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(MT versing)
Samson's Weakness Samson and Delilah Samson
Samson's Death
Samson at Gaza The Gates of Gaza
16:1-3 16:1-3 16:1-3 16:1-3 16:1-3
Samson and Delilah Samson Betrayed by Delilah
16:4-9 16:4-9 16:4-9 16:4-5 16:4-5
16:6 16:6-9
16:10-12 16:10-12 16:10-12 16:10 16:10-12
16:13-14 16:13-14 16:13-17 16:13a 16:13-14
Delilah Extracts His Secret 16:14
16:15-17 16:15-17 16:15-17 16:15-21
16:18-22 16:18-20 16:18-22 16:18-22 16:22
Samson Dies with the Philistines The Death of Samson Samson's Revenge and Death
16:23-31 16:23-27 16:23-31
Samson Is Avenged
16:28-31 16:28-31 16:28-30

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.



  1. This may be an additional account added later (cf. Jdgs. 15:20). See John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture.

  2. Samson's weakness was his lust for Philistine women.
    1. girl from Timnah, Judges 14
    2. harlot from Gaza, Jdgs. 16:1-3
    3. seductress from the Sorek valley, Jdgs. 16:4-31

  3. Samson seems so naive in his dealings with Delilah. His love made him blind and so did the Philistine leaders! What a tragedy. However, Jdgs. 14:4 looms in the background!


1Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. 2When 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." 3Now 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.

16:1 "Gaza" This was one of five chief cities of the Philistines (i.e., Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath). It was 36 miles from Samson's hometown.

▣ "a harlot" The term "harlot" (BDB 275, KB 275, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) was used of Jephthah's mother in Jdgs. 11:1. Philistine women were Samson's weakness. The Bible presents humans, warts and all (i.e., 1 Kgs. 11:1-13).

16:2-3 The sequence is uncertain. Apparently the Philistines missed Samson leaving at midnight and did not even know the gate was gone until the next morning.

Where the Philistines kept watch is not stated but one would assume at the harlot's house or workplace.

16:3 "the city gate. . .carried them to the top of the mountain" This apparently was the smaller wicker door within the larger city gates. How far Samson carried them is uncertain.

  1. some think all 36 miles, uphill, to Hebron (Jewish Study Bible)
  2. others think up the road to Hebron
  3. the NASB Study Bible thinks as far as Hebron, which was in Judah, as a physical gesture to the Judeans who had turned him over to the Philistines

4After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5The 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." 6So Delilah said to Samson, "Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you." 7Samson said to her, "If they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, then I will become weak and be like any other man." 8Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh cords that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9Now 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.

16:4 "Delilah" Her name (BDB 196, KB 222) means:

  1. "dangling curls" from BDB 195, cf. Song of Songs 7:6, KB 223
  2. small, slight from KB 223
  3. "flirtatious" from Arabic root, דלל (IDB, vol. 1, p. 814)
  4. "night," ‒ word play on Samson's name, "sun"
  5. "informer" ‒ JB reference edition suggested as a nickname
  6. "(she who) weakened" ‒ ADJECTIVE "weak," BDB 195
  7. "devotee" or "worshiper" ‒ James Martin, The Book of Judges, p. 177, The Tyndale OT Commentaries, p. 175
  8. "traitress" ‒ Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 160

Obviously it is uncertain from which root it is derived. Josephus (Antiq. 5.8.11) says she was a prostitute also. It is not specifically stated that she is a Philistine.

16:5 "The lords of the Philistines" The leaders of the five city-states (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 295-297) realized Samson had become a national problem. They were prepared to pay a lot of silver for the information on how to capture him.

▣ "eleven hundred pieces of silver" Delilah may have been a sacred prostitute and this large sum of money would have mostly gone to the god's temple treasury.


16:6 This question should have made Samson suspicious! It was as if YHWH was blinding his mind to allow the destruction of all the Philistine leaders (civil and military, Jdgs. 16:27, cf. Jdgs. 14:4).

