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Bible Commentaries
Judges 13

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verses 1-25

Judges 13:16

I. We must first ask what principles, regarding the way in which God works deliverance for man, were taught by Samson. (1) The first principle impressed on the minds of his contemporaries must have been, that, "in a state of universal depression, all must ultimately depend on the indomitable strength which is aroused in individuals." Samson was qualified by his natural gifts to stand alone, and to hearten the people, and give them more courageous and hopeful thoughts. His name, Samson, refers not to his strength but to his temper. It means "sunny." (2) A second principle illustrated by the life of Samson is, that God has often to deliver His people in spite of themselves. This was impressed on the minds of all observant persons by the fact that the Israelites, instead of flocking to Samson's standard and seconding his effort to throw off the Philistine yoke, bound him and gave him up into the hands of the Philistines. They would not strike a blow in defence of their own liberty, still less in defence of their own champion. (3) A third principle illustrated by Samson's career is, that the greatest deliverances are wrought by self-sacrifice; "the dead which Samson slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life."

II. Another important inquiry is, What was it that constituted Samson's strength? (1) His strength was not the natural physical strength that accompanies a powerful frame and well-developed muscle. (2) Neither did his strength or success consist in his skill in the use of his weapons or choice of the most effective weapons. (3) Samson's strength required to be sustained by the ordinary means of life. (4) Samson's strength abode with him so long as he was faithful to his Nazarite vow, and departed as soon as, for the sake of a fleshly lust, he departed from that vow and put himself into the power of Delilah and the enemies of the God of Israel. (5) God returned to Samson and gave him back his strength. There is no better instance of the use God can make of the wreck of an ill-spent life.

M. Dods, Israel's Iron Age, p. 119.

Reference: Judges 13:8 . H. Hopwood, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 1st series, p. 128.

Verse 9

Judges 13:9

The name Zorah means "the hornet's nest." It was a village of the tribe of Dan on a crag of the spur of a long mountain chain, high up amidst the cliffs. The place had a fame for the powers of mischief it possessed in sheltering or in sending forth the foes of those who were the enemies of Israel.

I. Look first, at the country of Samson. Dan was the extreme northern point in the territory of Israel. It was the last retreat and fastness of the Philistines. The sea-coast bordered on the Mediterranean. The country was fruitful, and remarkable for its rivers, especially the river Eshcol. Its people were wild, crafty, and cruel; they were in the immediate neighbourhood of that Phoenicia whose cruel idolatries and gross naturalism proved so often fatal to Israel. Samson was the most celebrated man of the tribe of Dan.

II. Notice the family of Samson's parents. In Zorah, the village on the cliff, there lived a Danite farmer and his wife. To this household went the Divine message a pious, holy, prayerful household; we may be sure we should find they were afflicted in the afflictions of Israel. The entire story of the parents shows a pious and devoted pair, characterised also by simplicity and fear on the part of the man, and a fine spiritual shrewdness on the part of the woman, and in both by the desire to receive and obey Divine instructions.

III. Look at the circumstances of Samson's education, and consider how strong men are made. A rigid abstinence was to be the material conservatism of strength, training alike body and mind to be the vehicle of spiritual power, and compelling the inference that strong men are made by the education they receive, by their lessons in abstinence and self-denial. A strong man is characterised by two things by the purpose of his life, and the strength he brings to bear upon it.

IV. Glance at the age of Israel in which Samson was born. There was Providence in the rise of Samson. The Book of Judges gives us the story of a very disordered state of Israel's history; the record of Israel during a period like that of our Heptarchy or like the annals of the kings of Rome; yet a distinct mark and thread of Divine purpose and plan of government runs through it, as through any other period or epoch of the story of the peculiar people. God watches over the lives of states and the lives of men.

E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 241.

Reference: Judges 13:12 . Parker, vol. vi., p. 168.

Verses 18-22

Judges 13:18-22

I. It is clear that this angel was in human form, for twice Manoah's wife, twice Manoah, and once the history itself calls him "man" or "man of God." And yet the Deity of this man is as perfectly evident. When asked His name, He is not afraid to give the one by which Christ is distinctly designated in the ninth chapter of Isaiah, "Secret" or "Wonderful," for the two words in the original are the same. At the sight of Him as He ascends, Manoah and his wife fall on their faces to the ground. In the twenty-second verse Manoah expressly asserts respecting Him, "We have seen God."

II. The language of Christ to Manoah's wife was all concerning "a deliverance," which was to come through her. In whatever garb Christ may visit us, it is still an advent; and the purpose of that advent is to strike off a chain, to give liberty, essential, true, eternal liberty, "deliverance to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 249.

References: Judges 13:22 , Judges 13:23 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1340; J. Keble. Sermons for the Christian Year: Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 95.Judges 13:23 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 440. Judges 13:24 . I. Williams, Characters of the Old Testament, p. 149.

Verses 24-25

Judges 13:24-25

(with Judges 16:31 )

I. Consider the character of Samson. His character is unlike that of the other heroes of Hebrew story. (1) Alone in the Old Testament he overflows with joyousness. His very name means "Sunlike." He has a sportive wit which sparkles in rhythmic couplets, flashes in epigrams, plays upon words. (2) This great child of daring and genius is brought up a Nezyir-Elohim with his vow of strictness. But his strictness in one direction was compensated for by laxity in another. His unrivalled bodily strength co-existed with abject moral weakness. (3) Being such as he was, Samson naturally fell lower and lower. When the Philistines shouted, the cords seemed to melt away before the bracing of those mighty sinews; but the chains of his own sin, with which he was tied and bound, he could not unloose.

II. The story of Samson has been called "the seriocomic history of a Hebrew Hercules." Instead of being comic, it is pathetic and tragic in the highest degree. It is one of those histories of a soul's fall, in the Bible, which are most like summaries of an almost universal experience; like parables in which we may trace features like our own and those of hundreds more.

III. The question has often been asked, Was the fall of Solomon final? Among the Fathers of the Church different replies have been given; but the heart of the Church has turned to the more favourable answer. May we not hold, with somewhat more assurance, the same hope for the giant judge?

IV. We may gather these lessons from the life of Samson: (1) Flee from every sin that has light in its eye and honey on its tongue. (2) We learn from Samson the weakness of our own will. Our wills must be strengthened: ( a ) by the sympathy of Christ; ( b ) by the inward gift of the Spirit.

Bishop Alexander, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 78 (see also The Great Question, p. 145).

I. Notice first, that in Samson we have a man of surpassing physical strength. He was from first to last a huge, lone pugilist, capable of dealing tremendous blows: he could smite, rend, crush with his two hands marvellously, and that was all. He recognised his own ability, and did earnestly what he knew he could do.

II. Observe what Samson's countrymen thought of his amazing strength. (1) They ascribed it to the Spirit of the Lord. Samson's chief value lay, perhaps, in the one inspiring thought which his prowess awakened the thought that God was there. (2) The people believed that Samson's strength, having its source in the Spirit of Jehovah, was intimately connected with the Nazariteship of the man, and depended for its continuance upon the maintenance of that Nazariteship. Thus he served to remind them that their might and their hope as a nation lay in their fidelity to the consecration to which they had been chosen. He taught them that to be strong was to be faithful, and that with faithlessness came weakness and decay.

S. A. Tipple, Sunday Mornings at Norwood, p. 72.

Verse 25

Judges 13:25

(with Judges 8:21 ).

I. The tradition and idea of Samson always associates him with strength, but it was rude, animal energy. Samson belongs to the same age as Gideon, probably also to the same age which Homer has sung.

II. This rude type of strength was sacramental and Divine. Even in the wildest deeds of Samson's career, there is the teaching of another and higher strength. Rude as he was, and primeval as was his age, his strength was in the name of the Lord, which made heaven an earth.

III. We speak of typical men, representative men. Is such language permissible as applied to Samson. Here the words of Hengstenberg may be quoted: "Samson was the personification of Israel in the period of the Judges; strong in the Lord, and victorious over all his enemies; weak through sin, of which Delilah is the image, and a slave to the weakest of his enemies. His life is an actual prophecy of a more satisfactory condition of the people; one more closely corresponding to the ideal which was first to be imperfectly fulfilled under Samuel and David, and afterwards perfectly in Christ."

E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 264.

References: Judges 13:25 . S. Wilberforce, Sermons before the University of Oxford, 1871, p 72.Judges 14:4 . E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 277. Judges 14:8 , Judges 14:9 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1703 Judges 14:14 . Todd, Lectures to Children, p. 210; Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 304. 14 Parker, vol. vi., pp. 107, 116. Judges 15:15-19 . S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii., Appendix, p. 38. Judges 15:18 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 21.Judges 15:19 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 120.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Judges 13". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/judges-13.html.
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