Judges 16 Commentary

 

 

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Click for Links to Individual Verses
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Judges 16 Commentary

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

NOW SAMSON WENT TO GAZA AND SAW A HARLOT THERE:  Genesis 10:19; Joshua 15:47 Harlot - Genesis 38:16, 17, 18; Ezra 9:1,2

Related Resources: Dealing with Lust, Holiness, Godliness

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1Thessalonians 4:3ff Exposition

Galatians 5:16ff Exposition

1Timothy 4:7ff Exposition

2Corinthians 10:3-5 - Exposition

James 1:13; James 1:14; James 1:15 - Exposition

Proverbs 5:1-14;   Proverbs 5:15-23; Proverbs 6:20-35; Proverbs 7:1-27 - Exposition

This chapter (among many lessons) shows how desire can deceive a person into believing a lie.

R C Sproul applies the truths in this story to believers today noting that...

Samson drifted into sin one inch at a time, but finally there was a point when God withdrew his favor and denied him access to the gift of strength. Pride, presumption, and neglecting your spiritual gifts may result in the same end. What task has God set before you at this point in life? Are you aware of your privilege and, as Paul encouraged Timothy (2Ti 1:6-note), are you stirring up your gift into a righteous flame? (Before the Face of God: Book Three: A Daily Guide for Living from the Old Testament)

Guzik comments that...

In this Samson is a picture of the believer in disobedience. God used him, but he did not benefit from it. His life ended in personal tragedy, shadowed by the waste of great potential.

The same problem! He has just drunk of victory... and yet here again in one night he falls. This ought to remind us that the proclivity to sin never dies of old age, that our weaknesses never go away; they are always there. We can always overcome them in the power of the Spirit of God, but they never leave us. We are always weak in the area of these old sins. As someone has said, "Old flesh never dies; it just smells that way." So after victory he is tempted in this area and he immediately succumbs, because he is unwilling to turn to the Lord in his time of need and to draw upon him.

Now again the Lord delivers him miraculously. He escapes through the midst of the Philistines at night and rips the gates off the city walls and carries them on his back all the way to Hebron, which is 40 miles from Gaza--again an evidence to him of the immense strength that was his in the Lord.

Harlot (zanah/zonah) (see Harlot Harlotry) means a prostitute. Prostitutes like the woman whom Samson visited at Gaza were common in the ancient world. In fact, prostitution has been a part of religious rites since at least 3000 a.d. In Babylon, Syria, Canaan, Arabia, and Phoenicia intercourse with a temple prostitute was believed to induce fertility among humans, animals, and crops. The historian Herodotus tells of a Babylonian custom that required every woman to sit in the temple of the goddess Ishtar until chosen by a stranger for sexual relations. A desirous man would toss a coin in a woman’s lap. If she accepted the coin and his sexual advances, she would have paid her obligation to the goddess and be free to return to her normal life. In Israel, however, ritual prostitution was forbidden (Dt 23:17). Laws existed to prevent priests from marrying prostitutes (Lev 21:7), and income from prostitution could not be used to pay vows in the temple (Dt 23:18). Nevertheless, commercial prostitutes practiced their trade rather freely in Hebrew society. They were easily recognizable by their hairstyle, head ornaments, or perhaps a special mark on their foreheads. Their clothing and jewelry signaled their availability, and like streetwalkers everywhere, they frequented particular locales well known as meeting spots. Payments were accepted in money, grain, wine, or livestock. It was even common to accept a pledge until the payment could be fulfilled.

Went in to her - The life of Samson illustrates the ancient truth that a good beginning doesn’t guarantee a good ending.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote that

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending. (cp Heb 12:1, 2-note, Php 3:14-note, 1Ti 1:18, 6:20, 1Pe 1:13-note)

As Solomon wrote,

The end of a matter is better than its beginning (Eccl 7:8)

Samson’s morality had fallen to a low point with his visit to the prostitute at Gaza, and he soon was paying the consequences of ignoring God. It’s possible for one's character to deteriorate so much that they don’t have to be tempted in order to sin. All they need is the opportunity to sin, and they will tempt themselves (cp Jas 1:14, 15-notes)! What a frightening state in which to be! Illicit sex may taste sweet as honey (Pr 5:3-notes), but always ends up as bitter as wormwood (Pr  5:1-14-notes). Samson the man had become Samson the animal as the prostitute led him to the slaughter (Pr 7:6-23-notes).

Gaza was an important seaport town located about forty miles from Samson’s hometown of Zorah. We aren’t told why Samson went there, but it’s not likely he was looking for sensual pleasure. Once again the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh (cp 1Jn 2:15, 16, 17, Jas 1:14-notes) combined to grip Samson and make him a slave to his passions. It seems incredible to us that a servant of God (Jdg 15:18-notes), who did great works in the power of the Spirit, would visit a prostitute, but the record is here for all to read. This story reminds one of the exploits of Jimmy Swaggart caught visiting ladies of the night.

ENEMY ATTACK -In his book, From the Shadows, former CIA director Robert Gates relates a near-catastrophe that took place during the Presidency of Jimmy Carter.  Carter's national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was once awakened and informed that the Soviet Union had launched an all-out nuclear attack. One minute before he was to have called the President, word arrived that the first information had been in error. Someone had accidentally inserted military exercise tapes into the missile-defense computer system. Thankfully, Brzezinski's wake-up call was a false alarm. He remained calm and in control in a situation in which he might have fallen prey to fear or panic. He knew that if we fail to control our passions, our passions control us. That's what happened to Samson. Unable to control himself, in the end he fell victim to an ""enemy attack.""

F B Meyer writes that...

A fatal snare again entangled Samson. -- How many great men have been too weak to resist the wiles of the flesh. Those who do great exploits for God must ever watch against these. This story should remind us of the death of Christ. In His weakness as He hung upon the Cross, the power of hell compassed Him in, and anticipated an easy victory, but He laid hold on the doors of death, the gate into the unseen, and plucked them up, bars and posts and all, and put them upon His shoulders and carried them up to the top of the everlasting hills, which lie towards the city of Rest (Eph. 4:8-note).

ARE YOU DRIFTING FROM GOD?
Then Mull Over the
Quotes on Backsliding

John Piper (The Anatomy of Backsliding on Ps 119:176) notes that at the terminus of one of the most wonderful psalms in Scripture, the psalmist makes a declaration the picture of which is that of the confession of one who has become backslidden!

I have gone astray like a lost sheep (What should we pray when we have gone astray?). Seek thy servant, (Why should God seek His servant?) for I do not forget thy commandments.

Spurgeon commenting on this passage writes: This is the finale: I have gone astray like a lost sheep—often, willfully, wantonly, and even hopelessly, but for thine interposing grace. Before I was afflicted, and before thou hadst fully taught me thy statutes, I went astray from the practical precepts, from the instructive doctrines, and from the heavenly experiences which thou hadst set before me. I lost my road, and I lost myself. Even now I am apt to wander, and, in fact, have roamed already; therefore, Lord, restore me.

Seek thy servant. He was not like a dog, that somehow or other can find its way back; but he was like a lost sheep, which goes further and further away from home; yet still he was a sheep, and the Lord’s sheep, his property, and precious in his sight, and therefore he hoped to be sought in order to be restored. However far he might have wandered he was still not only a sheep, but God’s “servant,” and therefore he desired to be in his Master’s house again, and once more honored with commissions for his Lord. Had he been only a lost sheep he would not have prayed to be sought; but being also a “servant” he had the power to pray. He cries, Seek thy servant, and he hoped to be not only sought, but forgiven, accepted, and taken into work again by his gracious Master.

Notice this confession; many times in the psalm David (Ed note: David may be the author but that is no where clearly stated.) has defended his own innocence against foul-mouthed accusers, but when he comes into the presence of the Lord his God he is ready enough to confess his transgressions. Here he sums up, not only his past, but even his present life, under the image of a sheep which has broken from its pasture, forsaken the flock, left the shepherd, and brought itself into the wild wilderness, where it has become as a lost thing. The sheep bleats, and David prays, Seek thy servant. His argument is a forcible one—for I do not forget thy commandments. I know the right, I approve and admire the right; what is more, I love the right, and long for it. I cannot be satisfied to continue in sin, I must be restored to the ways of righteousness. I have a home-sickness after my God, I pine after the ways of peace; I do not and I cannot forget thy commandments, nor cease to know that I am always happiest and safest when I scrupulously obey them and find all my joy in doing so. Now, if the grace of God enables us to maintain in our hearts the loving memory of God’s commandments it will surely yet restore us to practical holiness. We cannot be utterly lost if our heart is still with God. If we be gone astray in many respects, yet still, if we be true in our soul’s inmost desires, we shall be found again, and fully restored. Yet, let us remember the first verse of the psalm while reading the last: the major blessedness lies not in being restored from wandering, but in being upheld in a blameless way even to the end. Be it ours to keep the crown of the causeway, never leaving the King’s Highway for By-path Meadow, or any other flowery path of sin. May the Lord uphold us even to the end. Yet even then we shall not be able to boast with the Pharisee, but shall still pray with the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and with the psalmist, Seek thy servant.

John MacArthur has book The Power of Integrity (Buy and read the printed book or the computer version), the reading and practice of which is sorely needed to sound a wake up call in many sleeping, drifting, compromising modern churches. Here is an excerpt from this excellent book that relates to Samson's life as it deals with the sad certain sequelae of compromise...

Church history is full of people who refused to compromise the biblical standards. As he stood before the Diet of Worms and was ordered to recant his writings or lose his life, Martin Luther did not deny Christ. Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, two English Reformers, were both burned at the stake for their faith in Christ. Those men are representative of the people who can’t be bought; no price will cause them to sell out.

THE PRICE
OF COMPROMISE

Men who hold to an uncompromising standard are sorely lacking in the church today. Many so-called Christians boast of their moral standards and extol their righteous character, yet abandon their conviction when compromise is more beneficial and expedient.

Perhaps you recognize one or more of the following:

• People say they believe the Bible, yet attend churches where the Bible isn’t taught.

• People agree that sin must be punished, but not if those sins are committed by their children.

• People oppose dishonesty and corruption until they must confront their bosses and risk losing their jobs.

• People maintain high moral standards until their lusts are kindled by unscriptural relationships.

• People are honest until a little dishonesty will save them money.

• People hold a conviction until it is challenged by someone they admire or fear.

Sadly, such compromises are not exceptions; they have become the rule. But don’t think twentieth-century Christians are the only experts in the art of compromise. Scripture is full of people who compromised, including some very choice servants of God.

• Adam compromised God’s law, followed his wife’s sin, and lost paradise (Gen. 3:6, 22, 23, 24).

• Abraham compromised the truth, lied about Sarah’s relationship to him, and nearly lost his wife (Ge 12:10, 11, 12).

• Sarah compromised God’s Word and sent Abraham to Hagar, who bore Ishmael and destroyed peace in the Middle East (Ge 16:1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 12).

• Moses compromised God’s command and lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land (Nu 20:7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).

• Samson compromised his devotion as a Nazirite and lost his strength, his eyesight, and his life (Jdg. 16:4, 5, 6, 16-31).

• Israel compromised the commands of the Lord, lived in sin, and, when fighting the Philistines, lost the Ark of God (1Sa 4:11). She also compromised the law of God with sin and idolatry and lost her homeland (2Chr 36:14, 15, 16, 17).

• Saul compromised God’s divine word by not slaying the animals of his enemy and lost his kingdom (1Sa 15:3, 20-28).

• David compromised God’s standard, committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered Uriah, and lost his infant son (2Sa 11:1, 2, 3, 4ff, 2Sa 12:7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 - note especially what David had despised in committing these sins - 2Sa 12:9, 10 and what was the most odious result - 2Sa 12:14).`

• Solomon compromised his convictions, married foreign wives, and lost the united kingdom (1Ki 11:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

• Judas compromised his supposed devotion for Christ for thirty pieces of silver and was separated from Christ eternally (Mt 26:20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 47, 48, 49; 27:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; cf. Jn 17:12).

• Peter compromised his conviction about Christ, denied Him, and lost his joy (Mark 14:66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72). Later he compromised the truth in order to gain acceptance by the Judaizers and lost his liberty (Gal. 2:11, 12, 13, 14).

• Ananias and Sapphira compromised their word about their giving, lied to the Holy Spirit, and lost their lives (Acts 5:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

Two observations come to mind from those examples. First, in every case the effect of the compromise was to lose something valuable in exchange for something temporary and unfulfilling, some sinful desire. How contrary that is to what we discovered in the first chapter. There we learned that you gain something valuable (your salvation and relationship with Christ) in exchange for something worthless (your sin and self-righteousness).

Second, note what was compromised in each of those examples: either God’s Word, a command from God, or a conviction about God. Thus the true price of compromise is a rejection of God’s Word, which amounts to rebellion against Him and promotion of self as the final authority.

That is the situation in many churches today. Even in churches that once were genuinely evangelical, where the Bible was the divine standard for belief and living, God’s Word is now compromised. Sometimes it is stripped of its clear meaning or is relegated to a place of secondary authority. In many churches that once preached sound doctrine, evils that God plainly and repeatedly condemns are touted as acceptable. Scripture is often reinterpreted to accommodate those anti-biblical views. Pragmatism is in; commitment to biblical truth is denigrated as poor marketing strategy.

The fact is, people are content with unbiblical notions that raise their comfort level and either justify or overlook their sins. They are quick to reject as unloving anyone who presumes to hold them accountable to doctrinal beliefs and moral standards they deem outmoded and irrelevant.

Today the church is full of spiritual babies who are

tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (see note Ephesians 4:14)

—the antithesis of a spiritually mature Christian. Spiritual babies are in constant danger of falling prey to every new religious fad that comes along. Because they are not anchored in God’s truth, they are subject to every sort of counterfeit truth—humanistic, cultic, pagan, demonic, or whatever. Just as families today are dominated by their children, so are many churches. How tragic when the church’s immature believers are among its most influential teachers and leaders. (MacArthur, J. The Power of Integrity : Building a Life Without compromise. Crossway Books or Logos Version)

Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) wrote a book entitled Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul  dealing specifically with the topic "What is the present spiritual state of my soul before God?" His first chapter entitled Incipient Declension  is most relevant to the study and application of the truths seen in the spiritual slippage in the sad, solemn saga of Samson. Perhaps God is calling you to stop for a time and ponder Samson. If you are experiencing a weariness of soul brought on by wandering from the ancient paths (Jer 6:16), perhaps Winslow's soul "prying" work might be just what the Great Physician is prescribing to draw you from the depths of despond, apathy, etc. The following is simply a partial excerpt from Chapter 1 (Incipient Declension) to wet your spiritual appetite. Clearly the best balm is always the pure, undiluted Word, but there are times when God seems to raise up human works meant to catalyze our desires to discipline ourselves for godliness.  The intrigued reader is encouraged to at least take a look at the interesting table of contents (each of which is an active link...e.g., when was the last time you read or heard a discussion of grieving the Spirit?)

Preface

Chapter 1: Incipient Declension

Chapter 2: Declension in Love

Chapter 3: Declension in Faith

Chapter 4: Declension in Prayer

Chapter 5: Declension in Connection with Doctrinal Error

Chapter 6: On Grieving the Spirit

Chapter 7: The Fruitless and the Fruitful Professor

Chapter 8: The Lord, the Restorer of His People

Chapter 9: The Lord, the Keeper of His People

Excerpt from Chapter 1: Incipient Declension -

“The backslider in heart (Pr 14:14).”

If there is one consideration more humbling than another to a spiritually-minded believer, it is, that, after all God has done for him, - after all the rich displays of His grace, the patience and tenderness of His instructions, the repeated discipline of His covenant, the tokens of love received, and the lessons of experience learned, there should still exist in the heart a principle, the tendency of which is to secret, perpetual, and alarming departure from God. Truly, there is in this solemn fact, that which might well lead to the deepest self-abasement before Him.

If, in the present early stage of our inquiry into this subject, we might be permitted to assign a cause for the growing power which this latent, subtle principle is allowed to exert in the soul, we would refer to the believer's constant forgetfulness of the truth, that there is no essential element in divine grace that can secure it from the deepest declension; that, if left to its self-sustaining energy, such are the hostile influences by which it is surrounded, such the severe assaults to which it is exposed, and such the feeble resistance it is capable of exerting, there is not a moment - splendid though its former victories may have been - in which the incipient and secret progress of declension may not have commenced and be going forward in the soul! There is a proneness in us to deify the graces of the Spirit. We often think of faith and love, and their kindred graces, as though they were essentially omnipotent; forgetting that though they undoubtedly are divine in their origin, spiritual in their nature, and sanctifying in their effects, they yet are sustained by no self-supporting power, but by constant communications of life and nourishment from Jesus; that, the moment of their being left to their inherent strength, is the moment of their certain declension and decay.

We must here, however, guard a precious and important truth; viz., the indestructible nature of true grace. Divine grace in the soul can never really die; true faith can never utterly and finally fail. We are speaking now but of their decay. A flower may droop, and yet live: a plant may be sickly, and yet not die. In the lowest stage of spiritual declension, in the feeblest state of grace, there is a life that never dies. In the midst of all his startings aside, the ebb and the flow, the wandering and the restoring, the believer in Jesus is “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” He cannot utterly fall; he cannot finally be lost. The immutability of God keeps him, - the covenant of grace keeps him, - the finished work of Jesus keeps him, - the indwelling of the Spirit keeps him, and keeps him to eternal glory. We say, then, true grace is indestructible grace; it can never die. But it may decay; and to the consideration of this solemn and important subject, the reader's serious attention is now invited. We propose to exhibit the subject of Personal Declension of Religion in the Soul in some of its varied and prominent forms and phases, and to direct to those means which God has ordained and blessed to its restoration and revival. (
Read more )

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Henry Rossier - Defeat and Restoration (Judges 15)
 

We now enter upon a new period in Samson's history, characterized by the loss of his Nazariteship and by his restoration. Judges 16:31, compared with Judges 15: 20, marks outwardly this division. In Judges 15, God had preserved His servant in spite of himself, in a definite engagement with a woman who served other gods. But that did not rectify the natural tendency of his heart. And the first verse of this chapter shows us where this tendency led him. He had courted the idolatrous world, and now he goes after the defiled world, not fearing temporary association with it. A worldly propensity unjudged leads us necessarily to more serious falls. Thus it was, in the history of the church, that Pergamos led to Thyatira. Samson's connection with this woman was but a passing one, and he did not lose his strength there, for the secret between himself and God still continued. Waylaid all night, at the gate of the city, by his mortal enemies, he arose from his slumber, "and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron" (Jdg 16:3).

More than once does the history of Samson remind us of that of Christ; as, for instance, his victory over the lion of Timnath, and again in the achievement of the gates of Gaza. Like Samson, the Lord awaking from the sleep of death, has brought to nought the machinations of the enemy in breaking the gates of his terrible fortress. He has led into captivity that which held us captives; and, ascended on high, He has displayed the trophies of His victory. Death, the citadel of Satan, having no longer doors to hold us, has become for us a passage;* no bolt could imprison Christ there, no power is able to keep us there. The "hill that is before Hebron," the place of the risen Man who passed through death,** is a sure guarantee to us. {*"Hebron" means "a passage."}  {**We have remarked elsewhere (Meditations on the Book of Joshua) that Hebron is always in Scripture the place of death.}

We have said more than once, that there is not a man of God who is not called to manifest, and who does not, in fact, manifest some traits of the person of the Saviour. Ah! how beautiful it would have been to have seen Samson a worthy representative of Christ in his victory over death, as he was in his victory over the ravening lion! Whence went forth this strong man with the gates of Gaza on his shoulders? For whom did he fight? Who had placed him in this extremity? In all these things, his history presents the most complete contrast to that of our adorable Saviour.

Let us pay attention to a still more humiliating recital (Jdg 16:4-21). Samson, who had hitherto only formed a passing connection with evil, now went further. The daughter of the Philistines had been pleasing to his eye; the woman of Gaza had ensnared him for a moment; Delilah took possession of his affections. "He loved a woman in the valley of Sorek" (Jdg 16:4). This is the termination of the path of the child of God who gives way to, instead of judging, the first movements of his natural heart. Samson had hitherto guarded his intimate and secret relationship with God, in spite of everything. He possessed something which the world could not understand, and to the source of which it could not rise. His strength remained an enigma to his enemies; no doubt they saw the effect of it, but directed against themselves, and that made them all the more eager to wrest the secret of it from him, in order to find out what weapons to use against this servant of Jehovah. Doubtless, also, his long hair, a garb not common to all, was a public avowal of separation to God. But had his secret not been betrayed, the world would never have imagined that what was typical of dependence and of self-forgetfulness, was for the Nazarite a source of strength.

