Judges 16 – Samson’s Disgrace and Death
A. Samson and Delilah.
1. (1-3) Samson and the harlot at Gaza.
Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. When the Gazites were told, “Samson has come here!” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. They were quiet all night, saying, “In the morning, when it is daylight, we will kill him.” And Samson lay low till midnight; then he arose at midnight, took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two gateposts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.
a. Saw a harlot there, and went in to her: Samson was in obvious sin here. This is a clear example of how a man so used of God can also sin and sin blatantly.
i. Samson wanted to be used by God, but he also yielded to the deceitfulness of sin. He kept the external features of his Nazirite vow zealously, while at the same time sinning blatantly with a prostitute.
ii. Samson did what we nearly all do when deceived by sin. He put his life into categories, and figured that some categories God cared about, and some categories God did not care about. Understanding that Jesus has claim over our entire life is a radical change of perspective.
b. Put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill: Despite his sin, God still gave Samson supernatural strength to escape from the Philistines. God did this because God’s purpose was bigger than Samson himself, and because God used Samson despite Samson’s sin, not because of it.
2. (4-5) Delilah agrees to betray Samson.
Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”
a. He loved a woman… whose name was Delilah: Samson fell in love again and fell for a woman completely wrong for him. This is another example of the pain and ruin that came into Samson’s life because he did not guard his heart.
b. Every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver: Delilah was also deeply in love; but she was in love with money, not Samson. 1,100 shekels made up more than 140 pounds (63 kilograms) of silver.
3. (6-9) Samson lies to Delilah about the source of his strength.
So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and with what you may be bound to afflict you.” And Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” So the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, and she bound him with them. Now men were lying in wait, staying with her in the room. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he broke the bowstrings as a strand of yarn breaks when it touches fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.
a. Please tell me where your great strength lies: The source of Samson’s strength was not obvious. This means that he probably was not a large, heavily muscled man like a modern-day bodybuilder. He may have looked small and skinny, and unlikely to have such strength.
b. And with what you may be bound to afflict you: Delilah knew that Samson was strong; yet she also knew that he could be bound with something, and this was indeed true of Samson. One might say that the honest answer to her question would be, “I may be bound with the attention and affection of an ungodly yet attractive woman.”
c. And she bound him: Samson could have easily seen Delilah’s heart by the way she immediately tried to bind him with what he deceptively said he could be bound with. The fact that he did not tell her the truth proved that he knew she had a dangerous intention.
4. (10-12) Samson lies to Delilah about the source of his strength a second time.
Then Delilah said to Samson, “Look, you have mocked me and told me lies. Now, please tell me what you may be bound with.” So he said to her, “If they bind me securely with new ropes that have never been used, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” Therefore Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And men were lying in wait, staying in the room. But he broke them off his arms like a thread.
a. Now, please tell me what you may be bound with: It would seem that romantic attraction made Samson lose all sense. There was no good or rational reason Samson continued this relationship with Delilah or entertained her prying into the secret of his strength. Samson is a good example of how an ungodly relationship can warp thinking.
b. Delilah took new ropes and bound him: Samson allowed this bondage because he refused to escape the situation. Many today are in similar places of sin, compromise, and bondage – and refuse to escape the situation.
5. (13-15) Samson lies to Delilah about the source of his strength for the third time.
Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me what you may be bound with.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom”; so she wove it tightly with the batten of the loom, and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled out the batten and the web from the loom. Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies.”
a. Tell me what you may be bound with: Delilah obviously cared nothing for Samson. His continued commitment to her is a remarkable testimony to the power of blind, irresponsible love.
b. How can you say, “I love you,” when your heart is not with me: Tragically, Samson’s heart was with Delilah. Her accusation was a manipulative projection of her own heart, which was not with Samson.
6. (16-19) Samson finally betrays the source of his strength.
