Judges Chapter 16 - The Secret of Samson’s Strength Revealed
Judges Chapter 16 – The Secret of Samson’s Strength Revealed
Each of five Philistine rulers promises to pay Delilah eleven hundred shekels of silver to lure Samson into revealing the secret of his great strength
One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. Judges 16:1
Samson had “seen” a woman in Timnah, and although he was an Israelite and she was a Philistine, he told his parents to obtain this woman as his bride. Samson’s disregard of the LORD’s prohibition against intermarriage with the inhabitants of Canaan ended in disaster. His wife and her family were burned to death.
Sometime later, Samson is travelling in Philistine territory where he “saw” a prostitute and spent the night with her.
For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:16
In both instances, Samson first lusted with his eyes before he committed these sinful acts of intermarriage and fornication.
He, who could strangle a lion and kill a thousand men single-handedly, could not conquer his own passion and lust. The man whom God had blessed with supernatural strength again showed himself to be morally and spiritually weak.
Samson who also defiled himself by reaching into the carcass of a dead lion to scoop out honey and defiled himself by using a “fresh jawbone” of a donkey as a weapon, seems to have little or no regard to his calling as a Nazarite.
The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.” Judges 16:2
The men of Gaza heard that Samson was in their city. They may not have known exactly where he was staying, so they set an ambush for him in the city gates. Many men probably hid in the guard-room by the side of the gate. Their intention was to launch a surprise attack against Samson at the time in the morning when the gates were to be opened and kill him.
But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron. Judges 16:3
Samson arose at midnight. Possibly the woman had learned of the plot, and gave Samson warning, after the manner of Rahab; or she may have been his betrayer, and planned on keeping him bedded until morning. In any case, Samson arose in the middle of the night. The watchmen were not expecting him until morning. They most probably went into the upper part of the gate-house to rest up in preparation for their morning attack.
Samson took hold of the doors of the gate. The city’s gate was in two sections. It rotated upon pins in sockets, and was secured by a bar which slid into the posts on either side. Instead of forcing the doors open, he tore the posts up with the barred doors attached to them. Samson pulled up the whole framework of the gate, doors, posts and bar, and carried it off in one piece. He carried it to the top of a high hill not far from Gaza, which looked towards Hebron. Although Hebron was several miles from Gaza, Hebron stood upon a mountain and could be seen from the hill facing it.
Samson’s act of supernatural strength sent a message to the men of Gaza. He did it with contempt for their attempt to confine him with gates and bars, and in order to show himself more formidable to the Philistines and more acceptable to his own people.
Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.” Judges 16:4-5
Sorek was not in the Philistine district, but was near Samson's native town of Zorah. This valley’s name means, “Choice Vine.” Sorek was noted for its fine wine.
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.
“‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.
“‘Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Numbers 6:1-6
Samson had already disrespected his Nazarite vow not to go near a dead body by thrusting his bare hands into a lion’s carcass and wielding a fresh jawbone of a donkey as a weapon. Now Samson, dedicated to God with a lifelong vow that he would have nothing to do with grape products or fermented drinks, goes into a valley known for its choice vines and fine wine. There he fell in love with a woman named Delilah.
The only stipulation of Samson’s Nazarite vow that he had not yet broken was that a razor was never used on his head.
The Philistines occupied the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. Their rulers each promised Delilah eleven hundred shekels of silver if she could discover the secret of Samson’s strength.
The meaning of Delilah’s name is, “seductive” (tempting and attractive; enticing) or “languishing” (growing weak or feeble). The attractive Delilah was promised fifty five hundred shekels of silver if she could seduce Samson into revealing his secret so that he would grow week and feeble.
So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”
Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”
He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.
Delilah then said to Samson, “All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”
He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric and tightened it with the pin.
Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.
Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” Judges 16:6-15
Delilah claimed that Samson repeatedly made a fool of her by being dishonest and lying about the secret of his great strength. But in reality, Samson was a fool to believe that Delilah loved him. Delilah not only approached Samson and asked him directly for the source of his great strength, but also stated that the purpose of knowing his secret was to bind him up to capture him.
With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.
So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” Judges 16:16-17
“Chinese water torture” is also known as "Spanish water torture" in Europe, because this term often refers to a type of torture used during the Spanish Inquisition. Victims would be strapped down so that they could not move, and cold or warm water would then be dripped slowly onto a small area of their body—usually the forehead. The forehead was found to be the most suitable point for this form of torture because of its sensitivity, and because of its ominous proximity to the brain and facial features.
The victims could see each drop coming and, after a long duration of time, were gradually driven frantic to the point of insanity.
Although Samson was physically strong, he was so tormented by Delilah’s incessant nagging that he finally broke down mentally and emotionally and yielded to her request.
When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.
Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”
He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.
Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. Judges 16:18-21
Samson, who had lusted with his eyes before he committed sinful acts of intermarriage and fornication, now had his eyes gouged out.
Samson’s life is a portrait of unfaithful Israel during the times of the Judges. Like him, the nation was strong so long as its people kept the covenant of their God. Like him, Israel was prone to follow after strange loves. Its Delilahs were the gods of the heathen, in whose laps it laid its anointed head, and at whose hands it suffered the loss of its God-given strength. Like him, the nation was blinded, bound, and reduced to slavery until the people cried out and another judge arose to deliver them.
But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. Judges 16:22
Samson's afflictions were the means of bringing him to deep repentance. By the loss of his natural sight, the eyes of his understanding were opened. Being convicted of his sin, and repenting of it, letting his hair grow was a sign that he renewed his Nazarite vow.
Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”
When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.”
While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. Judges 16:23-25a
When the Philistines rulers were high on wine, they sought to ridicule Samson by having him perform for them. Little did they realize that his act would literally bring the house down.
When they stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Judges 16:25b-28
Samson’s successful and desired human vengeance required divine authorization or permission. One of the major aspects of vengeance is “the rendering of a just punishment upon a wrongdoer or the recompense given to the victim of the wrongdoing.” In Samson’s case, the gouging out of his eyes would be the wrongful act which would deserve recompense. This is not to be seen as malicious or vindictive retaliation by the wronged person, but rather as a just recompense for a crime. Divine vengeance is often invoked upon “external enemies” who oppress Israel and should be understood as an appeal for justice.
Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years. Judges 16:29-31
Despite all of Samson’s moral weaknesses and his disregard for the restrictions of a Nazarite, Samson turned back to God before he died. God in His sovereignty used Samson to fulfill His purpose. Samson’s death did much to impede the oppressive actions of the Philistines against the Israelites by killing all five Philistine rulers in his final act of supernatural strength.