The book of Judges weaves the tragedy of Samson’s life. Most of us automatically think of his strength, forgetting his most glaring characteristic. Samson was a weak man in his spiritual life. He is the icon of what it means to have all the looks but really being a wimp on the inside. He is like the Wizard of Oz who boomed with his voice, but was a scraggly little man behind the curtain.
A beautiful girl from the oppressing Philistines enamored Samson and we are told: “Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson’s eyes” (Judges 14:7). I talk about this story a little more in detail below, but I just want to highlight how the writer tells us of Samson’s issue with his eyes.
Two chapters later we read: “Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her” (16:1). He had no regard for the ordinances of God, that he should not commit fornication. After all, this is a time in the history of Israel when everyone did whatever he wanted (“what was right in his own eyes).
Finally, he falls in love with the beautiful Delilah (another Philistine). After being seduced by her and being foolish enough to tell her the secret of his strength the writer tells us: “And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved” (16:21-22).
Now some may never think that horrors, such as having your eyes plucked out, is a gift from God. By default we look at situations like this as being awful and out of the hands of God. This is unfortunate. By definition of his very essence, God is in control of all that happens in his creation. Therefore, he is in control of crushes men have on women, eyes that wander toward sin, and eyes being gouged out as an act of divine grace.
Why was it gracious for the Philistines to pluck out Samson’s eyes? Just like in 14:4 – “[Samson’s] father and mother did not know that it [the crush Samson had on the Philistine woman] was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.” The Philistines enslaved Israel and the people cried out for mercy and justice. How did God answer these cries? With lust, deceit, and plucked out eyes – all by the hands of sinful humans.
Back to the question: Samson was never able to break out of his lust for the flesh. His eyes made him wander away from the statutes of the Lord. He had all this strength, but was easily led astray by nice legs. To keep him from being led astray (and to accomplish a greater purpose for Samson’s life) he had the Philistines pluck out Samson’s eyes. For it was not until Samson had his eyes plucked out “so the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life” (16:30).
Next time we think of a tragedy, we must stop and think that God is not far from us, but he is very much aware of the brands that are drawing near our eyes…all the more to purify our souls. And for those who are easily led to destruction by a pair of beautiful legs, you might ask to have your eyes plucked out [Matt. 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell (also Mt. 18:9)]. More is at stake than a disability.