Judges 16: Samson's Death
What was wonderful about Samson? Who were his enemies? The Philistines. For he lived at the edge of their country, and many times used his strength against them.
Now the lords of the Philistines were determined to find out the secret of Samson's strength so that they could take him captive and torment him. They came to Delilah, a Philistine woman whom Samson loved, and offered her much money if she would learn from him what made him strong. Do you know what the secret was, and what they might do to make Samson lose his strength? Three times Samson deceived Delilah and told her things with which he might be bound. First, seven green withs, which seems to mean tough bowstrings. Read verses 6-12, how they bound Samson with such strings, and then with new ropes, but he was as strong as ever. Read verses 13 and 14, how they did as Samson told them and wove his long hair into the cloth that was being woven on the loom. The loom was a heavy frame, probably with posts set in the ground and a beam on which the cloth was wound as it was woven and a wooden pin to fasten the beam and hold the web tight. But Samson was as strong as ever, and went away with the cloth and the loom attached to his hair.
Now at last, as Delilah kept asking, Samson told the truth, that if his hair were shaved off (his hair which ought never to be cut) he would be weak like another man. While he was asleep they shaved off his hair, and he was weak. They took him and put out his eyes and brought him to their city Gaza and bound him with brass fetters and made him grind in the prison. He turned the stone of a hand-mill, grinding meal. It was tedious work and was also considered a disgraceful job for a man.
Now the Philistines kept a festival of thanksgiving to their god Dagon for delivering Samson into their hands. Dagon was an idol with the body of a fish and the head and hands of a man. They called for Samson and he came out to make them sport. But the festival had a sudden end, for Samson pulled down the house upon them and upon himself. Read the story in verses 25-31.
Samson: what does the name bring to your mind? On the map show me Samson's home, Zorah in the tribe of Dan. Show me Timnath (what happened there?); Gaza, far away across the Philistine country near the sea. Does your map show the valley of Sorek, running out from the hills near Zorah and across the Philistine meadows toward the northwest?
It was from Gaza that Samson carried away the city gate, posts and all, to the top of a hill near Hebron some forty miles away. And now we learn of his last feat of strength in Gaza and of his death. The lords of the Philistines were ready to pay much money to learn the secret of Samson's strength. "The lords" mean rulers of the country. In another chapter they seem to be the rulers of the five chief cities of the Philistines. Do you know what these five cities were? (1 Sam. 6:4, 17-18) Before, when the Philistines could not guess Samson's riddle, they got the woman of Timnath whom he was to marry to coax him and learn the answer. Now they promised money to Delilah, another woman whom Samson loved, to coax him to tell her the secret of his strength and how he could be bound.
What did Samson first tell her, and was it the truth? (Verses 8, 9) The "green withs" seem to mean new bowstrings made from the intestines of animals. What next did Samson tell her, and was it true? (Verses 10-12) And now the third time, what did he tell her, and was this true? (Verses 13, 14) Three times Samson had deceived her, but the third time he came a little near the truth, mentioning his hair. Can someone tell us a little about the loom - not very different from looms that you may have seen in old farmhouses in the country? Once more Delilah urged him, and what did he say? (Verses 15-17) She felt that he had now told her the truth. And was it the truth? Remember that Samson was a Nazarite. His hair must not be cut, and with his hair his strength would go. And so it was. Poor Samson's strength went from him. He was weak, like any other man. What happened now to Samson? (Verse 21) You will remember millstones which they turned by hand for grinding grain. It was considered a woman's job. The Philistines now held a feast and sacrificed to Dagon for the capture of their enemy. What can you learn about this idol Dagon in 1 Sam. 5:1-4? The idol had the body of a fish, with the head and hands of a man. A great multitude of people had come together and Samson was brought out to make them sport. The gallery, or raised place of some sort, from which the people looked, was supported upon pillars. Read what happened when Samson's hands felt the two main pillars and he prayed to the Lord. His hair had begun again to grow and his strength came back to him once more. The body of Samson was laid in the burial-place of his father near to his old home and to the scene of his first deeds of strength. (Judges 13:25)
1. For what was Samson famous? In what ways was his strength shown?
2. What was the secret of Samson's strength? How was it found out by the Philistines?
3. In what ways did they try to bind Samson and failed?
4. What was done with Samson when he was taken?
5. Tell me about his death and burial.
Samson is a type of strength; a spiritual strength which we all may have, and a Divine strength which the Lord had in His human life; a strength which comes from the letter of the Divine Word, not when it is simply known and understood but when it is loved and obeyed. (A. 3301)
Samson's strength depended upon his hair, for his hair represented the letter of the Word, which is its most external and least living part, and still the whole power of the Word is there. It is useful to see something of the spiritual meaning within the letter of the Word, but we can never give up the letter, not even if we keep what we have seen of the spiritual meaning, for in the letter and only there is the Divine power present in all its fullness. No power of evil can resist the letter of the Word when we keep a commandment or other passage in our thoughts or repeat it with our lips; no argument or persuasion can resist it.
Does the Bible give us examples of the power of the Lord's Word? Remember the ark at the Jordan and at Jericho. We shall learn, too, of the power of the ark in the Philistine country. (1 Sam. 5) Remember the Lord's temptation in the wilderness, when He met the tempter with the letter of the Word, saying, "It is written, Thou shalt not." (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10) If we forget to use the Lord's commandments and His Word in meeting a temptation, we are like Samson when his hair was gone. We are weak and are only human, for the Lord's strength is not with us. (S. 49; T. 223)
Do you see a reason for the number seven, in verses 7 and 13? What deeper meaning is there in the number seven? (A. 728, 5265, 5268; R. 10)
The ropes and the web by which the Philistines tried to hold Samson represent the reasonings and persuasions of evil which have no power before a simple, "Thus saith the Lord," "It is written, Thou shalt not." The Philistines in their third attempt wove Samson's own locks into their web, and so in one of the Lord's temptations in the wilderness the tempter brought words of Scripture into his false argument, but without effect, for he gave them a false meaning. (Matt. 4:6; L. 14; A. 9854) The enticing of Samson and robbing him of his hair is said, in D. Min. 4747, to represent the work of spirits skilled in sorcery who are very persuasive, and almost take away one's power of thought.
Other sad things happened to Samson when his hair was cut off. His eyes were put out; he was bound with fetters of brass, and he was made to grind in a Philistine prison. What do these afflictions mean? Grinding in a good sense represents an effort by reasoning to get at the real inwardness of a matter. It here represents the blind reasoning of one who is without the guidance of the Lord's Word.
Does anyone see why Dagon the fish-god was in keeping with the character of the Philistines? A fish represents an affection and power of knowing of a low external kind. To praise Dagon for delivering Samson into their hands is like congratulating oneself that one's own wit and knowledge have proved superior to the Lord's Word. But it was a false rejoicing. We shall learn more of this idol and of its weakness before the ark of the Lord, in 1 Sam. 5.
Burial in the Scriptures suggests resurrection. The burial of Samson near his old home and the scene of his first deeds of strength suggests the return of spiritual power, when people after experience of their own weakness again put their trust in the Lord and in His Word. (A. 2916, 2955)