And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart, and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart.” So the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hand. Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him.
a. When she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart: Earlier Samson gave into the nagging of his Philistine wife (Judges 14:15-18). Now he yielded to the nagging of Delilah. She certainly sinned by using such terrible manipulation, but Samson also sinned by yielding to that manipulation.
i. Her previous complaint that Samson’s love for her was empty and a hollow protest. Delilah had no love for him, and she expected Samson to destroy himself and his service for God to “prove” his love for her.
b. He told her all his heart: When Samson did this, it was a very sad scene. He had to know what was to come. He faced the choice between faithfulness to his God and continuing an ungodly relationship.
i. In this we see the strongest man in the world weak under the power of an ungodly relationship. Perhaps Samson figured that because he was strong in one area of his life, he was strong in all areas. In this he was desperately wrong.
c. Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees: No doubt, Delilah used sweet words to lull Samson to sleep. Her pretended love for Samson for the sake of money is deeply troubling.
i. “As long as he is consecrated he is strong; break that, he is weak as water. Now there are a thousand razors with which the devil can shave off the locks of a consecrated man without his knowing it. Samson is sound asleep; so clever is the barber that he even lulls him to sleep as his fingers move across the pate, the fool’s pate, which he is making bare. The devil is cleverer far than even the skillful-barber; he can shave the believer’s locks while he scarcely knows it.” (Spurgeon)
d. Then she began to torment him: This was fitting. We might say that Delilah began to torment Samson long before this.
e. And his strength left him: There was nothing magical in Samson’s hair. We might also say that Samson began breaking his Nazirite vow before this. Yet there came a time when Samson finally had to reckon with his rejection of God’s mercy.
i. “Not that his hair made him strong, but that his hair was the symbol of his consecration, and was the pledge of God’s favor to him. While his hair was untouched he was a consecrated man; as soon as that was cut away, he was no longer perfectly consecrated, and then his strength departed from him.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “In the opinion of some persons Samson looked much improved when his matted hair was gone. He was more presentable; more fit for good society. And so in the case of churches, the notion is that they are all the better for getting rid of their peculiarities.” (Spurgeon)
B. Samson’s arrest and death.
1. (20) Samson is seized by the Philistines.
And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.
a. I will go out as before: Samson didn’t know things were different. He lived in compromise for so long that he thought it would never make a difference.
i. “The story is one to fill the soul with holy fear. The possibility of going on in an attempt to do the work of God after God has withdrawn Himself, is an appalling one.” (Morgan)
ii. This is a tragic example of wasted potential and rejection of God’s warnings. Samson thought he could “get away” with sin and escape its consequences. He misinterpreted the merciful delay of God’s judgment or correction as a sign that He really didn’t care. He therefore presumed on God’s mercy and continued on in his sin, making things far worse.
b. He did not know that the LORD had departed from him: Samson’s strength was not in his hair, it was in his relationship with God. He worked against that relationship to the point where God finally departed from him, in the sense that He no longer blessed Samson with supernatural strength.
2. (21-22) Samson’s Philistine imprisonment.
Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison. However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.
a. Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes: It was fitting that Samson was first blinded in his imprisonment. He was attracted to ungodly relationships through his eyes. His failure to restrain this attraction to women brought him into bondage.
b. They bound him with bronze fetters: Samson didn’t humble himself in obedience before God – he insisted on the “freedom” of doing what he wanted to do. This left him with no freedom at all.
i. “There is nothing perhaps in the sacred writings at once more pathetic tragic than the vision of Samson with his eyes put out, grinding in the prison house of the Philistines. It is a picture and a parable needing no enforcement of exposition to make it powerful.” (Morgan)
ii. Sin has its wages, and this was Samson’s payday. His sin left him blind, in bondage, and a slave. Before Samson’s blindness, bondage, and slavery were only inward, but they eventually became evident outwardly.
c. The hair of his head began to grow again: God gave Samson hope in the midst of a dungeon. His hair began to return, and we can suppose that his heart also began to return.
i. “I wonder why these Philistines did not take care to keep his hair from growing to any length. If cutting his hair once had proved so effectual, I wonder that they did not send in the barber every morning, to make sure that not a hair grew upon his scalp or chin. But wicked men are not in all matters wise men: indeed, they so conspicuously fail in one point or another that Scripture calls them fools.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “When Samson’s hair began to grow, what did it prophesy? Well, first, it prophesied hope for Samson. I will be bound to say that he put his hand to his head, and felt that it was getting bristly, and then he put his hand to his beard, and found it rough. Yes, yes, yes, it was coming, and he thought within himself, ‘It will be all right soon. I shall not get my eyes back. They will not grow again. I am an awful loser by my sin, but I shall get my strength back again, for my hair is growing. I shall be able to strike a blow for my people and for my God yet.” (Spurgeon)
3. (23-25) Samson is mocked by his enemies.
Now the lords of the Philistines gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice. And they said:
“Our god has delivered into our hands
Samson our enemy!”
