Samson’s Fall

Posted: June 13, 2009 in Hebrews

Judges 15-16, “Samson’s Fall”

Judges 15 (NKJV)
1 After a while, in the time of wheat harvest, it happened that Samson visited his wife with a young goat. And he said, “Let me go in to my wife, into her room.” But her father would not permit him to go in.

A. Remember what happened here…Samson had taken a Philistine woman to be his wife in Ch 14, and during his wedding feast, he posed a riddle about the lion that he had killed… 7 days later, the Philistines still couldn’t answer the question, so they threatened Samson’s bride & her family & she pressed upon Samson to tell her the answer… He broke – she told – the Philistines answered – and Samson kills 30 Philistines to pay the wager… At that point he went back to his father’s house & Ch 14:20 tells us the wife’s father gave his daughter to another man (the wedding was not yet consummated by the 7th day)…

B. Now Samson goes back (however long later) & demands to see his abandoned bride. Obviously it’s too late by this point…

2 Her father said, “I really thought that you thoroughly hated her; therefore I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister better than she? Please, take her instead.”

A. Not much for women’s lib… Her father had the cultural right to give her away to whomever he chose for her…

3 And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be blameless regarding the Philistines if I harm them!” 4 Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes; and he took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5 When he had set the torches on fire, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up both the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.

A. “foxes” could be “jackals” as the Hebrew could be translated either way & jackals travel in packs. Samson gathered them up, attached some torches & let them loose among the farmland.

B. Was the Lord in this? The Bible doesn’t say. This seems more like criminal arson than judgment, but neither does the Scripture condemn Samson. It’s likely just one more instance when Samson was acting out of his flesh…

6 Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?” And they answered, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion.” So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire.

A. The Philistines took revenge on the family…ended up doing what they had threatened to do to her in Ch 14:15…

7 Samson said to them, “Since you would do a thing like this, I will surely take revenge on you, and after that I will cease.” 8 So he attacked them hip and thigh with a great slaughter; then he went down and dwelt in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

A. Define “hip & thigh”? The origin of the phrase is a little unclear – it may be a wrestling term. It’s possible that Samson fought them with his bare hands without weapons…definitely indicative of a merciless battle.

B. How many died? We don’t know…enough for it to be labeled a “great slaughter” ‘This is kind of bloody!’ Sure is. But keep in mind that these were people that the Israelites were supposed to completely expel in carrying out God’s judgment… God may have left them to be thorns in the side of Israel (Judges 2:3), but that doesn’t mean He didn’t still have wrath to pour out on the Philistines. Samson (as flawed as he is) is simply the instrument by which God administered His wrath…

C. Question: was Samson in the right? It’s somewhat difficult to answer that with honesty. On one hand, he was God’s chosen instrument of judgment; on the other hand, his whole motivation was personal revenge. Be careful of wrong motives! Even if you’ve had a wrong done to you, your response can be just as wrong in return. (Wiersbe) “…there’s a very fine line between righteous indignation and a ‘religious temper tantrum.’” …

9 Now the Philistines went up, encamped in Judah, and deployed themselves against Lehi.
10 And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” So they answered, “We have come up to arrest Samson, to do to him as he has done to us.”

A. Basically a threat against Lehi. If they couldn’t arrest Samson, the city would be placed under siege…

B. FYI – “Lehi” translates “jawbone”…going to be a pretty appropriate name!

11 Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? What is this you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so I have done to them.”

A. How sad is it that those in Judah were content to live under the rule of their pagan oppressors? Instead of embracing Samson as God’s deliverer, they’d rather live in the consequences of their sin.

B. Do we do the same thing? We may see a way to live holy & conquer some kind of besetting sin, but it’s too hard in our sight and we’d rather live with sin instead. The job is too “good” & we won’t give it up. We “need” our internet, so we don’t turn off access. … Sin isn’t something to compromise with; it’s something to completely cast off! Matthew 5:29-30 (29) If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (30) And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. []

12 But they said to him, “We have come down to arrest you, that we may deliver you into the hand of the Philistines.” Then Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not kill me yourselves.” 13 So they spoke to him, saying, “No, but we will tie you securely and deliver you into their hand; but we will surely not kill you.” And they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock. 14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting against him. Then the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands. 15 He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it.

A. Philistines saw him & attacked – the Holy Spirit came upon Samson & he killed a thousand men… Samson had pretty bad odds from the world’s perspective (1000-1), but from God’s perspective, the Philistines were infinitely outnumbered. … If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)
__a. As fantastic as this battle was, it still pales compared to the battle against the devil & death – and Jesus defeated them just as soundly with far less than a donkey’s jawbone on hand! Because of Jesus, death has no more sting! He is truly the victorious conqueror!

B. Anything special about the jawbone as a weapon? Not necessarily – it was a “fresh” bone, meaning it was stronger. It hadn’t dried out yet. Would have served as a pretty brutal club, when wielded by Samson… BUT it wasn’t something Samson was supposed to touch. As a Nazirite, he was to abstain from touching dead bodies. … Why did God bless it? Because of His grace. This isn’t an endorsement of Samson’s actions, but rather God’s grace in deciding to use Samson in spite of his actions.
__a. Beware of getting cocky when there aren’t immediate consequences of your sin. It doesn’t mean that God approves; simply that He’s graciously given you another opportunity to repent.