Samson loved Delilah. His heart was divided, and God could not go on with this. It is impossible for our affections to go out to the world and likewise to God. "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other" (Luke 16:13). In loving Delilah, Samson as much as said that he hated and despised God; when, in actual fact, he belonged to Him. This woman's influence over him increased more and more. "How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me?" (Jdg 16:15). From that time his heart was taken captive, and it was not long ere he surrendered the whole of his secret. Three times — the seven green withs that never were dried, the new ropes that never were occupied, and the seven locks of his head woven with the web — had not been able to quench the power of the Spirit. God still sustained His poor, unfaithful servant. But when his secret was divulged, the mark of his dependence removed, the bond of communion between his soul and God abolished, what remained for him? All his strength had vanished. The past experiences of God's deliverances, in spite of his moral bondage, only served to deceive him and to lull him into security. Three times he had extricated himself at a critical moment. Why not a fourth? The blinded heart said to itself: "I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself." But, with communion lost, intelligence of the thoughts of God was wholly lacking. "He wist not that Jehovah had departed from him" (Jdg 16:20).

Not that Samson was very happy under the yoke of Delilah. "She pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death" (Jdg 16:16). That was all he got from what had most attracted him! He would gladly have refused but was no longer capable of doing so. A man of the world may find his joy in the world; a believer, never. At bottom, the heart of Samson was in a measure with God and the Israel of God. From that fact sprang all this conflict, struggle, vexation and misery. Our conscience speaks and we have no real rest, our joy is embittered. At last he took the final step, and "told her all his heart" (Jdg 16:17). That was followed by sleep: "She made him sleep upon her knees" (Jdg 16:19). The soul loses all sense of its relationship with God, and falls into heavy slumber in the dense atmosphere of corruption. Then the enemy in ambush, watching for this moment, advanced, bound the strong man, put out his eyes, and treated him as one of their most wretched slaves. A condition, alas, worse than sleep! Samson is now only a poor blind slave, the sport of the enemies of Jehovah. Let us not he mistaken as to this, that the enemy was more hostile to God than to Samson, for the vanquished Nazarite became apparently the witness of the victory of the false god Dagon over the true God. The lack of reality in Christians is the world's most powerful weapon against Christ. In despising the unfaithful believer, it is really Him which the world finds the opportunity of despising.

Thank God, the history of the last of the judges does not close with this defeat. God will have the final victory in spite of the unfaithfulness of His witnesses. Samson recovered his Nazariteship in this state of bitter humiliation. "Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven" (Jdg 16:22). Samson was not a man of prayer. Only twice in all his history do we hear him addressing God (Jdg 15:18; Jdg 11:28). Here, whilst his enemies were celebrating their triumph, Samson cried to Jehovah. For my own part I appreciate in a man of God an end brighter than the commencement, though, doubtless, this is not what is highest. The path of Christ, the perfect Man, was one of perfect evenness and uniformity in the very many varied circumstances through which He had to pass, and it is thus that we see Him in Psalm 16, and in the Gospels. And yet to end like Samson, whose life presented so many contrasts; to end like Jacob, whose course, full of schemes and human devices, closed with the glorious vision of Israel's future and by worship which recognized in Joseph the type of the promised Messiah; to end like that was far better than to terminate his career like Solomon, in idolatry, after a magnificent reign of wisdom and power. Yes, Samson's end was a splendid victory. "The dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life" (Jdg 16:30).

May we profit by this history, and not require such experience of ourselves, either by a bad beginning or a bad ending. Paul, a man subject to like infirmities as ourselves, avoided both, although weakness was manifest in his walk on more than one occasion. Let us learn to regulate our steps by those of our sinless Model; that was the strength of the apostle, and it will be ours. Then will God say of us: "They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appears before God" (Ps. 84:7-
Spurgeon's note).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16. Samson’s Fall and Death.—Samson’s judicial labours reached their highest point when he achieved his great victory over the Philistines at Lechi. Just as his love to the daughter of a Philistine had furnished him with the occasion designed by God for the manifestation of his superiority to the uncircumcised enemies of Israel, so the degradation of that love into sensual lust supplied the occasion for his fall which is related in this chapter. “Samson, when strong and brave, strangled a lion; but he could not strangle his own love. He burst the fetters of his foes, but not the cords of his own lusts. He burned up the crops of others, and lost the fruit of his own virtue when burning with the flame enkindled by a single woman.” (Ambros. Apol. ii., David. c. iii.)


Judg. 16:1–3. His Heroic Deed at Gaza.—Samson went to Gaza in the full consciousness of his superiority in strength to the Philistines, and there went in unto a harlot whom he saw. For Gaza, see Josh. 13:3. בֹּוא אֶל is used in the same sense as in Gen. 6:4 and 38:16. It is not stated in this instance, as in Judg. 14:4, that it was of the Lord. (
Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:2 When it was told to the Gazites, saying, "Samson has come here," they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, "Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him."

Surrounded - 1Samuel 19:11; 23:26; Psalms 118:10-12; Acts 9:24; 2 Corinthians 11:32,33  Silent - Jdg 15:18; Matthew 21:38; 27:1; Acts 23:15

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:2. When this was told to the Gazites, they surrounded him (the object to the verb is to be supplied from the following word לֹו) and laid wait for him all night at the city gate, but they kept themselves quiet during the night, saying, “Till the dawning (אֹור, infin.) of the morning,” sc., we can wait, “then will we kill him.” For this construction, see 1 Sam. 1:22. The verb וַיֻּגַּד, “it was told” (according to the LXX and Chald.: cf. Gen. 22:20), or וַיֹּאמְרוּ, “they said,” is wanting before לָעַזָּתִים, and must have fallen out through a copyist’s error. The verb הִתְחָרֵשׁ has evidently the subordinate idea of giving themselves up to careless repose; for if the watchmen who were posted at the city gate had but watched in a regular manner, Samson could not have lifted out the closed gates and carried them away. But as they supposed that he would not leave the harlot before daybreak, they relied upon the fact that the gate was shut, and probably feel asleep. (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:3 Now Samson lay until midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.

Took the doors - Psalms 107:16; Isa 63:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Micah 2:13; Acts 2:24

The fact that the city gate was barred didn’t alarm him. He picked up the doors, posts, and bars and carried them off! Whether he carried them all the way to Hebron, a distance of about forty miles, or only to a hill that faced Hebron, depends on how you translate Jdg 16:3. Both interpretations are possible. In spite of his sin with the prostitute from Gaza, Samson was still able to carry away the entire city gate some 30 to 40 miles

The city gate was not only a protection for the city, but also the place where the officials met to transact business. To “possess the gate of his enemies” was a metaphor meaning “to defeat your enemies”

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:3. But at midnight Samson got up, and “laying hold of the folding wings of the city, gate, as well as the two posts, tore them out of the ground with his herculean strength, together with the bar that fastened them, and carried them up to the top of the mountain which stands opposite to Hebron.” עַל־פְּנֵי merely means in the direction towards, as in Gen. 18:16, and does not signify that the mountain was in the front of Hebron or in the immediate neighbourhood (see Deut. 32:49, where Mount Nebo, which was on the other side of the Jordan, and at least four geographical miles from Jericho, is said to have been over against, it, and the same expression is employed). The distance from Gaza to Hebron was about nine geographical miles. To the east of Gaza there is a range of hills which runs from north to south. The highest of them all is one which stands somewhat isolated, about half an hour to the south-east of the town, and is called el Montar from a wely which is found upon the top of it. From this hill there is a splendid prospect over the whole of the surrounding country. Hebron itself is not visible from this hill, but the mountains of Hebron are. According to an ancient tradition, it was to the summit of this hill that Samson carried the city gates; and both Robinson (Pal. ii. 377) and V. de Velde regard this tradition as by no means improbable, although the people of Gaza are not acquainted with it. “The city gate of the Gaza of that time was probably not less than three-quarters of an hour from the hill el Montar; and to climb this peak with the heavy gates and their posts and bar upon his shoulders through the deep sand upon the road, was a feat which only a Samson could perform” (V. de Velde) (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:4 After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.

AFTER THIS IT CAME ABOUT THAT HE LOVED A WOMAN IN THE VALLEY OF SOREK: Loved - 1 Kings 11:1; Nehemiah 13:26; Proverbs 22:14; 23:27; 26:11; 27:22; 1 Corinthians 10:6

"Loved" (ahab) has a wide range of meanings like its English counterpart, ranging from mere physical attraction to loyal devotion. In the present context it refers primarily to physical-emotional attraction.

Valley of Sorek lay between Zorah and Timnah on the border of Judah and Philistia. The city of Beth-shemesh was located there. Whenever Samson went into enemy territory, he “went down” both geographically and spiritually (14:1, v5, v7, 10). This time he found a woman in the valley, not too far from home; and he fell in love with her. It’s a dangerous thing to linger at the enemy’s border; you might get caught. The Valley of Sorek was near his home, but Samson’s heart was already far from God. It shocks us to see this Nazarite sleeping on the lap of a wicked woman, but this is what happens when people choose to go their own way and reject the counsel of loved ones and the Lord.

DELILAH: Along with David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah have captured the imagination of scores of writers, artists, composers, and dramatists. Handel included Delilah in his oratorio “Samson,” and Saint-Saens wrote an opera on “Samson and Delilah.” (The “Bacchanale” from that work is still a popular concert piece.) When Samson consorted with Delilah in the Valley of Sorek, he never dreamed that what they did together would be made into a Hollywood movie and projected in color on huge screens.

Scholars disagree on the meaning of Delilah’s name. Some think it means “devotee,” suggesting that she may have been a temple prostitute. But Delilah isn’t called a prostitute as is the woman in Gaza, although that’s probably what she was. For that matter, Delilah isn’t even identified as a Philistine. However, from her dealings with the Philistine leaders, she appears to be one. Other students believe that the basis for her name is the Hebrew word dalal, which means “to weaken, to impoverish.” Whether or not this is the correct derivation, she certainly weakened and impoverished Samson!

Samson's sensuality proved to be his demise as it did for famous author Oscar Wilde (not a Christian as far as I can discern) who wrote the following sad commentary...

The gods had given me almost everything. But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease...Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in search for new sensation. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character (Ed note: read that statement again!), and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber, one has some day to cry aloud from the house-top. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it (Ed note: Actually being born into sin he was never truly the captain of his soul, although self-deception led him to believe he once was). I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace. (Ed note: May his tribe decrease!)

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:4-21. Samson and Delilah.—V. 4. After this successful act, Samson gave himself up once more to his sensual lusts. He fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, named Delilah (i.e., the weak or pining one), to whose snares he eventually succumbed. With reference to the valley of Sorek, Eusebius affirms in the Onom. (s. v. Σωρήχ), that there was a village called Βαρήχ (l. Καφὰρ σωρήχ according to Jerome) near Zorea, and ἐν ὁρίοις (l. βορείοις according to Jerome, who has ad septentrionalem plagam); and also (s. v. Σωρήκ) that this place was near to Eshtaol. Consequently the Sorek valley would have to be sought for somewhere in the neighbourhood of Samson’s birthplace (Judg. 13:1), and the dwelling-place of his family (v. 31). (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and said to her, "Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him. Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver."

Lords - Jdg 3:3; Josh13:3; 1Sa 29:6  Entice - Jdg 14:15; Pr 2:16-19; 5:3-11; 6:24-26; 7:21-27; 1Co 6:15, 16, 17, 18  Afflict - Jdg 17:2; Ge 33:16; Nu 22:17,18; Mic 7:3; Mt 26:15; 1Ti 6:9,10

Entice (patah) means to deceive, seduce, allure, coax  or persuade and depicts the seducing of persons sexually or enticing them into sin and transgression.  The Philistines used this same verb (patah) when they demanded that Samson's bride-to-be "coax" him into revealing his secret (Jdg 14:15). Even as the Timnite girl managed to get the truth out of Samson, tragically so would Delilah.

Each of the Philistine leaders offered to pay Delilah a considerable sum of money if she would entice Samson and learn the source of his great strength. Micah offered to pay his household priest ten pieces of silver a year, plus room and board (Jdg 17:10); so Delilah was being rewarded most generously. If each of the princes of the five Philistine cities was in on the plan, as they probably were, Delilah would have received 5,500 pieces of silver. This shows how important it was to the Philistine leaders that Samson be captured. 

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:5. The princes of the Philistines offered Delilah a considerable sum (they would give her one thousand and one hundred shekels of silver each, i.e., a thousand shekels or more: cf. Judg. 17:2) if she would persuade Samson, and bring out from him “whereby his strength was great,” and whereby they could overpower and bind him, לְעַנֹּותֹו, to bend him, i.e., to oppress him. The Philistine princes thought that Samson’s supernatural strength arose from something external, which he wore or carried about with him as an amulet. There was a certain truth at the foundation of this heathen superstition, inasmuch as this gift of divine grace was really bound up with the possession of a corporeal pledge, the loss of which was followed by the immediate loss of the gift of God (see at v. 17). (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:6 So Delilah said to Samson, "Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you."

SO DELILAH SAID TO SAMSON, "PLEASE TELL ME WHERE YOUR GREAT STRENGTH IS AND HOW YOU MAY BE BOUND TO AFFLICT YOU: Psalms 12:2; Proverbs 6:26; 7:21; 22:14; 26:28; Je 9:2, 3, 4, 5; Micah 7:2,5

When Delilah began to probe for the secret of his strength, Samson should have been aware of his danger and, like Joseph (Ge39:12; 2Ti2:22), fled as fast as possible. But passion had gripped him, sin had anesthetized him, and he was unable to act rationally. Anybody could have told him that Delilah was making a fool out of him, but Samson would have believed no one.

In his devotional Morning and Evening Spurgeon asks...

Where lies the secret strength of faith? It lies in the food it feeds on; for faith studies what the promise is—an emanation of divine grace, an overflowing of the great heart of God; and faith says, “My God could not have given this promise, except from love and grace; therefore it is quite certain his Word will be fulfilled.” Then faith thinketh, “Who gave this promise?” It considereth not so much its greatness, as, “Who is the author of it?” She remembers that it is God who cannot lie—God omnipotent, God immutable; and therefore concludeth that the promise must be fulfilled; and forward she advances in this firm conviction. She remembereth, why the promise was given,—namely, for God’s glory, and she feels perfectly sure that God’s glory is safe, that he will never stain his own escutcheon, nor mar the lustre of his own crown; and therefore the promise must and will stand. Then faith also considereth the amazing work of Christ as being a clear proof of the Father’s intention to fulfil his word. “He that spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Moreover faith looks back upon the past, for her battles have strengthened her, and her victories have given her courage. She remembers that God never has failed her; nay, that he never did once fail any of his children. She recollecteth times of great peril, when deliverance came; hours of awful need, when as her day her strength was found, and she cries, “No, I never will be led to think that he can change and leave his servant now. Hitherto the Lord hath helped me, and he will help me still.” Thus faith views each promise in its connection with the promise-giver, and, because she does so, can with assurance say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!”

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:6. Allured by the reward in prospect, Delilah now sought to get from him the secret of his strength. But he deceived her three times by false statements. He first of all said to her (v. 7), “If they bound me with strings that have not been dried, I should be weak and like one of the men” (i.e., like any other man). יֶתֶר signifies a sinew or string, e.g., a bow-string, Ps. 11:2, and in the different dialects either a bow-string or the string of a harp or guitar. As a distinction is made here between the יְתָרִים and the עֲבֹתִים in v. 11, the strings intended here are those of catgut or animal sinew. The number seven is that of a divine act, answering to the divine power which Samson possessed. (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:7 And Samson said to her, "If they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, then I shall become weak and be like any other man."

If they bind - Jdg 16:10; 1Sa 19:17; 21:2,3; 27:10; Pr 12:19; 17:7; Ro 3:8; Gal 6:7-note, Gal 6:8-note; Col 3:9

 

Judges 16:8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh cords that had not been dried, and she bound him with them.
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:8, 9. When Delilah told this to the princes of the Philistines, they brought the seven strings required, and Delilah bound Samson with them. “And the spy sat in the room (לָהּ, dat. com., lit. ‘to her,’ i.e.) to help her.” namely, without Samson knowing it, as Delilah had certainly not told him that she should betray the secret of his strength to the Philistines. He was there, no doubt, that he might be at hand and overpower the fettered giant as soon as it became apparent that his strength was gone. She then cried out to him, “Philistines upon thee, Samson!” And he snapped the strings as one would snap a cord in two “when it smells fire,” i.e., is held to the fire. (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:9 Now she had men lying in wait in an inner room. And she said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps when it touches fire. So his strength was not discovered.

X

 

Judges 16:10 Then Delilah said to Samson, "Behold, you have deceived me and told me lies; now please tell me, how you may be bound."

Tell me - Jdg 16:7,13,15, 16, 17; Proverbs 23:7,8; 24:28; Ezekiel 33:31; Luke 22:48

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:10-12. The second deception: Samson had himself bound with new cords, which had not yet been used for any purpose, and these also he burst from his arms like a thread. (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:11 And he said to her, "If they bind me tightly with new ropes which have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man."

Bind - Pr 13:3,5; 29:25; Eph 4:25

 

Judges 16:12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" For the men were lying in wait in the inner room. But he snapped the ropes from his arms like a thread.

X

 

Judges 16:13 Then Delilah said to Samson, "Up to now you have deceived me and told me lies; tell me how you may be bound." And he said to her, "If you weave the seven locks of my hair with the web <and fasten it with a pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man."

THEN DELILAH SAID TO SAMSON, "UP TO NOW YOU HAVE DECEIVED ME AND TOLD ME LIES; TELL ME HOW YOU MAY BE BOUND: Since Samson was lying with his head in her lap, Delilah could easily begin to weave his hair into the material.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:13, 14. The third deception: “If thou weavest together the seven locks of my hair with the warp. And she drove it in with the plug.” These words are difficult to explain, partly because several technical terms are used which have more than one meaning, and partly because the account itself is contracted, both Samson’s advice and her fulfilment of it being only given in a partial form, so that the one has to be completed from the other. In v. 19, the only other passage in which מַחְלָפֹות occurs, it no doubt means the plaits into which Samson’s long flowing hair was plaited. הַמַּסֶּכֶת only occurs here (vv. 13 and 14), and probably means the woven cloth, or rather what was still upon the loom, the warp of the cloth, δίασμα (LXX). Accordingly the meaning of the verse would be this: If thou weavest the seven plaits of my hair along with the warp upon the loom. The commentators are all agreed that, according to these words, there must be something wanting in the account, though they are not of one opinion as to whether the binding of Samson is fully given here, and all that has to be supplied is the clause “Then shall I be weal,” etc. (as in vv. 7 and 11), or whether the words וַתִּתְקַע בַּיָּתֵד add another fact which was necessary to the completeness of the binding, and if so, how these words are to be understood. In Bertheau’s opinion, the words “and she thrust with the plug” probably mean nothing more than that she made a noise to wake the sleeping Samson, because it is neither stated here that she forced the plug into the wall or into the earth to fasten the plaits with (LXX, Jerome), nor that her thrusting with the plug contributed in any way to the further fastening of the hair. These arguments are sound no doubt, but they do not prove what is intended. When it is stated in v. 14b, that “he tore out the weaver’s plug and the cloth,” it is certainly evident that the plug served to fasten the hair to the cloth or to the loom. Moreover, not only would any knocking with the plug to waken Samson with the noise have been altogether superfluous, as the loud cry, “Philistines upon thee, Samson,” would be amply sufficient for this; but it is extremely improbable that a fact with so little bearing upon the main facts would be introduced here at all. We come therefore to the same conclusion as the majority of commentators, viz., that the words in question are to be understood as referring to something that was done to fasten Samson still more securely. הַיָּתֵד = הַיְתַד הָאֶרֶג (v. 14) does not mean the roller or weaver’s beam, to which the threads of the warp were fastened, and round which the cloth was rolled when finished, as Bertheau supposes, for this is called מְנֹור אֹרְגִים in 1 Sam. 17:7; nor the σπάθη of the Greeks, a flat piece of wood like a knife, which was used in the upright loom for the same purpose as our comb or press, viz., to press the weft together, and so increase the substance of the cloth (Braun, de vestitu Sacerd. p. 253); but the comb or press itself which was fastened to the loom, so that it could only be torn out by force. To complete the account, therefore, we must supply between vv. 13 and 14, “And if thou fastenest it (the woven cloth) with the plug (the weaver’s comb), I shall be weak like one of the other men; and she wove the seven plaits of his hair into the warp of the loom.” Then follows in v. 14, “and fastened the cloth with the weaver’s comb.” There is no need, however, to assume that what has to be supplied fell out in copying. We have simply an ellipsis, such as we often meet with. When Samson as wakened out of his sleep by the cry of “Philistines upon thee,” he tore out the weaver’s comb and the warp (sc.,) from the loom, with his plaits of hair that had been woven in. The reference to his sleeping warrants the assumption that Delilah had also performed the other acts of binding while he was asleep. We must not understand the account, however, as implying that the three acts of binding followed close upon one another on the very same day. Several days may very probably have elapsed between them. In this third deception Samson had already gone so far in his presumptuous trifling with the divine gift entrusted to him, as to suffer the hair of his head to be meddled with, though it was sanctified to the Lord. “It would seem as though this act of sin ought to have brought him to reflection. But as that was not the case, there remained but one short step more to bring him to thorough treachery towards the Lord” (O. v. Gerlach).
Judg. 16:15. This last step was very speedily to follow.—V. 15. After this triple deception, Delilah said to him, “How canst thou say, I love thee, as thine heart is not with me” (i.e., not devoted to me)? (
Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:14 So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them into the web>. And she fastened it with the pin, and said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.

