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 on his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Arose at midnight.—Apparently—but here again the narrative omits all details—he had been told of the plot, and found the gates unguarded; unless we are to suppose that he slew the guards, without awaking the city.
Took.—Rather, grasped or seized.
The two posts—i.e., the side-posts.
Went away with them, bar and all.—Rather, tore them up, with the bar; the bar was the bar which fastened the two valves together. Gaza, as we see from the site of its walls, had several gates. The site of the gate traditionally pointed out is on the south-east. It may have been the smaller gate, by the side of the main gate, which he thus tore up. In Mohammedan legend Ali uses the gate of Chaibar as a shield, which may be a sort of confused echo and parallel of this event (Po-cocke, Hist. Arab., p. 10).
That is before Hebron.—It is not implied that Samson walked with the gates and bars on his shoulders nine miles to Hebron; but probably (as the local tradition says) to El Montar, a hill in the direction of Hebron, from which the hills of Hebron are visible. Pliny, in his Natural History (vii. 19), adduces many instances of colossal strength, but in this narrative it is distinctly implied that the strength of Samson was a supernatural gift, arising from his dedication to God. The carrying away the gate of his enemies would be understood in the East as a very peculiar insult. “When Almansor took Compostella, he made the Christians carry the gates of St. James’s Church on their shoulders to Cordova in sign of his victory” (Ferraras, Gesch. von Spanier, iii. 145, quoted by Cassel).Jdg 16:3. Samson arose at midnight — Perhaps warned by God in a dream, or rather by the checks of his own conscience; and took the doors of the gate, &c. — The watchmen not expecting him till the morning, and therefore being now retired into the sides or upper part of the gate-house to get some rest; and went away with them, bar and all — Nor durst they pursue him, whom they now again perceived to have such prodigious strength and courage, and to be so much above the fear of them, that he did not run away with all speed, but went leisurely. And carried them to the top of the hill — It is uncertain how far he carried them; but it seems to have been to a great distance, as it is said this hill was before Hebron, which was above twenty miles from Gaza. And Samson did this, not out of vain ostentation, but as an evidence of his great strength, for the encouragement of his people to join with him vigorously; and for the great terror and contempt of the Philistines. It may seem strange that Samson, immediately after so foul a sin, should have courage and strength from God for so great a work. But, 1st, It is probable that Samson had, in some measure, repented of his sin, and begged of God pardon and assistance; 2d, This singular strength and courage was not in itself a grace, but a gift, and it was such a gift as did not so much depend on the disposition of his mind, as on the right ordering of his body, by the rules given to him, and others of that order.
A partially-isolated hill, about half-an-hour southeast of Gaza, and standing out from the chain that runs up to Hebron, bears the name of "Samson's Mount." But it may be doubted whether one of the hills overlooking Hebron is not rather meant.
carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron—That hill is El-Montar; but by Hebron in this passage is meant "the mountains of Hebron"; for otherwise Samson, had he run night and day from the time of his flight from Gaza, could only have come on the evening of the following day within sight of the city of Hebron. The city of Gaza was, in those days, probably not less than three-quarters of an hour distant from El-Montar. To have climbed to the top of this hill with the ponderous doors and their bolts on his shoulders, through a road of thick sand, was a feat which none but a Samson could have accomplished [Van De Velde].Arose at midnight; being either smitten in conscience for his sin, when he first awaked, and thence fearing danger, as he had just cause to do; or being secretly warned by God in a dream, or by an inward impulse, for the prevention of his designed destruction.
The doors of the gate of the city; not the great gates, but lesser doors made in them, and strengthened with distinct posts and bars.
Went away with them; the watchmen not expecting him till morning, and therefore being now retired into the sides or upper part of the gate-house, as the manner now is, to get some rest, whereby to fit themselves for their hard service intended in the morning; or if some of them were in his way, he could easily and speedily strike them dead, and break the door, whilst the rest were partly astonished with the surprise, and partly preparing themselves for resistance: nor durst they pursue him, whom they now again perceived to have such prodigious strength and courage; and to be so much above the fear of them, that he did not run away with all speed, but went leisurely, having so great a weight on his shoulders, wherewith they knew he could both defend himself and offend them.
Up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron; either,
1. To a hill near Hebron, which was above twenty miles from Gaza; or,
2. To the top of a high hill not far from Gaza, which looked towards Hebron, which also stood upon another high hill, and might be seen from this place, though it was at a great distance from it. And Samson did this not out of vain ostentation, but as an evidence of his great strength, for the encouragement of his people to join with him more vigorously for their own deliverance than yet they had done, or durst do, and for the greater terror and contempt of the Philistines. It may seem strange that Samson immediately after so foul a sin should have the courage in himself, and the strength from God, for so great a work. But,
1. It is probable that Samson had in some measure repented of his sin, and begged of God pardon and assistance, which also he perceived by instinct that God would afford him.
