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Samson at Gaza
v. 1. Then went Samson to Gaza, on the Mediterranean, in Southwestern Philistia, one of the chief strongholds of his enemies, and saw there an harlot, a public prostitute, and went in unto her, thus becoming guilty of fornication. Samson is a type of the entire Israelitish nation at that time; for as long as he clung to the Lord and followed His direction, He was a hero and champion against the enemies of Israel, but when he forsook Jehovah's commandments and indulged in sensuality, the disapproval of the Lord rested upon him, just as it did upon the spiritual adultery, the idolatry, of his people.
v. 2. And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed him in, setting watchmen all about the harlot's house, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, men charged with taking him as soon as he should attempt to leave, and were quiet all the night, lest they should reveal their plans to Samson, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him. With the coming of the dawn, when it would become light outside, they would have the courage to attack their enemy.
v. 3. And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, the watchmen apparently having settled down so quietly that they did not notice his coming, and took the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, wrenching them from their foundations, and went away with them, bar and all, as it had been locked in place to prevent his escape, and put them, the heavy gates with the posts, upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron, calmly making that trip to the mountains toward the east with the immense load resting upon him. The humiliation inflicted upon the Philistines was all the greater since the gates of a city symbolized its civic and national strength. It is not stated here that the Spirit of the Lord urged Samson to perform this deed, but he followed his own idea, making a show of his great physical strength. It is the beginning of severe transgression for a believer to put his trust in his own ability; for pride cometh before a fall.
Samson and Delilah
v. 4. And it came to pass afterward, some time after this exploit, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. This was not very far from his home place, and he entered into an unlawful union with this woman, whose name is purposely mentioned, for she, by her sinful fascination, debilitated his strength.
v. 5. And the lords of the Philistines, well acquainted with the power of voluptuousness, came up unto her and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, by making use of every possible allurement she was to find out the secret of his great strength, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him, to get him into their power and permanently to subdue him; and we will give thee, everyone of us, eleven hundred pieces of silver, a sum totaling between 3,000 and 3,500 dollars, frankly bribe money. As a true daughter of Philistia the woman agreed to sell the man who trusted her so foolishly.
v. 6. And Delilah said to Samson, feigning a flattering reverence for his great strength, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee, so that some one might get him into his power.
v. 7. And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withes, seven cords of animal tendons not yet stretched, that were never dried, then shall I be weak and be as another man, endowed with only the normal strength of the average man.
v. 8. Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withes which had not been dried, ropes made of fresh tendons, and she bound him with them, very likely with an air of playfulness.
v. 9. Now there were men lying in wait, in ambush, abiding with her in the chamber, for she had permitted a Philistine spy to conceal himself in the inner apartment. And she said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he, momentarily brought back to his senses by her cry of treason, brake the withes as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire, when it is brought near enough to feel the fire's heat. So his strength was not known.
v. 10. And Delilah said unto Samson, "with the brazen effrontery characteristic of women whose charms are great and whose hearts are bad," Behold, thou hast mocked me and told me lies; now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound.
v. 11. And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, that had never been used for any kind of work, then shall I be weak and be as another man.
v. 12. Delilah therefore took new ropes and bound him therewith, again as unconcerned as possible, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And there were liers-in-wait abiding in the chamber; she had again permitted a Philistine spy to conceal himself in the inner apartment. And he brake them from off his arms like a thread.
v. 13. And Delilah said unto Samson, her avarice and vexation goading her on, Hitherto thou hast mocked me and told me lies; tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound. She is past cajolery and now demands to know. And he said unto her, coming ever nearer to the full truth, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web, namely, that on the loom standing in her apartment, as common, in those days, as a spinning-wheel was at later periods in other countries.
v. 14. And she, acting upon his suggestion, wove the long hair of his head into her web as woof, and then fastened it with the pin, the batten which is used to beat up the weft, thus clamping his hair securely to the loom, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, for he had fallen asleep while she was operating the loom, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web, he wrenched his hair loose and left the disappointed woman with her loom.
