Today, in the midst of Advent, the Roman Catholic Church remembers Samson in her readings. He is remembered because he began the liberation of Israel from the power of the Philistines (Judges 13:5), he prepared the way for the Davidic Kingship which began the line of the Messiah, and he was seen as a Hero of Faith by the letter to the Hebrews (11:32). Samson stood in the historical backdrop of Jesus Christ, 1000 years before the birth of Our Savior.
The name Samson invokes images of heroic adventure, surpassing power, and invincible strength. Because of his name, which derives from the Hebrew word for “sun”, many have thought of him as a figure of folk tales, a myth from the early history of Israel, or an embellished memory of a local strong man. How unfortunate are those who do not see the rich theology in the narratives which speak of this man or the hand of God which moved him.
His name, literally meaning “power of the sun”, shows a distinct theology. In ancient Israel, the sun was seen as a created entity; the vessel of God which bore life-giving light and warmth to the people of Israel. The sun moved in obedience to the command of God and served His will. It is this theology which is manifested in the name Manoah and his wife gave their son, whose birth was foretold by an Angel of the Lord. They recognized that their son was to be dedicated to God and was to act in accord to the will of God.
He was to be a hero of Israel, but not like one of the pagan nations. Men like Hercules developed their own centers of worship and became gods themselves. This was not the instance for Samson. His heroism was part of the process of Salvation, part of a grander plan of God. Samson was to be one who helped to build the foundation of the Kingdom of God, that which Jesus opened to all by the his death on the Cross and his Resurrection.
Samson, named for the element known so well to the early Israelites, began the preparations for the Messiah. Look not on Samson through modern eyes and morals, but look upon him as did the Biblical authors- as a key instrument in the unfolding of the history of Israel and the Lord’s will to save His people and bring them unto himself. Samson, standing against the powerful Philistines, looked to the Kingdom of God and Our Savior, Jesus Christ.