The story of Samson is well-known to most of us.
This strong man of God was blessed with extraordinary strength and opportunities.
But despite all his gifts, Samson was, like all of us, a sinner.
That’s the point that the film, Samson, tries to make.
The film begins with a brief retelling of the Israelites’ history leading up to Samson’s birth.
A narrator reminds viewers that God delivered Israel into the hands of the Philistines for forty years because of His people’s disobedience.
However, the Lord also gave His people a prophecy: that a child, yet to be born, would soon take the lead in “delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).
After this brief bit of background, the film moves into a tense scene that introduces us to the character of Samson. He and his brother wreak havoc in the Philistines’ temple to Dagon, then fight off temple guards in a sequence that showcases Samson’s incredible strength.
It’s a lighthearted look at how the actual Samson might have spent his younger days, and it provides an intense contrast to the life that the Israelites are experiencing in their villages.
When Samson and his brother return to their village in the tribe of Dan, they learn that a Philistine commander has exacted his revenge on families who can’t pay their monthly tribute.
Samson’s parents chide him for not being there to help, suggesting that he’s not using his God-given talents to their full potential. He’s meant to protect his people, they remind him.
“It’s [God’s] will,” Samson’s father tells him somberly.
“But it’s not mine,” Samson responds. He didn’t choose to be anointed by God, he argues.
“Son, you are not like other Hebrews,” his mother warns. “You were meant for so much more.”
But Samson is frustrated. He’s kept every vow that God commanded: he’s never touched wine, he’s never eaten anything unclean, and he’s never cut his long hair (Judges 13:7).
He’s kept all of God’s commands, but he hasn’t yet reaped the rewards.
“Why does God withhold what we desire?” he asks, and it’s a question that his parents can’t answer.
As the film continues, we see that Samson has still drawn the attention of the Philistines. He is known as “the Hebrew champion” who fights Philistine champions in the name of the Lord.
“If gods were mortal, [Samson] would be one,” the Philistines tell their king, who has begun to fear the influence of Samson in his kingdom.
But we see that Samson fights out of arrogance and only does what is right in his own eyes. He’s more interested in impressing women and earning silver than in liberating God’s people.
As the film goes on, we see Samson’s faults very clearly. Like all of us, he is fully human and thus is fallible. But he’s still a man chosen by God to do great things, and nothing he does can change God’s plan for his life.
So, in due time, Samson is forced to ask God, “What do You want from me? Do You want me to lead Your people? Show me a sign!”
And God waits no longer to give Samson a sign. Within moments, a lion charges out of the forest, attacking Samson.
He’s terrified, but he is imbued with new strength that he never imagined before. The lion is dead in a few moments of fighting.
This is what changes Samson’s mindset. He realizes that God has given him incredible gifts, and that he must use them to protect the Israelites and subdue the Philistine armies.
But it’s still a long and twisted road until Samson’s ultimate victory for God. Through a complicated marriage, battles with cruel Philistines, many temptations, and captivity, Samson learns what it means to be subject to the will of God.
And what God has planned for him is much greater than he could have ever imagined.
Samson earns its PG-13 rating with intense action sequences and a few on-screen deaths, but the film is suitable for older children and young adults. It’s a stunning, well-made Biblical movie that tells the story of Samson in a fresh and compelling way.