Desired The Untold Story of Samson and D
Author:Ginger Garrett

MOTHER

Manoah was wringing his hands like a woman. I had never seen him like this, frantic with worry, pale and sweating. Kaleb and Liam had sneaked away to a Philistine festival. Our neighbors had told us, with a certain amount of pious satisfaction.

“Get a stick. I’m going to beat them when they return.” Manoah gestured to the door. It was late summer, and there would be dead wood about. “I will not allow the same mistakes to be made.”

He was not strong enough anymore to lead the family, but what could I say? I took him by the arm and led him to our table.

“Sit. Let me worry about the boys.”

“I will not allow my brother’s name to be dishonored. Not like ours. I blame myself for this. I blame myself for it all.”

“Shh. Sit. I will make you something to eat. What would you like?”

The boys stumbled through the door, making me jump from fright. Manoah’s mouth opened in shock as we saw them, stripped and bruised, red with shame.

“What have you done?” I shouted. I grabbed them by their ears and drew their faces to mine. “You almost killed us with worry! And look at you both!”

“It’s Samson!” Kaleb said.

I dropped my hands from their ears, grabbing them by the elbow to lead them outside. I didn’t want Manoah to hear this. My heart was ice.

Manoah tried to stand, keeping one hand braced on the table for strength. “Tell us.”

The boys went to him, and I stood, helpless. The world was a man’s affair, not mine.

“The Philistines captured him and are taking him to Gaza.” Kaleb’s face was white with fright. He must have been near when it happened, but why had Samson not saved him? Probably wanted Kaleb and Liam to learn a lesson about sneaking away from home.

I clapped my hands together and laughed, too loud. “Then there is no worry, my boys! Samson has defeated many, many Philistines, even all at once! I’ve seen it myself. He is only playing a trick on them. You wait. This will be his greatest act yet!”

I wanted to believe myself, that this was the moment God had been leading us all to.

Liam shook his head. “No. They gouged out his eyes. They beat him until …”

Manoah collapsed onto the table, a groan breaking open from deep in his heart.

“And they shaved his head,” Kaleb added.

I fell to my knees in shock. That is why, when Manoah died, I was not holding his hand.





DELILAH

My feet bled, cracked and dry. The road to Gaza was punishing. I once had willed this pain, found it sweet, but I could not remember that girl now, the girl who wanted to control her pain. I was a woman, and a woman knows that there is too much pain in the world, too much pain that hobbles us all.

I entered the gates of Gaza, a huge stone arch flanked on either side by two towers. Inside the archway, shadows fell upon me, feasting, and I shuddered.

I followed the rejoicing crowd to the temple, though I could have found it without them. I knew it by its scent, the incense and perfume heavy, not just for worship, but to cover the stench of their works. The people were assembling to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon, to celebrate Samson’s capture. “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.” This was the cry in the streets that brought all good Philistines to Gaza on this day.

Dagon had not given Samson over to us. I had.

I looked at my people and saw that they had blinded themselves, too. They would never see the truth. They did not want to.

I understood why Samson had been born. Not everyone could be saved. I had to find Samson, though, and ask him one question. I hoped he would still speak to me. I hoped he would still do that.

I approached the temple and pushed past the crowds gathering at the entrance, some seeing it for the first time, like me. I was not impressed. A temple is only as good as its god.

But I did see at once that the temple in Gaza was nothing like the one in Ashdod. In Gaza, the temple was like a box with one side missing, and this was the entrance. The roof was long and wide, supported by the three walls and two massive columns in front, smoothed and polished and shining in the summer heat.

Grain offerings were being burned on a horned altar in the center of this temple as onlookers peered over the roof, already crowded with hundreds—perhaps a thousand or more—hungry Philistines.

I did not recognize Samson. I had to ask a temple servant where he was being kept, and the young boy laughed and pointed to the back of the temple. I found Samson walking in slow, labored circles, the yoke of an ox resting on his shoulders as he moved around and around, threshing wheat. He did the job reserved for donkeys.

Bronze shackles were on his ankles and hands, with bronze links running between them. Bronze! The metal that was too weak for battle was strong enough to control Samson. He looked old to me. Blood had dried on his face from his eyes and wounds, and the blood had settled into the wrinkles and lines, flaking off and peeling away, making him look older than his years, with his shaved hair only now growing back. His hair grew in wild patches, like river weeds.

