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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Judges 16

 

 

Verse 1

16:1. And saw there a harlot — Although the Hebrew word זונה, zoneh, here rendered harlot, also means a woman that keeps an inn, it seems evident, on the face of the story, that this woman really was what our translators have taken her to have been, a harlot. Samson, it seems, going into a house of public entertainment to refresh himself, saw there this woman, and by giving way to look upon her was insnared.


Verse 2

16:2. It was told the Gazites, Samson is come hither — The arrival of so extraordinary a man could not be long concealed. And his enemies were willing to improve so favourable an opportunity to destroy him. They compassed him in, &c. — They either beset the house, or lay in wait at the gate of the city; saying, In the morning we will kill him — This, it is probable, they chose to do, rather than to seize upon him in his bed by night; either, because they knew not certainly in what house he was; or, because they thought to do that might cause great terror, and confusion, and mischief among their own people; whereas in the day-time they might more fully discover him, and more certainly use their weapons against him. O that all who indulge any unholy desire might see themselves thus surrounded, and marked for destruction by their spiritual enemies! The more secure they are, the greater is their danger.


Verse 3

16:3. Samson arose at midnight — Perhaps warned by God in a dream, or rather by the checks of his own conscience; and took the doors of the gate, &c. — The watchmen not expecting him till the morning, and therefore being now retired into the sides or upper part of the gate-house to get some rest; and went away with them, bar and all — Nor durst they pursue him, whom they now again perceived to have such prodigious strength and courage, and to be so much above the fear of them, that he did not run away with all speed, but went leisurely. And carried them to the top of the hill — It is uncertain how far he carried them; but it seems to have been to a great distance, as it is said this hill was before Hebron, which was above twenty miles from Gaza. And Samson did this, not out of vain ostentation, but as an evidence of his great strength, for the encouragement of his people to join with him vigorously; and for the great terror and contempt of the Philistines. It may seem strange that Samson, immediately after so foul a sin, should have courage and strength from God for so great a work. But, 1st, It is probable that Samson had, in some measure, repented of his sin, and begged of God pardon and assistance; 2d, This singular strength and courage was not in itself a grace, but a gift, and it was such a gift as did not so much depend on the disposition of his mind, as on the right ordering of his body, by the rules given to him, and others of that order.


Verse 4

16:4. He loved a woman in the valley of Sorek — Through which passed the river of the same name. This place, famous for its vines, was about a mile and a half from Eshcol, whence the spies brought their bunch of grapes. Here Samson met with Delilah, who, whether she was a Jewess or a Philistine, was probably a harlot, and not, as Chrysostom and some others have asserted, a woman of reputation married by Samson; because the dreadful punishment now inflicted upon him for his intercourse with her, after God had spared him for the first offence, certainly manifests that this sin was not inferior to the former.


Verse 5

16:5. The lords of the Philistines came unto her — The lords of their five principal cities, which were leagued together against him as their common enemy. See wherein his great strength lieth — They probably imagined that Samson attained his great strength by the use of some magic art; that we may bind him to afflict him — To chastise him for his injuries to us. They meant to punish him severely, but they expressed it in mild words, lest it might move her to pity him. Every one eleven hundred pieces of silver — That is, shekels, as that phrase commonly signifies.


Verses 6-8

16:6-8. Wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee — This seems rather to express the sum of what Delilah aimed at than her very words. For it is scarcely credible that she put this question so openly to Samson, which would have discovered that she had some design against him. But, rather, she wormed it out of him by degrees, and in such an artful manner as gave him no cause of suspicion. Samson said, &c. — Samson was guilty both of the sin of lying, and of great folly, in encouraging her inquiries, which he should at first have checked: but as he had forsaken God, so God had now forsaken him, otherwise the frequent repetition and vehement urging of this question might easily have raised suspicion in him. With seven green withs — Probably osiers. The lords of the Philistines brought — Or rather sent; for it is not to be supposed they came themselves with these things.


Verse 9

16:9. There were men abiding with her in the chamber — In some closet, probably, or adjoining room; for it cannot be well imagined, that they could be in the very same chamber without being discovered by Samson. It appears the Philistines were rather desirous of taking him alive than killing him. Probably they thought to employ him in some laborious works for the public, wherein his great strength might be of use to them, if they could but take him alive. Otherwise the liers in wait might have taken the opportunity of killing him while he was asleep, if their orders had not been to take him alive.


