We pick up the story of Samson in Judges chapter 16 and while this is not the last chapter in the book of Judges, it is the last that we will read on Samson.
So what we see in verse 1 is no surprise…once again we see Samson being led by his eyes… ‘he saw a woman’ but not just any woman, a harlot, a prostitute, a woman of the evening. And so he has relations with her, and he’s such a gentleman that he doesn’t even bother to stay until morning so he takes off at midnight.
But his activities are not going unnoticed. There are Gazites, so these are Philistines, realize that Samson is there and they decide that when morning comes, they’re going to kill him. And while that plan does not work, they do noticed two things: They notice both Samson’s strength and his weakness! His strength is, of course, just that. It’s his physical strength. As he departs the city, he literally rips the doors and posts right out of the ground and carries them on his shoulders all the way to Hebron, which is about 40 miles up the mountainside! And by the way, we sort of get this image of Samson carrying this tremendous weight all the way to Hebron and just tossing it to the ground, I almost picture him spitting on the ground when he does this, because Hebron is in Judah. You might recall, it was the men of Judah who, rather than fighting alongside Samson against the Philistines, brought 3,000 men to capture Samson and turn him over to the Philistines.
Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. 2 When it was told to the Gazites, saying, “Samson has come here,” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, “Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.” 3 Now Samson lay until midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.
4 After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 The lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and[a]how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him. Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.” 6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength is and [b]how you may be bound to afflict you.” 7 Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh cords that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now she had men lying in wait in an inner room. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps when it [c]touches fire. So his strength was not discovered.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have deceived me and told me lies; now please tell me [d]how you may be bound.” 11 He said to her, “If they bind me tightly with new ropes [e]which have not been used, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” For the men were lying in wait in the inner room. But he snapped [f]the ropes from his arms like a thread.
13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Up to now you have deceived me and told me lies; tell me [g]how you may be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my [h]hair with the web [i][and fasten it with a pin, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 14 So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his [j]hair and wove them into the web]. And she fastened it with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.
Delilah Extracts His Secret
15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.” 16 It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was[k]annoyed to death. 17 So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.”
18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. 19 She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his [l]hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. 20 She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. 21 Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison. 22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.
23 Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice toDagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said,
“Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.”
24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said,
“Our god has given our enemy into our hands,
Even the destroyer of our country,
Who has slain many of us.”
25 It so happened when [m]they were in high spirits, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he [n]entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars. 26 Then Samson said to the boy who was holding his hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there. And about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was amusing them.
Samson Is Avenged
28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord [o]God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with [p]all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus he had judged Israel twenty years.
- Judges 16:5 Lit by what
- Judges 16:6 Lit by what
- Judges 16:9 Lit smells
- Judges 16:10 Lit by what
- Judges 16:11 Lit with which work has not been done
- Judges 16:12 Lit them
- Judges 16:13 Lit by what
- Judges 16:13 Lit head
- Judges 16:13 The passage in brackets is found in Gr but not in any Heb mss
- Judges 16:14 Lit head
- Judges 16:16 Lit impatient to the point of
- Judges 16:19 Lit head
- Judges 16:25 Lit their heart was pleasant
- Judges 16:25 Lit made sport before them
- Judges 16:28 Heb YHWH, usually rendered Lord
- Judges 16:30 Lit strength
So anyway, these Philistine men observe Samson’s physical strength but they also observe his one glaring weakness: women! So while their plan to kill him at this moment is foiled, they are now armed with enough information to plan his demise and that’s exactly what they do. Read verses 4-6.
Verse 4: This is a turn of events right here. Prior to verse 4, we have only seen Samson’s interest in women being that of lust, it’s been purely physical and selfish. But now, for the first time, we see Samson actually in love. And he’s an older man now, middle aged we could assume because at this point he’s been serving as a judge of Israel for 20 years. So he’s older, hopefully a little wiser (but maybe not), and he’s apparently ready to settle down. So for once, it does not say Samson “saw a woman”. Instead, it says “he loved a woman”! Not only is this the first woman that Samson loves but it’s also the first woman in Samson’s life whose name is actually given. Remember, his mom is simply called “the woman”. His first wife, the one who was given to another man and then murdered by the Philistines, was also nameless. But this woman, the one who Samson loves, has a name, and her name is Delilah (“night”).
Verse 5: The Philistines, who know that Samson’s weakness is women, approach Delilah and they offer her a huge ransom, 1100 pieces of silver each. Now, to give us some idea, in chapter 3 of Judges we are told that there are 5 lords of the Philistines so that would be 5500 pieces of silver. That would be more than enough to live comfortably for the rest of her life. She would be set, living on easy street until the day she dies!
