Absalom and Samson
Samson is one of the most well known characters of the Old Testament and Absalom was the beloved son of King David. When strength comes to mind one immediately goes to Samson who was known for his mighty strength that was given to him by the Holy Spirit and thoughts of Absalom do not enter the mind at all but if one thinks of revenge in the Bible, then perhaps both the story of Samson and Absalom come to the forefront. Both stories ended in death but one ended in victory while the other in bitter failure. What made these men who were so similar so very different?
The Hair of Samson and Absalom
Both Samson and Absalom were known for their hair. Samson had seven locks of which he vowed never to cut and his hair was the source of his mighty strength. Absalom had an abundance of beautiful hair as well, so much so that he had to cut his hair every year because it grew so quickly and became too heavy for him to carry.
"And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year's end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king's weight." 2 Samuel 14: 26 (K.J.V.)
The Bible says that Samson wore his hair in seven locks and took a vow never to cut it. This is why some believe that Samson wore his hair in dreadlocks. The Bible does not say in what way he took care of his hair but just that he never let a scissors get near to it. Undoubtedly, his hair was very long and perhaps to tame it, he divided it into seven sections. The weight of his hair did not bring him down as it did to Absalom but it gave him the strength (because of the Holy Spirit) to kill a lion and bring down the pillars in the temple of the Philistines.
Absalom's hair was ultimately his downfall. It trapped him by getting caught in the branches of a great oak tree and held him in place so that he could be slayed.
At the end of his life, Absalom proved to have too much hair and at the end of his life, Samson had just enough to do some serious damage. But one's hair was his help while the hair of the other was his destruction.
The Lives of Samson and Absalom
Both Samson and Absalom were dearly loved by their parents. We know this because the Book of Judges says that Samson's parents had long prayed for a child since his mother, Manoah had been barren. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to them and told them that Samson would be born and he would deliver his people from the Philistines. It was the angel who said that Samson should be a Nazarite and that he would be blessed by God.(See Judges 13) Absalom did not have a birth such as this but he was favored by his father, King David, who was willing to forgive him for murdering his brother and greatly mourned his death.
Absalom's sister was dearly loved by him and so when his brother, Amnon, attacked his sister and caused her to be shamed he became enraged and wanted justice for his sister. There were laws given to the children of Israel by God concerning acts such as these and Tamar had begged Amnon to do right by her after he had violated her but Amnon detested her afterwards and David, Absalom and Amnon's father, although furious about what happened, did not truly punish his son for his attack on his daughter and this made Absalom determined to exact revenge for his sister. Two years after the attack, Absalom killed his brother Amnon using trickery just as Amnon had tricked his sister Tamar and then had caused her harm. After this, Absalom ran away.
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Samson also had cause to take revenge in his lifetime because he had been betrothed to a certain Philistine woman. The marriage was arranged and there was a feast held for seven days to celebrate their marriage. He asked the Philistine men at the feast a riddle about a lion he had killed and his wife begged him to tell her the answer and then betrayed her husband by telling them the answer. Samson then had to give them what they had bargained for and this made him very angry. He went away for some time and when he returned he found that his wife had been given to someone else.
He was furious this time and took revenge by catching three hundred foxes, put firebrands between their tails and let them run through all the corn fields, olive trees and vineyards in the area. They destroyed everything with fire. When the Philistines heard this and the reason why, Samson's wife and his wife's father were burnt to death as a result and so, he again took revenge and fought them 'hip and thigh' bringing about many casualties.
Although the Philistines hated Samson and plotted many times to kill him, they could not defeat his strength. He was able to lift doors, city gates, and kill men with the jaw-bone of a donkey. He had even killed a lion with his bare hands.
Absalom as well, seemed unbeatable because there were people who loved him and he used his mind to win the people over to his side so that he could take over the throne from his father. He had begun to have a deep resentment for David who had never punished his brother and who had never given justice to his sister.
Samson's downfall was a woman and Absalom's was a tree but both men fell because of their hair (which I find quite fascinating). One should have cut his sooner and the other should have never spoken about cutting it in the first place.
The End of the Lives of Absalom and Samson
When Delilah, that Philistine woman, tricked Samson into revealing his secret, Samson's hair was cut off while he slept and he became as weak as a kitten. His strength was taken from him as the Holy Spirit had left him. He was beaten, his eyes were dug out, and he was put in prison. There seemed to be no hope of redemption for Samson. His Nazarite vow had been broken by those who sought to destroy him. He was bald,blind and in prison in the camp of the enemy who worshipped false gods. Then they carried him out to their pagan temple to make sport of him. Samson, whose hair had just begun to grow back, then earnestly prayed to the Lord for strength one last time. It was granted to him, he pulled down the pillars of the great temple, and in his death he killed more Philistines than he had ever done in his lifetime.
Absalom, meanwhile was riding high and was in the midst of battle. He sought victory and had already done the pompous and sinful act of lying with his father's concubines and kept it a secret from no one. To be caught in a tree because of his hair was probably the last thing he expected. His father, David, had warned his soldiers to be merciful and deal gently with his son, but Joab, David's nephew thought it best to kill him while he was trapped. Absalom was mourned greatly by King David who seemed inconsolable. This act and others caused him to warn his son, Solomon about Joab when he became king.
Looking at the lives of both at first glance, Samson's life might seem to have more chaos than Absalom's. For Absalom's actions were always deliberate and carefully planned. He was focused on his revenge and he plotted against his father in cunning and worldly ways. Samson was rash and impulsive. He did not stop to think about what he did and why he did it, it would appear. He simply acted and his one regret that we know of was telling the secret of his hair.
However, Samson's life was led by the Holy Spirit and many of his actions were done to bring about the ruin of the Philistines. God wanted the Philistines destroyed and Samson was the tool for it. The power of strength that he had was given to him by the Holy Spirit.
In the end, Absalom died without reconciliation with the person who loved him most and that was his father, King David. He was so consumed with bitterness about his father's dealing with others that he did not see his own sin against his father. Yet Samson knew right away what he had done and was bitter, but bitterly regretful. He wanted to have the forgiveness of his Father, the Lord and his wish was granted as he died having gained reconciliation with God and was able to finish the job that was given to him.
To read more about Samson and Absalom please see the book of Judges, Chapters 13 - 16, and the book of 2 Samuel 14 - 20
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