JUDGES CHAPTER 16
1 Samson at Gaza escapeth, and carrieth away the gates of the city. 4 Delilah, corrupted by the Philistines, enticeth Samson. 6 Thrice she is deceived. 15 At last she overcometh him. 21 The Philistines take him, and put out his eyes. 22 His strength renewing, he pulleth down the house upon the Philistines, and dieth.
1. Gaza. This was the southernmost of the Philistine cities and the largest of them. It was an important center because the caravan routes from the desert joined the highway from Egypt there. It was around 30 mi. (48 km.) from the region of Samson’s other adventures. Samson trusted in his great strength, which had inspired the Philistines with so much fear, and ventured into the very heart of enemy territory.
An harlot. It seems that Samson had become almost completely devoid of moral principles. At least he continually allowed his impulsive desires to triumph over them. One wrong step led to the next. Samson had made his first mistake in the choice of wrong associations in his youth. His tragic marriage with the Philistine woman was the result. Now he sank still lower in the moral scale.
2. And it was told. These words are supplied by the translators but evidently correctly so. All the ancient versions have them.
Samson is come hither. Samson’s boldness may have led him to make little attempt to conceal his identity or his presence. The Philistines were eager for revenge and lost no time launching plans to apprehend the one who was leading the opposition to them among the Hebrews.
Compassed him in. Perhaps they did not know what house he was in. At any rate, the gates of that strongly fortified city were closed, and the Philistines felt sure of their prey.
3. Arose at midnight. Conscience-stricken (PP 565) Samson arose at midnight. Perhaps he suspected that he had been recognized, and desired to leave while the streets were deserted. He found the gates closed. The walls of the city were too high to scale. Would God, despite the great sin that he had committed, intervene to deliver him?
Took the doors. God had not yet forsaken Samson. Whether the guards were alseep or had wandered off for the moment or even offered some resistance, is not stated. Samson seized the bar that was locked through gateposts and, exerting his magnificent strength, uprooted the posts.
Went away with them. The Hebrew actually says “pulled them up.”
Carried them. Samson carried away the whole mass in one piece, the doors and the entire framework.
Before Hebron. Hebron is about 38 mi. from Gaza. However, it is not stated that Samson walked with the gates and bars on his shoulders all the way to Hebron. He simply deposited them on a hill on the way to Hebron.
4. Valley of Sorek. The valley in which Zorah, Samson’s home, was situated. The valley is believed to be the modern Wadi eṣ–Ṣarâr, in which are found ruins called Sūrīk, which are thought to be the ancient Sorek. The town of Sorek was about 2 mi. from Zorah.
Delilah. Generally thought to be a Philistine woman, but it is not so stated. Judging by the bribe offered her, some have thought that she was not a Philistine, for had she been of that nationality, they would probably have used threats against her instead of bribery, as in the case of Samson’s wife (ch. 14:15).
5. Lords of the Philistines. Probably all five of the main Philistine rulers (see on ch. 3:3) joined in this effort to accomplish by bribery what they had failed to do by force of arms.
Wherein his great strength. Even though Samson must have been large in physique, the Philistines recognized that his strength was far beyond what one would expect from mere physical greatness. They imagined that he probably possessed some magic charm that was the secret of his power. Perhaps Samson at some time had boasted that there was a secret source of his strength.
Bind him. The Philistines hated Samson too much to kill him. His misery and their joy would be too short-lived. They wanted to keep him in chains to mock and deride him.
Eleven hundred pieces. After the manner of the time, these would be unminted silver bullion pieces, each one weighing a shekel. There were five lords of the Philistines. According to this verse, each of them was promising to pay Delilah that amount for tricking Samson into betraying the secret of his extraordinary strength. By money values of that age, this was an enormous bribe; it shows how eager the Philistines were to capture Samson. The 5,500 shekels thus paid to Delilah would be equivalent to the price of 275 slaves, at the rate paid for Joseph (Gen. 37:28).
6. Mightest be bound. Samson must have had some suspicions of Delilah’s motives; hence he resorted to deceiving her by falsely declaring the secret of his strength.
7. Seven. This number was thought by some to possess particular power. It may be noted that Samson’s hair, the last evidence of his consecration to God, was divided into seven locks (v. 13). Perhaps he was already unconsciously betraying a part of his secret.
Green. Heb. lach, “moist,” “fresh,” “green,” the meaning depending on the object to which it is applied.
Withs. The exact meaning of this Hebrew word is uncertain. It is used for bowstrings and tent cords. It probably refers to strings of gut made from the intestines or sinews of animals.
As another man. That is, having no more strength than an average man of the same size.
8. She bound him. No doubt Delilah kept up her banter the meanwhile, acting as if it had no sinister import.
9. Men lying in wait. The Hebrew has the singular here, but likely in the collective sense as in Judges 20:37; Joshua 8:14. Some have doubted that Delilah would have been able to conceal more than one spy without Samson’s becoming aware of it, but this is questionable.
