Samson’s anointing, a Bible dictionary says:

Judges 13–16 emphasizes Yahweh’s direct involvement in Samson’s activities. For example, the “spirit of Yahweh” begins to “stir” (פעם, p’m) Samson in Judges 13:25[.] … In three instances, the text states that ‘the Spirit of Yahweh rushed upon’ Samson and empowered him to perform acts requiring supernatural strength: 1. Judges 14:6 records that the Spirit of Yahweh came to Samson to enable him to kill the lion en route to Timnah. 2. Judges 14:19 records that the Spirit of Yahweh came to Samson before he slaughtered 30 men of Ashkelon after his wedding. 3. Judges 15:14 records that when the Philistines approached Samson at Lehi, the Spirit of Yahweh came upon Samson, the ropes binding him broke, and he killed 1,000 men with a donkey’s jawbone. (3)

It goes on to say:

[E]ach of these manifestations of God’s Spirit is sudden and temporary[.] … [T]hese episodes serve as literary foreshadowing and are theologically countered by the spirit of Yahweh’s departure in Judges 16:20[.] … Without the physical empowerment provided by Yahweh, evidenced by the obvious Nazirite status of his uncut hair, Samson’s efficacy as a supernatural strongman is gone. This certainly parallels Israel’s spiritual weakness in light of its infidelity to Yahweh[.] (4)

Look up other people in the Bible who had a special anointing from God such as Moses (Number 11:17-25), Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:9), and Elijah (1 Kings 17-19, 2 Kings 1-2).

1.    J. A. Motyer, “Anointing, Anointed,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 49.

2.    Roger Ellsworth, “Samson and the Seduction of Culture,” The Founders Journal: Different Name, Same Purpose, Winter, no. 31 (1998): 16.3.    Rob Fleenor, “Samson the Judge, Critical Issues,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary(Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016). Ibid.

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