Summary: Samson went back to Philistine land twice, after his escape from Gaza , looking for love. He got more than he bargained for. When he met Delilah, and told her the secret of his strength, that led to the final chapter of his life.
Samson, by this time, had survived a number of encounters with the Philistines, Israel’s enemy and rulers at the time. This final chapter of his life is not the best chapter, in that he fell into an enemy’s trap. That would cost him his sight, and led to the cost of his life.
Even so, the story of Samson serves as a warning as well as an inspiration to us. For one thing, we’re warned that anybody can fall into sin—and pay dearly if they don’t repent quickly. Note that there is no other record, except in the last part of this chapter, where Samson was humble before God. This story is an inspiration, in that first it shows that God honors those who honor Him, and second that He wants each one of us to do our part in His Will for us.
In these first three verses, the writer tells a rather unpleasant story about Samson:
[Judges 16:1-3, KJV] 1 Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her. 2 [And it was told] the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed [him] in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him. 3 And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, 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.
This event apparently took place at some time after the battle of Lehi in chapter 15, where Samson used a donkey’s jawbone to kill 1000 Philistines. Why he decided to return to the land of the Philistines is one of the Bible’s unsolved mysteries.
Even more of a mystery is why Samson decided to find, and sleep with, a Philistine harlot. For one thing, “thou shalt not commit adultery”, was one of the Ten Commandments, and was absolutely still in effect at that time, (Exodus 20:14). This was one of the commandments Samson broke—shattered, actually. A Nazarite was supposed to live a holy life, separated to God, but spending a night with a prostitute was about as unholy as one could be.
Stranger still is why Samson went all the way to Gaza, near the very edge of Philistine territory. Gaza was many miles away from Israel, and even Gath and Timnath. Gaza was near the Great (Mediterranean) Sea to the west, with Ashkelon and Ekron both a few miles away to the northwest and northeast, respectively. Gaza was also close to Raphia, which was near the Egyptian frontier. Why he traveled all that distance is, again, something we may never know. Maybe Samson thought he would be safe (!) if could get as far away from Gath as humanly possible. But one is never safe, when living in violation of God’s Word and will.
Word got around that Samson was in Gaza, though (who spread the news?), and a number of the people must have thought this was their opportunity to get rid of Samson once and for all. Their strategy was to “compass” or surround him and kill him in the morning. They must have thought they had everything planned and there was no way they could lose.
And yet they did lose. Samson woke up at midnight and, incredibly, took the doors of the city gates and the two posts and carried them to the top of a certain hill. The location is not known but was probably not Hebron itself—Hebron was 30 miles away, by some estimates. Samson may have had the strength to do this, but. most likely he took the gates and doors to a hill between Gaza and Hebron. At any rate, the people of Gaza must have been dismayed when they didn’t find Samson, and didn’t find the gate’s doors, either!
We don’t read where Samson went after he got rid of Gaza’s gates. Perhaps he returned to judging Israel, as he did this for 20 years (Judges 15:20). Scripture does not say so we would be wise to simply let the matter rest.
But after this period of time, Samson made the last, and worst, journey of his life. The story begins now in verse 4:
[Judges 16:4, KJV] 4 And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name [was] Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength [lieth], and by what [means] we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred [pieces] of silver. 6 And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength [lieth], and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee. 7 And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now [there were] men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber. And she said unto him, The Philistines [be] upon thee, Samson. And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire. So his strength was not known.