Verse 13

16:13. If thou weavest the seven locks of my head — If my hair, which is all divided into seven locks, be fastened about a weaver’s beam, or interwoven with weavers’ threads, then I shall be weak as another man. It is probable there was some loom or instrument of weaving in the room where Samson now was, which put him upon saying this to Delilah, to get rid of her importunity.


Verse 14

16:14. She fastened it with a pin — She took the first opportunity when he was asleep of trying the experiment, and the weaving instrument being near the head of the bed where he lay, she interwove the locks of his hair with the web or woof, and fastened it with some pin or peg that belonged to the loom. She then alarmed him with the cry of the Philistines being upon him, when Samson, awaking and raising up his head, plucked out the pin that his hair was fastened with, and tore out, together with it, the web from the loom.


Verse 15-16

16:15-16. Thy heart is not with me — Not open to me. His soul was vexed unto death — Being tormented by two contrary passions, desire to gratify her, and fear of betraying himself. So that he had no pleasure of his life.


Verse 17

16:17. There hath not come a razor upon my head — Though we have no account of it before, yet it seems from this, that it had been revealed by God to Samson, either by a dream or in some other manner, that his supernatural strength should continue as long as he continued in a Nazarite state, and did not suffer a razor to come upon his head to take off his hair. If I be shaven — Not that his hair was in itself the cause of his strength, but because it was the chief condition of that covenant whereby God was pleased to engage to fit him for and assist him in that great work to which he had called him. But upon his violation of the condition, God justly withdraws his help.


Verse 18

16:18. When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart — From the seriousness and solemnity with which he spoke, she concluded that she was at length mistress of the important secret. The lords of the Philistines brought money in their hands — See one of the bravest men then in the world bought and sold as a sheep for the slaughter! How does this instance sully all the glory of man, and forbid the strong man ever to boast of his strength!


Verse 19-20

16:19-20. She made him sleep — By some sleepy potion; upon her knees — Resting his head upon her knees. She began to afflict him — To humble and bring him low, in which sense the original word is often used. For, it seems, as soon as the razor touched his head, his strength began to be diminished, which she perceived by some means or other. He awoke and said, within himself, I will go out as at other times — Samson probably did not find, immediately after he was awake, that his hair was shaven, which made him speak in this manner. He wist not that the Lord was departed — That he was not present with him as he had formerly been; that he no longer supplied him with that extraordinary and supernatural strength with which he had before endowed him. And justly, indeed, did God depart and withdraw his presents and gifts from a man who put it into the power of a harlot to rob him of that which he knew had been appointed the tenure whereby he was to hold them. For he hereby plainly showed that he regarded the caresses of a harlot more than the divine favour, and the preservation of such extraordinary endowments. Alas! how many have lost the favourable presence of God, and are not aware of it! They have provoked him to withdraw from them, but are not sensible of their loss!


Verse 21

16:21. The Philistines put out his eyes — Which was done both out of revenge and policy, to disable him from doing them harm, in case he should recover his strength; but not without God’s providence, punishing him in that part which had been instrumental to his sinful lusts. Brought him to Gaza — Because this was a great and strong city, where he could be kept safely; and upon the sea coast, at a sufficient distance from Samson’s people, and to repair the honour of that place, upon which he had fastened so great a scorn. God also ordered things thus, that where he first sinned, ( 16:1,) there he should receive his punishment. Grind — As slaves used to do. He made himself a slave to harlots, and now God suffers men to use him like a slave. Poor Samson, how art thou fallen! How is thine honour laid in the dust! Wo unto him, for he hath sinned! Let all take warning by him, carefully to preserve their purity. For all our glory is gone when the covenant of our separation to God, as spiritual Nazarites, is profaned.


Verse 22

16:22. The hair of his head began to grow — This circumstance, though in itself inconsiderable, is noted as a sign of the recovery of God’s favour, and his former strength, in some degree, upon his repentance, and renewing his vow with God, which was allowed for Nazarites to do.


Verse 23

16:23. To offer a great sacrifice — They assembled to render honour to their idol, for their triumph over a man who as much detested their idolatry as he did their barbarous oppression of his countrymen. Unto Dagon their god — Whose image is supposed to have been, in the upper part, of the human form, and in the lower part like a fish; probably one of the sea-gods of the heathen. The Philistines foolishly attributed to this idol what had come to pass by the will of the God of Israel, to punish Samson for his sins.