2. This singular strength and courage was not in itself a grace, but a gift, which might have been in a graceless person, and therefore might continue in a good man, notwithstanding a heinous act of sin; and it was such a gift as did not depend upon the disposition of his mind, but upon the right ordering of his body, by the rule given to him, and others of that order.
and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all; did not stand to break open the doors of the gate, but took the two side posts up, on which the folding doors of the gate were hung, out of the ground in which they were fastened, with the bar which went across the doors for the security of them:
and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron; if this hill was near Hebron, as the words thus read seem to intimate, he must carry the gates twenty miles upon his shoulders, for so far was Hebron from Gaza; so Josephus says it was over Hebron; but according to Adrichomius (t), it was near Gaza, looking towards Hebron; and so Sandys says (u), in the valley, on the east side of the city, are many straggling buildings, beyond which there is a hill more eminent than the rest, on the north side of the way that leads to Babylon, said to be that to which Samson carried the gates of the city. It is very probable, as some think, that it was between Gaza and Hebron, in sight of both cities, which may be meant by the phrase "before", or "on the face of"; being so high might be seen as far as Hebron, as well as at Gaza. This was an emblem of Christ's resurrection, of whom Samson was a type, who being encompassed in a sepulchre, and sealed and watched by soldiers, broke through the bars of death and the grave, and carried off the doors in triumph; and in a short time ascended to heaven, whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God with power. It was usual for doors and bars of gates to be carried in triumph, and laid up in temples (w); and the Jews say these doors were not less than sixty cubits, and suppose Samson's shoulders to be as broad (x).
(t) "Theatrum Terrae Sanet". p. 133. (u) Ut supra, (Travels l. 3.) p. 117. (w) "----sacris in postibus arma: ----et portarum ingentia claustra." Virgil. Aeneid. 7. ver. 185. (x) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 10. 1.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. plucked them up] Cf. Jdg 16:14; the word is used of plucking up tent-pegs Isaiah 33:20, hence of setting out on a journey Genesis 35:5 and often.
The gate was probably in two leaves, turning upon pins in sockets, and secured by a bar (cf. 1 Kings 4:13, Amos 1:5 etc.) which was let into the posts on either side. Samson pulled up the whole framework of the gate, doors, posts and bar, and carried it off in one piece.
the mountain that is before Hebron] Hebron is at least 40 m. from Gaza, and before, if it does mean east of (cf. Deuteronomy 32:49, 1 Kings 11:7 etc.), may also denote overlooking (Numbers 21:20; Numbers 23:28 etc.). To make the prodigious feat more credible, some take the mountain to be the low hill of el-Munṭâr, half an hour outside the walls of Gaza on the E.; for a recent description in support of this view see Gautier, Souv. de Terre-Sainte (1898), 131 f. But can el-Munṭâr be said to face Hebron? Cheyne (Encycl. Bibl., col. 4432) makes the suggestion that Hebron is a mistake for Sharuhen (Joshua 19:6), otherwise Shaaraim = the two gates (1 Samuel 17:52), which may be the Egyptian fortress Sharaḥan on the road from Egypt to Gaza; the legend, then, was told to account for the name. Similarly Stahn (Die Simson-Sage, p. 31), who supposes that there was a rock or defile near Hebron called Shaar Gaza (i.e. gate of Gaza or strong gate); the story then will have had the same origin as that which accounted for the names Ramath-lehi and En-hakkore, Jdg 15:17; Jdg 15:19.Verse 3. - Samson arose at midnight. Possibly the woman had learnt the plot, and gave Samson warning, after the manner of Rahab; or she may have been his betrayer, and reckoned upon retaining him till the morning; anyhow he arose at midnight, when the liers in wait were sleeping securely, and tearing up the two gate-pests, with the gates and the cross-bar attached to them, walked off with them "as far as the top of the hill that is before Hebron." Took the doors, etc. Rather, laid hold of. For went away with them, translate plucked them up. It is the technical word for plucking up the tent pins. Bar and all, or, with the bar. The bar was probably a strong iron or wooden crossbar, which was attached to the posts by a lock, and could only be removed by one that had the key. Samson tore up the posts with the barred gates attached to them, and, putting the whole mass upon his back walked off with it. The hill that is before Hebron. Hebron "was about nine geographical, or between ten and eleven English, miles from Gaza, situated in a deep, narrow valley, with high hills on either side." It is approached from Gaza over a high ridge, from the top of which Hebron becomes visible, lying in the valley below at fifty minutes' distance. This spot would suit very well the description, "the hill that is before Hebron." Some, however, think that the hill called el Montar, about three-quarters of an hour from Gaza, on the road to Hebron, is here meant, and that the plain before Hebron merely means towards, as in Genesis 18:16; Deuteronomy 32:49. Judges 15:9 is used proleptically, and that the place first received its name from this deed of Samson.
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