Summary: The champion was captivated by the enemy and conquered by himself
“Samson and Delilah” Judges chapter 16 -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
This past week I read a story about a man who had reached his “golden years” but with some major regrets. He had wanted God to use him, but his lifestyle got in the way. He looked back at his life and all he could say was “So what?” There was very little he’d accomplished of eternal value. The reason he gave was simple: “When I first trusted Christ I allowed the enemy to remain.” Christians aren’t sinless, but they genuinely try to sin less and resist evil. This man found himself in bondage to the enemy. Sounds a lot like Samson.
Samson became enslaved by his cravings. He strangled a lion but couldn’t strangle his lust. He burst ropes but was bound by his appetite. He burned the enemy’s crops yet was enflamed with desire for their women. He was strong, but not really in control. The champion was captivated by the enemy and conquered by himself!
As chapter 16 opens the author doesn’t try to cover up Samson’s scandalous behavior. Didn’t Samson feel any sense of shame in seeing a prostitute and fraternizing with the enemy? Mark Twain observed, “man is the only animal who blushes…and who needs to.” Samson is an embarrassment to Israel. When high profile religious leaders fall to temptation, it makes all believers look bad. We have to remind ourselves that when such prominent individuals sin, we blame them, not their religion. All believers are not alike. We see Samson sowing seeds in Gaza which germinate with his destruction with Delilah. Sin has consequences.
The town knows Samson is there; he wasn’t trying to keep a low profile. The Philistines try to trap Samson by securing the city gates; he is locked in, so they think. But Samson lifts the gates with his enormous might and carries them to Hebron, 40 miles away! It’s estimated that these gates may have weighed over a thousand pounds. In Bible times the gates of cities were considered the symbol of their strength. By removing the city gate Samson caused Gaza great humiliation. Let’s remember that Samson’s story is no fable, no “tall tale”. We may wonder how Samson performed his amazing feats; he was in a class by himself. There are no limits with God’s power.
After the Gaza debacle, Samson was on the Philistine’s “Most Wanted” list! Something had to be done about him, but the Philistines were too afraid to take action. They had to learn the source of Samson’s strength. This further proves that Samson did not look like a remarkably strong person. By his openly dallying with Philistine women, it’s clear the enemy already knew his weakness. Delilah becomes their “secret agent”. Her name has become synonymous with seduction, and she’s often blamed for Samson’s fall, yet she was merely doing her job as a loyal Philistine informant. She turned on the charm, and Samson was very vulnerable.
Delilah pleads with Samson to reveal the secret of his strength. What’s wrong here? It should’ve been obvious that God was the Source of Samson’s strength! The Philistines figured Samson was using some kind of magic, some conjuring. His lifestyle did not lead them to consider that he was a religious man. We may think of religion as private and personal, but nowhere in Scripture does it say that. There should be some evidence, some observable indication that we’re following God. When we choose to serve God, we’re not enrolled in the “Secret Service”! The Philistines understandably figured that God wasn’t part of Samson’s life. They ponder: How did he get so strong?
Samson thinks Delilah is toying with him, and he playfully goes along, misleading her as though this was a big joke of some sort. One writer says, “Samson was playing a game with Delilah which turned out to be Russian Roulette, and he bought the bullet” (Gary Inrig). Just as his promised bride persuaded him to reveal his riddle in ch 14, Delilah entices Samson to disclose the sacred mystery of his strength.
It’s interesting that he suggests being tied with new ropes would weaken him; that had already been tried (ch 15), and apparently the Philistines had forgotten.
Samson was infatuated with Delilah and wasn’t thinking straight. A Bible teacher notes: “Rather than break his relationship with Delilah, he allowed it to break him” (Herbert Wolf). Frustrated Delilah sobs and questions his love, and so he tells her of his vow. I don’t think he knew what love was. Samson can’t resist Delilah’s allure and persuasion so he gives that which was sacred to a pagan enemy. Samson loses more than his hair; he loses the presence of the Holy Spirit. Verse 20 is regarded as among the saddest verses of Scripture: “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” If that were to happen to us, would we sense any change? Samson had broken other aspects of his Nazarite vow, yet hadn’t been penalized. It’s possible he didn’t think anything would happen; after all, he hadn’t all along been much of a “practicing” Nazarite. Samson’s hair by itself didn’t make him strong, but it was the most observable sign of his vow, which set him apart as a Nazarite. By cutting his hair he severs his tie to God. Samson had grown insensitive, bound by his appetite, blinded by his desires…and then literally blinded and bound.