Pulled out - Ezra 9:13,14; Psalms 106:43

 

Judges 16:15 Then she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is."

THEN SHE SAID TO HIM, "HOW CAN YOU SAY, 'I LOVE YOU,' WHEN YOUR HEART IS NOT WITH ME: (How can you say - Jdg 14:16; Pr 2:16; 5:3-14) (Heart - Ge 29:20; Dt 6:5; 1Sa 15:13,14; 2Sa 16:17; Pr 23:26; Song 8:6,7; Jn 14:15,21, 22, 23, 24; 15:10; 2Co 5:14,15; 1Jn 2:15,16; 5:3)

And of course she was right! Here is a case of a man of God being rebuked by a pagan! Samson is the epitome of a deceived man -- when you are deceived you don't even realize it. Furthermore, to allow oneself to be deceived dictates that there is some level of trust when the deception occurs. You don't tend to believe someone you don't trust.

Samson was telling her that he loved her, but his heart wasn't with her. He had never shared the secret of his life. He had never let her see the hidden things of his spirit. He couldn't, because she could not have shared them (cp 1Co 6:14, 15). She would have used this against him.

YOU HAVE DECEIVED ME THESE THREE TIMES AND HAVE NOT TOLD ME WHERE YOUR GREAT STRENGTH IS." And so finally he is on the verge of giving in to the pressure that she has relentlessly exerted on him. What a contrast with godly Joseph who endured Potiphar's wife's sexual overtures day after day (Ge 39:7, 8, 9, 10, esp Ge 39:10!) and yet did not give in to her seduction (Ge 39:9, 12, cp 1Co 6:18). Joseph was a man who had set a guard at the doorway of his heart (Pr 4:23-
notes)). Samson failed to guard his heart and instead of having the strength of heart to resist Delilah's overtures, he finally succumbed and it cost him his life.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:16. With such words as these she plagued him every day, so that his soul became impatient even to death (see Judg. 10; 16). The ἁπ. λεγ. אָלַץ signifies in Aramaean, to press or plague. The form is Piel, though without the reduplication of the ל and Chateph-patach under (see Ewald, § 90, b.). (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:16 And it came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death.

Pressed him (Luke 11:8; 18:5 )

ANNOYED TO DEATH: He was impatient to the point of death (which came to pass! A prophetic pun!)

In Proverbs 7:21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 (see notes) Solomon lays down the basic principles which explain why Samson yielded to Delilah.

Samson was asleep when he should have been awake! He was physically asleep which was a sad snapshot of Samson's spiritual slumber!

May God give us grace that we not fall prey to the somniferous (sleep inducing) effects of the world, the flesh and/or the devil!

Remember the warning Christ gave to Peter in Mt 26:40, 41. Note that each lie Samson told actually took him closer to the truth. How dangerous it is to play with sin.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:16. With such words as these she plagued him every day, so that his soul became impatient even to death (see Judg. 10; 16). The ἁπ. λεγ. אָלַץ signifies in Aramaean, to press or plague. The form is Piel, though without the reduplication of the ל and Chateph-patach under (see Ewald, § 90, b.). (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:17 So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, "A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I shall become weak and be like any other man."

All that was in his heart - Proverbs 12:23; 29:12; Micah 7:5) Talk about not guarding one's heart. Sometimes guarding our heart is keep noxious spiritual pollutants from entering, but other times like here we are to keep some things from going out of our heart.

Razor has never - Jdg 13:5; Numbers 6:5; Acts 18:18

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:17. “And he showed her all his heart,” i.e., he opened his mind thoroughly to her, and told her that no razor had come upon his head, because he was a Nazarite from his mother’s womb (cf. Judg. 13:5, 7). “If I should be shave, my strength would depart from me, and I should be weak like all other men.” (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, "Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart." Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hands.

Come up - Psalms 62:9; Proverbs 18:8; Jeremiah 9:4, 5, 6)

Brought the money (Jdg 16:5; Nu 22:7; 1Ki 21:20; Mt 26:15; Ep 5:5; 1Ti 6:10)

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:18. When Delilah saw (i.e., perceived, namely from his words and his whole behaviour while making this communication) that he had betrayed the secret of his strength, she had the princes of the Philistines called: “Come up this time, … for he had revealed to her all his heart.” This last clause is not to be understood as having been spoken by Delilah to the princes themselves, as it is by the Masorites and most of the commentators, in which case לָהּ would have to be altered into לִי; but it contains a remark of the writer, introduced as an explanation of the circumstance that Delilah sent for the princes of the Philistines now that she was sure of her purpose. This view is confirmed by the word וְעָלוּ (came up) which follows, since the use of the perfect instead of the imperfect with vav consec. can only be explained on the supposition that the previous clause is a parenthetical one, which interrupts the course of the narrative, and to which the account of the further progress of the affair could not be attached by the historical tense (וַיַּעֲלוּ). The princes of the Philistines came up to Delilah on the receipt of this communication, bringing the money, the promised reward of her treachery (v. 5), in their hands.. (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:19 And she made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him.

She made him sleep on her knees (Proverbs 7:21-23,26,27; 23:33,34; Eccl 7:26)

How tragic! But you see, this is how the Lord deals with rebellion in our life. He will warn us through his Word. He will woo us through his Spirit. He will intervene supernaturally to keep us from destruction. He will counsel us through other people who love us -- through our parents and members of the body of Christ. But if we insist on going our own way, he will take his hands off and let us go. And we fall into the dominion of the flesh. But, you see, it is because he loves us. If we insist on going our own way, he loves us enough that he will let us. In the words of the Psalmist, "He will give us our request, but he will send leanness into our souls."(Ps 106:15 KJV)

F B Meyer writes that...

A third time Samson fell under the deadly fascination of a woman. -- Nor did he escape this time so easily. By the promise of great riches, the Philistine lords successfully bribed Delilah to ascertain the secret of his strength. A true woman uses her influence over those she loves, to augment rather than to sap their strength; but Samson, to his own undoing, sought love outside the limits set by religion. Whenever men or women act thus they forfeit their purity, and hand themselves over to the enemies of God, and of their souls, for their destruction.

Licentiousness robs men of wit and courage

For many are the victims she has cast down, And numerous are all her slain. Her house is the way to Sheol, Descending to the chambers of death. (Prov. 7:26-27).

What a warning to us not to tamper with any secret Delilah sin. Notice how Delilah tried again and again to obtain Samson's secret, and how he dallied with her, until at last he yielded.

Let us learn that when temptation comes to us, it is a mistake merely to evade it, or to parry attacks, as if to throw the tempter off the scent. These lines of defense are taken one after another, and the foe presses into the citadel, which in turn must yield.

Let us beware of scissors, even though apparent love holds them, as they steal over the locks while we are steeped in unconsciousness of the havoc that they make; lest our strength goes from us, and we become "like other men" There are hours in our life when, though we know it not, our strength departs. Oh, the horror of he wist not (Judges 16:20).

Henry Bosch tells the story of how Robert Robinson, the author of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"...

"lost the happy communion with the Savior he had once enjoyed, and in his declining years he wandered into the by-ways of sin. As a result, he became deeply troubled in spirit. Hoping to relieve his mind, he decided to travel. In the course of his journeys, he became acquainted with a young woman on spiritual matters, and so she asked him what he thought of a hymn she had just been reading. To his astonishment he found it to be none other than his own composition. He tried to evade her question, but she continued to press him for a response. Suddenly he began to weep. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he said, “I am the man who wrote that hymn many years ago. I’d give anything to experience again the joy I knew then.” Although greatly surprised, she reassured him that the “streams of mercy” mentioned in his song still flowed. Mr. Robinson was deeply touched. Turning his “wandering heart” to the Lord, he was restored to full fellowship."

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:19. “Then she made him sleep upon her knees, and called to the man,” possibly the man lying in wait (vv. 9 and 12), that she might not be alone with Samson when cutting off his hair; and she cut off the seven plaits of his hair, and began to afflict him, as his strength departed from him now. (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

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 departed from him.

I will go out (Jdg 16:3,9,14; Deuteronomy 32:30; Is 42:24; Hosea 7:9 )

You would think that by then Samson would have been alert to danger, but his conscience was defiled and his moral senses were destroyed. Samson even deceived himself by thinking he had everything under control (v20), but he was wrong.

The rest of the story shows the tragic end of the believer who will not let God have his way with his life. From v20 on, Samson does nothing but lose.

He loses his hair, the symbol of his Nazarite dedication; for that dedication had long since been abandoned. Then he loses his strength, but he is ignorant of it until he is overpowered. How futile it is for the servant of God to try to serve the Lord when out of His will. Next Samson loses the light, for the Philistines put out his eyes. He loses his liberty, for they bind him with fetters of brass. He loses his usefulness to the Lord, for he ends up grinding corn instead of fighting God’s battles. Samson also lost his testimony, for he was the laughingstock of the Philistines. Their fish-god Dagon, not the God of Israel, was given all the glory.

F B Meyer warns that...

Through neglect of watching and prayer --or by reason of carelessness in the walk and conversation--it is quite possible to break that holy connection between ourselves and heaven which is the secret of deliverance, and the talisman of victory. There is always a Delilah ready to sheer off the locks of our strength, if we allow ourselves to sleep in her lap. And out strength may be gone ere we know it. "He wist not that the Lord had departed from him." (Judges 16:20.)

BUT HE DID NOT KNOW THAT THE LORD HAD DEPARTED FROM HIM:

Jehovah had departed from him - (Nu 14:9,42,43; Josh 7:12; 1Sa 16:14; 18:12; 28:14, 15, 16; 2Chr 15:2; Is 59:1,2; Jeremiah 9:23,24; Matthew 17:16,20; 2Co 3:5)

When he lost his long hair, the Lord left him; and he was as weak as other men. His power was from the Lord, not from his hair; but the hair was the sign of his Nazirite vow. The Spirit who had come upon him with such power had now departed from him.

Nu 6:7 reads literally “because the consecration (nezer) of his God is upon his head.”

The basic meaning of the nezer is “separation” or “consecration”; but it is also used of a royal crown (2Sa 1:10; Zec 9:16; Ps 89:39). Samson’s long hair was his “royal crown” and he lost it because of his blatant sin.

Jesus warned the church at Philadelphia...

Behold, I come quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown (see note Revelation 3:11).

Since Samson didn’t discipline his body, he lost both his crown and his prize (1Co 9:24-27).

Paul charges believers in these last days to...

But have nothing to do with (present imperative) worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline (present imperative = calls for this to be a Christian "soldier's" lifestyle) yourself for the purpose of godliness, for (explains why spiritual discipline is so vitally important) bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (see notes 1Timothy 4:7; 1Timothy 4:8)

QUOTES
ON BACKSLIDING

Related resources:

Interesting book by Octavius Winslow (Click)
Hosea 4:16 The Evil and Danger of Backsliding - Sermon by Charles Simeon
Hosea 2:5-7 The Backslider's Way Hedged Up -  Sermon by C H Spurgeon
Hosea 2:15 The Backslider's Door of Hope -  Sermon by C H Spurgeon
Hosea 14:4 Backsliding Healed -  Sermon by C H Spurgeon
Jeremiah 3:22-23 Hope for the Worst of Backsliders - Sermon by C H Spurgeon

Webster says backslide means to lapse morally. To fall off; to apostatize; to turn gradually from the faith and practice of Christianity. To lapse into bad habits or vices from a state of virtue, religious faith, etc

Easton's says to backslide means

To draw back or apostatize in matters of religion (Acts 21:21; 2Thes 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1). This may be either partial (Proverbs 14:14) or complete (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:38,39). The apostasy may be both doctrinal and moral.

ISBE has this entry on backslide...

bak'-slid' (meshubhah; Hosea 11:7; 14:4 and often in Hosea and Jeremiah, shobhabh; shobhebh, in Jer, 4 times: all meaning "turning back or away," "apostate," "rebellious." carar, in Hosea 4:16 = "stubborn," "rebellious"; the Revised Version (British and American) "stubborn"): In all places the word is used of Israel forsaking Yahweh, and with a reference to the covenant relation between Yahweh and the nation, conceived as a marriage tie which Israel had violated. Yahweh was Israel's husband, and by her idolatries with other gods she had proved unfaithful (Jeremiah 3:8,14; 14:7; Hosea 14:4). It may be questioned whether Israel was guilty so much of apostasy and defection, as of failure to grow with the growing revelation of God. The prophets saw that their contemporaries fell far short of their own ideal, but they did not realize how far their predecessors also had fallen short of the rising prophetic standard in ideal and action.

As someone has well said

Backsliding begins when knee-bending stops! (Ed comment: Woe!)

The Christian writer Paul E. Little also alluded to the subtle slippage inherent in backsliding noting that...

Collapse in the Christian life is seldom a blowout. It is usually a slow leak.

The KJV uses the term backsliding more often than any other translation and is found mainly in the Book of Jeremiah where it refers to the lapse of the nation of Israel into paganism and idolatry. - Jer 3:6, 8, 11, 12, 14, 22; 8:5; 31:22; 49:4; Hos 4:16; 11:7; 14:4

What is the Biblical definition of "Backsliding?"...

In popular theology the term “backsliding” is often given a prominent place. Depending on one’s theological tradition, it may be used to describe a person’s return to questionable habits, to a loss of the sense of God’s presence, or even to the “down” times that seem to be part of so many believers’ emotional experiences. But popular theology does not always reflect biblical meanings. In the Bible’s use of “backsliding” there is an important, but different, message.

1. The Hebrew words. “Backsliding” seldom occurs in modern English translations (6 times, NIV; 2 times, NASB), and only in the OT. Yet the root terms express an important biblical idea.

Three forms from the same root communicate the idea of backsliding. Two of them, šôbāb (4 times in the OT—Isa 57:17; Jer 3:14, 22; 50:6) and šôbēb (2 times in the OT—Jer 31:22; 49:4), mean “backsliding” or “apostasy.” The most commonly used word, mešûbâh, occurs twelve times in the OT (Pr 1:32; Jer 2:19; 3:6, 8, 11, 12, 22; 5:6; 8:5; 14:7; Hos 11:7; 14:4). It means “backsliding,” “disloyalty,” or “faithlessness.”

2. The nature of backsliding. A study of the use of these words makes it clear that this is one of the many OT words intimately linked with the belief that God has established a covenantal relationship between himself and Israel. Backsliding is disloyalty by the OT community to the covenant relationship and involves a refusal to live by the terms of the covenant.

The focus in references to backsliding is on the central element of the covenant: the commitment of God’s people to him personally. Texts that refer to backsliding repeatedly describe a faithless community that has rebelled against the Lord and has “scattered [its] favors to foreign gods” (Jer 3:13).

Backsliding also involved rejection of the social and moral requirements of the covenant. Jeremiah shows this as he condemned the leaders who had consciously rejected “the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God” (Jer 5:5).

It is important to note that each OT cry against backsliding portrays the state of the OT community, not of individuals (except Pr 1:32). Each description of the backslidden people implies their willful choice to turn away from the God of the covenant to other gods and therefore to other moralities.

3. Summary. In the Bible “backsliding” is a word used to describe the corporate condition of God’s OT people during periods of apostasy. The backslidden community had sinned by choosing to worship other gods, and a moral decay marked the backslidden society. This particular concept is never carried into the NT: “backsliding” is not found there as a description of the experience either of an individual Christian or of a particular congregation.

However, any who feel a sense of alienation from the Lord can find release in the prescription Jeremiah shares with God’s OT people: “ ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD, `I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the LORD, `I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt’ ” (Jer 3:12-13). In confession and trust in the mercy of God we, like Israel, can find restoration and peace. (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency or Computer Version - New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words)

Warren Wiersbe writes that...

Most Christians do not jump into sin and get away from God’s will. They gradually decline spiritually, then find themselves in trouble and wonder how it happened. They leave their first love (Rev. 2:4) and start living for the flesh and not the Spirit (Gal. 3:1–3). That is why our Lord admonished us to watch and pray (both in the present imperative - Mt 26:41-note). When we least expect it, the germ of sin can enter the system. (Wiersbe, W: With the Word: Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook. Nelson or Logos or Wordsearch)

Unger writes that...

In the NT backsliding is set forth as involving a change of the believer’s state before God but not of his standing. The former is variable and depends upon daily contact with Christ, “if we walk in the light” (1 John 1:7) and many other factors of the spiritual life. Standing, by contrast, refers to the believer’s position “in Christ,” which is grounded in the unchangeable and perfect work of Christ for the believer, whereas state describes the changing and imperfect condition of his soul from moment to moment as affected by backsliding on the one hand or spiritual progress on the other. Faith in Christ secures standing (John 1:12; Rom. 5:1–2; 8:17; Eph. 1:3, 6; Col. 2:10; Heb. 10:19; etc.), but observance of all the laws of the spiritual life alone assures protection against backsliding. Compare 1 Cor. 1:2–9 (standing) with 1 Cor. 1:11; 3:1–4; 4:18; 5:2 (state). Backsliding not only results in a changed state or experience but involves corrective chastening (Heb. 12:6; 1 Cor. 11:31), loss of rewards and fellowship (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 John 3:10), curtailment of usefulness, and in extreme cases physical death (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 John 5:16) that the “spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (Unger, M. F., Harrison, R. K., Vos, H. F., Barber, C. J., & Unger, M. F. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody Press or Wordsearch)

David Guzik gives us a powerful metaphor for the subtle nature of backsliding, even invisible to the backslider himself or herself! (By the way, that's also a descriptive definition of "deceived"! The deceived person by definition does not know it! So don't be deceived! Look at your face in the mirror of God's Word -- if it's "dirty" wash it with the water of the Word and the soul cleansing soap of repentance!)...

Are you backsliding? The signs may not be so obvious to others. When you see a tree broken over in a windstorm, it’s easy to think that it was the wind. If you look closer, you will often see that insects have been at work a long time on the tree, making it weaker and weaker. It really wasn’t the wind that did it - other trees around it withstood the wind. It was the slow decline of strength, as insects nibbled away month after month. (From Comments on Hoses 14:4).

Dr. Payson warns that...

“The symptoms of spiritual decline are like those which attend the decay of bodily health. It generally commences with loss of appetite and a disrelish for wholesome food, prayer, reading the Scriptures and devotional books. Whenever you perceive these symptoms, be alarmed, for your spiritual health is in danger: apply immediately to the great Physician for a cure.”

J. Oswald Sanders writes that...

We must not just take it for granted that we are in touch with God. Joseph and Mary lost a whole day of fellowship with Jesus because they “supposed him to be in the company.” They took for granted something of which they should have made sure. “He [Samson] wist not that the Lord had departed from him” (Judges 16:20). He was out of touch with God and did not know it. (Sanders, J O: The Best That I Can Be. Overseas Missionary Fellowship Books. 1984)

Warren Wiersbe commenting on Jer 2:19 that...

A basic principle is enunciated in verse 19: God punishes us by allowing our own sins to bring pain and discipline to our lives. “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is!” (Jer 4:18NIV) “Your wrongdoings have kept these [rains] away; your sins have deprived you of good” (Jer 5:25NIV).

The greatest judgment God can send to disobedient people is to let them have their own way and reap the sad, painful consequences of their sins. (Ed comment: This certainly applies to Samson. Is there some pet sin you are holding onto, even "cultivating"? You can be sure that the harvest will be bitter fruit even as it was in Samson's life! Gal 6:7-note, Gal 6:8-note)

The word “backsliding” literally means “to turn away” and describes the nation’s repeated apostasy. The Book of Judges records at least seven occasions when Israel turned from the Lord and had to be chastened, and there were numerous other times during the period of the monarchy when the Israelites deliberately turned from the Lord. The word “backslide” is not used in the New Testament, but the experience is described in other ways: falling from grace (Gal 5:4), leaving your first love (Rev 2:4-note), loving the world (1Jn 2:15-note, 1Jn 2:16-note, 1Jn 2:17-note; 2Ti 4:10-note), and walking in darkness (1Jn 1:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). (Wiersbe, W. W. Be Decisive. An Old testament study on Jeremiah- Victor or Wordsearch)

Theodore H. Epp a well known Bible expositor warns that...