He lifted his head as I came near, a grimace on his face. It might have been a smile.

“Delilah?” He stopped walking. “I recognize your perfume.”

“Why did your god not save you?”

“Maybe I was saved from myself.”

“You are sure he is real?”

“Yes.”

“Could he save me? Even now?”

Samson groaned under weight of yoke. I saw that his shoulders had open sores. They must have stunk. I did not notice. I reached out with my fingers to touch them, gently.

“I am sorry,” I said, my voice small from shame. “I did this.”

“You did what you had to do.”

“I loved you.”

“I know. I am glad you came.”

“I don’t know who I have become.”

“I have a question for you,” he said.

“Yes.”

“What did you really want? What would have made you happy?”

I sighed and swallowed, my stomach stinging with the agony of the moment. “I just wanted … relief. From this world. From what happened to me, to my daughter.”

He nodded, letting my words affect him before replying. “I must become who I was born to be. But my eyes are gone. Help me.”

I could not help him, this strange and beautiful man. I had nothing to offer.

“Tell me what you see,” he whispered.

I did not understand what he wanted, but I told him everything. There were no lover’s games, or spiteful words, or cold silences. I just told him all I saw at the temple.

“Delilah, will you make me a promise?” His breath was ragged. I suspected they had not given him water, perhaps even for days. His life was fading, that part of him that was wholly human, wholly his.

“Yes.” I meant it as a vow, the only vow I would ever make to him.

“Leave.”

A guard came and dragged me away. I wept as I went, and he did not see it. I was grateful for that. I would spare him that pain.

The twisting pain rose from my belly, not the pain of hunger or disease, but the pain of sorrow. So many sorrows I had known. The pain was too big for me. I had no strength from a god to face it.

I broke my vow.

It was time to release the dream and die.





MOTHER

I did not know how to live without Manoah. I did not know how to live without Samson, either. In all my grief, only one name was on my lips. God.

Kaleb and Liam were good to me, like sons. They watched over me and fed me broth and covered me with a blanket, though it was the end of summer and the house was not cold. Even when I sweated from the heat, I accepted the blanket from their hands as if in a trance. The world had ended, but I was still alive. How could that be?

I sat up from my pallet one night. Kaleb sat up right away beside me.

“Mother? What do you need?”

He had never called me that before.

“I have to see him with my own eyes,” I whispered. I bit my lip and waited for his answer.

He lay back down and said nothing. Liam spoke instead, with authority. How death had changed us all.

“We will leave in the morning.”

The guards were not satisfied with the money I palmed them. They sneered at each other, then crossed their arms.

“I will go in alone, without my sons.” Perhaps they were worried that Kaleb and Liam were here to cause trouble.

“No.”

“And you’re not going to give me back my money, either, are you?”

One guard snickered.

“What money?” the other asked.

I grabbed them both by the ears and yanked them hard to face me. “I tell you I am Samson’s mother, and if you want to see where he got his strength, then you just cross me one more time.”

They let me through, but without Kaleb and Liam.

Prisoners at the temple were slaves. They were made to work day and night until they died of exhaustion. There was no time, no energy for escape. And so no one was worried that an old woman would bring anything that might aid his escape. I could not bring him strength.

But they were wrong. I brought words from the Lord, the words spoken over him before he was born. That is what I prayed under my breath, the last prayer I would ever make for the son I loved: “God, raise him up, as You promised. Raise him up to be the man You meant for him to be!”

Samson was sitting in the dirt, a large millstone between his legs, his hand wrapped around a smaller stone. I could see a huge circle dug into the earth all around him, and a yoke off to one side. He was grinding grain. His shoulders and back were raw and red.

Dagon was the god of grain, and Samson was serving him now. I moaned in anguish.

“Mother?” He lifted his head. Dark, crusted holes sat in his face in place of eyes. I covered my mouth with my hands to keep from screaming. It was true. His hair had been shaved. That was true too, even his beard, but his hair was growing back. I recognized that soft fuzz on top of his head. He had looked like that as a baby.

I knelt before him and took his face in my hands, kissing him on his cheeks. He grabbed me, groaning, burying his face in my neck.

“I am so sorry.” We both said that, whispering our apologies for everything, for everything that we had never said and never done.

“Where is Father?” Samson pulled back and sniffed the air.

I rested my hand on his shoulder, my mouth sealed. I was so grateful to God that Samson could not see my face.

He pulled back, understanding, his face tilted down, away from me.

“I saw the gates as I entered. I could see the marks where they repaired them. You really did tear them off, didn’t you? I wish I could have been there to see it,” I said.

“You should go.”

“But—”

He reached for me, fumbling, and managed to find my arms. “Listen to me. You must go. Promise me that you will leave the city, right now, and do not turn back. Please.”

I heard trumpets blow, and a shiver went down my spine.

“I love you,” he whispered to me, then yelled, “Guards! Get her out of here!”

Guards pushed me back. Samson stood, holding out his wrists into the air, to be shackled and led away.

All around me Philistines climbed to the roof of the temple. Our enemies were here to watch my son’s humiliation. They sat above in triumph.

They did not know my God, or my son.





DELILAH

I took my place on the roof, my steps slow and heavy, all my effort required to move my legs one at a time up the stone steps. I seated myself at a distance from the lords. I did not want my name spoken aloud, for fear Samson would hear and know I had betrayed him one last time. I could not leave him alone in his shame. I could do nothing for him now, but I would not leave him again.

Lord Galenos stood and addressed the crowd, many of whom were still trying to be seated. The roof was overflowing with lords and noblemen and families. “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.”

A great cheer went up.

Samson was brought to the front of the temple, and guards teased him cruelly, lashing him and stoning him and setting wild dogs on him. I could not watch. This was my fault. How Samson had suffered because of me! I was no better than those people who had hurt me.

As I turned my head away from the spectacle of Samson in shame, I lost my breath from shock. My family had all come to the festival, even my brothers. They had come with people from my village. The man of shadows was there. I did not know which one he was, but a breeze caught his scent and sent it to me. I remembered it, though I had tried never to think of it again. He smelled like a beast. Revulsion, and the hot stinging tears of a girl, welled in my body.

I hated my people. Not just for what they had done to me, but for all they did for their stone god. All the pleasures in the world, without a living god, brought only suffering and death.

No one recognized me. I ducked my head down and away, shaking like the child I had been. At last, the guards stood Samson between the pillars. Samson needed to rest before the final act, they said. A lion roared in fury somewhere beneath us, caged and starved for days, I was sure. He would rip Samson to shreds. I had to help Samson somehow; I had to free him from his shackles.

I stood, the hairs on my arms rising, as I pushed through the crowd. “Let me pass! Let me pass!” I fled down the steps, taking them two at a time, landing so hard I jarred my teeth with each new step.

I heard Samson shout, one last scream in this world. “Let me die with the Philistines!”

I screamed his name, but it was too late. Flinging myself down the stairs all the way to the bottom, stone smashed all around me. I raised my hands over my head to shield myself as Dagon’s stone head crashed to the ground, its severed head with those dead stone eyes rolling at me. I turned away, running for an exit.

The ground under my feet shook violently, and I heard the screams of the dying. I ran as stone fell from the sky.





MOTHER

I was barren. Did you know that? I could not conceive. My husband had the right to take other wives, but he did not. He was tender with me and never scolded me for my barrenness. He said the Lord was good. No matter what.

God intervened in my story to give me a son. My barrenness was part of God’s plan. My barrenness made Samson’s life clear to all: This child was here by the will and miracle of God.

The miracle, I think now, is not that a barren woman gave birth, or that one man began a great deliverance, but that God intervenes in our stories. We are the miracles.

I screamed in agony as the ground shook under my feet, but I kept a firm hand on Kaleb and Liam. I kept them moving. We approached the city gates, and I saw them shaking too; and I remembered seeing Samson silhouetted under a gate, arms outstretched, alone—my brilliant, blinded hero.

A woman stood from a distance, facing the temple as it fell. She looked broken, a grief I recognized well etched on her face. She was losing someone she loved. I ran to her.

“Do not watch. Come with me.”

She turned and looked at me, not comprehending. She was a breathtaking young girl, no more than twenty. And she was alone. I understood.

“Come!” I commanded, and she blinked, seeing me suddenly instead of the temple.

She grabbed her tunic with one hand, and together we passed into the darkness of the gates.





DELILAH

Standing there, the dust swirling around me, I wondered who had truly saved me: Samson, or his god? When a man acts with a god’s love, is there a difference? I would never know, perhaps.

And so it was, at the end of His servant’s life, and the beginning of mine, this great living God wept. Rain spilled in warm, salty drops. I tasted one on my lips and looked to the sky. The God of ice had shown me that nothing is as it seems, especially not our gods. Especially not Him. I lifted my face to Him, and loved Him back, at last.

I stood, unsure of what to do, feeling a strange new peace enter my body, a balm I had hungered for all my life but never found. Yet here, as the Philistine empire fell down around my ears, it found me.

An old woman with two young men fled toward the gates. She stopped when she saw me, her eyes both kind and sad, the eyes of a good mother.





MOTHER

The four of us stumbled toward the light at the end of the gate. And as we did, each of us lost, each of us in agony, we lifted our eyes and saw a man standing in blinding light. Rays flashed from His robes and face, as if He were suspended in lightning. We fell to our knees, Kaleb and Liam pressing their faces into my tunic from fear. The woman with us fell to her knees too.

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Your name will be repeated for every generation to come.” The man’s voice echoed through the gate, but the noise that returned to me was not His voice alone. I would have said that I heard the stones crying out, too, a murmuring of joy, but how could that have been? I glanced at the woman, but she did not seem to hear these same words. Tears ran down her face, as she opened her arms to Him. He must have spoken in another language to her, a secret language written in the words of her own heart.

I knew this man of lightning. He was my God.

I shook my head. “Not my name, Lord. Not mine.”

Samson came into the light and stood with my God, whole and strong, his glorious mane of hair restored. Manoah came into the light and held his son, and then the burning image of my Lord embraced them both, and they were gone.

There, as I knelt in the dust of the fallen Philistine empire, covered in the dust of my failures and sorrows and greatest fears, I found the strength to lift my hands.

May His name be praised, forever and ever, the God who works through weakness and delivers us from ourselves.

May He intervene in each of our stories, for we are His miracles.





AfterWords




… a little more …

When a delightful concert comes to an end,

the orchestra might offer an encore.

When a fine meal comes to an end,

it’s always nice to savor a bit of dessert.

When a great story comes to an end,

we think you may want to linger.

And so, we offer ...

AfterWords—just a little something more after you

have finished a David C Cook novel.

We invite you to stay awhile in the story.

Thanks for reading!

Turn the page for ...

• Discussion Questions

• A Note from the Author

• Acknowledgments





DISCUSSION QUESTIONS



1. Samson’s mother is given a great promise for his life. What were her expectations, and how did reality differ? Were her expectations a product of her imagination, based on the angel’s words, or both?

2. Does God’s favor equal a life free of adversity and failings?

3. How can mothers completely trust in a God that allows their children to suffer rejection, humiliation, and all the mistakes of youth?

4. When you consider any of the great figures of the Bible (Moses, Esther, John the Baptist, etc.), did God’s intention to use them spare them from heartache or increase it?

5. Many great biblical heroes made terrible personal choices. Did this prevent God from using them to accomplish His purposes?

6. Delilah suffered many times because of her lack of understanding and knowledge. How did this set her up to betray Samson’s secret?

7. Why could she not accept Samson’s love, if love was all she needed?

8. The biblical account of Samson and Delilah never reveals what happened to Delilah after Samson’s death. What do you think she did? We know she was a very wealthy woman after betraying Samson.

9. If God offered you a superpower, like the one He gave Samson, which one would you request, and why?





NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR



The British Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a study in 2009 on the “Samson effect.” The Samson effect refers to the impact of shaving prior to athletic competitions. Shaving one’s beard, in particular, is commonly believed to impair athletic performance, but the good scientists across the pond reassure us that this is indeed a myth.1

I wanted to clear that up immediately.

Myth and Samson are two words that seem to always pop up together. Because the Samson saga resembles the legend of Hercules, some scholars accuse the biblical writers of plagiarizing the Greek myth to create the Samson character. I disagree. If you read the biblical account you’ll notice that the story mentions specific towns, families, and political events. The biblical writers wrote about Samson for an audience that lived in these towns, knew these families, and had witnessed these political events. The scribe who recorded Samson’s story had no intention of creating a myth.

