Judges 13-16
(Samson and Delilah)
March 17th


Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Click here for a print- friendly version


Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

The Israelites sinned against the LORD again, and he let the Philistines rule them for forty years.

- Judges 13:1 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

The story of Samson is the last account of the twelve judges in the book of Judges. Samson, however, was not the last judge to rule over Israel. The story takes place over a 40-year period in which the LORD had allowed the Philistines to rule over Israel because they had, yet again, been living evil lives. Most of the population had given up fighting their erstwhile enemy and had acquiesced to their rule.

Samson was born to a couple from the tribe of Dan who had been unable to have children but was blessed by an angel of the LORD who promised them a child. In return, the parents had to agree to raise him as a Nazirite. The Nazirites were a special group of Israelites who had decided to dedicate their lives to serving the LORD, as described in Numbers 6:1-21. Future Nazirites include Samuel and John the Baptist.

Samson was blessed with unusual strength, delivered to him by the Spirit of the LORD. He demonstrated his strength by tearing apart a lion and single-handedly conducting a series of slaughters against the Philistines.

    And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.

    And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.

    And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.

    - Judges 15:14-16 (KJV)

He became the next judge-leader of Israel and ruled for twenty years. However, the Philistines were always seeking to subdue him. They finally were able to capture him thanks to the persistence of his girlfriend, Delilah, who had been bribed by the Philistine leaders.

The Philistines thought that their gods had delivered them from Samson, but the real God was not finished using Samson to achieve his objectives. Samson was given one last opportunity to inflict punishment on these oppressors. Although his eyes had been gouged and his body was restrained he was able to knock down the Philistine temple of Dagon with his bare hands, bringing death to thousands of the enemies of Israel. Samson died with them, but his actions were a turning point in the Israelites long-running battle with this other nation.

Reflection and Application

The story of a barren woman who longs for a child appears multiple times in the Bible. For example, Sara, the wife of Abraham, was old and barren. She had given up on the hope of bearing children, so she laughed when God said she would bear a child. But God prevailed over barrenness by delivering the child Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob, who was renamed by God as Israel. Jacob's twelve sons became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel, which are named after them. In an example from the New Testament, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was also barren, but was visited by an angel and gave birth to the man who served as the herald for the arrival of the Messiah.

God has power over life and death. He can create life. Man cannot. He also sends angels to comfort us and communicate with us. Have you been visited by an angel? Maybe the angel looked like an ordinary person, but appeared at an extraordinary time. Maybe your angel arrived when you were in a disabled vehicle on a lonely highway, or appeared at your apartment with a hot meal when you were down on your luck. Maybe your angel gave you a message regarding what God wants you to do with your life. If you are ever blessed by an angel, then remember to stop and give thanks, just like Manaoh, the father of Samson, who gave thanks upon hearing the good news regarding his future child.

When you first reviewed this story did you think that Samson was an odd choice for a judge of Israel? If so, you would not have been alone in coming to this conclusion. He had been blessed with strength, but not wisdom. He fought fiercely against the enemies of Israel, but he did it for personal vengeance, not for patriotic purposes. He eventually revealed his secret of power that related to his long hair, because Delilah persisted in pestering him about it. His real weakness was a desire to love and be loved in return by the woman of his choice. This desire was more important to him then serving God or country. That desire was never fulfilled, instead, the woman he chose always sought to deceive and plot against him. Samson gave himself too much credit and put his own desires before Godís when he revealed his secret to Delilah, and lost his power as a result.

What place does this flawed man have in the divine plan of God for deliverance of Israel? Part of the answer can be found in the greater context of the story. The Philistines had been ruling over the Israelites for a generation and had worn down their resistance. The people were not chafing from the yoke of their oppressors, but were mingling and marrying. Notice the reaction from his countrymen when Samson murdered a bunch of Philistines, as written in chapter 15. Instead of viewing this incident as an opportunity for an uprising, they were afraid of a reprisal.

    Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, ďDonít you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?Ē

    - Judges 15:11 (NIV)

Likewise, when Samson attacked the Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, the men of Judah did nothing to help. Presumably, they just stood by and watched.

God knew that if the current pattern continued that the Israelites would become totally assimilated into the Philistine nation and could no longer have an opportunity to serve as a shining light. Therefore, he sent Samson as a disruptive force. He used Samsonís personal desire, pride, and power as a way to stir up conflict between the nations and eliminate a large number of the Philistines. We shall see later how the actions of Samson began a process by which the Israelites would free themselves.

Remember that God has creative ways of using us, even when we are deeply flawed as Samson was. Donít ever discount who he might use or how he might use each one of us. Donít give up if you feel you have not fulfilled what God wants from you. God is always ready to give you another chance, if you ask. Samson had been empowered by the Holy Spirit with tremendous physical strength, as noted in Judges 14:6 and 15:14, and illustrated by his many demonstrations of brute force.

The purpose of the empowerment of Samson by the Spirit was for the greater good of the tribes of Israel. In a lecture on the Holy Spirit, the Rev. Greg Doll noted that we also can be empowered by the Holy Spirit for the greater good of our community and world. Doll noted that, "Each of us may be empowered for our unique calling. Some have artistic gifts, others in finance, others in writing, etc. If we align ourselves with God then he will help us (1)."

Samson realized he had not fulfilled his potential but asked God for one more opportunity to serve. The sincerity of his prayer was reinforced by his use of different names for God, as recorded in the original Hebrew (2): "Then Samson prayed to the LORD, 'Sovereign LORD (Yahweh), remember me. Please, God (Elohim), strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes' (16:28 - NIV)." His prayer was granted, although he made the ultimate sacrifice in the process. Our prayers may be granted, if it is in God's will, and we may have to make some type of sacrifice if we choose to serve him. It may not be the same one as Samson and Jesus, but it may be a sacrifice of our valuable time or other aspects of life that we value.

The story of Samson is real. There are ruins of the Dagon temple destroyed by Samson that can be observed in the town of Nablus, but this is not an easy place for visitors to reach because it is in the Palestinian territory. However, you can see a commercially successful movie that brought this story to the silver screen. The movie ďSamson and DelilahĒ was the top grossing film in 1950. Director Cecil B. DeMille cast Hedy Lemar as Delilah and Victor Mature as Samson. DeMille applied artistic license to the story but the conclusion is consistent with the book of Judges, allowing the viewer to see a vision of the wounded Samson bringing down the temple of Dagon.

In 2013, the History Channel produced another depiction of Samson in part two of its ten episode mini-series titled, "The Bible." This Samson was adroitly portrayed by actor Nonso Anozie, a muscular man who was able to play the part of a fearsomely strong yet naÔve man. You can watch a brief narrative from Anozie and clips from the episode by clicking on the YouTube object below:

"Samson," from the History Channel mini-series, "The Bible"


Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What are some examples of your prayers that were answered when the odds seemed improbable?
    2. Who have been the angels in your life?
    3. Who have been the Philistines that have had you under a yoke that became comfortable?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, thank you for the angels you have sent! Please help us to throw off the yoke of this world and accept the offer of your yoke, which is gentle and does not chafe.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Brides and Bride Grooms

    Footnotes

    (1) Doll, Rev. Gregory, "Study of the Holy Spirit, Lesson 4," October 21st, 2014, New York, NY
    (2) Cundall, Arthur E., Morris Leon, Judges & Ruth an Introduction and Commentary,Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester England, Downers Grove, IL, 1968, p. 181

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Judges 17-18 (Imagine a World Without God)

    Comments and Questions
    If you have comments or questions, please add them to our Comments page, email to the author at ted@listeningforGod.org, or share your comments or questions via the Listening for God Twitter account

    Click to follow Listening for God(@listeningforgod)