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Bible Commentaries
Judges 16

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-31

Judges 16:1 . A harlot, at Gaza, one of the five strong cities of Philistia. The Hebrew is the same as Joshua 2:0., hostess, as some would read, but our version follows the other opinion.

Judges 16:3 . Took away the doors of the gate, and carried them about seven miles, as stated by a German traveller.

Judges 16:4 . Delilah, a woman of Philistia. Some rabbins say, she was his wife; others, only his concubine. She was a woman of strong understanding, for none else can be consummately wicked.

Judges 16:13-14 . If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web. The Vulgate here supplies a defect which seems to be in the Hebrew. It adds, And wrappest them round upon a pin, and drivest the pin on which they are wrapped into the earth [or floor] I shall be weak. It is difficult to say whether there was a loom in the room or not. From this history, the fable of Nisus is thought to have been derived. He was king of the Megarians; and being allied with the Athenians, was besieged by Minos king of Crete, their enemy. But the efforts of the invader had proved abortive, had not Sylla, daughter of Nisus, fallen in love with Minos; and to accomplish her wishes, she betrayed her father and her country by cutting off from his head a purple or golden lock, on which the happiness of his kingdom depended. Ovid, lib. 8.

Judges 16:21 . Put out his eyes. His passions having done this first to his mind, God permitted it to fall on his body.

Judges 16:23 . Dagon. Eusebius, Præp. lib. 1., refers this to Zeus or Jove. Others describe the figure as a demi-woman, with the posterior of a fish; for דג dag signifies a fish. So Horace.

Desinit in piscem mulier formoso supernè.

Judges 16:27 . The house. The temple was full of men and women, besides three thousand on the roof, so that five thousand at least must have perished, while mocking a fallen prince. They did not know that his hair had grown in prison. It is dangerous to mock a fallen professor, while suffering the visitation of God for his sins. Samson died by divine permission, about the age of forty years: his sun went down at noon.

Judges 16:29 . The two middle pillars on which the house stood. Sir Christopher Wren, our great architect, thinks that this building was an oval amphitheatre. The scene in the middle was a vast roof of cedar beams, resting round upon the walls, centered all upon one short architrave that united the cedar pillars in the middle; one pillar would not be sufficient to unite at least one hundred beams which tended to the centre. Now if Samson, by his miraculous strength pressing upon one of those pillars, moved it from its base, the whole roof must of necessity fall. Perentalia, p. 359.


Having surveyed the birth and life of this extraordinary man, we now come to consider his tragic death, which seems to have come as a punishment for his personal sins, and for vengeance on the Philistines, who believed not the wonders of the Lord. Our Saviour, making the distinction between miracles and grace, says, that many who have done wonderful works in his name will not be acknowledged at his coming: and whatever blindness and imprisonment might do in the regeneration of Samson’s soul, we now find him far from the character of a holy man.

Having by the divine mercy and power escaped death at Gaza, instead of being warned, he presently fell into another snare from which the Lord would not deliver him. In a course of time he saw Delilah in the vale of Sorek: this Ganymede, this Astarba rather, was tutored to intrigue. According to the rabbins she was Samson’s wife; having taken advantage of his passion to procure the endowments of marriage. So consummate was her character, that she had a command of tears at pleasure, and carried her countenance in her hand. On the first overture, and during the first month, she hired herself as the traitor of her amorous husband. After completing the plot, and filling an apartment of her house with guards, she persevered in importunities, which in appearance proceeded from the jealousy of love, and so ardent that she must either know the secret cause of Samson’s strength or die with anguish: and while she really sought the ruin of the unsuspecting and generous hero, she affected to play with Samson to know the reality of his love, but the snare was laid for his life. Nor did she desist from the arduous contest till she saw him deprived of his locks, deprived of his sight, and led away in chains, exposed to all the insults of a triumphant foe. Thus she sold and betrayed a husband who ought to have been her greatest glory, and had nothing left but the rewards of Judas; her hire, and her conscience.

But ah, Samson, mighty Samson: is it really Samson, that the slaves and the rabble of Gaza now insult with impunity? Why breakest thou not thy bonds? Why dost thou not slay them in a moment? Why dost thou suffer the uncircumcised to insult thy God, and give all the glory to Dagon? Where is thy indignant soul which scattered armies, and made the earth to tremble at thy name? Is thy strength fled; are thy locks shorn? What, hast thou lost thy God in the house of adultery? Ah, thy strength is gone, thy glory departed. This is the fruit of despising the parents’ advice in marriage, of suffering thy concupiscence to lurk unmortified. Hadst thou fallen in battle for thy country, immortality would have attended thy name. But to fall by the worst of women ah tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon. Well: go in silence to the prison, grind at the mill, weep for thy sins, and thy hair shall yet grow, that God may have mercy on thy soul. Let thy sad case teach all future ages, that to conquer inordinate passions is the greatest glory which can attend the character of man.

After all, we see mercy mixed with justice. Samson’s eyes were now put out, a just requital for gazing on unhallowed beauty; but that was better than the having eyes to gaze on sin. His feet were fettered in the mill; but that was safer than to deviate from the paths of purity. His soul was assailed with anguish and remorse, with the insults of the heathen, and the horrors of the prison; but these were preferable to the caresses of Delilah. Here his hair grew with time, and his strength returned by repentance. Thus heaven is often obliged to humble and afflict some who revolt against its favours and love; otherwise their salvation would be impossible.

We come now to the closing scene; and greatness in misery should never excite insult, but instruction. The fame of Samson had filled the east, and his captivity was accounted the highest favour of the gods to Philistia. Now all the lords and rulers, accompanied with a crowd of the best families in the country, assembled to give thanks to Dagon for deliverance from so great a foe. But devotion was not the real object of the day; it was derision, and wanton insult to a degraded Nazarite, and a fallen prince; it was insult to heaven, the Author of Samson’s works. This was the height of crime; the scale turned with the weight of guilt. Scarcely had this profane crowd completed their applauses of Dagon, and their insults to JEHOVAH; scarcely had they consummated the whole of their derision of the captive hero, than weary of life, and unable to hear his God derided, he asked permission of heaven so to die, as to close his mission with hope to Israel. Feeling a return of all his former soul, in a moment, he shook the pillars from their base, and hurled the guilty crowd to the bar of heaven; while he himself, bursting all the fetters of Philistia and of death, enrolled his name among the patriarchs who died in faith. So also Elijah, persecuted of Jezebel, prayed saying, Let me die, for I am not better than my fathers. So more especially the Lord Jesus, extending his arms on the cross, shook the earth, vanquished death, and gave the powers of darkness a final fall. No one attempts to implicate Samson in the guilt of suicide: that would make the Lord a party in the crime. This last act was all glorious, achieved in the divine counsel, and in the divine power.

Samson was indeed a type of Christ. The primitive fathers, and the most illustrious doctors of the church, have with one consent considered him as such: not indeed in his errors, but in his divine endowments. His name and birth were announced by an angel, when his mother, like Sarah, was barren. He was a Nazarite, endowed with unlimited powers. He rent the lion, and carried away the gates of his enemies. He vanquished every foe, as Christ overcame the world. He was cruelly betrayed, was bound with bonds, was mocked and insulted at his death. He died willingly, praying to the Father; he destroyed his enemies, and broke the yoke of the oppressor. In all these views he was “a figure of him that was to come.”

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 16". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/judges-16.html. 1835.
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