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Bible Commentaries
Judges 16

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-3

Judges - Chapter 16

Samson at Gaza, vs. 1-3

Samson seems to have moved boldly at will among the Philistines, entering their cities and leaving without being captured. By this time his miraculous power was doubtless well know far and wide. In this incident, however, Samson is seen slipping into sin of the kind which would finally defeat him. Gaza was the southernmost of the chief Philistine cities, on the coastal plain, near the cities in the allotment of the tribe of Judah which had been later assigned to the tribe of Simeon.

Samson on a visit to Gaza became enamored with a harlot of the place, and was spending a night with her. His presence was known to the men of the city, who thinking they had him trapped, barred the gates, intending to kill him in the morning. Why they felt it necessary to wait until morning is not noted. No doubt they were afraid of him and, perhaps, were trying to find out a way they could handle him.

Somehow Samson learned that they planned to take him the following morning, so arose at midnight to leave. Finding the doors of the gates shut and barred he simply pulled up the posts on which the doors were set and carried the whole thing off with him. Samson carried these across country to Hebron, the chief city of the tribe of Judah, and there deposited them on top of a hill visible from the city gates. The doors were transported a distance of about forty airline miles. This feat of Samson’s served two purposes: 1) it embarrassed the Philistines and frustrated them even more in their determination to destroy Samson; 2) it put the Judahites to shame because it showed the mighty power available through the Lord to overthrow the Philistine oppression if they would respond with repentance, (1 Corinthians 15:34).

Verses 4-14

Vexed by Delilah, vs. 4-14

How sad it is to see the beginning of Samson’s fall here. Samson had cause to be despairing. The men of Judah had failed him twice, and seemed the people did not care whether they served the Philistines or not. Yet Samson should have found spiritual strength in the Lord also, and to have stood alone as he had before. But this time he gave in to the weakness of his flesh, his great passion for women. It would appear that he really liked Delilah, though probably in lust rather than love. Certainly Delilah had no love for him, blot saw him only as a desirable client for her prostitution.

So Samson came regularly to Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek, which was in the vicinity of Zorah, Timnah, and Ekron. Sorek means "choice vine", another allusion to the vine culture carried on there. Others were following Samson’s movements also, watching for an opportunity to trap him. They realized that he had some supernatural source of strength. These five lords of the Philistines represented the five major cities of the Philistines, and included Ekron, Gaza, Ashdod, Gath (elsewhere called the mother, or chief, city), and Ashkelon. They came to Delilah to hire her to find out Samson’s secret of strength. Each offered to give her eleven hundred, pieces of silver, an amount to make her extremely wealthy for the times. This wou1d be about $4,125 in today’s values, but worth enormously more in buying power of Delilah’s time. It shows how badly the Philistines wanted to be rid of Samson.

Delilah set about her task, to find out Samson’s strength. She must have pretended a deep devotion to him for he knew surely that the Philistines would take him if possible, and she had to make him trust her. This apparently Samson did, though he would not at first divulge anything. Her nagging and pretended love moved him ever toward the fatal divulgence. He was so sure of himself that he had no fear that she could deliver him to the Philistines, and seems to rather enjoy her attempts. When she cried each time, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you," it seems he would have expected something was amiss. But when God’s people go astray they seem to be blinded to the dangers of the world, (2Colossians 4:4).

First, Samson told Delilah that she might bind him with seven green, undried withs. These seem to be strands of strong bark used for binding things, but they were like so much twine when Samson flexed his muscles. Next she tried the new ropes he suggested, which it seems the Philistines should have known would not work from the incident at Ramath-lehi, He snapped them like twine. Each time Delilah had. Philistines lying in wait to take him, but they could not.

Each time Delilah’s complaining brought Samson nearer. to tragedy. The third time he dabbled around the truth in telling her she might weave his hair in the web of the loom and pin it, and he would be weak like any other man. So she made him sleep, probably with a potion of some kind, and wove his hair as suggested. He was then wakened with the cry, "The Philistines are upon thee." Samson jumped up, snapped the pin and walked off with it and the web on his head. It appears that this should have alerted Samson to what was happening, but it did not.

Verses 15-20

Betrayed by Delilah, vs. 15-20

Samson’s lustful desire brought him back to Delilah again and again. And bit by bit she broke him down, so that the Scriptures say she vexed his soul to death. It got so that Samson desired his pleasure with Delilah more than pleasing God and honoring his vow. How deeply can a child of God go into sin! At last he told her everything. He told her how he had the vow of the Nazarite, of dedication to God’s service, from his birth, and that he had never been shaved as a sign of that vow. Taking off his locks and beard would not destroy the source of Samson’s strength, but it would show that Samson had already separated himself from that Source of strength.

Delilah knew at once that Samson had told her the truth this time, and she sent for her money. She was a shrewd woman, for she no longer bothered simply with the liers in wait, but sent for the lords of the cities. They came up and waited the outcome. Delilah evidently drugged Samson and let him go to sleep in her lap, totally unmindful of the Lord’s will for him. She brought in a man to shave him, and when that was done, was the first to ridicule and mock her victim Her own affliction of Samson shows her own sorry character and the traitor she was. She screamed, "The Philistines are upon you Samson," and this time it was true.

It seems that Samson may have realized that he had lost his hair and beard, but the Lord had come to his aid so may times he expected him to do so again. He thought he could go out and flex his muscles and do away with his tormentors as usual. This time it did not work. The Scriptures say Samson did not know that the Lord was no longer with him, for Samson had left the Lord,(cf. 1 Corinthians 5:5).

Verses 21-31

Victory in Death, vs. 21-31

Evidently the Philistines intended to torture Samson to death. They began by gouging out his eyes. They then fettered him with brass and put him to grinding the grain in the prison house. How terrible must have been the suffering of Samson! But doubtless the major part of his suffering was the remembrance of how he had failed to rely on the Lord and allowed his human passions to lead him to physical destruction and shipwreck of his ministry. As Samson ground round and round the wheel that turned to crush the grain he had a lot of time to think and to repent, to consider how he might yet salvage something of his life.

The Philistines promptly credited their god with delivering them from the power of Samson. Dagon was the old idol which had the torso of a man with prayer-folded hands on a fish’s tail. He was the national god of the Philistines, who had imported him from Babylon by way of the Phoenicians. He was usually worshipped as the god of grain.

After a time the Philistines got together at the Dagon temple in Gaza to celebrate the capture of Samson, to rejoice and praise Dagon for delivering Samson to them. It was a great feast. When they were satiated with food and drink someone conceived the idea of bringing Samson to the feast so they could exhibit him and make sport of him. This means they wanted to abuse and mock him and show their contempt of his one-time strength. So they set him out in their midst with a little boy to lead him in his blindness. The house was over-crowded with people even seated around the roof, for it must have been a kind of amphitheater affair. All five of the great lords of Philistia were present who had engineered the capture through Delilah. Surely that wench had her place of honor, too, as the ’heroine"of the whole affair.

Samson asked the little boy to allow him to lean to rest on the great central pillars which supported the temple. Innocently the boy complied. Samson then prayed for a return of his strength that he might avenge himself on the Philistines for the loss of his eyes. It was a selfish prayer, but there was of honor and glory for God in it also. It showed 1) Samson’s repentance; 2) it would prove that Samson’s strength was dependent on God and his recognition of Him; 3) it would show that it was not Dagon by whom Samson fell, but the Lord God of Israel; 4) it would bring the Philistine enemy low so their oppression of Israel would enjoy a time of surcease.

Struggling mightily against the pillars, right hand on one and left hand on the other, the temple began to totter, and Samson prayed, "Let me die with the Philistines." Mighty was the fall and great was the slaughter. More people died in the fall of the temple than the total combined whom Samson had slain during his lifetime. All the lords were killed and the great men and ladies inside, plus the three thousand on the roof. Samson died too. His family came down to Gaza and took his body, burying him in his father, Manoah’s burial plot between Zorah and Eshtaol. He had led Israel for twenty years.

Lessons to be noted: 1) the first act of presumptuous sin opens the door for worse sins; 2) debauchery is never the place to turn in disappointment or trouble; 3) it is dangerous to ignore apparent warnings that the Lord is displeased with us; 4) continued sin causes us to go to sleep as it were and not recognize when the Devil is about to trap us; 5) it is never too late for one to repent and restore his relationship with God as long as he lives; 7) one may so shipwreck his life that he is of very little use more to the Lord and may be taken out of the world.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Judges 16". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/judges-16.html. 1985.
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