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Bible Commentaries
Judges 16

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verses 1-31

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 6

Judges 16:6

This has been the question of the world to the Church from the beginning. Conscious of the fact that a spiritual force is in the midst of it, perceiving its power over men, the world asks again and again wherein consists the strength of the kingdom, which, even from its seeming contradictions, it is reluctantly sensible is not of the world.

I. The strength of Christianity lies in the continued activity of the living Christ. "I am He that liveth and was dead." This is to the believer the only sufficient explanation of the history of the last eighteen centuries.

II. A second source of the strength of the Church is the power of its doctrine over the human soul. That power lies primarily in the very nature of the doctrine. Christianity at its first promulgation by our Lord and his Apostles was an appeal to the conscience the moral sense, the innate religiousness of man not so much to the wonder, the awe, the reverence, as to feelings more deeply seated in him; less to his imagination than to his spiritual constitution.

And the doctrine of Christianity has also all the force which belongs to definiteness. The human soul welcomes religion as a revelation of something beyond its own discovery, as to itself, the world around, and the future which lies before it.

Bishop Woodford, Sermon Preached at the Opening of Selywn College, Cambridge, Oct. 10th, 1882.

Verse 15

Judges 16:15

At the close of Samson's history we are taught how one of God's own servants is lost in the country of God's foes, and how God hears him and saves him in the far country. It is the old story, man backsliding and God restoring.

I. The very words which might represent the celestial entreaty of heavenly wisdom, are those of the most fascinating sin and temptation. The salvation of none of us depends upon our perception, but upon our strength.

II. Notice the manner of Samson's fall: it was by the extortion of his secret; therefore has it been said, "Keep thine heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues," or, which is the same thing, within it is the secret of life. The strength of life lies in having something we will not yield; something within, over which the tempter has no power. Samson renounced his profession as a Nazarite. That was the fatal step. He revealed the secret of the Lord to the scorn of the Philistines; he surrendered his sacred vow to the foes of the Lord.

III. In the spectacle of Samson asleep we see the carelessness of the tempted soul. Strength is gone; character is gone. Israel's hero has lost himself. He surrendered the secret of the Lord, and awoke to find the Spirit of the Lord departed from him.

E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 388.

Verse 17

Judges 16:17

Samson is unlike any other character in Scripture. Although the sphere in which he moved was a comparatively narrow one, he seems to have made a profound impression on the men of his time. The whole active life of Samson was spent in the district which bordered on the old Philistine frontier. He lived among the men of his own little tribe of Dan, and his history seems to have been compiled from its annals. His work consisted in a series of dashing exploits calculated to raise the hopes and spirits of his down-trodden countrymen, and to strike the Philistines with apprehension and terror, and thus he prepared the way for a more systematic and successful revolt in after times.

It was the turning-point in Samson's career when he told his secret to Delilah. It was the passage of the Rubicon which separated his life of triumphant vigour from his life of humiliation and weakness. Until he spoke these words, he was master of his destiny; after he had spoken them, nothing awaited him but disaster and death.

I. The first thing that strikes us in this account of Samson's ruin is the possible importance of apparent trifles to the highest well-being of life and character. Samson's unshorn hair told other Israelites what to expect of him, and rebuked in his own conscience all in his life that was not in keeping with his Nazarite vow. The great gift of physical strength was attached to this one particular of Nazarite observation which did duty for all the rest. In itself it was a trifle whether his hair was cut or allowed to grow, but it was not a trifle in the light of these associations.

II. Samson's history suggests the incalculably great influence which belongs to woman in controlling the characters and destinies of men. Delilah is the ruin of Samson; Deborah is the making of Barak. Deborah's song suggests what Samson might have been had Delilah been only as herself.

III. Nothing is more noteworthy in this history than the illustration it affords of the difference between physical and moral courage. Samson had physical courage; it was the natural accompaniment of his extraordinary strength. But he lacked the moral strength which lies not in nerve, nor in brain, but in a humble yet vivid sense of the presence of God.

H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 1111.

Reference: Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 358.

Verse 20

Judges 16:20

Of all the heroes whose exploits we read in the Book of Judges, none so keenly awakens our sympathy, or so fully arrests our attention, as that solitary hero, Samson. His life is no romance of the past, but it is a type and picture of your life and mine, with its difficulties, temptations, and dangers. From the story of Samson we learn:

I. The absolute necessity there is of our achieving a nobler morality, a higher level of religion, than is to be found in the mere conventional standards Which are rife around us. What was it made Samson strong? He refused to accept the low degraded religious standard which his contemporaries were content with. To him nothing short of a real harmony between the promise of God and the fact of his people's freedom would be satisfactory.

II. On no account sacrifice your convictions. The conviction of Samson was that the dominion of God was absolute and irresistible, that the promises of God were true and everlastingly faithful. The force of conviction in your mind that Christ is true, that His Holy Spirit is a real power and influence in your heart, will make you strong, nay omnipotent, against all evil in the world.

III. Temptation comes gradually. It seems like a sudden catastrophe when Samson, who had been the glory of his people, the very hero of Dan, is led a nerveless and enslaved captive into the dungeons of the Philistines. Yet the progress of sin was very gradual over his heart. Inch by inch Delilah wearied out the strength of resistance, and then came the terrible catastrophe.

IV. With every sin there comes a blunting of that moral capacity by which you detect its presence "He wist not that the Lord was departed from him." No man is the same after sin; no man ever can be. Sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a destiny.

V. Notice two thoughts arising from the story: (1) True convictions can be had from Christ alone. (2) Preserve the consecration of your whole life to Him.

Bishop Boyd Carpenter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 299.

References: Judges 16:20 . G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 413; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p 46; Parker, vol. vi., p. 169; S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 121.Judges 16:20-21 Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 224.Judges 16:21 . S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 87. Judges 16:23 . W. Meller, Village Homilies, p. 79 Judges 16:25 , Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 316.

Verse 28

Judges 16:28

I. To lose our vision is the doom of losing our strength. Impaired moral perception is one of the penalties we pay for depraved action. In Samson we behold what weakness everywhere is; in him we behold what it is for the will not to be master in its own house; borne along by the vehemence of ungovernable impulses.

II. But there came an hour of triumph and recovery for Samson. He had still one resource: he had the voice of prayer; he had still power with God. The building we may conceive of as rude and frail, rough, cyclopean, in harmony with the style of the architecture of that time. It was the temple of the great Merman, or Fish-god. Possibly Samson was brought out to attempt some exhibition of his strength. It is not impossible that the Philistines intended that he should sell his life by some daring hazard, some blind gladiatorship, some display of strength in contest with beasts let loose upon him.

III. Samson's death is not to be regarded as suicide. If so, then every death in battle is suicide; every death that looks forward to a great possibility is suicide. It is not at all clear that Samson intended to kill himself. As he thought of old times he felt within him again the pulses of spiritual strength. His spirit kindled to the height of his great prayer, and as the building fell, he bowed his head and expired like a victor in the moment of victory.

E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 407.

References: Judges 16:30 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 81; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iii., p. 388. Judges 17:3 . G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 261.Judges 17:6 . Parker, vol. vi., p. 124. 13. Ibid., p. 236. Judges 18:9 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 261.Judges 18:9 , Judges 18:10 . J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 330. Judges 18:24 . S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 109. Judges 18:26 . Parker, vol. vi., p. 170. 19 Ibid, p. 144.Judges 20:3 . Ibid., p. 170. Judges 21:3 . Ibid., p. 151. See on Judges, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 115.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Judges 16". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/judges-16.html.
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