Scriptures

Judges 16

Introduction

“One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her.” Judges 16:1

The Israelites were in this cycle of sin, instead of driving out the Canaanites like God asked them too. They would allow the Canaanites to influence them and they ended up joining them in their practices which led to idolatry.

When they got to the point where they were being oppressed, they cried out to God for a saviour and so God raised judges to deliver them. But not long after that deliverer died, they got involved with the Canaanites and Philistines again and the sin cycle started all over again.

Christians aren’t sinless, but they genuinely try to sin less and resist evil. Many Christians today find themselves still in bondage to the very things they should have gotten rid of at the beginning of their Christian journey.

And in this chapter we find that Samson has the same problem. Samson is a man who became very much enslaved by his own cravings.

Yes, he strangled a lion but as we shall see, he couldn’t strangle his lust. Yes, he burst the ropes which bound him but as we shall see, he was bound by his appetite.

He burned the enemy’s crops, yet he was enflamed with desire for their women. Yes, he was strong, but he wasn’t really in control and yes, he could conquer his enemies but sadly, he couldn’t conquer himself.

One of the things I love about the Bible is its honesty and openness when it comes to Bible heroes. The Bible tells us about people’s high points as well as their failings. And in the very first verse, is one of those verses concerning Samson.

Notice the author of Judges tells it as it is, he doesn’t try to cover up Samson’s scandalous behaviour.

Think about what Samson is doing, He’s supposed to live a life dedicated to God. He’s supposed to be God’s deliverer, He’s supposed to be the saviour of Israel.

I mean, didn’t Samson feel any sense of shame in seeing a prostitute and associating with the enemy? Samson is a total embarrassment to Israel.

Samson sowing his seeds, is going to have consequences and his sin is going to be reaped later in his very own destruction with Delilah, in other words, sin has consequences.

“The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.” But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron”. Judges 16:2-3

The people of Gaza know that Samson is there, so it’s not as though he was trying to keep a low profile. The Philistines thought to themselves, ‘I know, we’ll secure the city gates and we’ll lock him in.’

But what does Samson do? Samson lifts the gates with his enormous might and carries them to Hebron, which is some 40 miles away. What? Just pause for a moment and think about this. It’s estimated that these gates may have weighed over a thousand pounds and he carried them 40 miles.

We may wonder how Samson performed his amazing feats but we also have to remember that there are no limits with God’s power.
Yes, Samson was an embarrassment and yes he was out of control and yes he was sinful but God still used him to achieve His goal.

And what was His goal? To deliver God’s people once again from their enemies. Remember God doesn’t create evil men but He does use evil men to accomplish His plans.

In Bible times the gates of cities were considered the symbol of their strength and so in effect by removing the city gate, Samson totally humiliated the city of Gaza.

And now Samson found himself on the Philistine’s ‘Most Wanted’ list. Something had to be done about him, but the Philistines were too afraid to take action.

They had to learn the source of Samson’s strength which tells us that Samson couldn’t have looked like a remarkably strong person. And so Samson moves from one woman to another, but this is no ordinary woman, this is Delilah.

Samson And Delilah

“Sometime later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.” Judges 16:4-5

Samson fell in love with this Philistine woman and because of his openly soft spot for women, the enemy soon discovered his weakness.

Delilah becomes their ‘secret agent’ and her name has become synonymous with seduction, and she’s often blamed for Samson’s fall. But we have to remember the context of it all, she was merely doing her job as a loyal Philistine informant. She turned on the charm, and Samson was very, very vulnerable.

‘So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.” Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered. Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.” He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads. Delilah then said to Samson, “All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.” He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric and tightened it with the pin. Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric. Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” Judges 16:6-15

Here we find Delilah pleading with Samson to reveal the secret of his strength. Let me ask you, what’s wrong here? Why is she asking him the secret to his strength?

I would have thought that it would have been totally obvious or at least it should have been. It should’ve been obvious that God was the source of Samson’s strength.

The Philistines thought that Samson was using some kind of magic, or some kind of illusion.

Isn’t it sad that Samson’s lifestyle didn’t lead them to consider that he was a religious man? As Christians, there should be some evidence, some observable indication that we’re following God, Matthew 5:13-14.

This helps us understand and possibly even forgive the Philistines for thinking that God wasn’t a part of Samson’s life.

And no wonder they’re asking, how on earth did this guy get so strong? And Samson who is so wrapped up ‘in love,’ thinks Delilah is just teasing him. And so he playfully goes along, misleading her as though this was a big joke of some sort.

But as someone once said, ‘Samson was playing a game with Delilah which turned out to be Russian roulette, and he bought the bullet.’

We would think that Samson would have learned his lesson from his previous experiences with other Philistine women. Remember back in Judges 14, his promised wife to be, persuaded him to reveal his riddle. He hasn’t learned anything, because Delilah entices him to disclose the sacred mystery of his strength.

But not only has Samson got a bad memory, so have the Philistines, Judges 16:22. The Philistines have also got a bad memory because they forgot what happened a few days ago back in Judges 15, where they actually did tie him up with new ropes but he broke loose.

