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Samson carries away the gates of Gaza: falls in love with Delilah, to whom he confesses that his strength would leave him if his head should be shaven. His hair being shaven off while he is asleep, he is taken by the Philistines; his eyes are put out, and he grinds in the prison-house. The manner of his death.
Before Christ 1135.
Judges 16:3. An hill that is before Hebron— Or, a mountainous place, that is, &c. Hebron was twenty miles from Gaza, which was situated near the extremity of the promised land. It is probable, therefore, that this hill, or mountainous place, lay between Gaza and Hebron. It might be rendered, which looketh towards Hebron.
Judges 16:4. In the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah— The valley of Sorek, through which passed the river of the same name, and where, in the times of Eusebius and St. Jerome, stood the village of Cephar-sorek, was situated to the north of Eleutheropolis, near Zorah, the place of Samson's birth. This place, famous for its vines, was about a mile and a half from Eshcol, whence the spies brought their bunch of grapes. Here it was that Samson had the misfortune to become acquainted with Delilah. St. Chrysostom and some others affect, that Samson married her; but it seems much more probable, that she was only his concubine: and so Josephus understands it. Samson, unhappily, abandoned himself entirely to her; and her method of proceeding proves, that she was not only a Philistine, but a woman of very despicable character.
Judges 16:5. We will give—eleven hundred pieces of silver— By which, says Bishop Patrick, is commonly understood so many shekels; for the Jews make it a rule, that where pieces of silver are mentioned, shekels are meant; the whole sum amounted to about 344£.
Judges 16:7. Weak— Worn away. Schult. p. 268.
Judges 16:13-14. If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web— The LXX render the passage thus: If thou shalt weave the locks of my head, and shalt fasten them with a pin in the wall, I shall be deprived of my strength, and become like other men, Judges 16:14. When he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head which she wove into a web, and fastened it with a pin to the wall. Then she cried, &c. See Spencer de Leg. Heb. lib. 3: cap. 6. Dissert. I.
Judges 16:17. He told her all his heart— It was natural to suppose, that God would forsake a man who had forsaken Him to plunge into the excess of a criminal passion. Samson, softened by the caresses of Delilah, chagrined by her reproaches, overcome by her tears, could no longer resist her pressing solicitations. He forgot every thing to please her. He discovered his secret to her. There have been many men of wonderful strength, whose memory is preserved in history, and an account of whom may be found in Scheuchzer on the place; but it should be observed here, that Samson's extraordinary strength was not inherent in himself, but depended entirely on the divine power coming upon him when there was need of it, so long as he preserved himself consecrated to God, and strictly observed all those things which belonged to the vow of a Nazarite. Josephus paraphrases these words of Samson to Delilah thus: "I am under the care of God: born by his immediate providence, I nourish my hair; for he forbad that I should ever have it cut off, and it is herein that all my strength consists." See Hist. of the Jewish War, book 5: chap. 10.
REFLECTIONS.—As woman first was man's ruin; how often since has she been his snare! Other passions have slain their thousands, the love of women has slain its ten thousands.
I. Samson, who could not be taken in the toils of the Philistines, is ensnared by the attire of a harlot: to his shame, the history is recorded.
1. He went down to Gaza, on what occasion is not mentioned; but the bad tendency of familiarity with Philistines is left for our admonition. He saw a woman who pleased his eye, and, passion overcoming conscience, he connected himself with her. Note; (1.) The strongest in grace had need deeply to cry, Lead us not into temptation! (2.) They who ramble into places of vain company, must not wonder if they suffer for it.
2. Though perhaps he came in disguise, he was not long concealed; and while he is lying in the arms of a harlot, danger and death await him at the gate. Note; (1.) In our most secret sins God will find us out. (2.) Men would not sleep in quiet on the bed of lewdness, could they see the wrath of God which is hanging over them. (3.) The more securely the sinner sleeps, the more dangerous is his state.
3. Whether the conviction of his conscience terrified him, or a dream monitory of his danger awakened him, or some intelligence was brought him of the Philistines' designs, we do not learn; but at midnight he arose, and, finding the gates of the city barred, and the guards probably asleep, little expecting such a visitant, he took up posts, gates, and bars together on his shoulders, and carried them to a distant hill, to let his enemies see how vain were their attempts against him. Thus Christ, on his resurrection-day, carried off the gates of death, mocking at the impotent designs of his enemies, and opening a passage for all his people to follow him to the hill of God.
