Movie Review: Samson

In the far reaches of the Old Testament, Israel was governed by judges until the people decided they wanted a king. Samson was the last recorded judge before Samuel set out to find King Saul. The movie Samson begins in the year 1170 B.C. Samson is a young man and has not yet come into his role as judge. Once again, Hollywood struggles to grasp the Bible.

Israel is subjected to Philistine rule. “Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years.” Judges 13:1  There’s that forty years again.

The story begins with Samson and his brother pulling pranks in the local village and outrunning Philistine soldiers. He is wild, undisciplined, a Neanderthal of a man, whose primary occupation is women. And, his rippling muscles are a magnet for all the silly little girls of the village. For nearly an hour the audience watches Samson behave as a flirty, fickle brute. Eventually, he falls in love with a Philistine girl who he insists on marrying, over his parents’ objections. It seems our hero will never settle down and find his purpose.

Meanwhile, the Philistine royalty are deep into the worship of Dagon and relishing their rule over Israel, who are starving and itching for rebellion. It is well known that Samson is in line to be their next judge. They are weary of his distractions and crying for help. It is only when his wedding to the Philistine girl is thwarted that Samson springs into action like a wild tiger. Today we would call it road rage. Samson roars, unleashing vengeance on the Philistine city, burning all their fields and killing the army with his bare hands. One online commentary attributes 4040 deaths at Samson’s hands. Naturally, the Philistine rulers seek their own vengeance.

Here again, Samson proves his Achilles heel is women. Repeatedly, he reveals valuable information to women in return for their favors that, ultimately, becomes his undoing. We all know the story of Delilah. She is planted to seduce this giant of a man, find his weakness and, sadly, he is putty in her hands. As a Nazirite, he must never take strong drink, touch dead things, or cut his hair. He breaks all three vows, allowing himself to be captured, blinded, and imprisoned. It seems like such a failure but, as God always reminds us, His ways are not our ways. In the end, Samson takes down the Philistine city and gives courage to Israel to fight their way to freedom.

I had to go back and reread the story of Samson in Judges 13-16, to see if the movie correctly portrayed our Biblical strongman. A few liberties were taken but, ultimately, he was the flawed, unlikely instrument of God. There are brief moments of brilliance when Samson humbles himself and prays for forgiveness and direction. He rules as a wise, peaceful judge for 20 years before Delilah brings his ruination. There are many similarities to Jesus: his betrayal, his silence before his captors, and his sacrificial death for his people.

Samson is rated PG-13 due to the violence and bloodshed. The cast was an odd assortment of characters, including Samson. His mother is played by Lindsay Wagner…remember the Bionic Woman? His father is Rutger Hauer…oh dear. Overall, I left the theater feeling ho-hum and recommend you wait until it’s free on TV, perhaps on the History Channel.

There is good news though! I Can Only Imagine comes out March 16, the true story of Mercy Me’s big hit. Paul, Apostle of Christ comes out March 28 and looks really good. God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness will be released March 30. Better stories are coming!

~ Cheryl Kurtz

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