Backsliding starts in such a subtle way that most of us are not aware of it, and many of us may be backslidden and may not realize it.

C E Macartney once explained the danger of backsliding noting that...

Between an airplane and every other form of locomotion and transportation there is one great contrast. The horse and wagon, the automobile, the bicycle, the locomotive, the speedboat, and the great battleship—all can come to a standstill without danger, and they can all reverse their engines, or their power, and go back. But there is no reverse about the engine of an airplane. It cannot back up. It dare not stand still. If it loses its momentum and forward-drives, then it crashes. The only safety for the airplane is in its forward and upward motion. The only safe direction for the Christian to take is forward and upward. If he stops, or if he begins to slip and go backward, that moment he is in danger.

Mike Yaconelli wrote the following illustration on backsliding in the Wittenberg Door...

“I live in a small, rural community. There are lots of cattle ranches around here, and, every once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets lost. Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply, ‘Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost.’ ” Most people don’t deliberately set out to backslide, but following their appetites or desires from one tuft to the next, they nibble themselves through the fence and off the straight and narrow path. (A dramatic illustration of Samson's wanderlust)

Jerry White observes a truth many believers have experienced at one time or another...

No one is so empty as the man who has stopped walking with God and doesn’t know it.

F W Boreham alludes to the Christian's journey through the tempestuous, tempting seas of life noting that...

The captain gives earnest heed to the charts lest he drift unconsciously shoreward!

The peril of the drifting life...

For most of us the threat of life is not so much that we should plunge into disaster, but that we should drift into sin. There are few people who deliberately and in a moment turn their backs on God; there are many who day by day drift farther and farther away from him. There are not many who in one moment of time commit some disastrous sin; there are many who almost imperceptibly involve themselves in some situation and suddenly awake to find that they have ruined life for themselves and broken someone else's heart. We must be continually on the alert against the peril of the drifting life. The Word will never drift from us. The danger is our drifting from it. The harbor of salvation is absolutely secure. It is Jesus Christ, who never moves, never changes, and is always available to anyone who wants the protection and security of His righteousness.

The writer of Hebrews adds that in light of the truth of the superiority of our Captain Christ Jesus...

"We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." (Hebrews 2:1)

Predisposition to "drifting" backward...

(1). Time: A slow drift, given enough time, will carry you to another continent and its dark uncharted waters. (2). Familiarity with the truth. It is natural for us to come to regard the familiar as commonplace. The initial venture into the mysteries of Christ will leave us exhilarated. But with the repeated journeys, some become bored tourists. (3)  Danger of busyness: We who live at the end of the twentieth century are busy people, and the multiplicity of our cares and duties can overwhelm us. A snowflake is a tiny thing, but when the air is full of them, they can bury us. Even so, the thousand cares of each day can insulate us from the stupendous excellencies of Christ, causing us to begin a deadly drift. The drifting that comes through the combination of years, familiarity, and busyness often bares its existence when the storm of opposition comes. The anchor has long been loosed, and when the winds come, an eternal soul is suddenly on the rocks and shipwrecked.

Here is a fascinating illustration of drifting the wrong direction ("backsliding")...

The danger and deceitfulness of drifting is illustrated by the story of the English explorer, William Edward Parry, who took a crew to the Arctic Ocean. They wanted to go farther north to continue their chartings, so they calculated their location by the stars and started a very difficult and treacherous march north. They walked hour upon hour, and finally, totally exhausted, they stopped. Taking their bearings again from the stars, they discovered that they were farther south than they had been when they started. They had been walking on an ice floe that was moving south faster than they were walking north.  How many people are out with step to God, thinking that they are walking with Him, when in fact they are moving away from Him faster than they are supposedly walking toward Him. That is the tragedy of drifting from the truth. Will you awaken one day ("come to your senses") to find, like Parry’s crew, that all the time you have been moving imperceptibly in the wrong direction.

In his poem “Let Me Get Home Before Dark”  Dr. Robertson McQuilkin offers a prayer that alludes to subtle drifting...

I fear the Dark Spectre may come too soon—or do I mean, too late?
That I should end before I finish or finish, but not well.
That I should stain your honor, shame your name, grieve your loving heart.
Few, they tell me, finish well…
Lord, let me get home before dark.

The venerable preacher Charles Simeon (see John Piper's summation of this man's amazing ministry - Brothers, We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering) once warned that...

However advanced a man may be in piety or age, he is still in danger of falling.

F. W. Norwood wrote that...

Life’s greatest tragedy is to lose God and not to miss Him.

Thomas à Kempis

Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience withdraws from grace

C H Spurgeon (read his miraculous testimony) spoke a great deal about backsliding warning that...

You, who have the most familiarity with Christ, and enjoy the most holy fellowship with him, may soon become the very leaders of the hosts of Satan if your Lord withdraws His grace. David’s eyes go astray, and the sweet psalmist of Israel becomes the shameless adulterer, who robs Uriah of his wife. Samson one day slays a thousand of his enemies with the might of his arm and the valor of his heart; another day his honor is betrayed, his locks are shorn, and his eyes are put out by a strumpet’s treacherous wiles. How soon are the mighty fallen!...

Christian, what do you have to do with sin? Has it not cost you enough already? What, man! Have you forgotten the times of your conviction? If you have, I have not! Burnt child, will you play with the fire? What! When you have already been rent in pieces by the lion, will you step a second time into his den? Have you not had enough of the old serpent? Did he not poison all your veins once?

So mature a servant of the devil as Judas is not purchased all at once. It takes time to educate a man for the scorner's seat. If you begin to slip on the side of a mountain of ice, the first slip may not hurt if you can stop and slide no further. But alas, you cannot so regulate sin! When your feet begin to slide, the rate of the descent increases, and the difficulty of arresting this motion is inces­santly becoming greater. It is dangerous to backslide in any degree, for we know not to what it may lead.

The Christian life is very much like climbing a hill of ice. You cannot slide up. You have to cut every step with an ice ax. Only with incessant labor in cutting and chipping can you make any prog­ress. If you want to know how to backslide, leave off going forward. Cease going upward and you will go downward of necessity. You can never stand still.

Remember that if you are a child of God, you will never be happy in sin. You are spoiled for the world, the flesh, and the devil. When you were regenerated there was put into you a vital principle, which can never be content to dwell in the dead world. You will have to come back, if indeed you belong to the family.

Here are several pithy quotes from unknown sources...

Never look back unless you want to go that way

However deep you fall, you are never out of God's reach

Life's greatest tragedy is to lose God and not miss Him

If you are not as close to God as you used to be, you do not have to guess who moved

(From Blanchard, John: Complete Gathered Gold: A Treasury of Quotations for Christians OR Computer Version - Highly Recommended)

John Chrysostom wrote that...

If repentance is neglected for an instant, one can lose the power of the Resurrection as he lives with the weakness of tepidity and the potential of his fall.

BEGINNING OF BACKSLIDING...
TURNING YOUR EYES FROM JESUS

G Campbell Morgan in a sermon entitled "Backsliding" on Deut 4:29 says...

I am speaking tonight to some who have traveled a long distance from the Father's house, to some who seem as though they had lost track of the way that leads them home; or I may be speaking to many others who have just lost their first love, who are maintaining all the externalities of Christian relationship, but have lost the thrill, the fire, the passion, the devotion. Whether to those or to others upon the trackless burning desert of degradation my message is exactly the same....

The first is purely personal, perhaps hidden from men, corruption of self. The second is the sequel to self-corruption, the making of a graven image. Finally, the overt act of evil.

(STEP #1) What is self-corruption? It is the devotion of the life to something lower than the highest.

The first movement of backsliding may be accomplished without committing any sin which the age names vulgar. In the moment in which a man takes his eye from the highest and sets it upon something lower, be the distance apparently never so small, he has set himself upon the decline which ends in the desert and in the agony of rejection.

Self-corruption is the first step in the backslider's pathway, the choice of something lower than the highest. What is the highest? The thing you have seen that is highest. That is the highest for you. To you it was the fair and radiant vision of the loveliness of the Christ in those days when you knew He was fairer than all the sons of men, more perfect in loveliness. You saw that, and you turned your eyes from it to something a little lower, to some ideal you built for yourself out of your own imagining. You corrupted yourself when you allowed the false ideal to intrude into the realm of your own thinking, your own desire, your own choosing. That was the beginning of the whole story.

(STEP #2) Following that is what always follows, the setting up of a graven image.

You say,

"Here your message breaks down. I have set up no graven image."

Remember, the graven image is always the figure of that which lies behind it. When a man has corrupted himself, the issue is always that he thinks falsely of God. Man is so linked to deity in the very essential of his being that he will form his conception of God upon what he is in himself. There is a sense in which, try as he will, he cannot escape this. He is forevermore projecting his own personality into immensity, and calling that God. That is the whole history of idolatry through all the centuries. Man has flung the lines of his own personality into immensity, and called the result God. In proportion as his own personality has become corrupt and evil, he has projected corruption and evil into immensity, and made that his god.

When a man corrupts himself,
he corrupts the idea of God
by putting something false in the place of God
.

In the old days it was a graven image, so that, as the prophet said, man took to himself a tree or a piece of stone, and carved out of it a semblance, a grotesque imitation of himself, and called it a god. So when a man has corrupted himself by accepting some ideal lower than the highest he immediately makes a god after the pattern of his own ideal, and descends a little lower on this course of backsliding, until swiftly and surely he descends to a course of evil which a little while ago he would have declared to have been impossible to himself.

(STEP #3) He does the evil thing who never intended to do it. He started by choosing the lower ideal. He proceeded, in the next place, to corrupt deity, by projecting into immensity the false lines of his own corrupt nature, and worshiping that. Suddenly the light that seemed to lure him fades, and the very ideal which he worshiped fails, and he finds himself doing things he never dreamed he could do. (This is a MUST READ sermon - click and slowly read the rest of this somber, sobering message from Dr Morgan! Why? Because in every one of our hearts, no matter how spiritual you are today, lurks the "prone to wander" temptation!)

John Blanchard echoes Dr Morgan's analysis of Backsliding writing that...

Backsliding never begins with a loud bang... it begins quietly, slowly, subtly, insidiously....It is possible to be diligent in our religion, yet distant in our relationship.

The pithy evangelical writer, J C Ryle (1816-1900 - read a short biography) has the following "thoughts" relative to backsliding...

Men fall in private long before they fall in public.

If we know anything of true, saving religion, let us ever beware of the beginnings of backsliding.

It is a miserable thing to be a backslider. Of all unhappy things that can befall a man, I suppose it is the worst. A stranded ship, an eagle with a broken wing, a garden covered with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruins — all these are sad sights, but a backslider is a sadder sight still.

I am trying, as God shall help me, to set the story of your backsliding in relationship to the spiritual and infinite. Shall I put that story in slightly different language? You corrupted yourself in that hour when you ceased your devotion to the God of your mother, and ceased to hand over your life wholly and absolutely to Christ. Your backsliding proceeded when you put into the place of Christ something else. It may have been your business. It may have been your very passion for knowledge. It may have been a far more mean and paltry thing than either of these, your pursuit of pleasure. You put something where Christ used to be. You who once took of your talents, and time, and strength, and poured them out in sacrificial service in the cause of Christ have been worshiping with all the soul, with all the heart, and with all the mind, wealth, fame, pleasure, I know not what. You know. There is your graven image. The result has been that this week, in the prosecution of your business, in the pursuit of your pleasure, you have done things which, if you thought I could proclaim them in your name from this pulpit, would cause you to blush and hurry from the building. You did not begin here. You began with the lowered ideal. You continued with the false deity, and the hour has come in which your hands in the sanctuary are unclean with deeds of evil, and you know your very heart has become polluted. That is the process of backsliding.

The following tale illustrates the subtle nature of backsliding...

A foolish old farmer, so the story goes, concluded one day that the oats he had fed his mule for years were simply costing him too much. So he hatched a plan: he mixed a little sawdust in with the feed, and then a little more the next day, and even more the next, each time reducing the amount of oats in the mix. The mule didn’t seem to notice the gradual change, so the farmer thought things were fine and kept decreasing the proportion of oats. But weeks later, on the day he finally fed the poor beast nothing but sawdust, the mule finished the meal and fell over dead. A silly tale, perhaps, but it serves as a parable of the backslider—the Christian who slips further and further away from God through unrepented sin or neglect. Though we know our souls cannot survive on spiritual sawdust, we may well convince ourselves that a little won’t hurt too much, and a little less real spiritual food won’t be missed. Then, over time, the proportion of sawdust increases while the oats gradually disappear. Before long, the change is complete, and our starved, sawdust-stuffed spiritual life has collapsed.

J C Ryle...

If we know anything of true, saving religion, let us ever beware of the beginnings of backsliding.

Thomas Guthrie addressed the subtle and deceptive nature of backsliding writing that...

If you find yourself loving any pleasure more than your prayers, any book better than the Bible, any house better than the house of the Lord, any table better than the Lord's table, any persons better than Christ, or any indulgence better than the hope of heaven — be alarmed.

Ernest Plant pithily explains the roots of backsliding...

Backsliding is caused by slack abiding.

C H Spurgeon warns all backsliders...

It is dangerous to backslide in any degree, for we know not to what may lead. It may be hard going forward, but it is worse going back.

With deep repentance and sincere faith, find your way back from your backsliding. It is your duty, for you have turned away from Him Whom you professed to serve. It is your wisdom, for you cannot strive against Him and prosper. It is your immediate necessity, for what He has done is nothing compared to what He may do in the way of chastisement, since He is Almighty to punish.

Backsliders begin with dusty Bibles and end with filthy garments!

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks of the tragedy of backsliding observing that...

The backslider is a man who, because of relationship to God, never really enjoys anything else.

Billy Graham...

Satan rejoices when old habits overwhelm [us] and we cave in to the pressure of the crowd...perhaps temptation lures [us] into sin....a backsliding Christian compromises their faith and causes unbelievers to mock the Gospel.

Donald Grey Barnhouse once said that...

Withering is a slow process, barely perceptible at first either to one who is being withered or to those who look on.

Lehman Strauss...

Every human need, every case of backsliding is a call to prayer.

A W Tozer...

 In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross; if he refuses the cross, he remains on the throne. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among Gospel believers today. We want to be saved, but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.

Vance Havner described revival as...

Revivals should not be necessary. God never meant that His people should live by fits and starts in alternate periods of backsliding and repenting. But since we have such "malarial" Christianity (a fever and a chill, a fever and a chill) we shall have need of revivals. If we walked with God and kept ourselves prayed up, it would not be necessary to call in preachers every six months to stir up the church. If we had more "vival" we would not need re‑vival. We would live in normal spiritual health all the time without shots in the arm twice a year.

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GENESIS 19:26

But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar Of salt

The cause and danger of backsliding

I. THE CAUSE OF BACKSLIDING.
    Unbelief, leading to...

(1) disobedience,
(2) indecision. She was perplexed between God and the world.

II. THE DANGER OF BACKSLIDING.

1. There is the danger of forfeiting our salvation.
2. The danger of punishment. (T. H. Leale.)

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Havner also said...

Taking it easy is often the prelude to backsliding. Comfort precedes collapse.

We are so subnormal that if we ever became normal people would think we were abnormal.

The Puritan writer William Gurnall rightly said that...

A declining Christian must needs be a doubting Christian

F B Meyer in a devotional on Psalm 1 alludes to backsliding, writing that...

THE BLESSED, or Happy, man is described negatively (Ps 1:1). There is a gradation in the attitude, the sphere of influence, and the condition of his companions. In attitude, we may begin by walking, advance to standing, and end by sitting. If we would avoid the sitting, let us guard against walking or standing.

In the sphere of influence, the beginning of backsliding is when a man listens to counsel; he then drifts into the path trodden by sinners, and finally is hardened enough to sit where scornful talk surrounds him on every hand.

The condition of evil companions. We should be repelled if we were to be plunged suddenly into contact with the scornful, but our moral interests may not be specially outraged by the counsel of the wicked. Indeed, the advice which wicked men give sometimes resembles closely what our heart suggests and our taste prefers. It is so specious (having deceptive attraction or allure; having a false look of truth or genuineness), so apparently sensible and natural, that we are captivated by it. Only gradually do we slide from those who forget God to those who set His law at defiance or openly blaspheme Him. (F B Meyer. Our Daily Walk, May 11)

From the Valley of Vision we read this prayer entitled "Backsliding"...


O Lord,

When the world’s unbelievers reject thee,
and are so forsaken by thee
that thou callest them no more,
it is to thine own thou dost turn,
for in such seasons of general apostasy
they in some measure backslide with the world.


O how free is thy grace

that reminds them of the danger that confronts them
and urges them to persevere in adherence to thyself!


I bless thee that those who turn aside

may return to thee immediately,
and be welcomed without anything
to commend them,
notwithstanding all their former backslidings.

 

I confess that this is suited to my case, for of late

I have found great want,
and lack of apprehension of divine grace;
I have been greatly distressed of soul
because I did not suitably come to the fountain
that purges away all sin;
I have laboured too much for spiritual life,
peace of conscience, progressive holiness,
in my own strength.


I beg thee, show me the arm of all might;

Give me to believe

that thou canst do for me more than I ask or think,
and that, though I backslide, thy love will never let me go,
but will draw me back to thee with everlasting cords;
that thou dost provide grace in the wilderness,
and canst bring me out, leaning on the arm of my Beloved;
that thou canst cause me to walk with him
by the rivers of waters in a straight way,
wherein I shall not stumble.


Keep me solemn, devout, faithful, resting

on free grace for assistance, acceptance,
and peace of conscience.

Dwight L Moody...devotes an entire chapter of his book The Way to God to backsliding...

THERE ARE TWO KINDS of backsliders. Some have never been converted: they have gone through the form of joining a Christian community and claim to be backsliders; but they never have, if I may use the expression, "slid forward." They may talk of backsliding; but they have never really been born again. They need to be treated differently to real backsliders,- those who have been born of the incorruptible seed, but who have turned aside. We want to bring the latter back the same road by which they left their first love.

There is nothing that will do backsliders so much good as to take them to the Word of God; and for them the Old Testament is as full of help as the New. The book of Jeremiah has some wonderful passages for wanderers. What we want to do is to get backsliders to hear what God the Lord will say.

Look for a moment at Jeremiah 6:10.

"To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken, behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it."

That is the condition of backsliders. They have no delight whatever in the word of God. But we want to bring them back, and let God get their ear. Read from the fourteenth verse to the seventeenth:

"They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord. Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein; and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken." (Jer 6:14-17)

That was the condition of the Jews when they had backslidden. They had turned away from the old paths. And that is the condition of backsliders. They have got away from the good old book. Adam and Eve fell by not hearkening to the word of God. They did not believe God's word; but they believed the Tempter. That is the way backsliders fall- by turning away from the word of God....

Now there is one thing to which we wish to call the attention of backsliders; and that is,- that the Lord never forsook them; but that they forsook Him! The Lord never left them; but they left Him! And this too without any cause! He says: "What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they are gone far from Me?" Is not God the same today as when you came to Him first? Has God changed? Men are apt to think that God has changed; but the fault is with them.

Backslider, I would ask you, "What iniquity is there in God, that you have left Him and gone far from Him?" You have, He says, hewed out to yourselves broken cisterns that hold no water. The world cannot satisfy the new creature. No earthly well can satisfy the soul that has become a partaker of the heavenly nature. Honor, wealth, and the pleasures of this world, will not satisfy those who, having tasted the water of life, have gone astray, seeking refreshment at the world's fountains. Earthly wells will get dry. They cannot quench spiritual thirst.

Again in the Jer 2:32 verse:

"Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet My people have forgotten Me, days without number." That is the charge which God brings against the backslider. They "have forgotten Me, days without number."

I have often startled young ladies when I have said to them, "My friend, you think more of your earrings than of the Lord." The reply has been, "No, I do not." But when I have asked, "Would you not be troubled if you lost one; and would you not set about seeking for it?" the answer has been, "Well, yes, I think I should." But though they had turned from the Lord, it did not give them any trouble; nor did they seek after Him that they might find Him.

How many once in fellowship and in daily communion with the Lord now think more of their dresses and ornaments than of their precious souls! Love does not like to be forgotten. Mothers would have broken hearts if their children left them and never wrote a word or sent any memento of their affection: and God pleads over backsliders as a parent over loved ones who have gone astray; and He tries to woo them back. He asks: "What have I done that they should have forsaken Me?"

The most tender and loving words to be found in the whole of the Bible are from Jehovah to those who have left Him without a cause. Hear how He argues with such:

"Thine own wickedness shall correct thee and thy backsliding shall reprove thee: know therefore, and see, that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that My fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts" (Jeremiah 2:19).