Philistines be upon thee. It is not stated that the men came out of hiding when this cry was uttered, but at least the circumstances were such that Samson had the clearest evidence that the Philistines were leagued with Delilah (see PP 566).
Tow. The weak, broken part of flax which is usually discarded because of its weakness.
10. Delilah said. We need not necessarily infer that Delilah made her second attempt immediately. She probably waited a few days until Samson’s suspicions would be allayed. However, at what she thought was the next opportune moment she complained of his want of kindness in refusing to tell her his secret.
11. New ropes. This had already been tried by others but had failed (ch. 15:13, 14). Again, by specifying ropes that had never been used or consecrated for another purpose, Samson may again have distantly touched on his secret, his consecration to God as a Nazirite.
Delilah hoped that in this new disclosure Samson had not deceived her. She cunningly bound him again, but Samson broke the ropes as though they were but threads. By these deceptions Samson perhaps hoped to deter Delilah from further questioning. But with the tremendous bribe ever in her mind, she was not to be put off so easily. And Samson, whose tremendous strength made him overconfident, was playing more and more into the charmer’s hands.
13. With the web. With almost incredible levity and folly, Samson here goes to the very verge of the true secret, and suffers his hair to be woven in Delilah’s loom. No doubt she flattered him by praising his manly strength, and professing a lover’s curiosity, insidiously asked again for the secret of his strength. Samson lightly turned her aside by suggesting that if she wove his hair into the loom, perhaps using it as the woof, he would not have the power to free himself.
14. Fastened it with the pin. Literally, “she struck with the pin.” This seems to have been a technical expression for the operation in weaving which beats the woof tightly into the warp. That this pin was evidently the weaver’s shuttle is inferred from the expression “pin of the beam” which follows.
Went away. The Hebrew verb used here basically means “to pull up” as in v. 3. The word was commonly used for pulling up tent stakes, from which usage it also took on the meaning “to depart.” Either meaning fits the context here. At any rate, in Samson’s efforts to free himself from the loom in which his hair was securely fastened, he tore the loom to pieces, and probably went off angrily with the web or unfinished cloth still in his hair and with the shuttle and parts of the loom clinging to it.
15. Said unto him. Again, some interval may have elapsed. If the former scene had caused temporary estrangement, Samson was now willing to return to Delilah. She doubtless still continued her jest that she had no ulterior motive in seeking his secret, but used her failure in discovering that secret as a means of reproaching him for his lack of love for her. “Instead of loving me as you profess to do,” she insisted, “you are mocking me.” And thus she continued to wear away his reluctance to reveal the truth about his great power.
17. Told her. The narrative creates an impression of almost incredible stupidity on the part of Samson. At any time he could have put an end to Delilah’s questioning by leaving her and returning to his home. But Samson’s chief fault was not so much stupidity as sensual infatuation. In the ruin and shame that this sensual weakness brought upon him, and the way in which, step by step, it led him to forfeit God’s miraculous gift of supernatural strength, lies the chief moral of the story. Three times he had proved his vast strength. Now for the fourth time he proves his immense folly. God had planned a noble destiny for him, but weakness in placing sexual gratification foremost in his thinking marred God’s blueprint for his life and eventually brought him to an inglorious end.
18. When Delilah saw. Samson was not so far gone as to be able to reveal the great secret without some sense of awe and shame. Delilah quickly divined that at last she had secured his secret, so she sent immediately for the rulers of the Philistines, knowing that now she would be able to deliver Samson to them and collect their bounteous reward.
19. Afflict him. That is, by annoying him and causing him pain.
20. Shake myself. The phrase seems to suggest “shake myself free.” Because of this expression, many have believed that Delilah had bound Samson in addition to shearing off his hair. The context, however, does not make this clear. The Philistines would want some evidence that his strength was really gone before venturing to face him, but his reaction to Delilah’s afflictions (v. 19) would have provided the proof.
The Lord was departed. Samson had many times violated his Nazirite vow by partaking of wine (PP 565) and by defiling himself in other ways, but in it all, by keeping his long hair, he indicated at least some interest in maintaining his consecration for God’s service. There was no virtue in the hair itself, but since it was a token of his loyalty to God, its sacrifice to the whim of a lawless woman caused God to withdraw the gift of supernatural strength. God had borne long with Samson’s folly, but now that he had broken the vow in every way, the Lord withdrew His blessing and protection.
21. Put out his eyes. An appropriate punishment. Samson’s unsanctified desire to gaze upon the beauties of unholy women had lured him on from one unhallowed experience to another, and finally became the immediate cause of his capture by the Philistines.
The Philistines chose to spare Samson’s life, evidently to sustain their vanity at their great achievement. Yet they feared that at any time Samson’s tremendous strength might return. To be safe in such event, they put out his eyes, probably by burning them with a hot iron or by puncturing them with a sharp instrument. Both methods were used in antiquity.
Grind. They made him turn a heavy mill, probably such as usually was turned by an ox or an ass.
