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Bible Study Guide

Judges

Judges 16 Commentary

So, God responds to Samson’s faith and mercifully revives him. And he goes on to judge Israel for 20 years. The end! No, just kidding. I wish it was the end. But unfortunately we have one more chapter left. And it’s the worst one yet for Samson. Chapter 16, verse 1.

16:1 ¶ Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her. 2 And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him. 3 And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.

So in a way we see here again Samson delivering Israel from the Philistines. Only, the circumstances surrounding the deliverance are definitely a bit seedy. He again shows a lack of self-control – going to this nameless Philistine prostitute and spending the night. He seems to thoughtlessly put himself in harm’s way. It’s like he’s flirting with destruction. Maybe he thinks it’s fun.

But he does manage to escape. And he carries away their city gate. This would have been devastating for the people of Gaza. Without a gate, a city was vulnerable to attacks. And Samson takes that gate and travels basically across Israel from the Mediteranean Sea into the hill county on the east and just sets the gate down.

This is the essence of Samson – his incredible feats of strength leave you laughing with joy and amazement… while his excess and recklessness leave you in tears.

Judges 16:4-31

And this last episode in his life that we’re about to read gives us more sorrow than laughter. Finally, after three nameless women in his life, Samson is associated with a woman who’s given a name by the narrator. Her name is Delilah. Verse 4.

4 ¶ And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.

 6 And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee. [Can you believe she just said that? She gives away her motive for finding out the source of his strength. Samson would never fall for that! Would he?…]

 7 And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs [Or cords] that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now there were men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber. And she said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire. So his strength was not known.

OK, joke’s over, Samson. Let’s just be done with this game. It’s dangerous. Isn’t that how you feel? But Samson isn’t done playing his dangerous game. Round 2.

 10 ¶ And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound.

 11 And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 12 Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And there were liers in wait abiding in the chamber. And he brake them from off his arms like a thread.

OK, this is no game. There are Philistines in the house. Samson, just get out of there! But he’s goes on to Round 3 of the game.

 13 ¶ And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound.

And he said unto her, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web. 14 And she fastened it with the pin, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web.

Oh no. He’s getting the hair involved. Don’t talk about your hair, brother! That is where your strength lies! Don’t even let them touch it. Why is this guy flirting with ruin? Well, he does. So on to the last round. Round 4.

 15 ¶ And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.

 16 And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; [She annoyed him to death. So he caves to the pressure.] 17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.

I can hardly believe what we just witnessed. Samson knows Delilah is trying to hand him over to the Philistines. Why in the world would he stay wih her and reveal the source of his strength? Why would he tell her how he could lose his power?

But he does tell her. And she brings someone to shave his head. And Samson presumptously awakes as if all is well – but it’s not. His strength is gone. He’s played with fire and now he’s getting burned. And so the Philistines put out his two eyes – remember, the ones that got him into so much trouble with all these Philistine women? The Philstines bind him and force this once mighty judge of Israel to grind grain in their prison.

But his hair does begin to grow back. That’s what we’re told in verse 22. I wonder why that’s significant…

23 ¶ Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. [They got that wrong. Actually the Lord did it.] 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us. [Though far fewer than he should have.] 25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. [Uh-oh. Apparently the Philistines don’t know that Samson’s strength has returned.] 26 And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. [Can you sense the suspense? Samson’s strong again. He’s holding the pillars – the support – of the building. And the suspense keeps building.]

27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. [The roof, I say – the one supported by the pillars that this supernaturally strong man is holding…] 28 ¶ And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, [That sounds genuine. And I think it is. This is what God wanted to do for Samson throughout his life. He did strenghten Samson. He wanted to deliver Israel through him. So this is a somewhat encouraging prayer. But listen to Samson’s reasoning for asking the Lord for strength.] that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. [So, even now it’s all about personal revenge. They took my eyes so I’m going to kill them. Nevertheless, the Lord hears Samson.] 29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. [It’s a love/hate relationship, apparently. He loves them so much that he’s amongst them all the time. But he also hates them and wants to take vengeance on them.] And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. [Again, that’s more of a commentary on Samson’s ineffective judging of Israel during his life than on his bravery in death.]

31 Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.

So, we’ve just witnessed probably the most disappointing of the judges. And the disappointment doesn’t end there. Next time we’ll see more hi-jinks from the tribe from which Samson originated – the wandering tribe of Dan.

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