I do not exaggerate when I say that I have seen hundreds of backsliders come back; and I have asked them if they have not found it an evil and a bitter thing to leave the Lord. You cannot find a real backslider, who has known the Lord, but will admit that it is an evil and a bitter thing to turn away from Him. I do not know of any one verse more used to bring back wanders than that very one. May it bring you back if you have wandered into the far country. (Read All of Chapter 9 in Moody's book - THE WAY TO GOD And How to Find It)

Related resource: Can God Bless America? by John MacArthur

William Jenkyn warned that...

God will preserve you in your ways, not in your wanderings.

F B Meyer in a devotional discusses the causes of backsliding, noting that...

THE CAUSES of backsliding are many. We have pretended to be living a more devoted life than was actually the case; we neglected to watch unto prayer; we allowed secret sin to eat out the heart of our piety, 'as the white ant works destruction in the East; or we yielded to temptation, and then sought to justify ourselves against the remonstrances (earnest presentations of reasons for opposition or grievance) of conscience; or we yielded to the fear of man, and drifted with the multitude to do evil; or we became prosperous, and trusted only in our wealth; or poor, and succumbed to covetousness and the bitterness of despair. (F B Meyer. Our Daily Walk. October 6)

Are You Leaning the Wrong Direction?

Several years ago a severe ice storm hit southern lower Michigan, causing great damage to trees. As I surveyed the destruction, I checked the two large white birches in my backyard. One had lost some of its limbs, but its partner had suf­fered a worse fate. The entire tree had toppled over and was completely uprooted. Why the one and not the other? The answer was simple. Instead of standing straight up, this thirty-five-foot tree had grown at a pronounced angle. So when the heavy ice accumulated on its branches, it fell in the direction it was leaning.

Samson was leaning in the wrong direction. As a result, he had a great downfall. Although he is numbered among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 and was one of Israel's great judges, a sad note is sounded throughout the story of his life due to a serious weak­ness in his character. He had an eye for women, and he insisted on taking a wife from a heathen nation (Judges 14:3). His down-fall came because his life was inclined toward fulfilling the lusts of the flesh.

If we don't live in fellowship with the Lord each day, our lives will lean toward some weakness or besetting sin. Then, when a crisis comes or if we are caught off guard, we will be unable to resist the pressure. Samson's fall is a tragic example of what can happen to a leaning Christian. —D J De Haan (
Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

F B Meyer has a pithy comment writing that...

If we desire to be pure and good, Christ-like and God like, we must live in fellowship with Christ; beholding and reflecting His glory, even the lowliest and most sinful may become changed into His image. How different to Moses is the unveiled glory of Christ. Let us beware of anything that might bring a veil between Him and us, and nothing will so soon do this as sin, and inconsistency. Moses wist not that his face shone, and Samson wist not that the Lord had departed from him (Jdg16:20). There is a tragic as well as a blessed unconsciousness. Let us see to it that we watch and pray, that we may not be taken unawares, and deprived of our purity and strength whilst wrapt in unconsciousness. (F B Meyer. Our Daily Walk)

William Arnot in his excellent commentary on Proverbs writes...

"The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways."
Proverbs 14:14.

IF the secret history of backsliders were written, many startling discoveries would be made. Whatever the enormity it may end in, backsliding begins unseen in the heart. The Christian in name, whose fall resounds through the land, filling the mouths of scorners with laughter, and suffusing the faces of disciples with shame, did not descend to that depth by one leap from the high place on which he formerly stood. He does not by a sudden resolution of mind turn from virtue into vice. He does not even abandon his Sabbath school, or desert the prayer-meeting, by a deliberate judgment.

A slipping begins secretly and imperceptibly in his heart,
while appearances on the surface are kept unchanged.

He ceases to watch and pray. He admits vain thoughts, and gives them encouragement to lodge within him. Having no hunger for righteousness, he neglects the bread of life. He grows weary of religious exercises and religious society. If he continue to attend them, it is a bodily service, endured for the purpose of maintaining the place which he has attained. Duties become more irksome, and forbidden indulgence more sweet.

There is a weighing beam exposed to public view, with one scale loaded and resting on the ground, while the other dangles high and empty in the air. Everybody is familiar with the object, and its aspect. One day the curiosity of the passengers is arrested by observing that the low and loaded beam is swinging aloft, while the side which hung empty and light has sunk to the ground. Speculation is set on edge by the phenomenon, and set at rest again by the discovery of its cause. For many days certain diminutive but busy insects had, for some object of their own, been transferring the material from the full to the empty scale. Day by day the sides approached an equilibrium, but no change took place in their position. At last a grain more removed from one side, and laid in the other, reversed the preponderance, and produced the change. There is a similar balancing of good and evil in a human heart ; the sudden outward change results from a gradual inward preparation.

All engineering proceeds upon the principle of reaching great heights or depths by almost imperceptible inclines. The adversary of men works by this wile. When you see a man who was once counted a Christian standing shameless on a mountain-top of open impiety, or lying in the miry pit of vice, you may safely assume that he has long been worming his way in secret on the spiral slimy track by which the old serpent marks and smoothes the way to death.

On the same branch of an apricot-tree that leant against the south side of a garden wall, I have seen two fruits, large and luscious, hanging side by side, and ripening apace in the sun. They were of equal size and equal loveliness. Their stainless bosoms peeped from beneath the leaves, to bask in the noonday heat. Nothing in nature could be more lovely to look upon, or more rich in promise. Yet, ere to-morrow's sun is hot, one of them grows black on the side, and bursts, and collapses, and becomes a mass of rottenness, while the other remains in undiminished beauty and fragrance by its side. Whence the diverse fates of these twin beauties I Especially, why did the catastrophe happen so suddenly 4 It happened thus :—yesterday, when you stood looking on the two, admiring their equal beauty, one of them was hollow in the heart. If then you had taken it in your hand, and turned it round, you would have seen corruption already pervading its mass. On the dark side, next the wall, it has been pierced and entered. Its inside has been scooped out and devoured, while it continued to present to the passenger as fair an appearance as ever ; and see, black, crawling, loathsome creatures are nestling and reveling in that hollow heart, beneath that beauteous skin.

Thus are fair promises in the garden of the Lord suddenly blighted. You have known two standing long side by side in a goodly profession, and laboring hand in hand for the kingdom of Christ. One of them falls headlong into a pit of vice, and next day the whole neighborhood rings with the scandal. Diverse are the emotions, but all are moved. Christ's enemies sneer, and his members sigh. How sudden the fall has been, sorrowing disciples say to each other in a suppressed whisper, when they meet,—how sudden and unexpected! No, friends ; it was not a sudden fall. In the heart, unseen, there has been a long preparation of backsliding. Vain thoughts have lodged within, and vile thoughts have been welcome visitors. Persons first vain and then vile have by degrees found their way into his presence, and charmed him, so that he cannot want them, though he knows they are stinging serpents. By such a process his heart has been hollowed out, and inhabited by creatures more loathsome than crawling vermin, while the skin of profession was kept whole, and its fairest side turned to public view. A cry of wonder rises from the crowd, when the hollow shell falls in, because they did not know its hollowness until the fall revealed it.

There is a warning, in such a case :—beware of backsliding in heart ; small beginnings may issue in a fearful end. But there is encouragement even here to disciples who are humble, and trustful, and watchful. There is no such thing as a sudden collapse of a sound heart. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." (Proverbs 14:14 The Backslider)

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THE FROST BELL - Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  Proverbs 4:23.

Philemon 1:24 ~60-63A.D.
as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.

Col 4:14 5 yr before 2Ti
Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.

2Ti4:10 ~67A.D.
for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

Awaiting death by execution, Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy from Rome while confined in a chilly, dank dungeon. He was so cold that he asked for his cloak, and so lonely that he begged Timothy to come as soon as possible. He was also keenly disappointed in Demas — a former companion in the work of God. How pathetic his plaintive words, which may be paraphrased as follows, "Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas has deserted me, having fallen in love with this present world." It is hard to understand how Demas could so cruelly abandon the imprisoned apostle: However, knowing that a grave sin of this nature is always preceded by a backsliding in heart, we can be sure that Demas had been cooling off spiritually for some time before he forsook Paul to seek the pleasures of the world.
 
Prior to the development of thermostatically controlled heat, many greenhouses were equipped with a "frost bell." This was an electrical device connected to the thermometer which warned the owner when the mercury fell to the danger point. At the signal, he would hurry out to stoke his fires, thus saving his crop of fruit or flowers.
 
It isn't necessary to attach a frost bell to determine when a Christian is growing spiritually cold. If prayer, Bible reading, and Christian service begin to become burdensome and the allurements of the world begin to make their appeal, it's time to re-kindle the fires of one's spiritual life. This can be done only through humble confession of sin and a renewal of dedication to Christ.

Vain world, I turn away, tho' thou seem fair and good;
That friendly, outstretched hand of thine is stained with Jesus' blood.
If in thy least device, I stoop to take a part,
All unaware, thine influence steals God's presence from my heart!       
—Mauro

While the Christian must live in the world,
he must not allow the world to live in him. 
—Bosch

Judges 16:20 F B Meyer (Our Daily Homily): He wist not that the Lord was departed from him.

Beware of unconscious deterioration!

Grey hairs may be here and there upon us without our knowing it. The Lord may be gone out on feet so noiseless, that we are not aware that His Spirit has glided along the corridor, and through the doorway, whispering, Let us depart.

Deterioration is unconscious because it is so gradual.

The rot that sets in on autumn fruit is very gradual. The damp that silences the violin or piano does its work almost imperceptibly. Satan is too knowing to plunge us into some outrageous sin at a bound. He has sappers and miners engaged long before the explosion, in hollowing subterranean passages through the soul, and filling them with explosives.

Spiritual declension blunts our sensibility.

The first act of the burglar is to gag the voice that might alarm, and poison the watch-dog. So, sin blinds our eyes, and dulls our keen alertness to the presence of evil. Thus, the stages of our relapse are obvious to all eyes but our own. We are drugged as we are being carried off captives.

The progress of evil within us is a matter of unconsciousness, largely because we are quick to discover reasons to justify our decadence.

We gloss over the real state of affairs. We call sins by other names. We insist on considerations which in our eyes appear to justify our conduct. We still attend to our religious duties, and try to persuade ourselves that it is with us as in times past. To avoid deterioration we must ever watch and pray, and realize that we are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Then shall the peace of God as a sentry guard our hearts and our thoughts in Christ Jesus.

F B Meyer (Our Daily Walk)

If we desire to be pure and good, Christ-like and God like, we must live in fellowship with Christ; beholding and reflecting His glory, even the lowliest and most sinful may become changed into His image. How different to Moses is the unveiled glory of Christ. Let us beware of anything that might bring a veil between Him and us, and nothing will so soon do this as sin, and inconsistency. Moses wist (knew) not that his face shone, and Samson wist (knew) not that the Lord had departed from him (Judges 16:20). There is a tragic as well as a blessed unconsciousness. Let us see to it that we watch and pray, that we may not be taken unawares, and deprived of our purity and strength whilst wrapt in unconsciousness.

Spiros Zodhiates records the

pathetic story of Origen, a church father of antiquity, who had fallen into great backsliding. After a period of time, he began to turn back to the Lord again, and coming into a congregation, desired to preach. He opened the Bible randomly at the fiftieth psalm and began to read these words in the sixteenth and seventeenth verses: "But unto the wicked, God says, what have you to do to declare my statutes, or that you shouldest take my covenant in your mouth? Seeing you hate instruction, and cast my words behind you." Upon reading the words, Origen remembered his own backsliding and coming under great conviction he started to weep. He wept so bitterly that all the congregation was moved to weep with him. There is no doubt that preachers may be able to accomplish far more for their Lord by humbling themselves and confessing their shortcomings rather than by proudly declaring the truth while hiding their own sin. (1 Corinthians Commentary)

BACKSLIDING LIKE THE
FALL OF AUTUMN LEAVES!

Spurgeon on Backsliding - several quotes...

Remember, brethren, that decays in grace and backsliding are usually very much like the fall of the autumn leaves. You are watching the trees, for even now they are beginning to indicate the coming fall. They evidently know that their verdant robes are to be stripped from them, for they are casting off their first loose vestments. How slowly the time of the brown leaf comes on! You notice here and there a tinge of the copper hue, and anon the gold leaf or the bronze is apparent. Week after week you observe that the general fall of the leaves is drawing nearer, but it is a matter that creeps slowly on. And so with backsliders. They are not put out of the visible church all at once, they do not become open offenders all at once. The heart by slow degrees turns aside from the living God, and then at last comes the outward sin and the outward shame.

God save us from
falling by little and little!

The devil's little strokes
Have felled many great oaks

Constant droppings of temptation have worn away many stones. God save us there from. Some cities have been carried by storm. Brave soldiers have made the irons of the scaling ladder bite on the top of the wall, and up they have swarmed in defiance of death, and carried the city by sudden force within a few hours. But many other cities have been taken by the slow process of the siege; the supplies have been cut off; warriors have been slain at the sally-ports, slowly; entrenchments have been thrown up nearer and nearer to the wall, mines have been dug under the bastions, forts have been weakened, gates have been shaken, and at last the city has been subdued. Where Satan captures one man by force of strong temptation, he captures ten by the gradual process of sapping and undermining the principles which should rule within. (Flashes of Thought)

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Backsliding, not a Necessity - It is regarded by many as a law of nature, that our first love must grow cold, and our early zeal must necessarily decline. I do not believe it for a moment. "But (term of contrast - see Pr 4:17) the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day." (Pr 4:18) and, were we watchful and careful to live near to God, there is no reason why our spiritual life should not continuously make progress both in strength and beauty. There is no inherent necessity in the divine life itself compelling it to decline, for is it not written, "It shall be in him a well of Water, springing up unto everlasting life:" (Jn 4:14) "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (Jn 7:38) Grace is a living and incorruptible seed that liveth and abideth for ever, and there is nowhere impressed upon the divine life a law of pining and decay. If we do falter and faint in the onward path, it is our sin, and it is doubly sinful to forge excuses for it. It is not to be laid upon the back of some mysterious necessity of the new nature that it should be so, but it is to be brought as a charge against ourselves. (Flashes of Thought)

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A wise father does not care to restore a son to a position for which he has proved himself to be unfit. Even so has the Lord dealt with many backsliding ones; like David, they have been restored, but never to their former peace, prosperity, and power. - Spurgeon Gold

Secret backslidings end in public abominations.

Trouble is often the means whereby God delivers us. God knows that our backsliding will soon end in our destruction, and He in mercy sends the rod.

Christian, what do you have to do with sin? Has it not cost you enough already? What, man! Have you forgotten the times of your conviction? If you have, I have not! Burnt child, will you play with the fire? What! When you have already been rent in pieces by the lion, will you step a second time into his den? Have you not had enough of the old serpent? Did he not poison all your veins once?
 
So mature a servant of the devil as Judas is not purchased all at once. It takes time to educate a man for the scorner's seat. If you begin to slip on the side of a mountain of ice, the first slip may not hurt if you can stop and slide no further. But alas, you cannot so regulate sin! When your feet begin to slide, the rate of the descent increases, and the difficulty of arresting this motion is incessantly becoming greater. It is dangerous to backslide in any degree, for we know not to what it may lead.
 
The falls are mostly of middle-aged or elderly people. We have hardly in Scripture an instance of any young professor that turned aside. The reason is, I think, because when we are weak, then are we strong; and when we conceive ourselves to be strong, we become weak. (
Ed: Woe! I am 66 as I post Spurgeon's sobering quote! But, dear young reader, beware, for you too one day will be my age!)
 
The Christian life is very much like climbing a hill of ice. You cannot slide up. You have to cut every step with an ice ax. Only with incessant labor in cutting and chipping can you make any progress. If you want to know how to backslide, leave off going forward. Cease going upward and you will go downward of necessity. You can never stand still.
 
Remember that if you are a child of God, you will never be happy in sin. You are spoiled for the world, the flesh, and the devil. When you were regenerated there was put into you a vital principle, which can never be content to dwell in the dead world. You will have to come back, if indeed you belong to the family.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:20. She then cried out, “Philistines upon thee, Samson!” And he awaked out of his sleep, and thought (“said,” i.e., to himself), “I will go away as time upon time (this as at other times), and shake myself loose,” sc., from the fetters or from the hands of the Philistines; “but he knew not that Jehovah had departed from him.” These last words are very important to observe in order to form a correct idea of the affair. Samson had said to Delilah, “If my hair were cut off, my strength would depart from me” (v. 17). The historian observes, on the other hand, that “Jehovah had departed from him.” The superhuman strength of Samson did not reside in his hair as hair, but in the fact that Jehovah was with or near him. But Jehovah was with him so long as he maintained his condition as a Nazarite. As soon as he broke away from this by sacrificing the hair which he wore in honour of the Lord, Jehovah departed from him, and with Jehovah went his strength.
Judg. 16:21. The Philistines then seized him, put out his eyes, and led him to Gaza fettered with double brass chains. The chains are probably called nechushtaim (double brass) because both hands of both feet were fettered with them. King Zedekiah, when taken prisoner by the Chaldeans, was treated in the same manner (2 Kings 25:7). There Samson was obliged to turn the mill in the prison, and grind corn (the participle טֹחֵן expresses the continuance of the action). Grinding a handmill was the hardest and lowest kind of slave labour (compare Ex. 11:5 with 12:29); and both Greeks and Romans sentenced their slaves to this as a punishment (see Od. xx. 105ff., vii. 103–4; Terent. Phorm. ii. 1, 19, Andr. i, 2. 29), and it is still performed by female slaves in the East (see Chardin in Harmar’s Beob. üb. d. Orient. iii. 64).(
Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

Judges 16.20 G Campbell Morgan - But he wist not that the Lord was departed from him. Judges 16.20

Than this, there is no more tragic sentence in the whole Bible. It reveals a most appalling condition, that of the unconscious loss of the one essential to success in the work of God. At last the hour had come in which God no longer co-operated with Samson; and the man did not know it! It is impossible to believe that this unconsciousness was a sudden thing. That is to say, this man had lost the keen consciousness of the presence of God, or else he would have been conscious of His absence. Having yielded to his own passions, rather than to the Spirit of God, he had come to the condition in which his knowledge of the power of that Spirit was intellectual rather than experimental. He had had great experi­ences of that power, and he went on expecting them, even when he was making them impossible by his manner of life. In the hour of need, he said: "I will go out as at other times.:'; but he could not. The expected experience did not come. He was caught, and blinded, and made the bond-slave of his foes. The story is one to fill the soul with holy fear. The possi­bility of going on in an attempt to do the work of God after God has withdrawn Himself, is an appalling one. The issue is always that of defeat and the uttermost shame. The value of the whole story for us is that it ought to teach us that if we yield ourselves to those desires of the flesh and spirit which are out of harmony with the will of God, He must withdraw from us the power in which to do His work. The only way to be sure that we have not lost the fellowship of enablement, is to main­tain a conscious fellowship in complete obedience. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible).

Samson Conquered
Sermon by C H Spurgeon
Judges 16:20-21

Samson is, in many respects, one of the most remarkable men whose history is recorded in the pages of inspiration. He enjoyed a singular privilege only accorded to one other person in the Old Testament. His birth was foretold to his parents by an angel. Isaac was promised to Abraham and Sarah by angels whom they entertained unawares; but save Isaac, Samson was the only one whose birth was foretold by an angelic messenger before the opening of the Gospel dispensation. Before his birth he was dedicated to God, and set apart as a Nazarite. Now, a Nazarite was a person who was entirely consecrated to God, and in token of his consecration he drank no wine; and allowed his hair to grow, untouched by the razor. Samson, you may therefore understand, was entirely consecrated to God, and when any saw him, they would say, “That man is God’s man, a Nazarite, set apart.” God endowed Samson with supernatural strength, a strength which never could have been the result of mere muscles and sinews. It was not the fashioning of Samson’s body that made him strong; it was not the arm, or the fist with which he smote the Philistines; it was a miracle that dwelt with him, a continued going forth of the omnipotence of God, which made him mightier than thousands of his enemies.

Samson appears very early to have discovered in himself this great strength, for “the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan.” He judged Israel for thirty years, and gloriously did he deliver them. What a noble being he must have been! See him, when he steps into the vineyard for a moment from his parents. A lion that has been crouching there springs upon him, but he meets him all unarmed, receives him upon his brawny arms and rends him like a kid. See him afterwards, when his countrymen have bound him and taken him down from the top of the rock, and delivered him up to the thousands of the Philistines. He has scarcely come near them, when, without a weapon, with his own foot, he begins to spurn them; and seeing there the jawbone of an ass, he takes that ignoble weapon, and sweeps away the men that had helmets about their heads and were girded with greaves of brass. Nor did his vigor fail him in his later life, for he died in the very prime of his days. One of his greatest exploits was performed at this very season. He is entrapped in the city of Gaza. He remains there till midnight; so confident is he in his strength that he is in no hurry to depart, and instead of assailing the guard, and making them draw the bolts, he wrenches up the two posts, and takes away the gate, bar and all, and carries his mighty burden for miles to the top of a hill that is before Hebron.