When the people saw him, they praised their god; for they said:
“Our god has delivered into our hands our enemy,
The destroyer of our land,
And the one who multiplied our dead.”
So it happened, when their hearts were merry, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may perform for us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed for them. And they stationed him between the pillars.
a. Our god has delivered into our hands Samson our enemy: When Samson pursued his ungodly relationships, he might have justified it to himself by thinking that the only harm was done to himself. Yet here we see that his disobedience led to giving glory to false gods. Samson became a trophy for worshippers of false gods.
b. When they people saw him, they praised their god: The message preached by the followers of Dagon was clear. They said, “Our god is stronger than the God of Israel, because we have conquered Samson.” Often the disobedience of God’s leaders leads others to deny God.
4. (26-31) Samson’s bittersweet death.
Then Samson said to the lad who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars which support the temple, so that I can lean on them.” Now the temple was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there; about three thousand men and women on the roof watching while Samson performed. Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life. And his brothers and all his father’s household came down and took him, and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had judged Israel twenty years.
a. Samson said to the lad who held him by the hand: The Philistines continued to mock Samson. At this large demonstration, they used a boy to guard him.
i. This makes us think all the more that Samson was not a muscle-bound man who was naturally strong. His strength was truly supernatural, not natural.
b. That I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines: Samson’s end was both bitter and sweet. God answered his last prayer, and he achieved his greatest victory against the Philistines at the cost of his own life.
i. In this Samson is a picture of the believer in disobedience. God used him, but he did not benefit from it. His life ended in personal tragedy, shadowed by the waste of great potential.
c. Let me die with the Philistines: This was suicide, but different from suicide in the strict sense in that his purpose really wasn’t to kill himself, but to kill as many Philistines as he could. There is a sense in which Samson was like modern suicide-bombers.
i. Samson was a hero, even mentioned among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 (Hebrews 11:32). Yet there is no glorification of Samson and his end; he was not a glorious hero to be emulated, as modern suicide bombers are glorified by some. Instead, Samson was a tragic hero, whose life should have ended much differently.
ii. We can also say that Samson’s suicide and killing of others was not sought out; the opportunity came to him tragically.
iii. Suicide is clearly sin, the sin of self-murder. Yet we are wrong if we regard it as the unforgivable sin. Most all who commit suicide have given in to the lies and deceptions of Satan, whose purpose is to kill and destroy (John 10:10).
d. And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it: This could only happen with God supernaturally empowering Samson. This shows that God never forsook Samson, even when he was disobedient. God’s mercies were there for Samson even in a Philistine prison. All Samson had to do was to turn his heart back towards God and receive them.
i. We could say that Samson was restored with self-renunciation. This last great victory came only has he was broken, humiliated, and blind. He could no longer look to himself. Prior to this we don’t see Samson as a man of prayer, but here he prayed. He was humbled enough to allow a little boy to help him.
ii. In summary, Samson shows the danger of underestimating our own sinfulness. He probably figured he had things under control with his own fleshly lusts, but his desire for love, romance, and sex led directly to his destruction. Samson was the great conqueror who never allowed God to properly conquer him.
iii. Samson had to be deceived to keep going back to tempting and dangerous places. It seemed that just about every time he went to the land of the Philistines, he fell into moral compromise. He should have learned from this. Instead of putting himself in tempting situations, he should have fled from youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22) like Joseph did (Genesis 39:12). “Rather than break his relationship with Delilah, he allowed it to break him.” (Wolf)
iv. Samson also shows the danger of being a loner as a leader. Everything Samson did he did alone. He judged for 20 years and never sought or used help from others.
v. Most of all, Samson is a powerful picture of wasted potential. He could have been and should have been one of the greatest men of God in the Old Testament; but he wasted his potential.
vi. “The Old Testament biographies were never written for our imitation, but they were written for our instruction. Upon this one matter, what a volume of force there is in such lessons! ‘See,’ says God, ‘what faith can do. Here is a man, full of infirmities, a sorry fool; yet, through his childlike faith, he lives. ‘The just shall live by faith.’ He has many sad flaws and failings, but his heart is right towards his God; he does trust in the Lord, and he does give himself up as a man consecrated to his Lord’s service, and, therefore, he is saved.’ I look upon Samson’s case as a great wonder, put in Scripture for the encouragement of great sinners.” (Spurgeon)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission