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The Book of Judges: Chapter 16

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1Samson went to Gaza, and seeing a prostitute there he lay with her. 2The people of Gaza heard a 16:2 The people…heard: so Gk; Heb. To the people of Gaza. that Samson had come, and they gathered round and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. During the night, however, they took no action, saying to themselves, ‘When dawn comes we shall kill him.’ 3Samson stayed in bed till midnight; but then he rose, took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two gateposts, and pulled them out, bar and all; he hoisted them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill east of Hebron.

4Afterwards Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived by the wadi of Sorek. 5The lords of the Philistines went up to her and said, ‘Cajole him and find out what gives him his great strength, and how we can overpower and bind him and render him helpless. We shall each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.’

6Delilah said to Samson, ‘Tell me, what gives you your great strength? How could you be bound and made helpless?’ 7‘If I were bound with seven fresh bowstrings not yet dry,’ replied Samson, ‘then I should become no stronger than any other man.’ 8The lords of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings not yet dry, and she bound him with them. 9She had men concealed in the inner room, and she cried, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’ Thereupon he snapped the bowstrings as a strand of tow snaps at the touch of fire, and his strength was not impaired.

10Delilah said to Samson, ‘You have made a fool of me and lied to me. Now tell me this time how you can be bound.’ 11He said to her, ‘If I were tightly bound with new ropes that have never been used, then I should become no stronger than any other man.’ 12Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them. Then, with men concealed in the inner room, she cried, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’ But he snapped the ropes off his arms like thread.

13Delilah said to him, ‘You are still making a fool of me, still lying to me. Tell me: how can you be bound?’ He said, ‘Take the seven loose locks of my hair, weave them into the warp, and drive them tight with the beater; then I shall become no stronger than any other man.’ So she lulled him to sleep, wove the seven loose locks of his hair into the warp b 16:13 and drive…warp: so Gk; Heb. omits. , 14drove them tight with the beater, and cried, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’ He woke from sleep and pulled away the warp and the loom with it c 16:14 the warp…with it: prob. rdg; Heb. adds an unintelligible word. .

15She said to him, ‘How can you say you love me when you do not confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and have not told me what gives you your great strength.’ 16She so pestered him with these words day after day, pressing him hard and wearying him to death, 17that he told her the whole secret. ‘No razor has touched my head,’ he said, ‘because I am a Nazirite, consecrated to God from the day of my birth. If my head were shaved, then my strength would leave me, and I should become no stronger than any other man.’

18Delilah realized that he had told her his secret, and she sent word to the lords of the Philistines: ‘Come up at once,’ she said; ‘he has told me his secret.’ The lords of the Philistines came, bringing the money with them. 19She lulled Samson to sleep on her lap, and then summoned a man to shave the seven locks of his hair. She was now making him helpless. When his strength had left him, 20she cried, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’ He woke from his sleep and thought, ‘I will go out as usual and shake myself’; he did not know that the LORD had left him. 21Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. There they bound him with bronze fetters, and he was set to grinding grain in the prison. 22But his hair, after it had been shaved, began to grow again.

23The lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon, and to rejoice and say,

‘Our god has delivered into our hands Samson our enemy.’

24The people, when they saw him, praised their god, chanting:

‘Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the scourge of our land who piled it with our dead.’

25When they grew merry, they said, ‘Call Samson, and let him entertain us.’ When Samson was summoned from prison, he was a source of entertainment to them. They then stood him between the pillars, 26and Samson said to the boy who led him by the hand, ‘Put me where I can feel the pillars which support the temple, so that I may lean against them.’ 27The temple was full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there, and there were about three thousand men and women on the roof watching the entertainment.

28Samson cried to the LORD and said, ‘Remember me, LORD GOD, remember me: for this one occasion, God, give me strength, and let me at one stroke be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.’ 29He put his arms round the two central pillars which supported the temple, his right arm round one and his left round the other and, bracing himself, 30he said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ Then Samson leaned forward with all his might, and the temple crashed down on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those he had killed in his life.

31His brothers and all his father's family came down, carried him up to the grave of his father Manoah between Zorah and Eshtaol, and buried him there. He had been judge over Israel for twenty years.

Notes:

a 16:2 The people…heard: so Gk; Heb. To the people of Gaza.

b 16:13 and drive…warp: so Gk; Heb. omits.

c 16:14 the warp…with it: prob. rdg; Heb. adds an unintelligible word.

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

13.1–16.31 : Israel oppressed by the Philistines.

The emphasis is on Samson the man, rather than on tribal or national difficulties. Modern criticism considers these stories choice examples of early Israelite folklore. The tribe of Dan at this time lived in the southwest, near the Philistine plain; later they moved north (ch. 18 ).

1–25 :

Samson's wondrous birth. The chapter seems a late composition, serving as a prologue to the ancient folktales which follow; it is kindred more with the ending, 16.28–31 , than with the folktales. The account influences Lk. chs. 1–2 .

1 :

Philistines: see Josh. 13.2 n.

2 :

Zorah was about twelve miles west of Jerusalem.

3 :

Angel of the LORD : see 2.1 n.

5 :

A Nazirite was consecrated to God by these special vows, whether for a time or for life; compare Num. 6.1–21 . Samson is consecrated for life (v. 7 ). Since the folktales attributed Samson's strength to his hair, these stories were linked to the Nazirite vow.

13–14 :

Samson's mother must also observe special prohibitions, since he is consecrated even in the womb.

17–18 :

On the request to know the name, see Gen. 32.29 and Exod. 3.13 .

22 :

Compare Exod. 33.20–23 .

25 :

See 3.10 n.

16.1–3 : Samson's escape.

1 :

Gaza: see Josh. 13.3 .

3 :

Hebron was forty miles east of Gaza.

16.4–22 : Samson and Delilah.

4 :

The wadi of Sorek led into the northern end of the Philistine plain.

13 :

Warp and beater are weaving terms.

17 :

See 13.5 n.

20 :

LORD had left him: the Nazirite vow had been broken by the cutting of the hair.

16.23–31 : Samson's heroic death.

23 :

Dagon: Semitic grain deity, adopted by the Philistines; see 1 Sam. 5.2–5 .

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