“Samson”, a novelization by author Eric Wilson, releases tomorrow. Here is an exclusive sneak peak interview with the author.
- What inspired you to write a book about Samson?
The world is looking for heroes. This is evident in movies and books. And more than ever, they want to see the flaws of those heroes, to know they are relatable. Well, Biblically speaking, Samson has to be one of the most impressive superheroes, as well as one of the most flawed. It’s very easy to slide from idealism and passion into being a terrorist in the name of God. I don’t believe Samson was just out to kill his enemies. He even tried to marry one of them. I think he reacted to the deceits of his enemy. That enmity still brews today between the sons of Abraham–Isaac and Ishmael.
- What makes this narrative different from others about this man of God?
Samson’s story has been told in film, but only explored as a novel a handful of times, and often with a focus on Delilah, or on that relationship, which is only a quarter of what we are given about Samson in the Book of Judges. I wanted to tell a man’s story in the novel, a man who struggled with the weight of parental and godly expectations and with sexual temptation. I also wanted to explore the story of parents who watch their children veer from what is right, and wonder if they have completely messed up even as they pray that God will be involved in their childrens’ lives.
- You told Samson’s story in “first person” vs the typical “third person.” Why is that?
If we stand back as readers, it would be easy to ignore Samson’s faults and idolize him, or to focus on his many mistakes and make him a villain. Neither is accurate. He was a human, a man, who struggled daily to obey God. I can relate to that. We all can, otherwise there was no need for Jesus to sacrifice Himself for our sins. I wanted to get inside Samson’s head and see what motivated his choices.
- Do you relate to any of the themes in the book? How so?
I was raised by parents who served as missionaries and pastors. I felt the expectations from them and others. I know that weight. And I’ve made many mistakes along the way, so I know that too. I also know what it’s like to be the parent, having watched my own daughters struggle with various things life has thrown at them. Judges tells us that Samson was buried by his brothers, and I believe he had biological brothers. We give one of them the name of Caleb, and he is the one always challenging Samson to live up to his calling. My own brother and I are very close, and he’s been that challenger to me many times in my life, always believing in me even when we saw different ways of doing things.
- Are there any passages in the book that particularly resonate with you? Why?
Definitely the parental parts, the brotherly parts. As I reread and studied Samson’s story in Judges, I was struck by the similarities to Jesus–the foretelling of his birth, giving up his life for his cause, stretching out his arms to do so. Of course, Samson was a very flawed precursor, but I played with that idea in the final scenes. He thinks about how it would be nice to have a prince of peace one day, but, he realizes, today will not be that day. And he begins flexing his arms against the pillars of the Philistine temple.
- You said this story is as timely as anything in today’s headlines? Why is that?
Sexual misconduct. Religious zealotry. Flawed and fallen leaders. Parents who have seen kids give way to drugs, sexual impurity, violence, and so on. There are also many Christians who feel we are under attack in our country, our morals, our ways of living, worshiping, running business. Well, the Israelites were under Philistine oppression and had to figure out how to respond to that. It’s easy now to point fingers at Samson’s faults, but we should look at ourselves and see in what ways we have failed to honor God in our morals and ethics and daily decisions.
- Are there any misconceptions about Samson and Delilah you’d like to clear up?
Again, it’s easy to look back 3000 years and see these characters as cardboard figures or cartoon characters. They were real people. Samson wanted companionship. He was a man, with sexual temptations. Delilah was pressured by Philistine leaders to get Samson’s secrets. She was given money to betray him. But she had reasons for that which we’ll never know. Was she threatened? Was she simply pursuing her own agenda for power and position? And was she using tools she had learned to use inappropriately as a young woman, perhaps abused as many women are, even in a culture that supposedly gives women freedom more than ever? I’ve rarely seen a woman who uses her body as a tool or weapon who didn’t get that twisted in her mind from an early age. That intrigued me in writing this story. It made it more believable, more understandable, on both Samson’s and Delilah’s sides.
- What can we learn from Samson’s story and from his enemies?
Samson is one of many object lessons in the Bible, where we can learn from his good and bad points, just as with King David or the Apostle Paul. He showed uncommon courage and passion. He showed a willingness to pay the price of obedience, and he didn’t stop being used by God, even after he had made massive mistakes and isolated himself. Men especially are prone to do this. Samson needed his family, his tribe, but he let his grief and anger and guilt alienate him.
- Regrets regarding personal failures are part of the human condition, and how we process them is key to how we live beyond them. How does this relate to Samson’s story and the concept of God’s amazing grace and redemption?
God never gave up on His promise to Samson’s parents. All things work together for good to those who are called according to God’s purpose, and Samson was called to God’s purpose. God found a way to bring about good, despite Samson’s moronic choices at times, and also despite the choices Samson’s enemies made at times. I hear many younger people say they have no regrets, and I admire that desire to see the good that comes from tough times. But we should be honest about our mistakes and learn from them, realizing we could’ve avoided certain troubles or had even greater rewards if we’d followed God’s path from the start. It’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance. Don’t be frightened of admitting mistakes to Him. He will be kind and help turn you back around. That’s what repenting is, an about-face from going down the wrong path.
- What would you say are the main takeaways of the book?
I’m going to let each reader decide that. If you want a three-point sermon, you won’t find it here. You won’t find it in Judges 13-16 either. God calls us. We make choices to obey or disobey. And He continues to work. There are things to be learned here for parents, teens, elderly people, victims of sexual abuse, people who have lived by violence. But those lessons will come through a great story, and only God can make those lessons matter in your life. You have to read the book to find out what He wants to say to you.