II. Again and again we find this mighty man sinking under the power of his besetting sin. More than once he had been brought by it into the most imminent danger; yet still he relapses, and, the third time, severely suffers. What a warning to every man of God to make a covenant with his eyes, and watch against and deny the sinful lusts of the flesh, which are as easily besetting, as difficult to be resisted.
1. A harlot caught his eye, and ensnared his heart. In criminal conversation with her he passed the day; and him whom armies could not move, a woman enslaved.
2. The Philistines seize the opportunity, and hope at last to prevail against him. Persuaded that there was some charm or spell which gave him such matchless strength, they offer Delilah a large bribe to get the secret out of him. Note; (1.) Where the love of money is rooted in the heart, bribe high enough, and you may buy body, soul, and all. (2.) By this was the Son of God betrayed; the love of thirty pieces of silver prevailed on the traitor Judas.
3. On the first opportunity, when caresses had paved the way for an easier entrance into his heart, she earnestly desires that he would gratify her curiosity, by informing her where his strength lay, and how he might be so bound as to be unable to help himself. Reluctant to declare the real secret, and hoping to put her off, he hesitates not at a lie; but when, to make the experiment, the osiers bound him, and an alarm of danger was given, the deceit appeared. Again she tries, again he misinforms her: the new ropes were as flax on his hands. The third time, upbraiding him with his deceit, she wearies him to tell the truth; but, still reluctant, he gives her a false information; and when she had wove his locks with her web, and fastened them to the beam, no sooner was the cry heard, "The Philistines be upon thee," than pin, beam, and all were carried away. Note; (1.) We must never expect fidelity from those who shew their utter unthankfulness to God. (2.) When the heart is infatuated with lust, repeated warnings of danger will be disregarded. (3.) They who feel themselves unable to resist the importunity of their passions should instantly fly.
4. At last, wearied out with her ceaseless upbraidings, and enslaved by his violent passion for her, the fatal secret is extorted. He could not bear to be suspected as wanting in affection to her, and, rather than not convince her of it by gratifying her most unreasonable requests, his own reputation, life, yea worse, the honour of God and the people's safety, are basely betrayed into the power of a faithless woman. Note; They who are slaves to their lusts are the worst of slaves, and stop at nothing to gratify them.
Judges 16:19. She began to afflict him— i.e. (in the sense wherein this word is frequently used,) to humble and bring him low; for as soon as the razor touched his head, his strength began to be diminished.
Judges 16:21. The Philistines took him, &c.— The design of the Philistines in putting out Samson's eyes, was to prevent him from undertaking any future enterprize against them; thus, by the just judgment of God, the concupiscence of the eyes was punished very remarkably in him. But a further punishment was prepared for him; loaden with chains, he was condemned to grind in the prison-house. Before the invention of wind and water-mills, they generally made use of hand-mills, and they condemned to this sordid employment malefactors and slaves, especially such as were disobedient and rebellious. See Exodus 11:5. Grotius on the place, and Herodotus, lib. 4: ch. 2.
REFLECTIONS.—Fully convinced now, from the seriousness of his manner, or the name of God which he had used, that he had discovered to her his whole heart, she summons the lords of the Philistines once more to attend her, who, having been so often disappointed, had returned home in despair; and they, ready to embrace the opportunity, take the money in their hands, and haste away. Behold and pity this unhappy victim, destined now as a sheep to the slaughter. Note; It is just in God to give up those to suffer who give themselves up to sin.
1. When her assistants are ready, this treacherous wretch spreads the soft lap of love, and after "dalliance sweet," the mighty Samson sinks down to rest, and closes those eyes, which, fascinated with beauty's charm, can see no danger in that pleasing pillow. But now the fatal razor approaches: his seven locks fall off; his strength departs; and now the Philistines, at her cry, rush in, and, to his utter confusion, he discovers his irreparable ruin. At first, when he awoke, he thought that he might shake himself as before, and knew not his dire mishap; but God was departed; and therefore resistance was vain. Note; (1.) Indulgence of sensual appetite stupifies the conscience, and rocks the soul asleep in security; but Satan is awake, and insensibly leads us into the pit of ruin. (2.) Many a sinner closes his eyes in peace, which the alarm of death or judgment will open, only to discover his state of everlasting despair. (3.) When God is provoked to depart, though we may think that we can do as at other times, our weakness will appear to our confusion, and we shall sink under our wickedness. (4.) Let every one who reads beware of Samson's sin, lest they bring themselves, like him, into the depths of misery.
