Samson Before Delilah Discussion Questions
Samson Before Delilah: Context
Samson Before Delilah: Chapter 13
Samson Before Deliah: Chapter 14
Samson Before Deliah: Chapter 15
Now, having looked at the context of the story of Samson and Delilah, we are now able to look at the story the way the original reader might have looked at it. What have we learned so far?
1.God commanded Israel to not intermarry with the nations in the land that they were entering, they were to keep apart from the other nations or their gods would become a snare to Israel.
2.We see that Israel intermarried and made covenants with the other nations and followed after the gods of the nations in the land God promised them.
3.God punished them by sending oppressors.
4.But He relieved the oppression by sending deliverers.
5.Samson was one of the deliverers. He was to begin to save Israel. Samson was called by God to be a Nazirite. He was to be set apart for God and to abstain from wine and unclean food. He was to leave his hair long and not to let a razor touch his head.
6.Samson and the Philistines engage in escalating conflicts.
7.Samson judged Israel twenty years.
This is a summary of the story up to chapter 16. Those who only know the Sunday School version of Samson and Delilah think that Samson’s hair was the source of his strength and when his hair is cut, all his strength leaves. People don’t understand that he was a Nazirite and what that means. They don’t know about his miraculous birth. They don’t understand his lack of concern for maintaining his Nazirite vow. All of this is necessary to understand what is happening in this story.
The chapter begins with Samson's visit to a prostitute. He has to travel over 40 miles to get to her. She is, of course a Philistine, and while he is visiting her, the house is surrounded by the Philistines. But he is able to escape them and he even goes so far as to take the doors of the gates of the city. Why does he do that? I believe he does it to insult them. They have no power over him. Notice something different about Samson’s feat? There is no mention of the Holy Spirit.
Finally we come to the first mention of Delilah and what's significant about this is that this is the first woman to be mentioned by name in the Samson narrative. Samson's mom, his wife and the prostitute were all nameless but Delilah is named. Probably it is the author's way of letting the reader know her significance. It is also significant that this is the first mention of love associated with the women that Samson pursues:
Judges 16:4-5 After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, "Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver."Isn't it amazing that immediately after the author mentions that Samson loved her that we see her being bribed to provide the lords of the Philistines with a way to overpower Samson. His wife was threatened into betraying him but Delilah did so for money, a very large sum of money. They were out for revenge (at least twenty years after the incident) and were sparing no expense.
Judges 16:6-7 So Delilah said to Samson, "Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you." Samson said to her, "If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, then I shall become weak and be like any other man."Now, here is where context helps us to understand the story better. What is significant about the fresh bowstring? It's the word “fresh.” This would be a violation of his vow and we notice in the next verse that this is emphasized:
Judges 16:8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she bound him with them.He is toying with the woman he said that he loved and he is toying with his vow. It's all sport to him. And we see this in the next two attempts Delilah makes to get the truth from him.
In this story of Delilah's betrayal of Samson we see the way that women have gotten their way throughout the course of human history, she nagged him:
Judges 16:16-17 And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17 And he told her all his heart, and said to her, "A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man."Notice that he says that he is a Nazirite to God not to Elohim (this is the covenant name for God).
Here we see that he understood the source of his strength, his vow to God as a Nazirite. This is the first time he has mentioned his vow. Was the hair the source of his strength? No, of course not. It doesn't have magical powers. His strength came in his obedience to God and in keeping his covenant with God and when he violated that the Spirit of the Lord left him
Block says of this passage:
But Samson’s problem with his vow is not so much that he willfully violates it; he simply does not take it seriously. Like his strength, and the people around him, it is a toy to be played with, not a calling to be fulfilled” (Block, pg. 459)He's left defenseless because he desired a woman's affection more than his vow to God. He should have been wiser but he was a fool.
Judges 16:20 And she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" And he awoke from his sleep and said, "I will go out as at other times and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison.They finally get their revenge, they finally humble him. The arrogant and boastful Samson with superhuman strength is blind and doing menial labor. I've heard many references to the blinding Samson as punishment for his wandering eyes but Block makes the following observation:
In Mesopotamia defeated enemies were often blinded by gouging out their eyes and then humiliated by being forced to perform the most menial of tasks, those customarily assigned to slaves and women.” (Block, pg. 462)Here is Samson, the mighty one, who was chosen by God to be set apart for service. He stands defeated by his lack of faithfulness. He has thrown away his vow to God and allowed his enemy to overcome him. He has no one else but himself to blame. But in the hour of his deep despair, we see the hand of God, we see mercy. The author foreshadows what is about to come:
Judges 16:22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.Even though Samson failed miserably in his service to the Lord, we see that he is not abandoned. God remembers Samson, even though he does not deserve it.
The Philistines praise their god for Samson's defeat, Samson has shown that Israel's God is not powerful enough to protect him. Samson is brought into the celebration by a lad and he prays to God:
Judges 16:28-30 Then Samson called to the LORD and said, "O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes." And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines." Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.He accomplishes more in this death than he does in his life. He wants to avenge himself against the Philistines, it's not God or Israel he is thinking of but his eyesight. It's significant that he is now ready to die amongst the Philistines when in the last chapter he complained to God that he would die among the uncircumcised. Here he prays that it will happen. Block says of this passage:
With this utterance Samson declares his total and final identification with the enemy...The Nazirite set apart for the service of God, wants to die with the uncircumcised Philistines” (Block, pg. 469)The Lord answers his prayer and allows him to avenge himself against the Philistines and to die with the m. And then his brothers came and got him and buried him with his father. This is significant, though he rejected his people, they did forget him.
What do we gain from this study of Samson? I think that it's important to see that God is faithful even when we are not. He did not abandon Samson but was there throughout and answered Samson when he cried out.
And even though Samson was not faithful, he still served God by destroying the enemy of Israel. He did what God intended for him to do. And as the narrator notes, he was a judge for twenty years. And what's really amazing is that he is even in the heroes of faith in Hebrew:
Hebrews 11:32-34 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets- who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.God uses jars of clay for his service:
2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.God used an arrogant, boastful, womanizer to bring glory to Himself, to triumph over His enemies. But what's truly amazing is that He condescends to use any of us for service. We are jars of clay and yet He calls us "vessels of mercy" to be used for "honorable use" (Romans 9).
Praise be to God that He has made us vessels of mercy and through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, he has enabled us to serve Him.
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