16 Then Samson said: “With the jawbone of a donkey, Heaps upon heaps, With the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men!” 17 And so it was, when he had finished speaking, that he threw the jawbone from his hand, and called that place Ramath Lehi. [“the casting away of the jawbone”]

A. Samson’s song: he’s boasting a bit…probably amazed at the massive victory he just experienced. (Unger), “Moffatt renders the first two lines, “With the jawbone of an ass I have piled them in a mass,” which presents the essential thought and word play.”

B. Is it good he threw away the jawbone? Absolutely. It’s a symbol of the flesh that gets in the way of the glory of God through the Spirit. Our flesh can so easily detract from the work of Christ Jesus…we want the focus to be on Him; not on us!

18 Then he became very thirsty; so he cried out to the LORD and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?” 19 So God split the hollow place that is in Lehi, and water came out, and he drank; and his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore he called its name En Hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day.

A. Sounds like the typical Israelite history…major victory from God & then start complaining about temporary circumstances… (Bitter waters – Exo 15:22-27)

B. God (in His grace) met Samson’s need… Translation = “Spring of the caller”

20 And he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

Judges 16 (NKJV)
1 Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.

A. God is going to use this (though His work is unnamed) – but that doesn’t change the fact that Samson was in sin at the beginning. He was where he wasn’t supposed to be… Doing something he wasn’t supposed to do… His lust for women is going to be his downfall…

B. Does God still use flawed individuals? Sure… Abraham continually lied about his marriage to Sarah in fear of the Egyptians – David committed adultery & murder – Peter denied the Lord. The Bible is full of examples of “heroes” who sinned. God in His mercy & grace still used them mightily for His glory. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any consequences for the sin. Abraham damaged his witness – David lost a child – Peter grieved his actions & wept bitterly. And God is going to use Samson too, though God will also allow Samson to experience the consequences of his actions.
__a. The question for us is: are we going to have to learn obedience through the consequences of our sin, or will we forsake sin in the 1st place to follow God?

2 When the Gazites were told, “Samson has come here!” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. They were quiet all night, saying, “In the morning, when it is daylight, we will kill him.” 3 And Samson lay low till midnight; then he arose at midnight, took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two gateposts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

A. Philistines lay in wait for an ambush by the gate, but they didn’t exactly get their expectations met. Samson just picked up the gate & took it with him. Makes it kind of hard to hide behind a gate when it’s not there. 🙂 (Some think Samson took the gate to a local hill that faced Hebron; others think he took the gate 40 miles to Hebron. Either way, it’s pretty amazing…)

4 Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.

A. Sorek was apparently on the border of Israel & Philistia. We don’t know for certain that Delilah was a Philistine, but considering her alliance with the rulers (lords) of the Philistines, it seems probable.

B. Problem: Samson wasn’t supposed to be with Delilah. For all of the Hollywood love-fest from Cecil B. DeMille, this wasn’t an affair that was supposed to take place. As an Israelite, he wasn’t supposed to intermarry with the surrounding pagan cultures, much less cavort with women outside of marriage. Samson was flagrantly flirting with sexual immorality. “Delilah” = “feeble”…related to the Arabic word for “flirt.” Samson flirted with her, and she made him feeble through temptation…

5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”

A. Delilah isn’t exactly a sympathetic character…she’s taken in by a bribe. Not like Samson’s 1st wife, who at lease only gave in under duress… The bribe was huge – about 140 pounds of silver. The lords of the Philistines really wanted to capture Samson.

B. Note that they didn’t desire to kill him, but to “afflict him.” From their point of view, it was far better to have Samson in captured humiliation than made a martyr. Obviously, it starts out this way, but ends in a fashion they never imagined.

6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and with what you may be bound to afflict you.” 7 And Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

A. Was Samson right to lie? It certainly would have been unwise to have mentioned his Nazirite vows – but God doesn’t call us to sin in the process of righteousness… Again, he wasn’t supposed to be there. Sin begets more sin – and soon we’re trapped in a vicious cycle.

8 So the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now men were lying in wait, staying with her in the room. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he broke the bowstrings as a strand of yarn breaks when it touches fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.

A. Samson defeated the ambush…

B. This should have been a BIG hint to him not to tell Delilah anything. Instead, he insists on maintaining his affair with her. Sin makes us stupid…

10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Look, you have mocked me and told me lies. Now, please tell me what you may be bound with.” 11 So he said to her, “If they bind me securely with new ropes that have never been used, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” 12 Therefore Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And men were lying in wait, staying in the room. But he broke them off his arms like a thread.

A. Ambush #2 defeated…

13 Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me what you may be bound with.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom”—14 So she wove it tightly with the batten of the loom, and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled out the batten and the web from the loom.