Every way it must have been a great thing to see this man, especially if one had him for a friend. Had one been his foe, the more distant the sight the better, for none could escape from him but those who fled; but to have him for a friend and to stand with him in the day of battle, was to feel that you had an army in a single man, and had in one frame that which would strike thousands with terror.

Samson, however, though he had great physical strength, had but little mental force, and even less spiritual power. His whole life is a scene of miracles and follies. He had but little grace, and was easily overcome by temptation. He is enticed and led astray. Often corrected; still he sins again. At last he falls into the hands of Delilah. She is bribed with an enormous sum, and she endeavors to get from him the secret of his strength. He foolishly toys with the danger, and plays with his own destruction. At last, goaded by her importunity, he lets out the secret which he ought to have confided to no one but himself. The secret of his strength lay in his locks. Not that his hair made him strong; but that his hair was the symbol of his consecration, and was the pledge of God’s favor to him. While his hair was untouched he was a consecrated man; as soon as that was cut away, he was no longer perfectly consecrated, and then his strength departed from him. His hair is cut away; the locks that covered him once are taken from him, and there he stands a shaveling, weak as other men. Now the Philistines begin to oppress him, and his eyes are burned out with hot iron. How are the mighty fallen! How are the great ones taken in the net!

Samson the great hero of Israel, is seen with a shuffling gait walking towards Gaza. A shuffling gait, I said, because he had just received blindness, which was a new thing to him; therefore, he had not as yet learned to walk as well as those who, having been blind for years, at least learn to set their feet firmly upon the earth. With his feet bound together with brazen fetters—an unusual mode of binding a prisoner, but adopted in this case because Samson was supposed to be still so strong, that any other kind of fetter would have been insufficient—you see him walking along in the midst of a small escort towards Gaza. And now he comes to the very city out of which he had walked in all his pride with the gates and bolts upon his shoulders; and the little children come out, the lower orders of the people come round about him, and point at him—“Samson, the great hero, has fallen! let us make sport of him!” What a spectacle! The hot sun is beating upon his bare head, which had once been protected by those luxuriant locks. Look at the escorts who guard him, a mere handful of men, how they would have bled before him in his brighter days; but now a child might overcome him. They take him to a place where an ass is grinding at the mill, and Samson must to the same ignoble work. Why, he must be the sport and jest of every passerby, and of every fool who shall step in to see this great wonder—the destroyer of the Philistines made to toil at the mill. Ah, what a fall was there, my brethren! We might indeed stand and weep over poor blind Samson. That he should have lost his eyes was terrible; that he should have lost his strength was worse; but that he should have lost the favor of God for a while; that he should become the sport of God’s enemies, was the worst of all. Over this indeed we might weep.

Now, why have I narrated this story? Why should I direct your attention to Samson? For this reason. Every child of God is a consecrated man. His consecration is not typified by any outward symbol; we are not commanded to let our hair grow forever, nor to abstain from meats or drinks. The Christian is a consecrated man, but his consecration is unseen by his fellows, except in the outward deeds which are the result thereof.

And now I want to speak to you as consecrated men, as Nazarites, and I think I shall find a lesson for you in the history of Samson.

First, the strength of the consecrated man. Do you know that the strongest man in all the world is a consecrated man? Even though he may consecrate himself to a wrong object, yet if it be a thorough consecration, he will have strength—strength, for evil, it may be, but still strength. In the old Roman wars with Pyrrhus, you remember an ancient story of self-devotion. There was an oracle which said that victory would attend that army whose leader should give himself up to death. Decius the Roman Consul, knowing this, rushed into the thickest of the battle, that his army might overcome by his dying. The prodigies of valor which he performed are proofs of the power of consecration. The Romans at that time seemed to be every man a hero, because every man was a consecrated man. They went to battle with this thought—“I will conquer or die; the name of Rome is written on my heart; for my country I am prepared to live, or for that to shed my blood.” And no enemies could ever stand against them. If a Roman fell there were no wounds in his back, but all in his breast. His face, even in cold death, was like the face of a lion, and when looked upon it was of terrible aspect. They were men consecrated to their country; they were ambitious to make the name of Rome the noblest word in human language; and consequently the Roman became a giant. And to this day let a man get a purpose within him, I care not what his purpose is, and let his whole soul be absorbed by it, and what will he not do? You that are “everything by turns and nothing long,” that have nothing to live for, soulless carcasses that walk this earth and waste its air, what can you do? Why nothing. But the man who knows what he is at, and has his mark, speeds to it “like an arrow from a bowshot by an archer strong.” Nought can turn him aside from his design. How much more is this true if I limit the description to that which is peculiar to the Christian—consecration to God! Oh! what strength that man has who is dedicated to God! Is there such a one here? I know there is.

Need I tell you of the wonders that have been done by consecrated men? You have read the stories of olden times, when our religion was hunted like a partridge on the mountains. Did you never hear how consecrated men and women endured unheard-of pangs and agonies? Have you not read how they were cast to the lions, how they were sawn in sunder, how they languished in prisons, or met with the swifter death of the sword? Have you not heard how they wandered about in sheeps’ skins and goat’s skins, destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy? Have you not heard how they defied tyrants to their face, how, when they were threatened, they dared most boldly to laugh at all the threats of the foe—how at the stake they clapped their hands in the fire, and sang psalms of triumph, when men, worse than fiends, were jeering at their miseries? How as this? What made women stronger than men, and men stronger than angels? Why this—they were consecrated to God. They felt that every pang which rent their heart was giving glory to God, that all the pains they endured in their bodies were but the marks of the Lord Jesus, whereby they were proven to be wholly dedicated unto him. Nor in this alone has the power of the consecrated ones been proved. Have you never heard how the sanctified ones have done wonders? Read the stories of those who counted not their lives dear to them, that they might honor their Lord and Master by preaching his Word, by telling forth the Gospel in foreign lands. Have you not heard how men have left their kindred and their friends, and all that life held dear—have crossed the stormy sea, and have gone into the lands of the heathen, where men were devouring one another? Have you not known how they have put their foot upon that country, and have seen the ship that conveyed them there fading away in the distance, and yet without a fear have dwelt amongst the wild savages of the woods, have walked into the midst of them, and told them, the simple story of the God that loved and died for man? You must know how those men have conquered, how those, who seemed to be fiercer than lions, have crouched before them, have listened to their words, and have been converted by the majesty of the Gospel which they preached.

What made these men heroes? What enabled them to rend themselves away from all their kith and kin, and banish themselves into the land of the stranger? It was because they were consecrated, thoroughly consecrated to the Lord Jesus Christ. What is there in the world which the consecrated man cannot do? Tempt him; offer him gold and silver; carry him to the mountain top, and show him all the kingdoms of the world, and tell him he shall have all these if he will bow down and worship the god of this world. What saith this consecrated man? “Get thee behind me, Satan; I have more than all this which thou dost offer me; this world is mine, and worlds to come; I despise the temptation; I will not bow before thee.” Let men threaten a consecrated man, what does he say? “I fear God, and, therefore, I cannot fear you; if it be right in your sight to obey man rather than God, judge ye; but, as for me, I will serve none but God.”

“But,” says someone, “can we be consecrated to Christ? I thought that was for ministers only.” Oh, no, my brethren; all God’s children must be consecrated men. What are you? Are you engaged in business? If you are what you profess to be, your business must be consecrated to God. Perhaps you have no family whatever, and you are engaged in trade, and are saving some considerable sum a year; let me tell you the example of a man thoroughly consecrated to God. There lives in Bristol, (name unknown), a man whose income is large; and what does he do with it? He labors in business continually that this income may come to him, but of it, every farthing every year is expended in the Lord’s cause except that which he requires for the necessaries of life. He makes his necessities as few as possible, that he may have the more to give away. He is God’s man in his business. I do not exhort you to do the same. You may be in a different position; but a man who has a family, and is in business, should be able to say—“Now, I make so much from my business; my family must be provided for—but I seek not to amass riches. I will make money for God and I will spend it in his cause.”

If I have said, “I am Christ’s,” by his grace I will be Christ’s. Brethren, you in business may be as much consecrated to Christ as the minister in his pulpit; you may make your ordinary transactions in life a solemn service of God. Happy the man who is consecrated unto the Lord; where’er he is, he is a consecrated man, and he shall do wonders.

The littleness of Christians of this age results from the littleness of their consecration to Christ. The age of John Owen was the day of great preachers; but let me tell you, that that was the age of great consecration. Those great preachers whose names we remember, were men who counted nothing their own: they were driven out from their benefices, because they could not conform to the Established Church, and they gave up all they had willingly to the Lord. They were hunted from place to place; the disgraceful Five-Mile-Act would not permit them to come within five miles of any market town; they wandered here and there to preach the Gospel to a few poor sheep, being fully given up to their Lord. Those were foul times; but they promised they would walk the road fair or foul, and they did walk it knee-deep in mud; and they would have walked it if it had been knee-deep in blood, too. They became great men; and if we were, as they were, wholly given up to God—if we could say of ourselves, “From the crown of my head to the sole of my foot, there is not a drop of blood that is not wholly God’s; all my time, all my talents, everything I have is God’s”—if we could say that, we should be strong like Samson, for the consecrated must be strong.

Now, in the second place, the secret of their strength. What makes the consecrated man strong? Ah! beloved; there is no strength in man of himself. Samson without his God was but a poor fool indeed. The secret of Samson’s strength was this—as long as he was consecrated he should be strong; so long as he was thoroughly devoted to his God, and had no object but to serve God, (and that was to be indicated by the growing of his hair) so long, and no longer, would God be with him to help him. And now you see that if you have any strength to serve God, the secret of your strength lies in the same place. What strength have you save in God? Ah! I have heard some men talk as if the strength of free will, of human nature, was sufficient to carry men to heaven. Free will has carried many souls to hell, but never a soul to heaven yet. No strength of nature can suffice to serve the Lord aright. No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Ghost. No man can come to Christ except the Father that hath sent Christ doth draw him. If, then, the first act of Christian life is beyond all human strength, how much more are those higher steps far beyond any one of us? Do we not utter a certain truth when we say in the words of Scripture, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” I think everyone who has a really quickened soul will sooner or later be made to feel this. Ay! I question whether a man can be converted a day without finding out his own weakness. It is but a little space before the child finds that he can stand alone so long as God his Father takes him by the arms and teaches him to go, but that if his Father’s hand be taken away he has no power to stand, but down he falls at once. See Samson without his God, going out against a thousand men. Would they not laugh at him? and with scarcely time to express is terror, he would flee, or be rent in pieces. Imagine him without his God, locked up in Gaza, the gates fast closed. He goes out into the streets to escape; but how can he clear a passage? He is caught like a wild bull in a net; he may go round and round the walls, but where shall be his deliverance? without his God he is but as other men. The secret of his strength lies in his consecration, and in the strength which is its results. Remember, then, the secret of your strength. Never think that you have any power of your own; rely wholly upon the God of Israel; and remember that the channel through which that strength must come to you must be your entire consecration to God.

In the third place, What is the peculiar danger of a consecrated man? His danger is that his locks may be shorn, that is to say, that his consecration may be broken. As long as he is consecrated he is strong; break that, he is weak as water. Now there are a thousand razors with which the devil can shave off the locks of a consecrated man without his knowing it. Samson is sound asleep; so clever is the barber that he even lulls him to sleep as his fingers move across the pate, the fool’s pate, which he is making bare. The devil is cleverer far than even the skillful barber; he can shave the believer’s locks while he scarcely knows it.

Shall I tell you with what razors he can accomplish this work? Sometimes he takes the sharp razor of pride, and when the Christian falls asleep and is not vigilant, he comes with it and begins to run his fingers upon the Christian’s locks, and says, “What a fine fellow you are! What wonders you have done! Didn’t you rend that lion finely? Wasn’t it a great feat to smite those Philistines hip and thigh? Ah! you will be talked of as long as time endures for carrying those gates of Gaza away. You need not be afraid of anybody.” And so on goes the razor, lock after lock falling off, and Samson knows it not. He is just thinking within himself, “How brave am I! How great am I!” Thus works the razor of pride—cut, cut, cut away—and he wakes up to find himself bald, and all his strength gone. Have you never had that razor upon your head? I confess I have on mine. Have you never, after you have been able to endure afflictions, heard a voice saying to you, “How patient you were!” After you have cast aside some temptation, and have been able to keep to the unswerving course of integrity, has not Satan said to you, “That is a fine thing you have done; that was bravely done.” And all the while you little knew that it was the cunning hand of the evil one taking away your locks with the sharp razor of pride. For mark, pride is a breach of our consecration. As soon as I begin to get proud of what I do, or what I am, what am I proud of? Why, there is in that pride the act of taking away from God his glory. For I promised that God should have all the glory, and is not that part of my consecration? And I am taking it to myself. I have broken my consecration; my locks are gone, and I become weak. Mark this, Christian—God will never give thee strength to glorify thyself with. God will give thee a crown, but not to put on thine own head. As sure as ever a Christian begins to write his feats and his triumphs upon his own escutcheon, and take to himself the glory, God will lay him level with the dust.

Another razor he also uses is self-sufficiency. “Ah,” saith the devil as he is shaving away your locks. “you have done a very great deal. You see they bound you with green withers, and you snapped them in sunder, they merely smelt the fire and they burst. Then they took new ropes to bind you; ah! you overcame even them; for you snapped the ropes in sunder as if they had been a thread. Then they wove the seven locks of your head, but you walked away with loom and web too, beam and all. You can do anything, don’t be afraid; you have strength enough to do anything; you can accomplish any feat you set our will upon.” How softly the devil will do all that; how will he be rubbing the poll while the razor is moving softly along and the locks are dropping off, and he is treading them in the dust. “You have done all this, and you can do anything else.” Every drop of grace distills from heaven. O my brethren, what have we that we have not received? Let us not imagine that we can create might wherewith to gird ourselves. “All my springs are in thee.” The moment we begin to think that it is our own arm that has gotten us the victory, it will be all over with us—our locks of strength shall be taken away, and the glory shall depart from us. So, you see, self-sufficiency, as well as pride, may be the razor with which the enemy may shave away our strength.

There is yet another, and a more palpable danger still. When a consecrated man begins to change his purpose in life and live for himself—that razor shaves clean indeed. There is a minister; when he first began his ministry he could say, “God is my witness I have but one object, that I may free my skirts from the blood of every one of my hearers, that I may preach the Gospel faithfully and honor my Master.” In a little time, tempted by Satan, he changes his tone and talks like this, “I must keep my congregation up. If I preach such hard doctrine, they won’t come. Did not one of the newspapers criticize me, and did not some of my people go away from me because of it? I must mind what I am at. I must keep this going. I must look out a little sharper, and prune my speech down. I must adopt a little gentler style, or preach a new-fashioned doctrine; for I must keep my popularity up. What is to become of me if I go down? People will say, ‘Up like a rocket, down like the stick’; and then all my enemies laugh.” Ah, when once a man begins to care so much as a snap of the finger about the world, it is all over with him. If he can go to his pulpit, and say, “I have got a message to deliver; and whether they will hear or whether they will not hear, I will deliver it as God puts it into my mouth; I will not change the dot of an ‘i’, or the cross of a ‘t’ for the biggest man that lives, or to bring in the mightiest congregation that ever sat at minister’s feet”—that man is mighty. He does not let human judgments move him, and he will move the world.

But let him turn aside, and think about his congregation, and how that shall be kept up; ah Samson! How are thy locks shorn! What canst thy do now? That false Delilah has destroyed thee—thine eyes are put out, thy comfort is taken away, and thy future ministry shall be like the grinding of an ass around the continually revolving mill; thou shalt have no rest or peace ever afterwards. Or let him turn aside another way. Suppose he should say, “I must get preferment, or wealth, I must look well to myself, I must see my next feathered, that must be the object of my life.” I am not now speaking of the ministry merely, but of all the consecrated; and as sure as ever we begin to make self the primary object of our existence our locks are shorn. “Now,” says the Lord, “I gave that man strength, but not to use it for himself. Then I put him into a high position, but not that he might clothe himself about with glory; I put him there that he might look to my cause, to my interests; and if he does not do that first, down he shall go.

And so, if you live in this world, and God prospers you, you get perhaps into some position, and you say, “Here I am; I will look out for myself; I have been serving the church before, but now I will look to myself a little.” “Come, come,” says human nature, “you must look after your family,” (which means, you must look after yourself). Very well, do it, sir, as your main object, and you are a ruined man. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these shall be added to you.” If you keep your eye single, your whole body shall be full of light. Though you seemed as if you had shut out half the light by having that single eye, yet your body shall be full of light. But begin to have two masters, and two objects to serve, and you shall serve neither; you shall neither prosper for this world, nor for that which is to come. Oh, Christian, above all things take care of thy consecration. Ever feel that thou art wholly given up to God, and to God alone.

And now, lastly, there is the Christian’s disgrace. His locks are cut off. I have seen him, young as I am, and you with gray hairs upon your brows have seen him oftener than I; I have seen him in the ministry. He spake like an angel of God; many there were that regarded him, and did hang upon his lips; he seemed to be sound in doctrine and earnest in manner. I have seen him turn aside; it was but a little thing—some slight deviation from the ancient orthodoxy of his fathers, some slight violation of the law of his church. I have seen him, till he has given up doctrine after doctrine until, at last, the very place wherein he preached has become a byword and a proverb; and the man is pointed out by the gray-headed sire to his child as a man who is to be looked upon with suspicion; who, if he lectures, is to be heard with caution; and if he preaches, is not to be listened to at all. Have you not seen him? What disgrace was there! What a fall! The man who came out in the camps of Dan, and seemed to be moved by the Spirit of the Lord, has become the slave of error. He has gone into the very camps of the enemy, and there he is now, grinding in the mill for the Philistine, whom he ought to have been striking with his arm.

Now these men who have turned aside and broken their consecration vow, are pointed at as a disgrace to themselves and dishonor to the Church. And you who are members of Christ’s Church, you have seen men who stood in your ranks as firm soldiers of the cross, and you have noticed them go out, from us, “because they were not of us,” or like poor Samson, you have seen them go to their graves with the eyes of their comfort put out, with the feet of their usefulness bound with brazen fetters, and with the strength of their arms entirely departed from them. Now, do any of you wish to be backsliders? Do you wish to betray the holy profession of your religion? My brethren, is there one among you who this day makes a profession of love to Christ, who desires to be an apostate? Is there one of you who desires like Samson to have his eyes put out, and to be made to grind in the mill? Would you, like David, commit a great sin, and go with broken bones to the grave? Would you, like Lot, be drunken, and fall into lust? No, I know what you say, “Lord, let my path be like the eagle’s flight; let me fly upwards to the sun, and never stay and never turn aside. Oh, give me grace that I may serve thee like Caleb, with a perfect heart, and that from the beginning even to the end of my days, my course may be as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Ay, I know what is your desire. How, then, shall it be accomplished? Look well to your consecration; see that it is sincere; see that you mean it, and then look up to the Holy Spirit, after you have looked to your consecration, and beg of him to give you daily grace; for as day-by-day the manna fell, so must you receive daily food from on high. And, remember, it is not by any grace you have in you, but by the grace that is in Christ, and that must be given to you hour by hour, that you are to stand, and having done all, to be crowned at last as a faithful one, who has endured unto the end. I ask your prayers that I may be kept faithful to my Lord; and on the other hand, I will offer my earnest prayers, that you may serve him while he lends you breath, that when your voice is lost in death, you may throughout a never-ending immortality, praise him in louder and sweeter strains.

And as for you that have not given yourselves to God, and you are not consecrated to him, I can only speak to you as to Philistines, and warn you, that the day shall come when Israel shall be avenged upon the Philistines. You may be one day assembled upon the roof of your pleasures, enjoying yourselves in health and strength; but there is a Samson—called Death, who shall pull down the pillars of your tabernacle, and you must fall and be destroyed—and great shall be the ruin. May God give you grace that you may be consecrated to Christ; so that living or dying, you may rejoice in him, and may share with him the glory of his Father.

 

Judges 16:21 Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.

THEN THE PHILISTINES SEIZED HIM AND GOUGED OUT HIS EYES: (See Related Resource: Judges 16:21-31 Strength Profaned and Lost by Alexander Maclaren) (Bound - Pr 5:22; 14:14; 2:19)

Bound him - literal fulfillment of the figurative effect of the cords of sin!

His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin.
He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray. (Pr 5:22,23-
note, cp  Jn 8:34; Ro 6:16-note, 2Pe 2:19-note)

His eyes had gotten him into trouble (Jdg 14:1,2; 16:1), and the “lust of the eyes” had led him into sin. Had Samson walked by faith, he would have ended his career in honor, glorifying the Lord.

