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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Judges 16

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Samson's Disgrace and Death

A. Samson and Delilah.

1. (Jdg 16:1-3) 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 is 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 He did not. 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. (Jdg 16:4-5) 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 falls in love again, and falls after a woman completely wrong for him. This will be another example of the pain and ruin that came into Samson' life because he would 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 of silver.

3. (Jdg 16:6-9) 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.

4. (Jdg 16:10-12) 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 loose all sense. There was no good or rational reason way Samson would continue this relationship with Delilah or entertain 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. (Jdg 16:13-15) 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.

6. (Jdg 16:16-19) 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 yields 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 was itself 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 are 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.

d. Then she began to torment him: This was fitting. We might say that Delilah began tormenting 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.

B. Samson's arrest and death.

1. (Jdg 16:20) 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. Is a tragic example of wasted potential and rejection of God's warnings. Samson thought he could "get away" with sin. 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. (Jdg 16:21-22) 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. 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.

3. (Jdg 16:23-25) 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.

3. (Jdg 16:26-31) 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 their mocking of 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 differed 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. 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 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.

© 2003 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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