But he did record a legendary account, which we still repeat today. Samson’s story impacts us all, whether we worry about shaving before an athletic competition or refer to some annoying slob as a Philistine.

And yet, I must confess, Samson has always baffled me. He has a cool story, but was his a life worth celebrating? Why is he even mentioned in the Hebrews’ “faith hall of fame”? Why was such a self-indulgent guy mentioned alongside the great King David and Samuel?

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (Heb. 11:32–34 NIV)

The above phrase, weakness was turned to strength, is my only explanation. I believe Samson was an illustration to us of what would happen if we were given a completely human savior. Samson was born to begin the deliverance of his people. He was given supernatural strength to conquer any enemy. And yet, Samson, being completely human and not God, used this strength to serve himself. Samson proves to us that we cannot save ourselves and we cannot save each other, no matter how powerful we may be in our flesh. We may have the power to conquer anything and anyone, but we cannot conquer the sin within our hearts.

Jesus Christ, however, was both completely human and completely God. He understands our weakness because He has experienced it. He has walked with bare feet over hot sands; He has suffered loneliness and betrayal and hunger and embarrassment. Jesus did what Samson could not: Jesus conquered sin. Jesus taught us that strength is not enough. Although Jesus had access to the same supernatural strength Samson possessed, He saw that this strength is ultimately useless in this world.

Our true enemy is sin, and sin is never overcome by our own strength. Sin is overcome by grace, the grace of a Savior who gave Himself for us. Jesus’ deliberate embracing of human weakness unleashed an eternal flood of grace and mercy for anyone who cries out for help.

I think Samson made it into the faith hall of fame because Samson is us, in so many ways. If we were given strength to overcome all our enemies, our lives would not look so different from Samson’s. I doubt most of us would use this strength to feed the poor or rescue the homeless. We’d be amassing fortunes and buying trinkets and sleeping around. (Or at least enjoying the constant flirtations.)

Samson’s supernatural strength did not lead him to a life of greatness. His supernatural strength was overcome by ordinary human sin, and Samson stumbled along in a life of profound humiliation, disappointment, and grief. I grieved for his mother, whose name is never referenced in the biblical account. She was barren, and an angel appeared to her, giving her the promise of a son and the promise that this son would begin a great work for God. How she must have dreamed of the honor and pride he would bring the family! And how she must have suffered as he made all his foolish mistakes. I can only imagine that she was forced to live a life of radical trust, trust against all odds. How lonely her journey must have been. She, too, was a foreshadowing of the Christ story. Like Mary, she suffered as she watched her son betrayed and humiliated, and she suffered the unimaginable pain of losing her son to a brutal death. Through her story, I am reminded that God may allow adversity, and even sin, to bring about His ultimate will in my children’s lives. A life of great purpose is not a life of great ease.

Which leaves me with one more major character to examine: Delilah. Often portrayed as a seductive vixen who used her feminine wiles to betray Samson, the biblical account is quite different. Delilah is not a cardboard character used as a plot device. If you read the actual account, she gets what she wants from Samson by being persistent, not seductive. The danger she posed to Samson was not that she was seductive and able to overwhelm his manly senses, but that he had given his heart over to her. He loved her. And she was not interested in his destiny, his God, or his people. She was, however, interested in the 5,500 pieces of silver the Philistine lords offered her. Considering that Judas only got thirty pieces for Jesus, you can begin to understand that Delilah became an instant billionaire by our standards. And she didn’t hurt Samson. She just shared information, like WikiLeaks.

But whatever the story means to you, whether it’s a tale of redemption despite personal failures, or an encouragement to trust God with your prodigal children, I hope that it has encouraged you to reread the biblical account as found in the book of Judges in the Bible. Read it, and let the Lord draw new conclusions for you.

And I’d love to hear them, anytime.

Until we meet,

Ginger Garrett

1 Karim Khan, “Athletes may shave without ending like Samson,” BMJ Group Blogs, December 11, 2009, http://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2009/12/11/athletes-may-shave-without-ending-like-samson.