The Samson story is a very popular Bible story, but it is actually very complex and fraught with land mines when teaching it to children! The Egermeier's Bible Story Book does a very nice job of telling this story in a safe and age-relevant way. Below is a summary that you can use to guide your teaching of the story if you do not have the Egermeier's Bible.
The story of Samson is set within the period of the Judges when the Israelites were in their all-to-familiar pattern of disobedience, then oppression by an enemy, Israel crying out to God, God sending someone to deliver them, and then starting the cycle again. This time, the Israelites were being oppressed by the Philistines, and God sent Samson to deliver Israel.
An angel told Samson's mother and father that they would have a son who would deliver Israel from the Philistines. The angel gave his parents special instructions. Samson was to never drink wine and they were to never cut his hair. This would be a sign to others that Samson belonged to God. Samson grew and became very strong.
Samson's First Battle With the Philistines
Samson became very angry with the Philistines (you can read the backstory on that in Judges 14), and decided to take it out on them by burning their fields. He did this in a most creative way, by tying 300 foxes together two-by-two by the tail, and then tying a lit torch to their tails and setting the very angry foxes free in the grain fields of the Philistines. The Philistines didn't like that a bit, so they killed Samson's wife and her father in retaliation. Then they came after Samson and captured him. God gave Samson strength to escape from the Philistines and kill over 1,000 of them in battle with the jawbone of a donkey.
Samson and Delilah
Samson then fell in love with a woman named Delilah. The Philistines found out about this, and were desperate to get even with Samson. So, they convinced Delilah to try and figure out what made Samson so strong. She asked Samson, "What is the secret of your strength?" Samson tricked her 3 times with false answers: 1) if you tie me up with leather straps, I can be controlled 2) if you tie me up with new ropes that have never been used 3) if you braid my hair into cloth on a loom. None of those worked, of course, because Samson was lying to her.
But Delilah kept pestering him and giving him a guilt trip ("If you really loved me, you would tell me..."). Finally, Samson told her that the secret to his strength was that he had never used a razor on his hair. So, this time when the Philistines came to attack Samson, he was unable to fight them off. They gouged out his eyes, put him in bronze chains and carried him away.
The Philistines were so angry with Samson because of all the battles he had won against them, they had a big party to celebrate the capture of Samson. They paraded him in front of 3,000 Philistines who were partying. Samson asked the guard who was watching him to put him against the pillars of the temple. When he did, Samson asked God for strength one last time, and he pulled the pillars of the temple down on himself and everyone at the party. Samson had won one last final victory.
Ask the children, have you ever gotten angry at your brother or sister or friend and done something to them to get back at them or get even?
Today, we are going to learn about a man in the Bible named Samson who had that same problem.
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.
For older children, read story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or tell the story yourself.
There are elements in this story that are very difficult to understand, even for adults. We read the narrative of the Samson story, but there isn't much in there to tell us whether God condoned all of Samson's actions. He seems to break a lot of the Law of Moses in this story, but then at times it says he was filled with the Spirit of God before he attacked the Philistines.
There seems to be two things that we can take from this story:
So, be sensitive to the age of your children as you are teaching the lesson. You can leave out certain details if you think it is too much for them (e.g. the Philistines gouging out Samson's eyes). But above all, we have to honor the fact that God decided to dedicate 4 chapters of his Bible to this story, so it is there for a reason.
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud Judges 13:2-5, Judges 15:3-5, Judges 16:4-6, Judges 16:15-22
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?