22. To grow again. Samson recognized his folly in revealing his secret and allowing his hair to be cut. He renewed his consecration to God. Because of this resolve, God began to restore his strength.
23. A great sacrifice. This usually was accompanied by a great feast or celebration.
Unto Dagon. Not much is known about this deity. Various explanations have been given for the meaning of the name. Some have derived it from the Hebrew and Canaanite word dagan, meaning “grain.” If so, Dagon would be one of the many agricultural deities of Palestine. But the name may also be a derivative of the word dag, “fish.” Both explanations are ancient. The fact that coins have been unearthed in the Philistine city of Ashkelon with the image of a deity represented as half man and half fish leads us to accept the latter explanation (see PP 567). Reference is made to Dagon’s head and hands in 1 Sam. 5:4.
Our god hath delivered. Most ancient nations attributed their victories to the might of their national deity.
24. When the people saw him. It is possible that Samson was on exhibition at the mill where he was grinding grain and that tours were conducted through the prison, that all might see their hated enemy close at hand.
They said. The words that follow are in the form of a jingle of four lines, each ending in rhyme in the Hebrew.
25. Call for Samson. That is, bring him from his prison into the assembly room forming part of the temple where the whole assembly could see him at once.
May make us sport. This does not necessarily mean that he would act like a buffoon, but that the appearance of their mighty enemy, now blind and in chains, would induce laughter and jeering.
26. The pillars. The house to which he refers was probably a flat-roofed porch or hall supported by columns that composed part of the temple.
27. Lords of the Philistines. These were the rulers of the five Philistine districts who had bribed Delilah to betray Samson (see on v. 5).
Upon the roof. These 3,000 people had probably sought a vantage point on the roof, so they could better watch the display as Samson was goaded and tormented before the crowd. This great weight would render certain the collapse of the roof if several columns were pushed over.
In the Hebrew the words for “men and women” are different in the first clause from those in the second. The distinction may be in classes, those on the main floor representing the nobility who sat with the “lords,” and those on the roof, the common people.
28. O Lord God, … O God. Samson used in succession three different names for God, namely ’Adonai, Yahweh, and ’Elohim (see Vol. I, pp. 35, 170). This is the second time the author mentions Samson’s praying. We need not conclude that these were the only occasions on which he prayed, but if prayer had been more of a habit in his life, he might have been spared this shame and humiliation, and his life might have fulfilled the great destiny planned for him by God.
At once avenged. Some translate this passage so as to give the thought, “that I may be avenged for one of my two eyes.” They then reach the conclusion that Samson died with an expression of grim humor upon his lips, so in keeping with his former bantering moods. According to this translation, even though he anticipated a great catastrophe by causing the roof to collapse, it would not atone for the loss of his sight, but it would suffice for one eye.
Though this translation is possible, the one given in the text, or the more literal one given in the LXX, the Vulgate, and the Syriac, “I will requite one recompense,” is equally allowable and seems to fit the context better. Inasmuch as the bitter experiences of his humiliation had led Samson to repentance, it seems far more probable that he died in a serious mood—seeking to redeem, in the last moments of his life, his lost opportunities. The taunts attributing the victory of the Philistines to the heathen deity Dagon may have aroused his soul to vindicate the name of the God of Israel upon whom he himself had brought such dishonor.
30. Let me die. The Hebrew reads, “Let my soul die” (see margin). “Soul” is often used in the sense of “self” (Gen. 12:13; 27:25; 1 Sam. 18:1; Ps. 25:20; etc.). Samson was saying, “Let me [myself] die.” It is the individual himself who dies, not merely his body. The designation “soul” calls attention to man as a unique “self” or “individual.”
Bowed himself. It seems that Samson put his arms around the two middle pillars and pulled them together, throwing his entire weight upon them in addition to the pull of his arms. In this manner he might have either pulled them from their top or bottom supports or else broken them in the middle. Deprived of the two central pillars, the roof would begin to sag, likely causing the other columns, forced out of the perpendicular, to give way, crushing the assembled crowds below and hurtling those on the roof to their death.
The dead which he slew. This was the climax of Samson’s struggle against the Philistines. In his death he had slain more Philistines, and greater ones (for among them were the rulers), than he had in his life.
31. His brethren. This is the only intimation that Samson had brothers. It may here refer to his nearest kindred, although like Hannah, Manoah and his wife may have had other children after the birth of Samson. They, and perhaps the rest of Samson’s kinsmen on his father’s side, came to Gaza when they heard of his death, and took the body back to his home town, where they buried it in the burying place of his father. Manoah and his wife may already have been dead, for in all, Samson’s career of opposition to the Philistines lasted 20 years (see ch. 15:20). It seems that inasmuch as his kinsmen had not joined him in his conflicts with the Philistines, they were allowed to take the body for burial. Contrast the Philistine attitude in connection with the body of Saul (1 Sam. 31:10–13).
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
1–31 PP 565-568
1–6, 15 PP 565
16–22 PP 566
23–26, 28–31 PP 567