Judges 15:20 tells how Samson led Israel for 20 years during the times of the Philistines. Unlike past judges, who galvanized Israelite armies and invoked the name of YHWH on their behalf, Samson engages in minor skirmishes. These include tying foxes’ tails together with torches for revenge. These fights have less to do with military strategy and more to do with Samson’s playboy ways. Samson has greater physical strength than any person in Israel’s history; God promised to use him to deliver Israel from the Philistines, but unfortunately, Samson would prefer to hang out at brothels rather than lead Israel.
I have used the word “tragic” to describe many events found in the book of Judges. Samson’s time as judge, especially in light of what could have been, definitely qualifies. Judges 16:30 captures well just how tragic were Samson’s life and leadership in light of opportunities missed: “Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.” For a man born and raised to deliver Israel from the Philistines, this description puts the final nail in the coffin for the story of Samson’s embarrassing leadership.