Samson was a thorn in the side of the Philistines for many years, so it would be understandable if they rejoiced at his capture and enslavement (Judg. 14:1–16:22). And so they did. Several lords of the Philistines gathered at the temple of their god Dagon to offer sacrifices to celebrate Samson’s capture (16:23–24).
Many scholars used to believe that Dagon was a fish god, mainly because his name is similar to the Hebrew word we translate as “fish.” More recent archaeological evidence, however, indicates that Dagon was an agricultural god associated with corn and other crops. In any case, when the Philistines gathered to thank Dagon for Samson’s defeat, they brought the blinded Samson and forced him to entertain them (v. 25). Given the religious beliefs of the ancient Near East, the Philistines would have regarded Samson’s humiliation as proof that Dagon was stronger than the God of Israel.
But of course, the God of Israel is the one true God, and besides Him there is no equal (Isa. 45:5–6). Samson, therefore, proved the might of Yahweh, the God of Israel, one last time before his death. Having had one of the young men place his hands against two pillars, Samson cried out one last time, invoking Yahweh, the covenant name for God given to His people (“God” in Judges 16:28 translates the Hebrew word Yahweh). Having asked for strength one last time, Samson pushed on the pillars and brought down the temple, killing thousands of Philistines (vv. 26–31).
That Samson’s hair had regrown in prison (v. 22) is a subtle way for the narrator to indicate that Samson had in some sense recommitted himself to the Nazirite vow—which required an unshaven head—and thus to the God of Israel. His invocation of God’s covenant name (v. 28) also points in this direction. Yet, Samson’s faith remained imperfect even in this renewal of trust. He asked God to avenge him on the Philistines for putting out his two eyes (v. 28), which shows that Samson was still prone to advancing his own glory.
Despite Samson’s shortcomings, Hebrews 11 includes him as one of the heroes of the faith (Heb. 11:32). As with the judges Gideon, Barak, and Jephthah, who are also mentioned in Hebrews 11 as men of faith, the writer of Hebrews was looking at their lives as a whole and not commending everything they did as an example. They were servants of God, deeply flawed to be sure, but servants nonetheless. The same is true of all believers.