And that is what happens to us. God will give us up to the passions of our own life, if we insist on it. This picture of Samson grinding away at the mill is such a vivid illustration of what happens in the inner man. There is a blinding--a loss of a sense of moral perspective and vision. There is a binding--a loss of our freedom and liberty and mobility in the Spirit. And there is a grinding--a sense of futility and boredom and purposelessness about life, of just going around and around and around inside.

There is a way out, though. And if this is there is a "blinding, binding & grinding" effect transpiring in your spirit because of some old sin pattern you are harboring, you need to know there is a way out. And as we see in the following verses the Lord did remember Samson. God does not forget us even though we forget Him. When He takes his hands off us and lets us go, He is still right there available to us. He never utterly abandons us, and He didn't in the case of Samson. He was there, standing ready to respond to his entreaty. And I am sure that in the months of grinding at that mill Samson had reviewed his life's sowing and reaping (Ga 6:7, 8-note). He must have surely comprehended what and why this had happened to him. He realized that his strength lay in Jehovah, and thus in the end he sought the Mighty One to set him free from his bondage. A death had to take place -- his death. It was only through Samson's death that the Philistines could be brought under subjection. And this is also true in our life. The only way out of bondage is to go back to that area of our life where we are resisting the Lordship of Jesus Christ and die, right there (cp Re 2:4, 5-note).

In his letter to the Romans, Paul says that those who have died are no longer under the dominion of sin (Ro 6:16, 17, 18-note). To look honestly at the sin that binds you, calling it what God calls it (1Jn 1:9, Pr 28:13), and putting it away by the Spirit of Christ (cp Ro 8:13-note, Col 3:5ff-note, Ro 13:12, 13, 14-note), will bring freedom. God is able to rout the "Philistines" in your life and to restore the sense of peace and prosperity.

Father, thank you for this great story. We thank you for the truth that is revealed in it. We pray that it might be truth which we enter into personally. We ask that we would be strengthened in the inner man to face, honestly and squarely, the issues in our life which we have been unwilling to submit to you, and to cast them off in your power, and thereby to experience the sense of liberty in the Spirit, in Jesus' name, Amen.

F B Meyer writes that...

Judges 16:21-31 Repentance and renewal. -- Alone in the prison-cell reflection did its work; and prayer again arose from Samson's heart; his hair began to grow again. Is not there an analogy to Peter's repentance with bitter tears, preparing for Pentecost? What pathos in that last petition (Judges 16:28; Ps. 74:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23)! There is an encouragement here for backsliders to return to God that He may forgive and restore them, and peradventure use them again.

A W Tozer writes...

The Lord Departed -- We bear within us the seeds of our own disintegration. Our moral imprudence puts us always in danger of accidental or reckless self-destruction. The strength of our flesh is an ever present danger to our souls. Deliverance can come to us only by the defeat of our old life. Safety and peace come only after we have been forced to our knees. God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance. Then He invades our natures with that ancient and eternal life which is from the beginning. So He conquers us and by that benign conquest saves us for Himself.

With this open secret awaiting easy discovery, why do we in almost all our busy activities work in another direction from this?

Why do we build our churches upon human flesh?

Why do we set such store by that which the Lord has long ago repudiated, and despise those things which God holds in such high esteem?

For we teach men not to die with Christ but to live in the strength of their dying manhood. We boast not in our weakness but in our strength. Values which Christ has declared to be false are brought back into evangelical favor and promoted as the very life and substance of the Christian way. How eagerly do we seek the approval of this or that man of worldly reputation. How shamefully do we exploit the converted celebrity. Anyone will do to take away the reproach of obscurity from our publicity-hungry leaders: famous athletes, congressmen, world travelers, rich industrialists; before such we bow with obsequious smiles and honor them in our public meetings and in the religious press. Thus we glorify men to enhance the standing of the Church of God, and the glory of the Prince of Life is made to hang upon the transient fame of a man who shall die.  (A W Tozer)

AND THEY BROUGHT HIM DOWN TO GAZA AND BOUND HIM WITH BRONZE CHAINS, AND HE WAS A GRINDER IN THE PRISON: he toiled at the grinding mill, doing work usually assigned to slaves, women, or donkeys.

Someone has said that [Jdg 16:21] reminds us of the blinding, binding, and grinding results of SIN. In his epic poem Samson Agonistes, John Milton has the champion say:

O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!

Samson is one of three men in Scripture who are especially identified with the darkness. The other two are King Saul, who went out in the darkness to get last-minute help from a witch (1Sa 28:7, 8), and Judas, who “went immediately out: and it was night” (Jn 13:30).

Saul lived for the world, Samson yielded to the flesh, and Judas gave himself to the devil (Jn 13:2, 27); and all three ended up taking their own lives.

But there was one ray of light in the darkness: Samson’s hair began to grow again. His power was not in his hair but in what his hair symbolized—his dedication to God. If Samson renewed that dedication, God might restore his power.

DEVOTIONAL
OUR DAILY BREAD
WHOEVER COMMITS SIN IS A SLAVE OF SIN

When we repeatedly give in to a particular sin, we become a slave to it. A man dying of AIDS admitted that he had felt guilty about his homosexual way of life. But he couldn't carry out his resolve to give up his immoral lifestyle. Another young man admitted that his wife left him because of his preoccupation with pornographic literature. He's unhappy, but he can't stay away from smut shops. Similarly, many people who take cocaine know they are ruining their lives, but they feel powerless to give up the habit.

Samson too had become a slave to sin. He continued an affair with Delilah even though he knew she was bent on betraying him to his enemies. Samson was not stupid, but he was a slave to his lust. Like the homosexual, the pornography addict, and the drug user, he could not do what he knew he should.

Once we start down the wrong path, turning back is difficult. Jesus said that whoever keeps on sinning will become a slave to sin (John 8:34). Some of the most dangerous practices bring temporary pleasure. That's why they are so ensnaring. Freedom, however, is found in becoming a slave of Jesus Christ.

When we are in the grip of an evil practice that is ruining our life, we can acknowledge our sin and helplessness to the Lord, submit fully to Him, and be assured that He will deliver us. —H. V Lugt
(Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The pleasures of sin are for a season,
but its wages are for eternity.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:21. The Philistines then seized him, put out his eyes, and led him to Gaza fettered with double brass chains. The chains are probably called nechushtaim (double brass) because both hands of both feet were fettered with them. King Zedekiah, when taken prisoner by the Chaldeans, was treated in the same manner (2 Kings 25:7). There Samson was obliged to turn the mill in the prison, and grind corn (the participle טֹחֵן expresses the continuance of the action). Grinding a handmill was the hardest and lowest kind of slave labour (compare Ex. 11:5 with 12:29); and both Greeks and Romans sentenced their slaves to this as a punishment (see Od. xx. 105ff., vii. 103–4; Terent. Phorm. ii. 1, 19, Andr. i, 2. 29), and it is still performed by female slaves in the East (see Chardin in Harmar’s Beob. üb. d. Orient. iii. 64). (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.

Hair (Lev 26:44; Deut 32:36; Ps 106:44,45; 107:13,14 )

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Jdg. 16:22–31. Samson’s Misery, and His Triumph in Death.—The hair of his head began to grow, as he was shaven. In the word כַּאֲשֶׁר, as (from the time when he was shaven), there is an indication that Samson only remained in his ignominious captivity till his hair began to grow again, i.e., visibly to grow. What follows agrees with this. (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Jdg. 16:22–31. Samson’s Misery, and His Triumph in Death.—The hair of his head began to grow, as he was shaven. In the word כַּאֲשֶׁר, as (from the time when he was shaven), there is an indication that Samson only remained in his ignominious captivity till his hair began to grow again, i.e., visibly to grow. What follows agrees with this.. (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:23 Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said, "Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands."

(Dagon - 1Sa 5:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7; Je 2:11; Mic 4:5; Ro 1:23, 24, 25; 1Co 8:4,5; 10:20) (Rejoice - Job 30:9,10; Ps 35:15,16; Pr 24:17)

 Dagon was the chief deity of the Philistines. The capture of Samson led to great rejoicing; and the Philistines had a national festival in honor of Dagon, their god of grain and chief deity. Dagon was also worshiped by the West Semitic residents of Mari on the Euphrates, and a temple to “Dagan” (Dagon) existed at Ugarit. In some texts from Ugarit, Baal is called “the son of Dagan.” Among the Philistines there were temples to this god in Gaza and Ashdod (1Sa 5:1-7).

It was tragic that a servant of the Lord, raised in a godly home, was now the humiliated slave of the enemy. But even worse, the Philistines gave glory to their god Dagon for helping them capture their great enemy. Instead of bringing glory to the God of Israel, Samson gave the enemy opportunity to honor their false gods. Dagon was the god of grain, and certainly the Philistines remembered what Samson had done to their fields (Jdg 15:1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

The rejoicing of the Philistines is reminiscent of the last time the unbelieving world will ever rejoice. In the Revelation the 2 witnesses who have been performing the Lord's will for 1260 days (3.5 years, the first half of Daniel's Seventieth Week-see notes) are killed by the Antichrist and their dead bodies allowed to lie in Jerusalem for all the world to see. John records...

And those who dwell on the earth (in Revelation "earth dwellers" is synonymous with unbelievers) will rejoice over them (their dead bodies) and make merry; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 11:10 - see notes)

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:23, 24. The captivity of this dreaded hero was regarded by the Philistines as a great victory, which their princes resolved to celebrate with a great and joyous sacrificial festival in honour of their god Dagon, to whom they ascribed this victory. “A great sacrifice,” consisting in the offering up of a large number of slain sacrifices. “And for joy,” viz., to give expression to their joy, i.e., for a joyous festival. Dagon, one of the principal deities of the Philistines, was worshipped at Gaza and Ashdod (2 Sam. 5:2ff., and 1 Macc. 10:83), and, according to Jerome on Isa. 46:1, in the rest of the Philistine towns as well. It was a fish-deity (דָּגֹון, from דָּג, a fish), and in shape resembled the body of a fish with the head and hands of a man (1 Sam. 5:4). It was a male deity, the corresponding female deity being Atargatis (2 Macc. 12:26) or Derceto, and was a symbol of water, and of all the vivifying forces of nature which produce their effects through the medium of water, like the Babylonian ́Ωδάκων, one of the four Oannes, and the Indian Vishnu (see Movers, Phöniz. i. pp. 143ff., 590ff., and J. G. Müller in Herzog’s Cycl.). (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said, "Our god has given our enemy into our hands, even the destroyer of our country, who has slain many of us.

Praised their god - (Deut 32:27; Isa 37:20; Ezekiel 20:14; Daniel 5:4,23; Habakkuk 1:16; Revelation 11:10)

OUR GOD HAS GIVEN OUR ENEMY INTO OUR HANDS: Wrong. Samson's God had allowed his enemies to capture and defeat him. Although I think Samson was a believer, compare God's similar treatment of unbelievers who are given over to the power of sin in Romans 1 (Ro 1:24, 26, 28-notes, cp similar fate of unbelievers in 2Th 2:10, 11, 12)

The Philistines had their theological wrong and ultimately it led to the destruction of Dagon’s temple. Samson fell into their hands, not because Dagon had defeated the Lord, but because Samson’s sinfulness had caused the God of Israel to abandon him to the power of sin (Pr 5:22).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:24. All the people took part in this festival, and sang songs of praise to the god who had given the enemy, who had laid waste their fields and slain many of their countrymen, into their hands. (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:25 It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, "Call for Samson, that he may amuse us." So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars.

Were in high spirits - (Jdg 9:27; 18:20; 19:6,9; 2Samuel 13:28; 1Kings 20:12; Esther 3:15; Is 22:13; Daniel 5:2,3; Matthew 14:6,7 )

Entertained them - (Job 30:9,10; Psalms 35:15,16; 69:12,26; Proverbs 24:17,18; Micah 7:8, 9, 10; Matthew 26:67,68; 27:29,39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44; Hebrews 11:36)

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:25ff. When their hearts were merry (יְטֹוב, inf. of יָטַב), they had Samson fetched out of the prison, that he might make sport before them, and “put him between the pillars” of the house or temple in which the triumphal feast was held. Then he said to the attendant who held his hand, “Let me loose, and let me touch the pillars upon which the house is built, that I may lean upon it.” הֵימִישֵׁנִי is the imperative Hiphil of the radical verb יָמַשׁ, which only occurs here; and the Keri substitutes the ordinary form הָמִישׁ from מוּשׁ. “But the house,” adds the historian by way of preparation for what follows, “was filled with men and women: all the princes of the Philistines also were there; and upon the roof were about three thousand men and women, who feasted their eyes with Samson’s sports” (רָאָה with בְּ, used to denote the gratification of looking). (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:26 Then Samson said to the boy who was holding his hand, "Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them."

During a break in the day’s entertainment, Samson asked his attendant to lead him over to the pillars; and there he uttered his last prayer. The fact that God answered suggests that all was right between him and his Lord (see Ps 66:18,19).

 

Judges 16:27 Now the house was full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there. And about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was amusing them.

X

 

Judges 16:28 Then Samson called to the LORD and said, "O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes."

Called to the Lord  (Jdg 9:51; Deuteronomy 22:8; Joshua 2:8; 2 Samuel 11:2)

Then Samson called to the LORD...O Lord (Adonai) GOD:: For the second time in the story Samson prayed to God. This time he addressed God with the covenantal name Jehovah (Lord). Prior to this he addressed God as "you" (Jdg 15:18) and referred to him as God (Elohim) (16:17). For the second time in the book God answered his prayer, allowing him to bring the temple crashing down.

The Psalmist records (referring to disobedient Israel) God's response to their cry for help...

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their bands apart...Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  (Psalm 107:13-14, 19-20)

O Lord God - It is interesting he addresses God here as Adonai (and Elohim) which speaks of one who is the Sovereign Master!

Remember me - (Psalms 74:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23; Jonah 2:1,2,7; Jeremiah 15:15)

That I may be avenged - (Jdg 5:31; Psalms 58:10,11; 143:12; 2Ti 4:14; Revelation 6:10, cp Ro 12:17, 18, 19, 20, 21)

Samson cried out to God and said, "God, remember me" and God did remember him. Why? Because God didn't go away but was always there, waiting... and that was all Jehovah needed to hear. That is all He needs to hear from you and me. The proud refuses to bow and cry "Help". Only the humble one will cry out from the heart (cp Mt 15:25, 26, 27, 28; Mark 9:22, 23, 24, 25; Peter drowning - Mt 14:30, cp Mt 8:24, 25, 26; Ps 107:6, 13, 19, 20, 28, Jonah 1:14, 15). It matters not how desperate the situation is. Our Father waits to hear "Please, remember me." God says, "I will! Your name is Samson." "Yes, Lord." Then Samson said, "Lord, please strengthen me," because he knew where strength came from. God was still going to be praised even in the midst of Samson's sin. Samson wanted to be strengthened so he could avenge himself on the Philistines who gouged out his eyes, but God says, "No. I'll strengthen you so that I can fulfill what I began in your life--to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines--and in spite of your sin I am still going to fulfill My plan."

Believers are the same way we allow their old sin nature ("flesh") to reign. Our flesh has to die before there can be life We read that Samson died, but he did more in his death than he did in his life. That is what happens in our spiritual life. When we die to our sinful nature more is accomplished through our new nature than could ever be accomplished through our old nature. Samson died physically that day, but he didn't die spiritually. According to Hebrews 11:32, God sees him as a man of faith.

This same principle is emphasized by our Lord Jesus Who declared...

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)

An unknown Confederate soldier during the Civil War wrote the following poem several stanzas of which would aptly apply to Samson's life:

Answered Prayer

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey...

I asked for health, that I might do great things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things...

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need for God...

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things...

I got nothing that I asked for but everything I had hoped for;
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among all men most richly blessed.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:28. Then Samson prayed to Jehovah, “Lord Jehovah, remember me, and only this time make me strong. O God, that I may avenge myself (with) the revenge of one of my two eyes upon the Philistines,” i.e., may take vengeance upon them for the loss of only one of my two eyes (מִשְּׁתֵי, without Dagesh lene in the ת: see Ewald, § 267, b.),—a sentence which shows how painfully he felt the loss of his two eyes, “a loss the severity of which even the terrible vengeance which he was meditating could never outweigh” (Bertheau). (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left.

Maclaren writes...

Wearied with his humiliating exertions, the blind captive begs the boy who guided him to let him lean, till he can breathe again, on the pillars that held up the light roof. We need not discuss the probable architecture of Dagon’s temple, of which we know nothing. Only we may notice that it is not said that there were only two pillars, but rather necessarily implied that there were more than two, for those against which he leaned were ‘the two middle’ ones. It is quite easy to understand how, if there were a row of them, knocking out the two strongest central ones would bring the whole thing down, especially when there was such a load on the flat roof. Apparently the principal people were in the best places on the ground floor, sheltered from the sun by the roof, on which the commonalty were clustered, all waiting for what their newly discovered mountebank would do next, after he had breathed himself. The pause was short, and they little dreamed of what was to follow.

TWO MIDDLE PILLARS - The most dramatic archaeological discovery to illuminate Philistine culture is the excavation of a unique Philistine temple at Tel Qasile just north of Tel Aviv by Ami Mazar. Though very small, the temple with its two column bases corresponds to the plan of the Philistine temple pulled down by Samson at Gaza.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:29, 30. After he had prayed to the Lord for strength for this last great deed, he embraced the two middle pillars upon which the building was erected, leant upon them, one with his right hand, the other with the left (viz., embracing them with his hands, as these words also belong to יִלְפֹּת), and said, “let my soul die with the Philistines.” He then bent (the two pillars) with force, and the house fell upon the princes and all the people who were within. So far as the fact itself is concerned, there is no ground nor questioning the possibility of Samson’s bringing down the whole building with so many men inside by pulling down two middle columns, as we have no accurate acquaintance with the style of its architecture. In all probability we have to picture this temple of Dagon as resembling the modern Turkish kiosks, namely as consisting of a “spacious hall, the roof of which rested in front upon four columns, two of them standing at the ends, and two close together in the centre. Under this hall the leading men of the Philistines celebrated a sacrificial meal, whilst the people were assembled above upon the top of the roof, which was surrounded by a balustrade” (Faber, Archäol. der. Hebr. p. 444, cf. pp. 436–7; and Shaw, Reisen, p. 190). The ancients enter very fully into the discussion of the question whether Samson committed suicide or not, though without arriving at any satisfactory conclusion. O. v. Gerlach, however, has given the true answer. “Samson’s deed,” he says, “was not suicide, but the act of a hero, who sees that it is necessary for him to plunge into the midst of his enemies with the inevitable certainty of death, in order to effect the deliverance of his people and decide the victory which he has still to achieve. Samson would be all the more certain that this was the will of the Lord, when he considered that even if he should deliver himself in any other way cut of the hands of the Philistines, he would always carry about with him the mark of his shame in the blindness of his eyes,—a mark of his unfaithfulness as the servant of God quite as much as of the double triumph of his foes, who had gained a spiritual as well as a corporeal victory over him.” Such a triumph as this the God of Israel could not permit His enemies and their idols to gain. The Lord must prove to them, even through Samson’s death, that the shame of his sin was taken from him, and that the Philistines had no cause to triumph over him. Thus Samson gained the greatest victory over his foes in the moment of his own death. The terror of the Philistines when living, he became a destroyer of the temple of their idol when he died. Through this last act of his he vindicated the honour of Jehovah the God of Israel, against Dagon the idol of the Philistines. “The dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.” (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

 

Judges 16:30 And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.

Let me die with the Philistines - (Matthew 16:25; Acts 20:24; 21:13; Philippians 2:17,30; Hebrews 12:1, 2, 3, 4 )

Like Saul, Samson was a castaway; he had committed sin unto death, and God had to take him off the scene (1Co 11:30,31; 1Jn 5:16,17).

The house fell - (Job 20:5; 31:3; Psalms 62:3; Ecclesiastes 9:12; Matthew 24:38,39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2 )

Dave Guzik writes that...

This was suicide, but differed from suicide in the strict sense in that his purpose really wasn't to kill himself, but to kill as many Philistines as he could. There is a sense in which Samson was like modern suicide-bombers. Suicide is clearly sin, the sin of self-murder. Yet we are wrong if we regard it as the unforgivable sin. Most all who commit suicide have given in to the lies and deceptions of Satan, whose purpose is to kill and destroy (John 10:10).

HE KILLED AT HIS DEATH WERE MORE THAN THOSE WHOM HE KILLED IN HIS LIFE: (Jdg 14:19; 15:8,15; Genesis 3:15; Philippians 2:8; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14,15)

Samson illustrates people who have power to conquer others, but who cannot conquer themselves. He set the Philistine fields on fire, but could not control the fires of his own lust. He killed a lion, but would not put to death the passions of the flesh. He could easily break the bonds that men put on him, but the shackles of sin gradually grew stronger on his soul. Instead of leading the nation, he preferred to work independently, and as a result, left no permanent victory behind. He was remembered for what he destroyed, not for what he built up. He lacked discipline and direction; without these, his strength could accomplish little. He failed to check the impulses that began early in his career, and twenty years later, they killed him.

It remained for Samuel and David in later years to finally defeat the Philistines. Samuel by one prayer accomplished more than Samson did in twenty years of fighting (1Sa 7:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14).

Samson walked in the darkness and died in the darkness. God forgave him and restored his strength, but He did not restore his sight or his ministry. Samson may have died in victory, but he lived in moral and spiritual defeat. He destroyed God’s enemies, but he did not live like God’s friend (Jn 15:14). What a tragedy!

Alexander Maclaren sums up Samson observing that...

We have the last cry and heroic death of Samson. It is not to be supposed that his prayer was audible to the crowd, even if it were spoken aloud. It is not an elevated prayer, but is, like all the rest of his actions at their best, deeply marked with purely personal motives. The loss of his two eyes is uppermost in his mind, and he wants to be revenged for them. Instead of trying to make a lofty hero out of him, it is far better to recognise frankly the limitations of his character and the imperfections of his religion. The distance between him and the New Testament type of God’s soldier measures the progress which the revelation of God’s will has made, and the debt we owe to the Captain of the host for the perfect example which He has set. The defects and impurity of Samson’s zeal, which yet was accepted of God, preach the precious lesson that God does not require virtues beyond the standard of the epoch of revelation at which His servants stand, and that imperfection does not make service unacceptable. If the merely human passion of vengeance throbbed fiercely in Samson’s prayer, he had never heard ‘Love your enemies’; and, for his epoch, the destruction of the enemies of God and Israel was duty. He was not the only soldier of God who has let personal antagonism blend with his zeal for God; and we have less excuse, if we do it, than he had.

But there is the true core of religion in the prayer. It is penitence which pleads, ‘Remember me, O Lord God!’ He knows that his sin has broken the flow of loving divine thought to him, but he asks that the broken current may be renewed. Many a silent tear had fallen from Samson’s blind eyes, before that prayer could have come to his lips, as he leaned on the great pillars. Clear recognition of the Source of his strength is in the prayer; if ever he had forgotten, in Delilah’s lap, where it came from, he had recovered his conscious dependence amid the misery of the prison. There is humility in the prayer ‘Only this once.’ He feels that, after such a fall, no more of the brilliant exploits of former days are possible. They who have brought such despite on Jehovah and such honour to Dagon may be forgiven, and even restored to much of their old vigour, but they must not be judges in Israel any more. The best thing left for the penitent Samson is death.

He had been unconscious of the departure of his strength, but he seems to have felt it rushing back into his muscles; so he grasps the two pillars with his mighty hands; the crowd sees that the pause for breath is over, and prepares to watch the new feats. Perhaps we may suppose that his last words were shouted aloud, ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ and before they have been rightly taken in by the mob, he sways himself backwards for a moment, and then, with one desperate forward push, brings down the two supports, and the whole thing rushes down to hideous ruin amid shrieks and curses and groans. But Samson lies quiet below the ruins, satisfied to die in such a cause.

He ‘counted not his life dear’ unto himself, that he might be God’s instrument for God’s terrible work. The last of the judges teaches us that we too, in a nobler cause, and for men’s life, not their destruction, must be ready to hazard and give our lives for the great Captain, who in His death has slain more of our foes than He did in His life, and has laid it down as the law for all His army, ‘He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.’

How beautifully the quiet close of the story follows the stormy scene of the riotous assembly and the sudden destruction. The Philistines, crushed by this last blow, let the dead hero’s kindred search for his body amid the chaos, and bear it reverently up from the plain to the quiet grave among the hills of Dan, where Manoah his father slept. There they lay that mighty frame to rest. It will be troubled no more by fierce passions or degrading chains. Nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it. The penitent heroism of its end makes us lenient to the flaws in its course; and we leave the last of the judges to sleep in his grave, recognising in him, with all his faults and grossness, a true soldier of God, though in strange garb.

Spurgeon tells the following story...

George Whitefield had a brother, who had lived far from the ways of godliness; and one afternoon he was sitting in a room in a chapel-house. He had heard his brother preach the day before, and his poor conscience had been cut to the very quick. Said Whitefield’s brother, when he was at tea: “I am a lost man,” and he groaned and cried, and could neither eat nor drink. Said Lady Huntingdon, who sat opposite: “What did you say, Mr. Whitefield?” “Madam,” said he, “I said I am a lost man.” “I’m glad of it,” said she; “I’m glad of it.” “Your ladyship, how can you say so? It is cruel to say you are glad that I am a lost man.” “I repeat it, sir,” said she; “I am heartily glad of it.” He looked at her, more and more astonished at her barbarity. “I am glad of it,” said she, “because it is written, ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.’” With the tears rolling down his cheeks, he said: “What a precious Scripture; and how is it that it comes with such force to me? O! Madam,” said he, “Madam, I bless God for that; then he will save me; I trust my soul in his hands; he has forgiven me.” He went outside the house, felt ill, fell upon the ground, and died.

 

Judges 16:31 Then his brothers and all his father's household came down, took him, brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus he had judged Israel twenty years.

Brought him up and buried him - A proper burial was a sign of special kindness and divine blessing. Not to be "buried" was a sign of divine disapproval, both on the surviving kinsmen and on the nation.

Between Zorah and Eshtaol - This phrase reminds one of Jdg 13:25. Samson has returned to where he began, only now he is dead. Beloved, you can mark it down that we may ignore our sins, but our sins will not ignore us. We eventually reap what we sow (Hos 8:7, 10:13, Pr 22:8, Gal 6:7, 8). Reaping follows sowing -- actions have consequences. Wicked deeds result in suffering and sorrow. Samson sowed the hot winds of sexual immorality and reaped the tumultuous whirlwinds of destruction.

Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
—Samuel Smiles

Samson was laid to rest in the region where he had grown up and was given the honor of burial in his father’s tomb (cf. Jdg 8:32).

He had judged Israel 20 years - To the surprise of many (and a testimony to the great lovingkindness of God), the writer of Hebrews records the name of Samson among the heroes of the faith (Heb 11:32, cp righteous Lot - 2Pe 2:7, 8, 9). This record despite the fact that Samson failed to fulfill God's will for his life. Unable to conquer himself, Samson was ruined by his own lusts (cp Jas 1:13, 14, 15). He stands as a tragic example of a man of great potential who lacked stability of character and control of his spirit. Still, God in His sovereignty used him. Samson did much to hamper the oppressive actions of the Philistines, and his final victory in the temple of Dagon may have been a factor in the defeat of the Philistines at Mizpah shortly thereafter (1Sa 7:7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14).

Alexander Maclaren says it well:

Instead of trying to make a lofty hero out of him, it is far better to recognize frankly the limitations of his character and the imperfections of his religion....If the merely human passion of vengeance throbbed fiercely in Samson’s prayer, he had never heard ‘Love your enemies’ ; and, for his epoch, the destruction of the enemies of God and of Israel was duty.

Samson's decline began when he disagreed with his parents about marrying a Philistine girl. Then he disdained his Nazarite vow and defiled himself. He disregarded the warnings of God, disobeyed the Word of God, and was defeated by the enemies of God. He probably thought that he had the privilege of indulging in sin since he wore the badge of a Nazarite and won so many victories for the Lord, but he was wrong. If any of us think we stand in our own strength, then we had better take heed and remember the story of Samson, lest we end up in a similar state (cp 1Co 10:12).

Vance Havner summed up Samson's life writing that his...

last chapter was a sad story of binding, blinding, and grinding.

King Solomon, the wisest man in the Old Testament, had some pithy comments that would apply to individuals with a "Samson-like" attitude, writing that...

“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Pr 25:28).

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Pr 16:32).

I wonder whether Solomon was thinking about Samson when he wrote those words. Unfortunately Solomon's own lusts for pleasure cause him to let down his guard over his heart with the result that the nation of Israel was torn apart (1Ki 11:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. See the punishment - 1Ki 11:11, 12, 13 - the cost of persistent sin like the commercial says is "priceless"!).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 16:31. This terrible blow necessarily made a powerful impression upon the Philistines, not only plunging them into deep mourning at the death of their princes and so many of their countrymen, and the destruction of the temple of Dagon, but filling them with fear and terror at the omnipotence of the God of the Israelites. Under these circumstances it is conceivable enough that the brethren and relatives of Samson were able to come to Gaza, and fetch away the body of the fallen hero, to bury it in his father’s grave between Zorea and Eshtaol (see Judg. 13:25).—In conclusion, it is once more very appropriately observed that Samson had judged Israel twenty years (cf. Judg. 15:20). (Judges 16 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p417)

F B Meyer...
 

JUDGES 16
DELILAH


Judges 16:1-3 A fatal snare again entangled Samson. -- How many great men have been too weak to resist the wiles of the flesh. Those who do great exploits for God must ever watch against these. This story should remind us of the death of Christ. In His weakness as He hung upon the Cross, the power of hell compassed Him in, and anticipated an easy victory, but He laid hold on the doors of death, the gate into the unseen, and plucked them up, bars and posts and all, and put them upon His shoulders and carried them up to the top of the everlasting hills, which lie towards the city of Rest (Eph. 4:8).


Judges 16:4-20 A third time Samson fell under the deadly fascination of a woman. -- Nor did he escape this time so easily. By the promise of great riches, the Philistine lords successfully bribed Delilah to ascertain the secret of his strength. A true woman uses her influence over those she loves, to augment rather than to sap their strength; but Samson, to his own undoing, sought love outside the limits set by religion. Whenever men or women act thus they forfeit their purity, and hand themselves over to the enemies of God, and of their souls, for their destruction.


Licentiousness robs men of wit and courage (Pr 7:26, 27). What a warning to us not to tamper with any secret Delilah sin. Notice how Delilah tried again and again to obtain Samson's secret, and how he dallied with her, until at last he yielded. Let us learn that when temptation comes to us, it is a mistake merely to evade it, or to parry attacks, as if to throw the tempter off the scent. These lines of defense are taken one after another, and the foe presses into the citadel, which in turn must yield. Let us beware of scissors, even though apparent love holds them, as they steal over the locks while we are steeped in unconsciousness of the havoc that they make; lest our strength goes from us, and we become "like other men" There are hours in our life when, though we know it not, our strength departs. Oh, the horror of he wist not (Judges 16:20).
Judges 16:21-31 Repentance and renewal. -- Alone in the prison-cell reflection did its work; and prayer again arose from Samson's heart; his hair began to grow again. Is not there an analogy to Peter's repentance with bitter tears, preparing for Pentecost? What pathos in that last petition (Judges 16:28; Ps. 74:18-23)! There is an encouragement here for backsliders to return to God that He may forgive and restore them, and peradventure use them again. (F. B. Meyer. CHOICE NOTES ON JOSHUA THROUGH 2 KINGS)

Charles Simeon...
 

SAMSON’S CHARACTER AND END
Jdg 16:28


SCARCELY any part of Scripture has afforded more occasion for the doubts of skeptics or the scoffs of infidels, than the history of Samson. True it is, that many strange things are contained in it; but there is nothing in it which may not easily be accounted for by those who consider the nature of that dispensation, and the power of the God of Israel. The doctrine of the Resurrection appeared to many incredible: but our Lord said to them, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” The same reply we would make to any persons who would question the facts contained in this history. Samson was raised up by God on purpose to chastise the oppressors of Israel: and he was strengthened by God to effect that by his own arm, which seemed to require the united exertions of the whole nation. The circumstance of his being recorded as a man of faith and piety, gives a great additional interest to his history; because it is difficult to conceive how such inconsistencies should be combined in one person. We must not however attempt to cloke his impieties, because he was a saint; nor must we contradict an inspired Apostle, because he was a sinner: we should rather examine the different parts of his conduct, that so we may form a just estimate of his character: and we shall find our labour well repaid by many instructive lessons which his history will afford us.


Let us then consider,


I. His character—


It must be confessed that there was in him much amiss. He appears to have been too much actuated by,


1. A vindictive spirit—


[He knew indeed the peculiar commission given him: but yet in executing that commission he seems to have been influenced more by personal considerations than by true patriotism. His first slaughter of thirty Philistines was an act of revenge for the treachery which he had experienced at his bridal-feast, both from the bride herself, and all his pretended friends. When he returned afterwards to be reconciled to his wife, and found her given by her own father to another man, he executed the strange device of tying three hundred foxes together, two and two, by their tails, with a fire-brand or torch between each couple, and sending them in among the ripe corn, and the sheaves already cut, as also among the vines and olives; by which he devastated a great extent of country. (This was not so impracticable a thing as we are ready to imagine: for the foxes in that country were very numerous; Song 2:15; Ezek. 13:4. And Samson, being the chief governor of the Jewish nation, would have many at hand to execute his commands.) And, notwithstanding the Philistines themselves, on hearing of the reason of this conduct, avenged him on his wife and father-in-law by burning them to death, yet was he bent on further vengeance, and “slew the Philistines, hip and thigh, with a great slaughter.”


After this we do not wonder that the Philistines sought to take him: we only wonder that his own countrymen did not embrace this opportunity of uniting with him to shake off the yoke of their oppressors. The tribe of Judah, amongst whom Samson had taken refuge, were only alarmed for their own safety; and, to screen themselves, engaged to apprehend him, and deliver him up to the Philistines. On their swearing not to destroy him themselves, Samson surrendered up himself to them; and suffered them to bind him with two new cords. The Philistines seeing him brought to them a prisoner, exulted greatly, and shouted aloud for joy: but their joy was soon turned into sorrow: for Samson burst the cords asunder, as easily as flax is consumed by fire; and, with the jaw-bone of an ass, which he found near him, he slew no less than a thousand men.


Now we do not mean to ascribe the whole of this to mere revenge; for we doubt not but that he was moved to it by the Spirit of God: but as Jehu afterwards was actuated by pride even whilst in other respects he was under a divine impulse, so was Samson too much under the influence of a vindictive spirit, whilst in other respects he was executing the designs of Heaven.]


2. A vain-glorious spirit—


[On this last occasion, when God had vouchsafed to him so great a deliverance, we should have expected that he would have been forward to give God the glory: but behold, he took all the honour to himself: “With the jaw-bone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw-bone of an ass have I slain a thousand men.” (Jdg. 15:16) How lamentable, that at such a time he should forget by whom this miracle had been wrought, and should so provoke to jealousy his heavenly Benefactor! This, it is true, is but too common: but how evil it is in the sight of God, we may see in the judgment inflicted for it on a heathen prince; who, when applauded for his eloquence, omitted to give the glory unto God: he was smitten with a mortal disease, and “eaten up of worms.” (Acts 12:22, 23)]


3. A spirit of lewdness and incontinence—


[Here was his great failing. His first connexion in marriage was imprudent, but not sinful: but when that tie was dissolved by the death of his wife, he seems to have entertained no more thoughts of an honourable connexion, but addicted himself to an unlawful commerce with harlots. On one occasion, for the gratification of his sinful appetites, he put himself in the power of his Philistine enemies, and would have fallen a sacrifice to their rage, if he had not, beyond all reasonable expectation, risen at midnight from the harlot’s bed, and, by supernatural strength, borne away the gates of the city which had been barred against him. (Jdg 16:1,2, 3) At another time he became enamoured of a woman, called Delilah: and the violence of his attachment to her was ere long the occasion of his death. Bribed by the Philistines, she sought to obtain from him information respecting the source of his great strength. He to amuse her, and to avoid a disclosure of so important a secret, told her various things, and submitted to various experiments; all of which issued in wonderful displays of his strength. But at last, “wearied to death” by her incessant importunity, he madly confided to her the secret, ‘That his strength would vanish if only his locks were cut, since they were the badge of his Nazariteship, and the token or seal of his consecration to God: that seal once broken, the blessings which God had conferred upon him as a Nazarite would be forfeited and lost.’ She now saw that she had gained her point, and prepared every thing for his destruction. But would not one have thought that after such a disclosure he would have taken care not to put himself in her power? Yet behold, he soon afterwards fell asleep with his head in her lap; and afforded her an opportunity of employing a man to cut off his hair. This being done, she woke him, as on former occasions; and he, unconscious that the Lord had departed from him, went forth to shake himself as at other times. But now his strength was gone; and the Philistines seized him and put out his eyes, and bound him with fetters of brass, and made him grind in a prison. What an awful example is here of the miseries consequent upon unbridled lust! The infatuation it produces is beyond all conception. Verily the fetters of brass id not form a stronger bond for his feet, than ungoverned passions make for the souls of men. Even reason and common sense often appear to fail the persons who are under their influence; insomuch that, with temporal and eternal ruin before their eyes, they rush on, till they bring upon themselves the miseries which they would not shun.]


How in the midst of all this wickedness can he be deemed a saint?


[We must make great allowance for the dispensation under which he lived, and the peculiar darkness of his times. But God forbid that we should vindicate such conduct as his! We apprehend that we must look for his piety rather in his latter days than at any time previous to his confinement at Gaza. Certainly his early days were marked with a pious submission to his parents: and it is probable, that, in his wonderful exertions, there was more of affiance in God, and a regard for Israel’s welfare, than appears upon the face of the history. Moreover, when God rebuked his pride by suffering him to be in danger of perishing through thirst, he betook himself to prayer, and obtained a miraculous supply of water from God, by a well opened, not in the jaw-bone, as the translation imports, but in Lehi, as the marginal rendering more justly intimates; the place being by anticipation called Lehi, in reference to this feat wrought by the jaw-bone.] (En-hak-kore” means, The well of him that cried: and it continued in Lehi for many years. Judg. 15:19)


But in our text we see the greatest proof of his piety; as will more fully appear, whilst we consider,


II. His end—


[Like Manasseh, this ill-fated Judge humbled himself in his affliction, and sought the Lord. Of this there is abundant evidence in his prayer. We grant that even here there seems to be a remnant of that vindictive spirit which we have before noticed: but we are willing to hope, that it was the cause of God and of Israel that he desired to avenge, rather than his own. The compliance of God with his request seems to warrant this conjecture. Indeed God’s honour, if we may so speak, required such a signal act of vengeance to be inflicted on his enemies. The Philistines had assembled in a spacious edifice, to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon, their idol-god. To him they ascribed praise and honour, as having triumphed over the God of Israel. Thousands of their chief men and women were assembled in the place, and three thousand others on the roof; and Samson was brought forth, to be made an object of profane mirth and triumph. Then it was that Samson offered this prayer, and willingly devoted himself to death, that he might be an instrument of God’s vengeance on them. The place was supported by two contiguous pillars: and God enabled him, by a wonderful exertion of strength, to pull down the pillars in an instant, and thus to overwhelm at once the whole assembly. He fell indeed himself in the common ruin: but in his death he reminds us of that adorable Saviour, who “triumphed over principalities and powers upon the cross,” and “by death overcame him that had the power of death, and delivered those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”


Here we cannot but contemplate the benefit of affliction. At Lehi, it was rendered serviceable to humble his pride; and at Gaza it brought him fully to repentance. We are ready to pity the degraded Judge of Israel when we see him reduced to such a state of misery by his enemies: but, if we pity the man, we congratulate the sinner; to whose final salvation these heavy trials were made subservient: and we congratulate all, whatever their afflictions be, who find them overruled for so great a good.]


This subject may well be improved,


I. For warning


[How painful is it to see a person, who had been consecrated to God from his first conception in the womb, and who had given early hopes of fulfilling the desires of his parents and the designs of God, abandoning himself to the lawless indulgence of his appetites and passions! Yet thus it is with many, whose parents have watched over them with the tenderest care, and prayed for them with the most pious solicitude (Pr 5:22-
note) — — — O that those who think lightly of such sins would ponder the cautions given them by Solomon (Pr. 5:1-13-note and Pr 6:25, 26, 27, 28-note and Pr 7:6-27-note) — — — and learn betimes to “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul!”]


2. For encouragement—


[Great as was the sin of Samson, and justly as he merited the judgments which he brought upon himself, he found mercy of the Lord at last: and sure we are, that every penitent, whatever his crimes may have been, shall obtain mercy, if only he flee for refuge to that Saviour whose “blood cleanseth from all sin.” We mean not by this observation to encourage any in the indulgence of sin, from a hope that they shall at last repent of it and be saved: for how do they know that they shall live to repent, or that, if their lives be prolonged, repentance will be given them? But, if any are desirous of humbling themselves for sin before God, let them not despair of mercy: let them rather expect, that God, who delighteth in mercy, will be gracious unto them; that he will refresh their weary souls in their deepest extremity (Is. 41:17, 18); and that, before he take them hence, he will give them victory over all their spiritual enemies; so that with their dying breath they shall sing, “Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”] (Simeon, C. 1832-63. Horae Homileticae).

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