The Tragic Fall of Samson (Judges 16-18)

Daily reading assignment: Judges 16-18

We are left to wonder what Samson might have done had he remained fully yielded and devoted to the LORD. Dedicated to the LORD from his conception and commanded to follow the guidelines and disciplines of a Nazarite (Numbers 6:1-8; Judges 13:4-5), Samson’s life was full of promise. His mother and father were keenly aware of the responsibilities they would bear to teach and train their son to serve the LORD (13:8, 13).

His deeds and defeat of the Philistines were legend in Israel, and his enemies were convinced Samson was no ordinary man. Tragically, his inclination for the lusts of the flesh left him vulnerable to the humiliating consequences of sin.

Judges 16 is a dramatic passage that finds Samson in Gaza, a walled city on the Mediterranean Sea, in the company of an unnamed harlot. Perhaps sensing the threat of danger from those who would kill him, Samson rose in the night and in a dramatic feat carried away the large gates of the city and transported them a distance of nine miles finally setting them on a hill overlooking the city of Hebron (16:1-3).

Judges 16:4-21 – Samson and Delilah

The story of Samson and Delilah has inspired poems, plays, oratorios, operas, and has been the subject of modern films for decades.

Samson, we read, “loved a woman…whose name was Delilah” (16:4). Delilah, it appears, had no love for Samson, and when she was offered eleven hundred pieces of silver to betray Samson, she plotted to learn the secret of his strength that she might betray him and be enriched (16:4-5).

Four times Delilah questioned Samson from whence came his strength, and three times he deceived her (16:6-14). When she persistently protested that Samson said he loved her, but mocked her with his lies, he finally yielded and confided to her that his strength was derived from the fact his hair had never been cut, because he was a Nazarite from his mother’s womb (16:17). Delilah believed Samson had “told her all his heart” (16:18), and sent word for the Philistines to come, and they “brought money in their hand” (16:18).

Foolish Samson, having betrayed the LORD and the symbol of his strength to a wicked woman, fell asleep and Delilah cut off “seven locks of his head” (16:19). When Delilah said, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson,” we read tragically, “he wist not that the LORD was departed from him”(16:20). How a mighty man with so much potential could fall victim to a temptress like Delilah is indeed the stuff of legends.

Bound by the Philistines who gouged out his eyes, the champion of Israel was reduced to a lowly slave pushing a mill wheel and grinding seed to flour (16:21). Time passed and Samson’s hair began to grow (16:22). Three thousand Philistine men and women gathered to celebrate their victory over Samson and to offer sacrifice to their fish god “Dagon” (16:23). In the midst of their celebration they sent for Samson that they might mock him (16:25).

Blind, bound by chains, and led by a small boy, Samson requested he be guided to the central pillars of the building (16:26). Seeking vengeance for himself and desiring to vindicate the name of God, Samson prayed: “O Lord God, remember me…and strengthen me…Let me die with the Philistines” (16:28, 30). Leaning against the pillars that supported the house and employing all his strength, suddenly the walls and roof collapsed killing the Philistines and Samson (16:30).

In spite of his failures, he had “judged Israel twenty years,” and Samson’s lifeless body was buried in his father’s tomb (16:31).

Twice we read in Judges 17-18, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 18:1). 

To illustrate the wickedness and depravity in Israel, we are introduced to an Ephraimite named Micah.  Micah was guilty of stealing eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother who had dedicated the silver to the LORD (17:1-2) and perhaps to be used at the Tabernacle in Shiloh.

Learning his mother had uttered a curse on the thief, Micah returned the silver and excused his theft on the pretense of religion and his desire to have an idol shaped from the silver and revered in his “house of gods” (17:3-4).  After returning the silver to his mother, she foolishly rewarded him with two hundred shekels of silver, which he melted at a foundry and poured into the mold of a breastplate (ephod) like that worn by priests and an idol described as a teraphim (17:4-5).

Here we read, “There was no king in Israel (meaning there was none to uphold the law), but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (17:6).

Further increasing his wickedness, Micah employed a Levite to serve him and his idols as priest. (17:7-13).

Judges 18 paints a portrait of wickedness in Israel that is astounding and tragic to read.  Not only had the nation turned from the LORD and broken covenant with Him, but the people were striving for and stealing one another’s idols.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith