A TALE OF TWO JUDGES: THE UNCANNY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN JESUS AND SAMSON
The story of the book of judges can be summarised in a few verses from the same book,
“Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They forsook the Lord and served
And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.
Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so.
And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.”
It was essentially the Israelites breaching God’s laws and covenants, the same ones upon which God said if they keep, they would be His people and He their God (Exodus 19:3–6). As a result of this breach, they would lose the protection of God and be plundered by their enemies, God would send a judge to deliver them and point back to His laws but the judge would die and Israel would go back to their contravention of God’s laws and covenants.
The book is thus highlighting the failures of Israel as well as their judges (as almost all the judges had their flaws). It also is a foreshadowing of Christ, the true judge that was to come in future so every Old Testament judge in some form was a mirror of Christ, the true Judge. This is true of even the Bible’s Casanova and the original Superman, Samson.
At first this might even sound blasphemous, what does a whore-monger like Samson have in common with the Holy Christ? A couple things actually,
First, Samson was absolutely unstoppable and nothing could stand in his way. He tore apart a lion with his bare hands like it was a kid (Judges 14). He singlehandedly fought and killed 1,000 men with the jaw-bone of an ass (Judges 15). In fact when his enemies thought they had him trapped by locking the city gates, he simply awoke from sleep, carried the city gates up a mountain and threw them there (Judges 16).
This was true of Christ as well. He might not have fought a physical lion who tried to obstruct Him but Peter likens the devil to a roaring lion seeking who to devour. In that sense Jesus ripped the devil apart like a kid severally by casting out demons with a word (Matthew 8:16) and freeing those he was holding captive(Acts 10:38). Jesus could not be stopped by storms as he walked on water (Matthew 14:25).
Jesus might not have killed a thousand men with the jaw bone of an ass but he constantly confronted the Pharisees and Sadducees who were always scheming about the most implicatory questions to ask Him. Christ’s jawbone of an ass was His mouth of wisdom with which He out-witted them every single time. He tongue-lashed them constantly and laid their hypocrisy out clearly for the world to see (Matthew 15 and 23 to mention a few) and they had zero response.
Like Samson, even when Jesus’ enemies thought they had “locked him” behind the gates of death, He gloriously rose again from it. Not even death could stand in Jesus’ way.
Speaking of death, Jesus and Samson both dealt crucial blows to their enemies by their deaths. The Bible records Samson’s death,
“Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life.”
Samson killed more people by dying than he did by remaining alive. Remember Samson was Israel’s saviour from the Philistines. So by killing more Philistines by his death, he had done more to save his people.
In the same manner, Jesus’ death did more to accomplish salvation than His life. In fact the crux of His mission was to “serve and give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Jesus’ enemy (the Devil) contributing to His death by putting it in Judas Iscariot’s heart to betray and moving the people to crucify Him (hence Jesus asks forgiveness on their behalf because they did not know what they were doing) Him unwittingly signed his death warrant.
Jesus, unknown to the enemy, was defeating death itself by dying. How?
The general rule is, “The soul that sins shall die”. Only sinners die.
All men had sinned, so all men had to die, it was the natural order.
However Christ had no sin, so had no business dying. Putting Christ to death meant that for the first time we had a man who died but did not sin. This means death had no legal hold on Him and thus He had to re-emerge from it.
The effect of this is that due this one time historical event courtesy of a lapse by the devil, a portal had now been opened, a new “legal loophole” in the system such that sinners could now, under the path trailblazed by Christ, avoid death and pass to life (i.e. they could equally die in Christ’s death and be resurrected free from it in Christ’s life).
So the enemy’s best play would have been to do everything possible to keep Jesus Christ alive. This would have frustrated Jesus’ mission and kept the old order of sin and death going. Hence Paul writes,
“… the hidden wisdom which God which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
(1 Corinthians 2:7–8)
So again, just like Samson carrying the city gates on his shoulder up a mountain (Judges 16), Christ, in carrying His cross on His shoulder up to Calvary was carrying the gates of death and hell up a mountain as well because that cross was going to crucify both Him and them.
So like Samson being in the same building that crushed his enemies, Jesus Christ was on the same cross that crucified death (as well as its puppet-master) His enemy.
Just like Samson did that and then roamed the rest of Israel (and Gaza) a free man after disposing the gates that were supposed to imprison him, even so, Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead after disposing of the death that was supposed to keep him bound and is now free from it.
However, the superiority of the real Judge (Christ) over the proto-type (Samson) is that while the proto-type emerged a free man, the real Judge emerged as Lord and Saviour, while the proto-type died with His enemies, the real Judge rose from the dead and while the proto-type was a man who seemed to live for the Chaos and bloodshed, the real Judge offers reconciliation to the very people who killed Him (or at least thought they were killing Him).
It is worth clarifying here that we tend to picture the devil or the enemy as this kingpin that God is constantly at war with, as a result we tend to think the devil must have some sort of substantial power with respect to God. This could not be further from the truth. The devil has nothing on God but he knows how much God loves man, so man is the real pawn in the game. The devil can only get to God by hurting man, God’s beloved creation hence all these references to “Jesus defeating the enemy” is not for His sake but for man’s sake.
In conclusion. the real Judge did more heavy-lifting than Samson could ever do in 1,500 life-times, He lifted the sin of the world. Samson defeated lions and the Philistines, Jesus Christ defeated the real enemy, not the Philistines or the Romans or the Jews, but the puppet-master behind sin and death, the devil himself.
And unlike those judges whose deaths usually led to Israel going back to their old ways, the real Judge, Jesus Christ, does not die. His kingdom is everlasting and to His reign, there shall be no end.