It’s pretty obvious that Samson was infatuated with Delilah and wasn’t thinking straight. As someone else once said, ‘rather than break his relationship with Delilah, he allowed it to break him’. And so Delilah becomes like a nagging wife, Proverbs 27:15.

Frustrated Delilah sobs and questions his love, and so he tells her of his vow.

“With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it. So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.” Judges 16:16-19

I don’t think Samson knew what love was and he simply couldn’t resist Delilah’s allure and persuasion, so he gives his enemy the answer they have been looking for.

It’s commonly believed by some that it was Delilah who cut Samson’s hair and even in quiz shows people who answer that question always give Delilah as the answer. But that’s not what the text says, the text clearly tells us that she called someone else to do it.

And then we come to one of the saddest verses we find within the Scriptures.

“Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him”. Judges 16:20

What a sad scene this is, isn’t it? Samson lost his hair, but he lost something else even more important, he lost the presence of the Lord.

Samson had broken other aspects of his Nazarite vow, yet he didn’t get punished for it. Yes, it’s possible that he didn’t think anything would happen, after all, he wasn’t really living the life of a Nazarite who had taken a vow.

And Samson’s hair by itself didn’t make him strong, but, it was the most observable sign of his vow, which set him apart as a Nazarite. In other words, by cutting his hair, he’s actually cutting his tie to God. Samson had grown insensitive, he was bound by his appetite, and he was blinded by his desires and then literally blinded and bound.

The one thing which showed the world that Samson belonged to God was his hair and he ended up losing that and the Lord’s presence too, Psalm 51:11.

“Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved”. Judges 16:21-22

The Philistines who were now full of themselves, capture Samson, cruelly gouge out his eyes, and throw him into a dark cell. They put him to work grinding corn, which was tedious and degrading labour, the kind of work that only slaves would perform.

It was only back in Judges 15 we found Samson burning their grain, but here we find him grinding the enemy’s grain. Many commentators believe that Samson’s time in prison became a place and time of his repentance. And I believe that too because the text very quietly says, ‘the hair on his head began to grow again’.

It’s almost as if the author of Judges is softly reminding us that God isn’t finished with Samson yet. And so as his hair begins to grow, it’s possible his faith in God begun to grow too. After all we find Samson listed in the Hebrews hall of faith as a man who demonstrated what faith is, Hebrews 11:32.

And if this teaches us anything, it should teach us that the power of faith isn’t in the amount of faith we may have, but the Object of our faith, that is, God.

The Death Of Samson

‘Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.” When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.” While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When they stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform.’ Judges 16:23-27

The text tells us that the Philistines held a huge celebration at the Temple of Dagon, who was their god of grain. And they decide to use the occasion to party over captured Samson, who has become a symbol of Israel’s shameful defeat, a trophy of their conquest.

The five lords of the Philistines, along with over 3,000 men and women are present. It wouldn’t have been surprising for Delilah to be seated at a place of honour.

The one person the Philistines feared the most, the man, those well-armed soldiers were scared to confront, is now led into the pagan temple by a servant and he’s brought to the temple to amuse his captors.

But while all the celebrations are going on, Samson does something he should have been doing all his life, he prayed.

“Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.” Judges 16:28-30

Samson prays to God, and God grants him one final burst of strength, Psalm 50:15. He asks for justification and death because he now realises he would rather sacrifice his own life and die with the Philistines than be bound by them.

Some people believe his final prayer is typical of Samson, self-serving, it’s all about him. But I believe he truly repented and we need to remember that out of all of Israel, he’s the only one willing to fight the enemy on Israel’s behalf.

Just as a side note of interest, archaeologists have uncovered Philistine temples around the period of the Judges. Their construction design shows them having two large wooden columns on stone bases in the centre of the building, supporting the roof.

And so the drunken laughter turns to screams as Samson literally brings the house down. Many are killed instantly, others are trampled to death by the panicked mob and among the dead is the powerless idol Dagon.

The Philistines who used this occasion to mock Israel’s God, along with His champion, came full circle and God once again is victorious.

“His brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years.” Judges 16:31

And so Samson is dead and it seems as though, even though Samson is dead, the Philistines are still afraid of him. So fearful of him in fact, that they quietly turn his corpse over to his family for burial, rather than defile it.

Samson could resist anything but temptation and time and time again we’re warned in Scripture to flee temptation.

Yes, we all have our own weaknesses but we need to recognise that when we choose sin, we’re choosing to rebel, we’re choosing to live contrary to the will of God. And just like Samson we can very quickly find ourselves where either sin controls our lives, or God controls our lives.

We know that Samson didn’t complete the job delivering Israel from Philistine oppression because he lasted only twenty years. That delivery accomplishment didn’t happen until the prophet Samuel and King David came along.

And we can only speculate on what Samson might have achieved had he more carefully followed his calling, Colossians 3:23-24.

Go To Judges 17

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."

Isaiah 55:8

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