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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Joshua 16

 

 

Verses 1-10

MORE BAD RELATIONSHIPS

(vv. 1-22).

Samson had still not learned his lesson as regards Philistine women, and in Gaza he foolishly involved himself with a prostitute. When the Gazites knew of his being in the prostitute's house, they surrounded the place, waiting to kill him in the morning (vv. 1-2). They had locked the gate of the city, but Samson arose at midnight and without any opposition took hold of both gate posts and the doors of the gate, carrying them to the top of a hill (v.3). He could have easily just thrown them aside, but evidently wanted to show his contempt for the Philistines by giving them heavy work to retrieve their gates. We marvel at his strength, but what honor is it to Samson that he is found using his strength in unholy circumstances?

ENTICED BY DELILAH

(vv. 4-21)

Samson again became involved with another Philistine woman whose name was Delilah.We are told he loved her, but no mention is made of his marrying her (v.4). The way in which he was deceived by women makes us marvel at his lack of discernment, but when once we take the way of pleasing our natural senses, we leave ourselves open to the most senseless alternatives:we become dense in our discernment.

The Philistine leaders realized that their best way of reaching Samson was through Delilah, and they put pressure on her to find out what was the secret of his great strength, offering her a large reward for this. She had no love for Samson and she asked him what could be done to so weaken him that he could be tied up and made unable to escape.Samson should certainly have seen the motive behind Delilah's demand, for who would want him deprived of strength except the Philistines?In fact, he very likely did discern this, for he deceived her by saying he would become weak if he were tied up with seven fresh cords (or bowstrings) that had not been dried (v. 7).

When he was asleep Delilah tied him up with these cords while Philistine men were waiting. Then she called his name, telling him that the Philistines were upon him (vv. 8-9). We may wonder why the Philistines did not simply go in while he slept and kill him. But it seems they wanted to take him alive to gloat over him before the crowd.Samson broke the cords as though they were mere strands of yarn. Of course the men would quickly get out of there!

After this encounter Samson certainly knew he could not trust Delilah, and she could not trust him either. What a miserable relationship was theirs! She accused him of lying to her, and persisted in demanding to know the secret of his strength. Again he deceived her by telling her that if he was bound with new ropes, never before used, he would become weak (v. 10-11). So she

repeated that procedure, with the same result, Samson breaking the ropes as though they were mere threads (v. 12). He should certainly have known by this time that she was working with the Philistines to destroy him, but his perception was blunted by his feelings.

When for the third time Delilah reproached him and demanded to know the secret of his strength, Samson came closer to the truth when he told her that if the seven locks of his hair were woven into the web of the loom, this would render him weak. Again, when she followed this instruction, the Philistines being there again,he easily broke the machine to free himself.But it seems experience taught him nothing.

After three experiences of having Delilah demand the secret of Samson's strength and of her having Philistines in her house ready to imprison him when he became weak, we should think that Samson would at least by now be on his guard. But he was not.Delilah had proven fully that she did not love him, and of course he was not married to her, but she was a determined woman, greedy for the gain she could get from her people, the Philistines. She kept pressing him daily, asking him how he could say he loved her when he withheld this information from her (v.15). Of course this was hypocrisy, for she had proved she had no love for him. But if we remain in evil relationships we shall soon succumb to evil. Samson then told her all his heart. He had been a Nazirite from birth, never having his hair cut. We have seen his long hair was simply a sign of submission to the authority of the Lord. If he was shaved, therefore, his strength would be gone. Surely he knew that Delilah would shave his head at her first opportunity!

She again called the Philistine men, then lulled Samson to sleep on her knees and had a man shave off his hair (v.19).Then she began to torment him, treating with contempt the one she claimed to love, then told him the Philistines were upon him. He thought he would as easily scatter them as he had before, but found himself without strength (v. 20). If we give up our place of submission to the Lord, we too will lose our strength, not physically, but spiritually.

However, the Philistines would rather not kill Samson, but did all they could to humiliate him. They put his eyes out, confined him in prison and gave him the hard labor of grinding (v. 21). A believer today, out of communion with the Lord, may find himself humiliated by those who hate his Lord, for God often uses ungodly people in the discipline of His own.Thus too, Delilah gained in every way she desired. She got rid of Samson and was well rewarded in money for her wickedness. But she did not consider how God would reckon with her!

SAMSON REGAINS STRENGTH TO DIE

(vv. 22-31)

The Philistines did not realize they must keep Samson's hair cut if they wanted to keep him weak, but his hair began to grow in the prison(v. 22).Since they had blinded him, however, they thought he was no threat to them whatever.

The time came when they held a great celebration of their victory over Samson, giving the credit to Dagon, their fish-god for this triumph(v. 23).This worship of their idol was not too long sustained, however.When they brought Samson out to their huge idol temple, they gloated over his humiliated condition (v. 25).But they placed him in just the position that he wanted, between two pillars that supported the temple. These pillars must have been close together, and Samson asked a boy who was guiding him to let him feel the pillars so as to lean on them (v. 26).The boy was unsuspecting, though Samson would not require two pillars to lean on.

The temple was full of people, including the lords of the Philistines -- about 3000 men and women -- on the roof, evidently some kind of observation deck from which they could have a clear view of the proceedings inside (v. 27).

But Samson gave them some entertainment they had not expected! He prayed to the Lord that he might be given special strength that he might take vengeance on the Philistines for his two eyes (v. 28).Even at the end of his life it was not God's glory that meant most to him, but revenge for personal harm. This is a sad comment on the character of Samson throughout his life.Yet he was a believer, as Hebrews 11:32 indicates, and God answered his prayer by giving him superhuman strength.

With a pillar on either side of him he braced himself and pushed the pillars with all his might.No one in the assembly could have foreseen the result of this exertion, for the pillars crumpled and the whole building fell in (vv. 28-30). Samson's prayer, "Let me die with the Philistines" was answered.The death rate was shocking.We are not told how many died, but that by his death Samson killed more than he had in his life. The celebration of the ungodly was stopped rather abruptly!

Certainly it was fitting that so awesome a judgment should fall on the Philistines at this time, for they were taking delight in the humiliation of one who had once been strong, then was deprived of his strength. But more than that, they were engaged in offering sacrifice to Dagon, their idolatrous god, and thereby insulting and challenging the God of heaven and earth. Their god had no power to deliver them from a catastrophic end under the judgment of the God of Israel.

Samson's relatives were at least concerned that his body should not be left in the rubble of the Philistine temple. They came down and retrieved his body, taking it for burial in his father's grave (v. 31).The twenty years he had judged Israel did not relieve Israel of Philistine oppression, though he was a thorn in the side of the Philistines.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Joshua 16:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/joshua-16.html. 1897-1910.

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