A. Ambush #3 defeated…

B. Notice Samson’s getting closer to telling Delilah the truth… The more we flirt with sin, the more we try to cross the line…

15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16 And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death,

A. Time goes on & Delilah continues to nag & press him to tell her the truth. Like a leaky faucet, she pestered Samson until he broke – “his soul was vexed to death.” Proverbs 27:15-16 (15) A continual dripping on a very rainy day And a contentious woman are alike; (16) Whoever restrains her restrains the wind, And grasps oil with his right hand. [] … This isn’t restrained to one gender! But it also isn’t love. True agape love does not behave rudely, nor does it seek its own (1 Cor 13:5). If this is you (husband or wife), you need to seek your spouse’s forgiveness.

17 that he told her all his heart, and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

A. Did he tell her the truth? Yes & no. Yes – he spoke truthfully about what would cause his strength to leave him… But no in that he seemed to think that his strength was in the power of his vow. Samson’s hair did not give him his strength; God did.

B. This seems to indicate why Samson let himself get in so much trouble throughout his life. He didn’t have a proper understanding of God’s holiness. He thought that God would continue to let him continually get away with sin. After all, he had already broken his vow regarding grapes & dead bodies. Why not the hair as well? Without a proper fear of God, Samson dove deep into sin & ended up paying the consequences.
__a. It’s not that someone who’s theology is orthodox has no trouble with sin (Paul seriously disagrees with that in Rom 7!); but the person who truly fears, reverences, and worships God as revealed in the Bible simply cannot live in continual ongoing sin. God is going to put a stop to it one way or another.

18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart.” So the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hand. 19 Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 20 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.

A. Note that even Delilah knew Samson wasn’t lying any more. He finally gave in to sin & it was evident to the world around him….

B. God’s response to Samson’s continual sin? The Holy Spirit departed from Samson & Samson no longer had his strength… IOW, God disciplined him…
__a. Is that bad? From Samson’s perspective, surely yes. But overall, this was a sign of God’s LOVE for Samson! The Lord chastens those whom He loves…

21 Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison.

A. Ambush #4 worked. The Philistines blinded Samson & gave him the job of an animal in prison…

22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.

A. IOW, there was hope. God wasn’t done with Samson yet…

B. This actually does seem to give the indication that Samson’s strength was in his hair & not God – yet we know it was the opposite. I suggest that God in His omniscience anticipated Samson’s repentance (which we see), and used Samson’s time in prison to re-establish his Nazirite vow to God.

23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice. And they said: “Our god has delivered into our hands Samson our enemy!” 24 When the people saw him, they praised their god; for they said: “Our god has delivered into our hands our enemy, The destroyer of our land, And the one who multiplied our dead.” 25 So it happened, when their hearts were merry, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may perform for us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed for them. And they stationed him between the pillars.

A. The Philistines rejoiced to see Samson weakened & imprisoned…

B. Make no mistake: the world rejoices any time they see a Christian fall into sin. It gives them yet one more reason to gloat in rebellion against the God who gave them breath & life. [G. Lamb? Ted H?]

26 Then Samson said to the lad who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars which support the temple, so that I can lean on them.” 27 Now the temple was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there—about three thousand men and women on the roof watching while Samson performed. 28 Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” 29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left.

A. Did Samson repent? It’s not exactly a model prayer of repentance…but notice the relationship here.
__a. Samson acknowledges the Lordship of God – “O Lord GOD”: an acknowledgement that Samson isn’t on the throne; God is.
__b. Expresses faith in the covenant love of God – “GOD”. “Yhwh” in Hebrew. Samson is showing his faith & trust in God’s word & covenant.
__c. Turns in his desire from his lusts to the work God had called him to do. His desire for revenge is still there, true – but God had raised up Samson as its judge for 20 years. The whole purpose of the judge was to be a deliverer – and in this one blow, Samson would wipe out the Philistine leaders & thousands of its people.

C. It’s never too late to repent!!

30 Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life. 31 And his brothers and all his father’s household came down and took him, and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had judged Israel twenty years.

A. Massive massacre at the temple…at least 3000 died.

B. Was this suicide? Or was Samson’s death a result of “friendly fire” (his own)? Technically, it may be suicide, but the context treats it more as a casualty of war. Samson showed he was willing to give his life for God. That can be somewhat commendable, but it’s relatively easy to find. Peter was willing to die for Jesus (Luke 22:33); it was living in the foolishness of the gospel that was hard…
__a. May we be willing to live for our Lord Jesus!!

Ultimately, how does the Bible judge Samson? As a man of faith… Hebrews 11:32-34 (32) And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: (33) who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, (34) quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. []

Where was his faith shown? Two main places in this chapter: (1) When he allowed himself to be tied up by his own countrymen & taken to the Philistines, implicitly trusting the Lord to strengthen him in breaking free. (2) At his death, when he entrusted his fate to God & repented from his wrongdoing.

At the same time, there’s almost more to learn of what NOT to do, than what TO do by looking at Samson’s life. He constantly gave in to lust – he repeatedly broke his Nazirite vow – he did not have a proper respect for the Lord. … But in the end, his story is one of redemption…

There may be people here tonight that think it’s too late for them. But Jesus isn’t called our “Redeemer” for nothing. It’s never too late to repent & let Jesus redeem you…


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