And did you notice what they told her? “Entice him”. Some translations say “seduce him”. In other words, use your female persuasions to lure him in since that is his weakness. So take advantage of his weakness to find out how we can eliminate his strength! Samson doesn’t realize it but he’s just gone from one prostitute to another.
Verse 6: I don’t know what Samson was thinking when he heard Delilah say this in verse 6 but she makes it clear that she wants to afflict, or harm, Samson. Maybe he thought Delilah was too small and weak to be a threat, or maybe he thought she was just joking…that she loved him, too, and so maybe she was just being playful. Because remember, there’s probably some romance going on during this conversation. She is enticing him, she’s drawing him in with her romantic persuasions! Whatever Samson was thinking, I don’t think he saw the real danger that was lurking in the dark shadows. And he actually takes quite a bad rap for this.
I’ve read commentaries and preachers who are so critical of Samson for being blind to her schemes but I’m not going to go there and here’s why. I don’t think Samson has a reason to question Delilah.
First of all, he LOVES her! His heart, as we will see, is devoted to her.
Second, Delilah was approached by the Philistines but she’s not a Philistine! Based on her name, which is the Hebrew name meaning ‘night’ and the geography of where she lives, we can conclude that Delilah is an Israelite woman.
And isn’t that exactly the advice his parents gave him way back when…that he shouldn’t marry a Philistine but he should marry a local girl. One of their own. And so that’s what he’s finally doing. He has fallen in love, his heart has been won over, by an Israelite woman.
And that’s the last point I want to make about Samson not catching onto Delilah’s plots: because love is blind and he is definitely blinded by his love for her.
While we’re on the subject of love, let me talk about love for just a moment. And while this text is in the context of the love between a man and a woman, this applies to any relationship that involves love…that of a parent and child…siblings…friends…and certainly the church…Love does not afflict. It protects.
We see that Samson loves Delilah and he’s going to open his heart up to her. But what is real clear in this text is that Delilah does not love Samson. The text never says that and we know she doesn’t. She’s just using him and she even says the words, “so I can afflict you.” Love does not afflict. It protects. And while that might sound like common sense, in truth, it’s hard for us to live out. Why? Because we’re sinful by nature…and sin afflicts!
I remember when Pilar and I first got married, I did not love her well. I was often critical, and critical of small things. I wasn’t building her up, I was breaking her down. I would criticize things like….
How she hung the toilet paper roll
How she squeezed the tube of toothpaste
How she made the bed
How she folded the clothes.
So here Pilar is…a new bride who just moved to a new city, took on a new job, lives in a new place, has a new dog, has to make new friends…and rather than encouraging her and supporting her and helping her… I would needle her with how she did things. Rather than being thankful for what she was doing, I was being critical of how she did things. And it wasn’t like she was doing anything wrong…well, maybe the way she hung the toilet paper…she just did those things differently than how I did them…but I treated her like she was doing them wrong!
I was not protecting her. I was afflicting her.
So before we go on in the chapter, I have to ask you: How well are you loving those in your life? If you’re married, your spouse. If you’re dating, your boyfriend or girlfriend. What about your parents, kids, roommates, what about those of us in your church family?
Love does not afflict. It protects. So let’s see how Delilah afflicts the man who loves her. Read verses 7-16. See notes in margins.
While Samson loves Delilah, it is quite obvious that her heart will not be changed. She has her mind set on afflicting him, on destroying him. Despite this, Samson not only loves Delilah but he will open up his heart to her in total vulnerability and transparency. What we’ll see in the next couple of verses is this truth: Love surrenders.
Let’s see how Samson surrenders his heart to Delilah and we’re going to see some of the sweetest yet tragic scenes in all of the Scriptures. Read verses 17-19.
Verses 17-18: We see a phrase there twice…Samson told her “all that was in his heart”. This man who was once a violent, lustful, bully opens up his heart to the woman he loves…because love surrenders…in this beautifully sweet scene. He has revealed his greatest secret to her…telling her that his strength lies in his hair. And he mistakenly believes that she’s going to guard his secret, that she’s going to protect him, because that’s what love does: it protects. But instead, after revealing his heart to her, she tells the Philistines and they bring the blood money to complete the deal.
And I have to tell you…verse 19 just tugs at my heart…here we see Samson whose heart and life has been changed by the love that he has for this woman…and he lays his head down on her lap. You can see him there, this once conflicted, angry man now at peace as he rests his head on her knees…she runs her fingers through his hair…his eyes are closed and at long last, he is at peace…as she runs her fingers through his hair.
Church, I can relate! One of the sweetest moments in our marriage, and one that I just love, is when Pilar is seated on the couch, and I lay my head on her lap, and even though I don’t have hair anymore…she runs her fingers along my scalp, just like she used to do when I did have hair! And it’s such a sweet, intimate moment that we share. Any care that I might have, at least for that moment, just flees from me…and I am completely at rest, my guard is completely down, I am totally surrendered to her.
And that brings me to the third truth I want to share about love: Love involves risk.
Because love surrenders, it calls you to be vulnerable and transparent, then that means that love involves risk. Because when you are vulnerable and you open up your heart to someone and tell them what’s going on inside of you, just as Samson does here, then that means the other person is now armed to hurt you, to afflict you. They can use what you’ve shared against you. And that’s risky!
Think about it…If Pilar is sitting on the couch and I ask her, “Hey, can I put my head on your lap”, she could respond, “No! I really don’t like being around you.” Or, “Why? It’s not like you have hair for me to run my fingers through!” Or, if she agrees, as she’s caressing my scalp, she could say something like, “I sure did like you better when you had hair!” She could take my vulnerability and use it against me! And although that’s a silly example, I think you get the point!
Love takes risks.
So I have to ask you a couple more questions…How are you at surrendering to someone you love? Again, whether that’s a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, parent, child, friend, church family member, how good are you at being transparent and vulnerable with those that you love?
It’s not easy because there is certainly the chance that they will not reciprocate the vulnerability but could even use your vulnerability against you.
So the second part of that question is: How are you doing with those who love you and have surrendered their hearts to you? Have you afflicted or have you protected?
So love protects, love surrenders and love takes risks.
And, because we’re human, we’re flawed, we’re broken, we do not always love well. But God’s love, of course, is perfect! And when you think of how God loves you and me, to the point that he would send his Son to die on the cross, then we truly see how perfect love protects, surrenders and takes risks.
So as we read the rest of the chapter, I’ll share a few thoughts along the way but what I want you to keep your eyes open for is seeing Jesus in this passage. It is amazing to me how we continue to see Jesus through Judges, just as we see him really through all of the Old Testament. So let’s continue…
Read verses 20-31.
You see, church, you and I do not love perfectly. There are times when we fail to protect, we’re too afraid to surrender and to take risks. But God’s love is perfect and in that perfect love, there is not just an example for us, but there is forgiveness for our failure to love perfectly. That forgiveness comes through the blood of Jesus, which is foreshadowed here in the final moments of Samson’s life.
We see how Samson, like Jesus, was betrayed by someone he loved for pieces of silver;
How he suffered physically as his eyes were gouged out, which would have left blood streaming down his face;
We see how they mocked him as they forced this blind brute to entertain them just as Jesus was mocked while he was on the cross;
We see Samson with his arms stretched wide as he reaches out for the other 2 pillars…just as we see Jesus nailed to the cross, with a cross on either side of him;
We see Samson cry out to God at his greatest moment of suffering, just as Jesus cried out to the Father from the cross;
We see through his death that the enemy who thought they had victory are actually defeated;
And then we see how Samson’s younger brothers come to retrieve his body just as Joseph of Arimathea retrieve the dead body of Jesus.
Church, God’s perfect love is a love that protects, surrenders, and takes risks! And because of that we are forgiven and we are given new life! So if you have failed to love and love well, first, know that you are forgiven by God’s perfect love that surrendered to the cross. Second, go forward with a love that protects, surrenders and takes risks.
Can you imagine, church, what your life would be like, what my life would be like, what our church family would be like…if we truly lived that out. How would your relationship with your parents be different if you love protected, surrendered and took risks? What about your marriage…how glorious would it be if you honored your vows to protect, to guard your spouse’s heart, if you both were vulnerable and transparent with one another because you knew that it would be returned to you? How could you impact your neighborhood or your classroom or workplace…if you took the risk to actually get to know your neighbors, to invite them over for coffee or even dinner, if you took the risk of inviting them over to your house to pray for the kids as they head back to school next week?
We can only love like that, church, with a love that protects, surrenders and takes risks when we truly understand that God’s love does that for us. How amazing is god’s love? We’ve seen this guy Samson…just a lustful, violent, angry, arrogant, self-centered, selfish, demanding man over the past few weeks. And yet, despite his many flaws, the last we see the name Samson in the bible is in Hebrews 11:32, the Hall of Faith chapter. The guy who broke very Nazirite vow he ever made, who violated God’s command to not take a spouse from the enemy, the guy who spent money on prostitutes to satisfy his own sinful desires, listed among the greats of the faith. How can that be? Because it’s the Hall of Faith, not the Hall of Works!
And by faith, we have been saved. So let’s love and love well, knowing that regardless of how others might respond to us, we have already experienced and can continue to experience God’s perfect love towards us.
- Love does not afflict. It protects
- Love surrenders
- Love takes risks