One day Samson went to Gaza

Chapter 16

v1 One day Samson went to Gaza. There he saw a woman that sold sex. He went to spend the night with her. v2 The people heard that Samson had come. They surrounded the place. They waited for him all night. They waited at the gate of the town. They did not do anything during the night. Instead, they said, ‘At dawn we will kill him.’ v3 Samson only stayed with the woman until midnight. Then he got up and he seized the gate of the town. He lifted it up together with the doors and the wood that supported them. Then he put them all on his shoulders. And he carried them to the top of the hill. This hill is opposite Hebron.

Samson visited a woman that sold sex. This shows that he was like *Israel’s people. When he was not freeing *Israel’s people, he was like them. His body was very strong. But he could not control his feelings, so in this meaning he was weak. And later this finally caused his defeat. We learn from the Bible how many other people in the *Old Testament failed. God used these people. By them, God did what he wanted to do. But they did not behave in a good way in their lives. Samson’s enemies probably watched all day (not all night). Perhaps they did not watch so carefully at night, when they had shut the gates. Now he escaped from Gaza and he carried the gates with him. Later, he was not able to escape from that town. Hebron was about 40 miles from Gaza. Either he carried the gates to Hebron or he took them to a hill. The hill was opposite Hebron.

v4 Some time later Samson loved a woman called Delilah in the Sorek Valley. v5 The rulers of the *Philistines went to her. They said, ‘Try to persuade him to tell you the secret about his strength. Discover how we can control him. How can we tie him up? And how can we make him unable to help himself? We will each give you 1100 pieces of silver.’ v6 So Delilah said to Samson, ‘Tell me the secret about why you are so very strong. How can we tie you up and how can we make you weak?’ v7 Samson answered, ‘Tie me up with *bowstrings that people have made from leather. It must be leather that is not dry. Then I will become as weak as anyone else is.’ v8 The rulers of the *Philistines brought her 7 *bowstrings. People had made them from leather that was not dry. She tied him with them. v9 Men were already hiding in an inner room. She cried, ‘Samson, the *Philistines are here.’ But he broke the *bowstrings easily. A piece of string breaks like that when it is close to a flame. So, they did not know the secret about his strength.

v10 Then Delilah said, ‘You have made me seem like a fool. You did not tell me the truth. Please tell me how someone could tie you up.’ v11 He said, ‘Tie me with *ropes that nobody has ever used. Then I will become as weak as anyone else is.’ v12 So Delilah took new *ropes and she tied him with them. Then she called to him, ‘Samson, the *Philistines are here.’ Men were hiding in the inner room. But he broke the *ropes off his arms as if they were pieces of cotton.

v13 Then Delilah said, ‘Until now you have made me seem like a fool. And you have not told me the truth. Tell me how someone could tie you up.’ He replied, ‘Take a machine with which people make cloth. *Weave the 7 pieces of my hair into it. Fix them firmly with the pin. Then I will be as weak as anyone else is.’ v14 So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the 7 pieces of his hair. She *wove them into the machine and she fixed them firmly with the pin. Again, she called to him. ‘Samson, the *Philistines are here.’ He woke up from his sleep. Then he got up quickly and he pulled up the cloth and the machine together.

Delilah was beautiful, but she was dangerous. Samson was strong, but he was also weak in some matters. He had not learned from his previous experience when a woman got information from him. The 5 rulers of the *Philistines offered money to Delilah. They wanted her to discover how to control him. That is why they offered the money to her. They thought that he intended to attack their nation. They did not dare to go near to him. They did not know why he was so strong. They offered a large amount of money to Delilah. Samson loved Delilah so much that he did not feel doubtful about her. The leaders of the *Philistines may have heard about their friendship. Samson said that they could tie him with *bowstrings or new *ropes. This was not true. Otherwise, it would have meant that he got his strength from magic. Earlier the men from Judah’s *tribe had tied Samson with *ropes. It had not succeeded, but the *Philistines had forgotten that. Then Delilah *wove his hair into some *weaving on a machine. It was a machine with which people made cloth. When Samson woke up, he started to get up. But his hair was in the machine. So, when he got up, he pulled also the machine with him. He pulled with him everything that was on it. So, again Samson got free.

v15 Then she said to him, ‘You cannot tell me that you love me! You do not tell me the truth. This is the third time when you have made me seem like a fool. You have not told me what makes you so strong.’ v16 She continued to ask him every day until he was tired because of it. It tired him so much that finally he gave in. v17 He told her everything. ‘Nobody has ever cut my hair’, he said. ‘I have been a *Nazirite. My parents have given me to God from birth. If you shaved my head, my strength would leave me. Then I would become as weak as anyone else is.’

v18 Delilah realised that he had told her everything. Then she sent a message to the rulers of the *Philistines. ‘Come back once more. He has told me everything.’ So they returned with the silver in their hands. v19 She made him sleep on her knees. She called a man to shave off the 7 pieces of his hair. He began to become weak because he had lost his strength. v20 Then she called, ‘Samson, the *Philistines are attacking you.’ He woke up. He thought, ‘I will go out as I did before. Then I will shake myself to get free.’ But he did not know that the *Lord had left him. v21 Then the *Philistines seized him. They removed his eyes and they took him down to Gaza. They bound him with chains. They made him *crush corn in the prison. v22 But his hair began to grow again after the man had shaved it.

