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Samson's eyes

Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6; 21:25

Samson is depicted as a strong, wild champion in Scripture, but one who succumbed to many temptations. All of these failings began with doing what was right in his own eyes, rather than what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

First the lust of his eyes lead him into a marriage with a Philistine woman, whom he never would have seen if he had not ventured into enemy territory. Intermarrying with the surrounding pagan nations was against God’s law for an Israelite, but Samson insisted on satisfying the desire of his eyes.

On his way down to the land of the Philistines to arrange the marriage, he was attacked by a young lion, which he killed with his bare hands. That lion may be a symbol of the Lion of Judah, coming to contend with Samson and warn him from his way. The fact that Samson killed it with his own hands can be seen as a powerful symbol of rebellion against God.

Whenever Samson went down into enemy territory, he was geographically headed down, but this was also true symbolically; he was heading downward in a spiritual sense. For Samson, the land of the Philistines was also the place where the enemy of his soul attacked him, just as the lion had attacked him. For example, there is no record in the text of Samson visiting a prostitute while in Israel, but he did this after crossing over into the land of the Philistines (Judges 16:1). The lust of the eyes was the central factor in leading him down a path of destruction.

After a life of doing what was “right in his own eyes,” his eyes were literally gouged out by his enemies. The image of Samson, bound by his enemies in his weakness and blinded after having ensnared himself in sin, is a visual symbol of his spiritual poverty. Yet even in that situation, the Lord was gracious to him.

Samson's story begins with his eyes leading him astray, and ends with the removal of those eyes. When he was physically blind, the text suggests that he may have been more attentive to what was right in God’s eyes. Perhaps Jesus was remembering Samson when he said in his sermon on the mount, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away."

While sin and faithlessness led Samson to his own destruction, God remained faithful and restored Samson’s strength in the end. His strength was in the Lord, and after having wandered far from him, God returned to him not only his strength, but the faith to do right in the eyes of the Lord.

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