Scripture reading – Judges 16-17

Today’s study in the Book of Judges brings us to an event in the life of Samson that is as dramatic as it is tragic.

Samson’s super-strength exploits, his infatuation with Delilah, her betrayal, and the tragic finale of his life have filled childhood imaginations and inspired plays, operas, and Hollywood films. It might be said that never has a man been born with such promise and died with such infamy. He was the hope of Israel, and his strength was a legend; however, his moral failures shadowed his life and ended ingloriously.

This final chapter of Samson’s life opens with a reminder of his flawed character. Though set apart by the LORD and dedicated by his mother when he was yet in her womb (Judges 13:3-5), Samson’s lusts eclipsed his calling as the judge of Israel (Judges 15:20). While his physical acts of valor were renowned, his unbridled lusts were ultimately his demise.

Judges 16

Samson and the Harlot of Gaza (Judges 16:1-3)

The early verses of Judges 16 placed Samson in Gaza, a Philistine town fifty miles southwest of Jerusalem and only a short distance from his home. Unafraid of the Philistines, Samson visited with a harlot of Gaza (Judges 16:1). The men of the city, knowing he was present, waited at the gate and plotted to kill him (Judges 16:2). Sensing the danger, Samson arose at midnight and stormed out of the city. He pulled up the great gate by its posts, carried it a distance of nine miles, and left it at “the top of a hill that is before Hebron” (Judges 16:3).

Samson and Delilah, the Temptress, and Vixen (Judges 16:4-17)

The story of Samson and Delilah is well known, and I feel no need to be detailed in my commentary; however, let it serve as a warning to any who might trifle with sexual immorality.

Samson came to love Delilah (Judges 16:4), with whom he not only indulged his lusts but also trifled with his Nazarite vow, under which he had been born. When the Philistines offered Delilah a bribe of “eleven hundred pieces of silver” (Judges 16:5), she began to entice and plot to betray Samson into the hands of his enemies (Judges 16:6-14). She urged Samson to reveal the secret of his strength three times, and he deceived her thrice and foiled the plot to capture him (Judges 16:6-14).

Delilah’s unrelenting pleas for him to trust her with his secret weakened Samson’s resolve until he confessed “all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man” (Judges 16:17).

Samson Betrayed (Judges 16:18-20)

Knowing his secret, Delilah betrayed him, and as he slept, she sent for a man to shave his head (Judges 16:18-19). With the locks of his hair shaved, Delilah awoke Samson, and “his strength went from him” (Judges 16:19). She lifted her voice as she had in the past and said, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson” (Judges 16:20), and when he rose from his bed to face his enemy, “he wist not that the LORD was departed from him” (Judges 16:20).

The story of Samson’s life ends with a sad scene, as his brethren (the tribe of Dan) and those of his father’s house claimed his body from the rubble of the temple of Dagon and buried him with his father (Judges 16:31).

 

Samson: Seized, Enslaved, and Scorned (Judges 16:21-31)

With the Spirit of the LORD no longer upon him, Samson was bound by the Philistines, his eyes gouged out, and like a dumb beast, he was forced to push the mill wheel to “grind in the prison house” (Judges 16:21). Days and weeks passed, and Samson’s hair began to grow (Judges 16:22).

We know the disgrace he endured in prison; however, his humiliation when he was taken from prison turned his thoughts to the LORD. Led by a boy to the temple of Dagon, the once mighty Samson became an object of buffoonery for the Philistine men and women (Judges 16:23-25).

Samson asked the boy to guide him to the main pillars that supported the roof of the temple, and there he prayed, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” (Judges 16:28). Standing amid the two pillars, Samson pushed against them. He prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (Judges 16:30).

The story of Samson’s life ends with a sad scene, as his brethren (the tribe of Dan) and those of his father’s house claimed his body from the rubble of the temple of Dagon and buried him with his father (Judges 16:31).

Judges 17

Micah: The Presence of Idolatry in Israel (Judges 17:1-6)

To illustrate the wickedness and depravity that had taken hold in Israel, we are introduced to a man of the tribe of Ephraim named Micah. Micah was an evil man and was introduced as one who had stolen eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother! When he learned his mother had cursed the thief, he returned her silver and excused his theft on the pretense of religious piety. He claimed he desired an idol shaped from silver and revered in his “house of gods” (Judges 17:3).

Micah’s mother, no doubt deluded by her son’s pretext of spirituality, rewarded him with two hundred shekels of silver, which he melted at a foundry, and poured into a mold of the image that would serve as one of his idols (Judges 17:4-5).

The Employment of a Levite to Serve as a Priest of Micha’s Idol (Judges 17:7-13)

Increasing his wickedness further, Micah employed a Levite priest to serve him and his gods (Judges 17:7-13).

 Closing thoughts:

I close today’s devotional with a revelation of the sin problem in Israel. We read, “In those days there was no king [no ruler, no judge] in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Samson had been the hope of his nation, but his moral failure overshadowed his life and ministry as Israel’s judge.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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