Verse 25

16:25. Call for Samson, that he may make us sport — May be the subject of our mirth and derision. Thus Christ was made the subject of the sport and derision of the chief priests and elders, Matthew 26:67-68, and of the Roman soldiers, Matthew 27:29. No doubt they loaded him with bitter scoffs and indignities, and perhaps required of him some proofs of the more than ordinary strength yet remaining in him, like the ruins of a great and goodly building. By this, it seems, he lulled them asleep, until, through this complaisance, he prepared the way for that which he designed.


Verse 26

16:26. The pillars whereon the house standeth — It is probable that this house, whether it were a temple or theatre, was no more than a wooden building, raised for the present occasion, much in the form of an amphitheatre, in the midst of which were two large wooden pillars, on which the main beams of the roof rested, so that if these should be pulled away, the building must necessarily fall. Pliny, in the fifteenth chapter of the thirty-sixth book of his Natural History, speaks of two theatres, built by C. Curio, in Julius Cesar’s time, each of which was supported only by one pillar, though many thousands of people sat together in it; and mentions the fall of an amphitheatre, by which fifty thousand people were killed or wounded.


Verse 27

16:27. There were upon the roof, &c. — The roof was flat, and had windows, through which they might see what was done in the lower parts of the house.


Verse 28

16:28. Samson called unto the Lord — This prayer proceeded not from malice and revenge, but from faith in, and zeal for, God, who was there publicly dishonoured, and from a concern to vindicate the whole commonwealth of Israel, which it was his duty to do to the uttermost of his power, as he was judge. And God, who heareth not sinners, and would never exert his omnipotence to gratify any man’s malice, manifested by the effect that he accepted and owned Samson’s prayer as the dictate of his own Spirit. And although, in this prayer, he mentions only the personal injuries done by the Philistines to himself, and not the indignities which they had offered to God and his people, yet that may be ascribed to the prudent care which he had manifested upon former occasions, to draw the rage of the Philistines upon himself alone, and divert it from the people. For which end, it is supposed that this prayer was made by him with an audible voice, though he knew the Philistines would entertain it only with scorn and laughter. “We must always consider Samson,” says Dr. Dodd, “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, in 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.” Indeed, as the same author observes further, “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 63:1; Isaiah 63:3; Hosea 1:7,) and in his death evidently doing more than in his life, thereby destroying the power of the devil, and triumphing over all his enemies,” Hebrews 2:14.


Verse 30

16:30. Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines — That is, I am content to die, so I can but contribute to the vindication of God’s glory, and the deliverance of God’s people. This is no encouragement to those who wickedly murder themselves: for Samson did not desire or procure his own death voluntarily, but by mere necessity; he was by his office obliged to seek the destruction of these enemies and blasphemers of God, and oppressors of his people; which in these circumstances he could not effect without his own death. Moreover, Samson did this by divine direction, as God’s answer to his prayer manifests, and that he might be a type of Christ, who, by voluntarily undergoing death, destroyed the enemies of God and of his people. They died just when they were insulting over an Israelite, persecuting him whom God had smitten. Nothing fills up the measure of the iniquity of any person or people faster than mocking or misusing the servants of God; yea, though it is by their own folly that they are brought low. Those know not what they do, nor whom they affront, that make sport with the Lord’s servants.


Verse 31

16:31. His brethren, &c., came down, and took, and buried him — While the Philistines were so reduced by the great destruction he had wrought among them, and so oppressed with grief and consternation, that they had neither heart nor leisure to hinder them. Or, as some think, they were so terrified by this awful catastrophe as to be afraid of keeping even his dead body in their land, and therefore made no opposition to his friends taking it away for burial. We may observe upon the whole of Samson’s character, of what little value great bodily strength, and even great mental ability is, if not under the direction of a prudent and pious mind; and of how little avail it is to conquer our foreign enemies, if, in the mean time, we be slaves to our worst enemies, our own lusts and vices. Samson was, probably, intended by Providence for a much nobler character in life, and to have been a far greater blessing to his country. But his vicious inclinations being yielded to, instead of being resisted and mortified, grieved the Holy Spirit of God, and quenched his motions and influences, and brought the most shameful disgrace and heaviest calamities upon him. His being ranked, therefore, by the apostle to the Hebrews 9:23, among the faithful, must chiefly refer to those particular acts of faith in God whereby he attacked the Philistines with his own single arm against thousands, and not to the general tenor of his life; many parts of which, without doubt, were highly criminal and shameful.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 16:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/judges-16.html. 1857.

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Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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