2. The Philistines secure him fast. No longer now the terror of the mighty, they drag him down to Gaza in triumph, and, to disable him for ever, put out his eyes, and with fetters of brass chain him to the mill; at once to suffer, to serve them, and stand the derision of every beholder. How art thou fallen, son of the morning! how is the glory departed from Israel! Note; (1.) His punishment corresponds with his sins; those eyes which ensnared his heart are now forever closed in darkness. The sinner's portion will be the outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. (2.) They, who yield their members instruments of iniquity, will find Satan's service base and bitter, when in chains of sin they groan, being burdened. (3.) Former manifestations of God's mercy to sinners, will but aggravate their torment in hell; as the remembrance of the gates of Gaza made the doors of the prison more ignominious and afflictive.
Judges 16:22. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again— We are to understand by this, not merely that, Samson's hair growing again, he thereby recovered his strength; but that, sensible, no doubt, of his folly and imprudence, he renewed his vow of Nazariteship, and in a state of penitence implored the pardon of that God whom he had so grievously offended.
Judges 16:23. Then the Lords of the Philistines, &c.— Then, that is, some time after Samson had been in prison, his hair having grown again to a considerable length, the Philistines prepared to celebrate their annual festival in honour of Dagon, to whom they conceived themselves indebted for this triumph over their great enemy. Dagon, which comes from דג dag, a fish, was the tutelary deity of the Philistines; and the lower part of this idol, it is most probable, was in the form of a fish. See Deu 4:18 and 1 Samuel 5:4. As fishes are remarkably fruitful, it seems most probable that Dagon was designed as an emblem of the fertility of nature. Δαγον ος εστι Σιτων, Dagon, that is, the corn-giver, says Sanchoniathon in Philobiblius. Those who are inclined to know more of Dagon may consult Selden de Diis Syriis, Calmet's Dissertations, Cumberland in Sanchoniath. and the Pisga Sight of Fuller; who is of opinion, that Dagon, coming from a word signifying bread, was worshipped as the inventor of bread-corn, and was represented in a form entirely human: but the former is the more general opinion.
Judges 16:27. Now the house was full, &c.— It is not certain, whether this was the temple of Dagon, or a kind of theatre built for public sports. Dr. Shaw gives us the best commentary on this passage. "This method of building," says he, whereof he had just spoken, "may further assist us in accounting for the particular structure of the temple or house of Dagon, (Judges 16:0.) and the great number of people who were buried in the ruins of it, by the pulling down of the two principal pillars which supported it. We read, Jdg 16:27 that about three thousand persons were upon the roof to behold while Samson made sport, viz. to the scoffing and deriding Philistines. Samson, therefore, must have been in a court or area below; and consequently the temple will be of the same kind with the ancient τεμενη, or sacred inclosures, which were only surrounded either in part or on all sides with some plain or cloistered buildings. Several palaces and douwanas, as the courts of justice are called in these countries, are built in this fashion; where, upon their public festivals and rejoicings, a great quantity of sand is strewed upon the area for the pellowans or wrestlers to fall upon; whilst the roofs of these cloisters are crouded with spectators to admire their strength and activity. I have often seen numbers of people diverted in this manner upon the roof of the Dey's palace at Algiers, which, like many more of the same quality and denomination, has an advanced cloister over against the gate of the palace, (Esther 5:1.] made in the fashion of a large pent-house, supported only by one or two contiguous pillars in the front, or else in the centre. In such open structures as these, the bashaws, kadees, and other great officers, distribute justice, and transact the public affairs of their provinces. Here likewise they have their public entertainments, as the lords and others of the Philistines had in the house of Dagon. Upon a supposition, therefore, that in the house of Dagon there was a cloistered building of that kind, the pulling down the front or centre pillars, which supported it, would alone be attended with the like catastrophe that happened to the Philistines." See Travels, p. 216. Our great English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, is of opinion, that this building was an oval amphitheatre, the scene in the middle; where a vast roof of cedar beams resting round upon the walls, centered all upon one short architrave, which united two cedar-pillars in the middle. One pillar would not be sufficient to unite the ends of at least one hundred beams which tended to the centre; therefore there must be a short architrave, or concentric circle resting upon two pillars, upon which all the beams tending to the centre of the amphitheatre might be supported. Now, if Samson, by his miraculous strength, moved one of those pillars from the basis, the whole roof must necessarily fall. The supposing that the ends of the beams were united in a circle in the middle, will remove the difficulty which may arise from considering that no less than three thousand persons were spectators of Samson's ill treatment from the roof; for this manner of construction would have afforded them conveniency enough for this purpose. See Wren's Parentalia, p. 359. Pliny mentions two theatres built at Rome by Caius Curio, which were large enough to contain the whole Roman people, and yet of so singular a structure as to depend each upon one hinge or pivot. See Nat. Hist. lib. 36: cap. 15. And in Tacitus, we read of a destruction by the fall of an amphitheatre similar to this occasioned by Samson. Annals, lib. 6: cap. 62.