v. 15. And she said unto him, at his next visit, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? She reproached him with the insincerity of his regard for her, since real affection would have no secrets from her. Thou hast mocked me these three times and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.
v. 16. And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, ceaselessly teasing and boring him to death, so that his soul was vexed unto death, plagued with impatience with her and so weary that the freshness and keenness of his mind were gone from him,
v. 17. that he told her all his heart, he unfolded to her the innnermost secrets of his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb. If I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.
v. 18. And when Delilah saw, judging from his entire attitude, that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, who had evidently become doubtful as to results, saying, Come up this once, for he hath showed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her and brought money in their hand, for Delilah would undoubtedly not have gone ahead with her betrayal of her lover unless she had had the definite assurance that the money which she coveted would be forthcoming.
v. 19. And she made him, Samson, sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, one of those concealed in ambush in her apartment, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, she, the weak woman, was strong enough to manage him, and his strength went from him.
v. 20. And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep and said, I will go out as at other times before and shake myself, thus freeing himself from the fetters and from the hands of the Philistines. And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him, with the clipping of his hair, with the end of his Nazarite state, Jehovah had gone from him.
v. 21. But the Philistines took him, laid hold on him in avenging hatred, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass, as a safeguard against his escaping; and he did grind in the prison-house, condemned to the lowest work of female slaves. That is the invariable result if men love the lusts of the world, especially such sins against the Sixth Commandment. He who yields to the temptation several times will become weaker with every attack made upon him, until he becomes a slave of sin.
The end of Samson
v. 22. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven, literally, as when he was shaven. for it came out again in a very short while, and the Philistines did not remember the significance of this.
v. 23. Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon, their god, and to rejoice, as over a great victory, to be celebrated with a general feast of thanksgiving; for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hand. Dagon was the chief idol of the Philistines, being worshiped not only at Gaza, but also at Ashdod; he was usually represented with the body of a fish, but with human head and hands.
v. 24. And when the people saw him, as Samson was led forth, they praised their god, in a foolish burst of idolatry; for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy and the destroyer of our country, for such he was by his having set their fields and orchards afire, which slew many of us.
v. 25. And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, in the course of the feasting and carousing, that they said, Call for Samson that he may make us sport, be the object of ribald jesting and cutting mockery. And they called for Samson out of the prison-house; and he made them sport, he made a fine target for all the mean and mocking sayings which they could think of as their tongues were loosened by wine; and they set him between the pillars, those of the house or temple in which the feast was being celebrated.
v. 26. And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, who led him from one place to another on account of his blindness, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. The building was put up in such a manner as to have not only the lower part, but also the upper open galleries resting principally upon two mighty pillars, which supported the chief beams of the vast building.
v. 27. Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there, the more distinguished visitors occupying the lower part of the house; and there were upon the roof, the open gallery above, surrounded by open trellis-work, about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.
v. 28. And Samson, who had repented of his deep fall, called unto the Lord and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. He no longer placed his trust in himself nor in his hair, but only and entirely in Jehovah, the true God. In revenging himself for the loss of his eyes, he would at the same time inflict a terrible punishment upon the enemies of Israel.
v. 29. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, its entire weight being concentrated there, and on which it was borne up, he pressed steadily and firmly against them, of the one with his right hand and of the other with his left.
v. 30. And Samson said, Let me, literally, my soul , die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might, pulling the pillars down with him; and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people that were therein, the entire building toppled over and crashed down upon itself, burying the merrymakers under its ruins. So the dead which he, Samson, slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
v. 31. Then his brethren, the members of his own people, and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, in a funeral procession which gave him more honor in death than he had gotten in life, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the burying place of Manoah, his father, who had not lived to see the shame of his great son. The Philistines, terrified by the evidence of God's almighty power in the catastrophe which had befallen them, permitted the body of Samson to be removed without objection. Their princes were dead, their power, for the time being, broken. And he judged Israel twenty years. Thus Samson died with a prayer to the true God upon his lips. And so He raises up His children from their transgressions, leads them to repentance, and helps them to obtain the end of faith, their soul's salvation.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Judges 16". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany