Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
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.)
Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.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 Joshua 13:3. אל כּוא is used in the same sense as in Genesis 6:4 and Genesis 38:16. It is not stated in this instance, as in Judges 14:4, that it was of the Lord.
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.When this was told to the Gazites, they surrounded him (the object to the verb is to be supplied from the following word לו) and laid wait for him all night at the city gate, but they kept themselves quiet during the night, saying, "Till the dawning (אור, infin.) of the morning," sc., we can wait, "then will we kill him." For this construction, see 1 Samuel 1:22. The verb ויּגּד, "it was told" (according to the lxx and Chald.: cf. Genesis 22:20), or ויּאמרוּ, "they said," is wanting before לעזּתים, and must have fallen out through a copyist's error. The verb התחרשׁ 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.
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.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." על־פּני merely means in the direction towards, as in Genesis 18:16, and does not signify that the mountain was in the front of Hebron or in the immediate neighbourhood (see Deuteronomy 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).
And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.Samson and Delilah. - Judges 16:4. 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 (Judges 13:1), and the dwelling-place of his family (Judges 16:31).
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.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. Judges 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, לענּותו, 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 Judges 16:17).
And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.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 (Judges 16:7), "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). יתר signifies a sinew or string, e.g., a bow-string, Psalm 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 יתרים and the עבתים in Judges 16:11, 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.
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.
Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them.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 (להּ, 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.
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.
And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound.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.
And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man.
Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And there were liers in wait abiding in the chamber. And he brake them from off his arms like a thread.
And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound. And he said unto her, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web.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 Judges 16:19, the only other passage in which מחלפות occurs, it no doubt means the plaits into which Samson's long flowing hair was plaited. המּסּכת only occurs here (Judges 16:13