The fifteenth chapter sounds like the end of the record of Samson’s life. Judges 15 ends that Samson judged Israel in the days of the Philistines for 20 years. But we must remember that God told Samson’s parents that their child would begin to save Israel from the Philistines. Judges 15 ends that Samson is judging “in the days of the Philistines.” God’s work of deliverance from the Philistines is not complete.
Samson In Gaza (16:1-3)
Samson went to Gaza. Gaza is deep in the land of the Philistines. We do not know why he went there but we learn that he is not on a godly mission. Chapter 16 tells us that Samson saw a prostitute and went into her. We have picked up where we left off with Samson living his life according to what is right in his own eyes. Samson is not concerned for the ways of the Lord. The people of Gaza learn that Samson, the enemy of the Philistines, is in their town. So they surround the place where he is staying (with the prostitute) and set up an ambush to kill him in the morning. But Samson awoke at midnight, took hold of the doors of the city gates with the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders, carrying them to the top of the hill that is in Hebron. He carries the gates nearly 40 miles. The city gates would be quite heavy as they were the city’s protection from attack. Samson rips the gates out of the ground and carries them all the way back to the hill in front of Hebron. So God again is using Samson to bring judgment against the Philistines.
Samson and Delilah (16:4-22)
In verse 4 we learn that Samson loves another woman whose name was Delilah. The Philistine leaders demand that Delilah find out where his great strength lies and how they can overpower him. At this point the Philistines have figured out that they cannot get their hands on Samson. Every effort they have made to capture him and kill him has ended in their own disaster as God is using Samson to overpower the Philistines. So they tell Delilah to seduce Samson to find out how he has this strength and if she does so they will pay her 1100 pieces of silver each.
It is hard to make a monetary evaluation of how much this is in terms of our money for an amount that was so long ago historically. But we can examine what pieces of silver was used to buy in the scriptures to get a sense of how much money this in. In Judges 17:10 we see that 10 pieces of silver was offered annual to a Levite as his wage. Fifty pieces of silver was enough for David to buy oxen and a threshing floor (2 Samuel 24:24). Jeremiah paid for a piece of property for 17 pieces of silver (Jeremiah 32:9). The value of a slave was set at 30 shekels in Exodus 21:32. This helps us understand that 1100 pieces of silver was an enormous sum. Now consider that each lord was going to pay 1100 pieces of silver and we can see that this is a staggering financial offer to her.
Delilah accepts the offer and tries to seduce Samson to learn the source of his strength. Samson turns this into a game. He first tells Delilah that his strength will disappear if he is bound with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried. The lords of the Philistines bring her seven fresh bowstrings and she ties him up with them. She hides the Philistine men in her place and after binding him she cries, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he immediately snaps the bowstrings. She cries that he has lied to her and asks to know how to bind up his strength. If he was not playing a game with her, we would expect for Samson to say that he is not going to tell her because she is just going to set him up for a Philistine ambush. But he is playing a game with her. He thinks he can play this game and whip the Philistines when they try to ambush him. So he tells her that he will be weak if he is bound with new ropes that have never been used. So Delilah takes the new ropes and binds Samson. The men are lying in ambush in the house again. She cries, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” Samson snaps the ropes like threads. She cries to him that he is mocking her (16:13). Yes, he is mocking her and toying with her. So he tells Delilah that if you weave seven locks of his head into a web and fasten it with a pin, then he will become weak. So the ambush is set again and Delilah takes seven locks of his head into a web and fastens it with a pin. She cries, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” He awakes and pulls the web and loom from his head. Listen to what she says to her now:
And 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 you have not told me where your great strength lies.” And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. (Judges 16:15–16 ESV)
She starts wearing Samson down. How can you say that you love me? Why won’t you tell me? You are just mocking me. She is nagging him every day and Samson’s soul was vexed to death. So now he tells her that a razor is not to come to his head because he has been dedicated by the Nazirite vow to God. Delilah sees that he is telling the truth to her and has opened his heart to her. She makes him sleep on her knees so that another can shave off his seven locks of hair. Now his strength leaves Samson. But verse 20 wants to make something very clear. We are not to suppose that this is simply about the hair of Samson. Delilah again cries, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” Samson thinks he will be able to have his strength in this ambush as he had previously. Notice that verse 20 does not say that he did not know that his hair had been shaved. I am sure he absolutely knew that his hair had been shaved. Can you imagine what amount of weight would be on your head if your hair had never been cut your whole life? Can you imagine how light your head would be once the hair from your head that had never been cut was shaved off? You would immediately feel the difference on your head as soon as you woke up. The point is deeper than the mere observation that his hair was cut, so he lost his strength. I submit to you that this is the final straw regarding Samson. Samson has disregarded his Nazirite vow his whole life, as we have seen from Judges 13-15. He is touching the bodies of dead animals. He is in the vineyards. He is at the feasts where there would be wine and grape juice. He is also disregarding the laws of the Lord. He wants to marry a Philistine woman. He is sleeping with prostitutes. Now he tells Delilah about his hair, knowing full well what she is going to do. It is a blatant disregard for this vow to the Lord yet again. Thus the text declares, “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” These are very sad words. The loss of hair symbolized the problem. The Lord had left Samson. In fact, there is an important contrast the scriptures are revealing to us. In chapters 13-15 we see the Spirit of the Lord rushing frequently on Samson. But in chapter 16 we see silence regarding the Spirit of the Lord.
How our sins and our blatant disregard for God’s directions cause the Lord to have to separate himself from us! God has been giving grace upon grace to Samson throughout his life. But now his rebellion has come to the uttermost and the Lord has left him. Samson has been unable to see how dependent he was on the grace and power of God. Now the reality has hit him. The Philistines seize Samson and gouge out his eyes so that he will not see again and is taken to Gaza, a principle city of the Philistines. Verse 22 offers some foreshadowing. The hair of Samson’s head begins to grow again. But remember that according to Numbers 6 once the hair was shaved, the Nazirite vow was completed. The vow was not picked up again. But verse 22 implies that all hope is not lost yet.
In verse 23 the Philistines are rejoicing and celebrating that Dagon, the god of the Philistines, has given Samson into their hands. We know that God is not going to allow glory to go to false gods. The Philistines are praising their god when they see Samson subdued. They even turn Samson into their entertainment and he is placed between two pillars as they mock him. Samson asks a young man standing near by to place Samson’s hands on the pillars so that he can lean against them.
Notice verse 28: Then Samson called to the LORD and said, “O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” (Judges 16:28 ESV)
This is the first time we see Samson address God as the Lord God. In this prayer he asks God for strength one more time so that he can avenge the Philistines. Please notice the reason why he wants this strength. He does not say that he wants to deliver Israel. He does not say that he wants God’s name to be glorified. As we have see throughout the narrative of Samson, he wants vengeance for his eyes being gouged out. But God is going to use Samson’s desire to accomplish his own purposes and bring about his own glory. Despite this, it is the first time we see Samson truly turn and speak to the Lord. Samson places his hands on the two pillars and with all his strength pushed the pillars down. Verse 30 observes, “So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.”
Pictures of God
The faithfulness of God.The first picture of God that we see is God’s faithfulness. Even though Samson is unfaithful to the Nazirite vow, God is still faithful to his promise to begin to deliver Israel through his hands. Even though Israel is unfaithful, God is still faithful to his promise to begin to deliver Israel through Samson’s hands. How God wants us to understand this truth!
The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11–13 ESV)
God is faithful. God keeps his promises. This is how the righteous are to live by faith! We understand that God is faithful to his word and we live by faith in his promises. God said he will do something, then he will do something, even if we have been faithless. There are so many promises that we can consider which gives us strength, encouragement, and hope to live by faith. Perhaps one of the greatest promises that must sink into our hearts and minds is the promise of eternal salvation and life.
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:1–8 ESV)
What about all of my sins? Blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not count his sin. What about all the evil things I have done? To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. God is faithful. His faithfulness is to put faith in us to believe in him who does exactly what he says. The narrative of Samson reveals our amazing, faithful God.
The salvation of God.Another picture that we see of God and how God saves is that he will save through death. The death of Samson is the means by which God was bringing about the deliverance of Israel from the hand of the Philistines. In the same way, yet in a greater way, the death of Jesus is the means by which God would bring about the salvation of the world from the grasp of Satan and sin. Through the death of Samson, God fulfilled his promise to deliver. Through the death of Jesus, God fulfilled his promise to save the world from sins.
The strength of God.The final picture for our consideration as we see our God is how he gives strength to those who are on their knees. This seems to be human nature that we have to be brought to our knees and crippled by our lives before we will look to the Lord for strength. Samson seems to exemplify this problem that every human has. He rejects the Lord, rejects his vow, and rejects the commandments of the Lord repeatedly. Once he is finally captured and the Lord has left him does Samson address God as the Lord God. How often God will take vessels of dishonor and use them for his own glory, fame, and renown! God wants us on our knees, relying on his strength, depending on him by faith so that we will be transformed into his image. May we humble ourselves before God when we look at his faithfulness in spite of our unfaithfulness. May we humble ourselves before him when we see what it cost God to keep his word to save us from our sins: the death of our Lord Jesus. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Walk by faith and live for the promises of God.