Judges 16:28. And Samson called unto the Lord, &c.— We must always consider Samson in the light of an extraordinary person, immediately raised up by God for the chastisement of the Philistines. In this view his death was heroic, as he voluntarily sacrificed himself, by the only means in his power, to the service of his country, by the destruction of those who had in a base manner insulted him and his God, and who, holding Israel in bondage, vainly imagined their Dagon superior to the eternal JEHOVAH. As we have before remarked, Samson was unquestionably a very singular type of the Messiah: called and sanctified in and from the womb; set apart to deliver his people out of the hands of all their enemies; performing all by his own personal strength alone, without assistant, and almost without weapons (Isaiah 1:3.Hosea 1:7; Hosea 1:7.); and in his death eminently doing more than in his life, thereby destroying the power of the devil, and triumphing over all his enemies. Hebrews 2:14.
Judges 16:30. So the dead which he slew at his death, &c.— And those whom he slew at his death were more than those whom he had slain in his life. Houb. It is plain, that this event must have greatly reduced the Philistines, as they made no sort of opposition to the burying of Samson who had wrought such destruction among them.
REFLECTIONS.—In this ignominious employment, unhappy Samson had time and opportunity given him for reflection; bitter reflection! where all was dark without, and all as dark within. Yet how preferable his present situation! Far better grind in Gaza, than sleep in the bosom of Delilah. Repentance seems now to have been vouchsafed to him; his hair began to grow, and, as a token that God had not utterly left him, his strength returned with it, God still designing him for great exploits, and in his death to wipe away the foul stains of his past ungracious conduct.
1. The Philistines assemble to celebrate the praises of their god Dagon, half man half fish, to whose favour they ascribe their victory over the mighty Samson. With songs of praise the lofty roofs resound, and echo back their idol's victory. To make their joy complete, Samson is led forth; insult is added to his sufferings, and he degraded to be the sport of fools. Note; (1.) If even a Philistine could ascribe his victories only to his dunghill god, how much more are we bound to give our God the glory due to his name, for all he does to us, in us, and for us! (2.) They, who by their ill conduct have brought dishonour upon God, justly deserve to bring contempt upon themselves. (3.) They, who have sported in sin to their own deceiving, will find themselves in the end exposed to everlasting shame.
2. Little thought the lords of the Philistines what ruin hung over their heads. In mirth and wine the joyful day was spent; and besides the chief nobility, a vast concourse of men and women crowded the temple within and without, no less than three thousand being on the roof. Unhappy Samson stood the spectacle of their delight, fallen from his high estate, trampled upon by every foot, and led along blind by a little lad, the guide and guard of this once renowned hero. Meditating the fatal blow, and having informed himself of the supporters of the roof, he desires the lad to lead him, that he may lean against them; there pausing for a while on this great deed, he lifts his heart to God in prayer for power to avenge, as a public person, his own and Israel's wrongs; and for his people's sake cheerfully devotes himself to death. With arms extended then he grasps the massy pillars, and, feeling an answer to his prayer, in the renewed strength bestowed on him, he bows himself forward; the pillars rock, the building totters, the roof, encumbered with the weight of the spectators, rushes down, and death in every tremendous shape appears. Crushed under the load, or dashed to pieces in the fall, thousands expire; their music now is changed to dying groans; and shrieks of agonizing pain, instead of songs of triumph, fill the air. Thus dies the mighty Samson, glorious in his fall, and more terrible to the Philistines in his death than even during his life. Note; (1.) They who sport and mock at God's servants, fill fast the measure of their iniquities. (2.) When we return to God in penitent prayer, God will return to us in mercy, and renew our strength. (3.) To die for our country is great, but to die for God is far greater. (4.) Samson's death is a type of Christ's; his arms were thus extended on the cross; laying down a life which none could else take from him; saving his people by shedding his own blood, and casting down thereby the throne of Satan, ruining his temple in the hearts of men, and destroying the power of sin, death, and hell, their mortal enemies.
3. His father and friends, during their consternation, went up and took his dead body from the ruins, (the Philistines not daring to oppose them,) and buried it in his father's sepulchre. Twenty years his government lasted; and had the people but followed his example, they had no more felt the yoke of Philistia. Note; It is our own fault if we live and die the servants of sin, because we neglect to use the means of grace that God vouchsafes us.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 16". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany