The Death of Samson (Judges 16)
I’m going to try to be somewhat discreet as I preach this text, but we will need to address a topic that was a significant problem for Samson. It’s a significant problem for many more people today. In his book, Hide or Seek, John Freeman writes:
At times I’m still amazed at the pushback I get from men who are reluctant to install a filter or accountability software on their computer. For men, youth, and even women who struggle with pornography and lust, that laptop, tablet, or cell phone is like carrying around an adult bookstore all day long. You have to make a decision, sometimes several times a day, as to whether to go into that bookstore or not. Sometimes it’s all too much for one person to handle alone.
Chapters 14-15 centered around Samson’s interest in a Philistine woman from Timnah. Samson’s interest in Philistine women will continue in two more instances in chapter 16. This was his greatest weakness. It lead to his death! The bulk of this chapter records in painful detail the humiliating depths to which Samson was willing to sink in order to satisfy his lust.
Of course, we see our own weaknesses on display. Whether your temptation is the same, or some other vice, we can all learn something from Samson’s failure. But this chapter provides more than moral principles.
What makes this chapter truly remarkable is that Samson’s moral compromise is met by the Lord’s covenant patience. The Lord deals patiently with Samson and continues to use him to fulfill his covenant purposes. The Lord patiently works through sinful servants to bring deliverance to his chosen people.
Read Judges 16
Sleepless in Gaza (1-3)
1 Samson visits a prostitute. This is the common secular variety, not associated with any religious observance. This is the second of three Philistine women who represent Samson’s weakness.
2 The Gazite ambush provides an illustration of dangers that surrounds us when we become comfortable with our sin.
3 Samson moves the doors of the city gate forty miles uphill. He had to creep past 4-6 guard squadrons residing at the gate. No one can deny that this was an impressive show of strength, but was it really necessary?
Hebron was located near the center of Judah. He was declaring another triumph over the Philistines.
Despite Samson’s fall, God would ensure that his name was vindicated. Samson’s strength remains purely by the grace of God. God reveals his patience and long suffering with his servant throughout the Samson narrative.
Unfortunately, it is oftentimes the most gifted individuals who seem to face the greatest temptations. Samson is not alone in his struggle with sexual sin. Jesus pins the sin of adultery upon all who look at a woman with lust (Matt. 5:28).
To our knowledge, Samson never sought help/accountability for his struggle. He doesn’t cry out for deliverance from his sin, nor does he seek the Lord’s strength and wisdom in his struggle. In other words, it simply wasn’t much of a struggle for him at all. May that never be true of us! Let us be vigilant in seeking purity in thought, word, and deed.
Unfortunately, after enjoying the Lord’s kindness, Samson finds himself in the middle of temptation once again.
Loveless in Sorek (4-20)
Samson’s Lust for Love & Delilah’s Lust for Silver (4-5)
Much like Samson’s marriage to the Timnite, the Lord is going to use this relationship to bring further judgment upon the Philistines. Samson loves Delilah and the Philistines see this as another opportunity against him.
They approach Delilah with an offer she couldn’t refuse. It was a bribe of 1,100pcs/elder to discover Samson’s Kryptonite. These were probably the rulers of the Philistine Pentapolis offering a total of 5,500pcs (cf. Judges 8:26; ~$21M).
Samson fell for a gold digger. His wife was led by fear; Delilah was led by greed. He was looking for love in all the wrong places. “Keep your eyes wide open beforemarriage, half shut afterwards.” ― Benjamin Franklin
Delilah’s Escalating Persistence & Samson’s Diminishing Restraint (6-14 )
- Seven Fresh Bowstrings (6-9): Delilah asks Samson about his source of strength and how he might be bound. She repeats the Philistines almost verbatim. They supply the bowstrings and she does the binding. Samson snaps the bonds avoiding an ambush.
- New Rope (10-12): This time Delilah simplifies her request. How could someone bind Samson? Apparently, nobody knew of the previous attempt to use new ropes (15:13-14). After Delilah binds him, Samson snaps the bonds avoiding another ambush.
- Man Bun (13-14): Delilah plays it simple again, asking how to bind him. This time, Samson gets closer drawing attention to his hair. Weave and fasten it with a pin and he would be powerless. Once again, Delilah follows his instructions and Samson escapes. Now, let’s address the obvious application – never wear a man bun!
Delilah’s Heartless Torment & Samson’s Exhausted Forfeit (15-20 )
Delilah questions Samson’s love and presses him (cf. 14:17). That did the trick. Her three previous attempts mentioned her desire to know how to bind him. Now she mentions his lack of love for her. Love was the last thing on her mind, but it’s the only thing that is on Samson’s.
Samson reveals that his hair had never been shaved because he had been a Nazarite from birth. DRD “Samson said “razor” and Delilah saw silver.”
It’s hard to understand how he could be so blind to her intentions. Why doesn’t he see what we clearly perceive? Sin is deceiving. It follows no single strategy. It thrives off surprise. This is why accountability is so important. Surrounding ourselves with people who we can be vulnerable with and honest about our weaknesses is crucial to our growth in Christ.
On the other hand, it’s quite possible that Samson had grown suspicious of Delilah’s intentions, but was simply tired of fighting lust. He was throwing in the towel. Without a strategy to fight sin, he was defenseless against it’s random attack.
Maybe he figured he’d give in and the consequences wouldn’t be all that severe. After all, God had promised to begin deliverance through him. Maybe he had grown presumptuous of God’s grace. Today it might sound like saying, “I like to sin. God likes to forgive. So we make a great team.”
Delilah’s cruelty is most evident here. She informed the Philistine lords who promptly brought her payment. She had his head shaved while he slept on her lap, and then-just for fun-she torments Samson.
Judges 16:20 is possibly the saddest verse in the book…
- If Samson was unaware of the Lord’s departure, he knew of his presence previously.
- Remember the Lord’s patience. God had graciously preserved Samson’s strength. He will restore it again, but only after remembering his utter dependence upon the Spirit.
Ch. 15 emphasized Samson’s strength and dependence upon the Spirit, now he’s weak and alone. Previously, Samson was sustained by the Lord, but now he’s abandoned by the Lord.
The Lord disciplines those he loves. The harshest punishment Samson received was necessary in bringing him to repentance and usefulness once again.
Ichabod (“the glory has departed,” 1 Sam. 4:21) can be written over denominations, churches, and individuals. Let our prayer be like David’s after he had fallen into great sin, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).
The tragic story of Samson and Delilah sets up an amazing conclusion to Samson’s narrative.
Victorious in Death (21-31)
The final details of the chapter recount Samson’s capture, humiliation, and death.
The Philistine’s were easily able to seize the weakened Samson and to ensure his helplessness, they gruesomely gouged out his eyes. They brought him back to the prison in Gaza and bound him in bronze shackles where he spent his time grinding at the mill.
However, we also learn that his hair was growing again. It’s an indication of hope for one final act of deliverance through Samson.
With Samson in chains, the Philistines gather to worship Dagon. Scripture depicts Dagon as a grain deity, which makes Samson’s Flaming Foxes trick all the more devastating (15:5). Samson was not only a physical threat, but he was also a spiritual threat. His capture gave them renewed confidence in Dagon.
These verses ought to rise up an angry protest against their blasphemous praise.
DRD, “After all, we know that is theological and liturgical baloney; we know it was the absence of Yahweh, not the power of Dagon, that accounts for Samson’s shame.”
They aren’t merely mocking Samson, they’re mocking God! But we typically don’t mind blasphemy all that much. We might shrug, slightly disappointed. Let us repent of our indifference.
In all of their frenzied excitement, they decide to bring out Samson to entertain them. Maybe they were asking him to show more of his amazing strength, which would have simply resulted in more mockery as Samson was incapable of performing anything special. So they thought.
Samson’s request to lean against the pillars builds the reader’s anticipation. Our narrator adds a note about the number of Philistines that were on the roof (3,000 men and women, including the lords).
Samson’s makes his final prayer for the Lord to remember him, strengthen him, and allow vengeance. It’s a bit of a sloppy prayer. It seems like a mixture of intentions.
Samson knew that he was not deserving of strength. He also knew it was completely up to the Lord to provide that strength. His request for the Lord to remember him, is a legitimate nod to God’s promise to deliver Israel through him.
However, his request for vengeance seem’s self-serving. There are a number of better things he could have prayed at this point. Appreciate what God does here. Samson’s prayer is good, but it’s filled with impure motives, much like all of our best works (WCF 16.5).
Despite Samson’s desire for personal vengeance, it is Yahweh who gets vengeance upon an idolatrous people. Dagon is powerless. The capture and torture of one of the Lord’s servants leads to the death of 3,000 Philistines.
As in 15:18, the climax of this chapter came when Samson cried out to Yahweh. Although Samson is morally compromised, Yahweh hears his prayers.
God is never beyond your reach! Cry out to him in repentance. God knows your heart even though you don’t know exactly what to say. God can open your eyes through the power of the Gospel, even though you don’t have the strength to lift your head. Call upon the name of the Lord for your deliverance and you will be saved (Rom. 10:13)!
Samson’s final act was to lean his weight against the two middle pillars (one in each hand). He cried out to the Lord, “Let me die with the Philistines.” And the Lord granted his request accomplishing his will to bring a partial judgment upon Israel’s oppressors (cf. Judges 13:5 “he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines”).
The chapter concludes with Samson’s burial in the tomb of his father along with a reference to his role as judge.
The Lord patiently works through sinful servants to bring deliverance to his chosen people.
- Sleepless in Gaza (1-3)
- Loveless in Sorek (4-20)
- Victorious in Death (21-31)
Webb, “The victory is unquestionably Yahweh’s, even if it is only achieved through the suffering of his servant.”
We marvel at God’s use of Samson as a sinful servant who brought a partial and temporary deliverance for a relatively small portion of God’s people. It all pales in comparison to our True Judge, Jesus Christ, who brought complete and everlasting deliverance for all who place their faith in him!
- Samson destroyed Dagon’s Temple in his death, but Christ defeated every false god in his crucifixion.
- Samson’s death was the end of his reign, but Jesus’s death established his reign forever (Phil. 2:8-11).
- Both Samson and Jesus willingly gave their lives, but only Jesus had victory over the grave.
Heb. 2:14-15 Let us sing praise to the only one whose death was capable of delivering us from the one who has the power of death!