16:7-18 This series of attacks was accomplished by

  1. the Philistine military ‒ Jdgs. 16:9
  2. Delilah herself ‒ Jdgs. 16:12
  3. Delilah herself ‒ Jdgs. 16:14
  4. the Philistine military ‒ Jdgs. 16:18

16:7 "seven fresh cords" The RSV has "bowstring," but the term (BDB 452 II, cf. Job 30:11; Ps. 11:2) is uncertain. This series of tricks implies that the Philistines believed Samson had some magical powers!



16:9 "when it touches fire" This same imagery was used in the breaking of the new ropes in Jdgs. 15:14.

10Then Delilah said to Samson, "Behold, you have deceived me and told me lies; now please tell me how you may be bound." 11He said to her, "If they bind me tightly with new ropes which have not been used, then I will become weak and be like any other man." 12So 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.

16:10 "deceive me" This VERB (BDB 1068, KB 1739, Hiphil PERFECT) appears in Jdgs. 16:10, 13, 15 and means "trifle with" (i.e., Jer. 9:4; NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 298-299).

16:11 "bind me tightly" This reflects an intensified construction (i.e., INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB of the same root, BDB 63, KB 75).

13Then 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 will become weak and be like any other man." 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.

16:13-14 Notice that the NASB shows the textual expansion by adding parenthetical brackets.

16:14 Samson fled with his hair attached to the loom!

15Then 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." 16It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death. 17So 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 will become weak and be like any other man."

16:16 "she pressed him daily with her words. . .soul was annoyed to death" This same thing happened in Jdgs. 14:17, but is expressed by a different Hebrew word.

16:17 "a Nazirite to God" Samson knew the angel's message! He had violated every aspect except the hair (cf. Numbers 6).


18When 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. 19She 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. 20She 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. 21Then 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. 22However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.

16:18 "Come up once more" See Jdgs. 16:8-9.

16:19 "She made him sleep on her knees" I think Samson was really fooled into thinking that she cared about him. How sad! The NET Bible suggests it is an idiom or euphemism for intercourse.

▣ "seven locks of his hair" The hair was not magical but represented his dedication to God's use.

▣ "she began to afflict him" I think this refers to her shouting, "the Philistines are upon you" (cf. Jdgs. 16:9, 12, 14, 20).

16:20 "but he did not know that the Lord had departed from him" What a tragedy! But it is true when there is no emphasis on personal relationship and commitment.

16:21 "gouged out his eyes" This was a common practice in the ANE.

▣ "with bronze chains" These chains (BDB 639, #2) refer to copper or bronze chains (cf. 2 Sam. 3:34; 2 Kgs. 25:7; 2 Chr. 33:11; 36:6; Jer. 39:7; 52:11; Lam. 3:7).

▣ "he was a grinder in the prison" This was apparently a hand grinder. The humiliation was that it was a slave's (cf. Job 31:10) or a woman's task.

23Now 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."
24When 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."
25It 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. 26Then 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." 27Now 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.

16:23 "Dagon" This was a grain god (ABD, p. 2) of the Fertile Crescent (BDB 186) from the third millennium. The Philistines assimilated the religious culture of the Canaanites (cf. Jos. 15:41; 19:27; 1 Samuel 5; 1 Chr. 10:10). In some texts found at Ugarit, Dagon is the father of Ba'al.


16:25 "they were in high spirits" They were drunk.

▣ "he entertained them" It is uncertain as to how he entertained them, but it had to be humiliating to Samson.

16:26 "Let me feel the pillars" He pretended to need to rest.

16:27 "about 3,000. . .on the roof" The structure of this temple was common in this day. There are many archaeological examples. The dignitaries were seated under the roof and the populous were on the roof. Several wooden pillars provided support.

28Then 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." 29Samson 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. 30And 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. 31Then 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.

16:28 "Lord. . .Lord. . .God" YHWH. . . Adonai. . .Elohim.




This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. What was the purpose of Samson's "ministry" to Israel?
  2. Was Samson's hair the source or symbol of his strength?
  3. How could the Spirit leave him and he not know it?
  4. How does Jdgs. 16:28 relate to Jdgs. 14:4?
  5. Why are there concluding statements at both Jdgs. 15:20 and 16:31?

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