Delilah continued with determination. Samson’s other women had done the same. Some time passed. The *Philistines had lost interest and they went away. Samson continued to want Delilah’s love. She still intended to give him to his enemies. Perhaps she wanted to be rich. She was probably jealous. She could not discover his secret. Finally, after she had persuaded him, Samson stopped opposing her. He told her the truth. A barber shaved off his hair. Then Samson woke up. He went out to escape as he had done in the past. He did not know that the *Lord had left him. This had happened to *Israel’s people too. It caused the final terrible event. It was impossible to avoid shame and defeat.

The *Philistines *captured Samson easily and they removed his eyes. He came back to Gaza to *crush corn. He turned two stones with his hands. The work was dull. He looked foolish, because women usually did this work. But his hair grew and his strength grew.

v23 The rulers of the *Philistines met to offer a *sacrifice to their god Dagon. (This was the god that people linked with corn. It was the chief god of the *Philistines.) They said, ‘Our god has helped us to catch our enemy Samson.’ v24 When the people saw Samson, they praised their god. ‘Our god has helped us to defeat our enemy. That enemy ruined our land and he killed many of our people.’ v25 They were enjoying themselves. They wanted Samson to amuse them. So they called Samson out of prison and he amused them. They made him stand among tall pieces of stone. These pieces supported the building. v26 He spoke to the servant that held his hand. ‘Put me where I can feel the pieces of stone. These support the place where people praise their god. I want to lean against them.’ v27 Now the building was full of men and women. All the rulers of the *Philistines were there. On the roof, about 3000 men and women were watching Samson perform.

v28 Then Samson prayed to the *Lord. ‘*Lord of all, remember me. God, please give me strength just once more. I want to make the *Philistines suffer pain. This is because of what they did to my two eyes. Let me do it with one blow.’ v29 Then he grasped the two central stones that supported the place. He held them firmly. He put his right arm round one stone and he put his left arm round the other stone. v30 Samson said, ‘Let me die with the *Philistines.’ Then he pushed with all his strength. The building came down on the rulers. And it came down on all the people in it. So, he killed more people at his death than he did during his life. v31 Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went to get him. They brought him back and they buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol. They laid him in the grave of Manoah his father. Samson had led *Israel’s people for 20 years.

Finally the *Philistines met together to thank their god Dagon. They brought Samson in to perform some acts. These would show his strength and they would amuse the crowd. The *Philistines did not know anything about the God that is *faithful. He had said that Samson would be a *Nazirite until the day when he died. God left his servant for only a short time. ‘If we have no trust, he remains loyal. He cannot act in a manner that is different to his character (2 Timothy 2:13).’ He called again to the *Lord, as he had done at *Jawbone Hill. This too had happened after a woman had attracted him by her beauty. She too had obtained a secret from him and she had told it to his enemies. He used all three names for God. These were *Adonai, *Yahweh and *Elohim. Tall stones supported the building where the *Philistines praised their god. Samson pushed those stones forward. The whole building fell down. This killed the crowd on the roof and it killed the crowd underneath it. And it killed Samson himself. The *Philistines did not prevent people from giving Samson a good funeral at the end. The *Philistines had said, ‘Our god (Dagon, the god for corn) has delivered our enemy into our hands.’ But as the building fell down, they must have known the truth. Their god had not done this. It was Samson’s God who had done it.

E. M. Blaiklock says,

‘Samson’s real task was to take God to the *Philistines. He could only help them if he was separate from them. (This was the reason for his *Nazirite promise.) Samson is the *Prodigal Son of the *Old Testament, who wasted his life in wild living. But Samson was the *prodigal who came home dead.’

Notice the parallel with Christ. A writer in the Bible calls Christ ‘the sun of goodness’. And before Christ was born, an *angel told his mother about his birth. This happened with Samson too. Like Samson, Christ beat his people’s enemies by his own death. God does warn us by what Samson did. However, God’s plan continued although Samson had done some wrong things. By Samson, the Spirit of God freed his people.

Section with extra information, 17:1-21:25

This section is different from the other parts in the book. Here the writer does not mention foreign control or a judge. He does not say clearly that the *Israelites did wrong things. But he says that there was no king. He says that ‘everyone did what seemed right to him’. In these chapters, the writer tells us about bad moral standards and bad *religious ideas. He shows us how *Israel’s national structure did not have any control at that time. The *tribes all worked together. We can see this from what all the other *tribes did to Benjamin’s *tribe.