Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.
This has been the question of the world to the Church from the beginning. Conscious of the fact that a spiritual force is in the midst of it, perceiving its power over men, the world asks again and again wherein consists the strength of the kingdom, which, even from its seeming contradictions, it is reluctantly sensible is not of the world.
I. The strength of Christianity lies in the continued activity of the living Christ. "I am He that liveth and was dead." This is to the believer the only sufficient explanation of the history of the last eighteen centuries.
II. A second source of the strength of the Church is the power of its doctrine over the human soul. That power lies primarily in the very nature of the doctrine. Christianity at its first promulgation by our Lord and his Apostles was an appeal to the conscience—the moral sense, the innate religiousness of man—not so much to the wonder, the awe, the reverence, as to feelings more deeply seated in him; less to his imagination than to his spiritual constitution.
And the doctrine of Christianity has also all the force which belongs to definiteness. The human soul welcomes religion as a revelation of something beyond its own discovery, as to itself, the world around, and the future which lies before it.
Bishop Woodford, Sermon Preached at the Opening of Selywn College, Cambridge, Oct. 10th, 1882.
Jdg 16:15At the close of Samson's history we are taught how one of God's own servants is lost in the country of God's foes, and how God hears him and saves him in the far country. It is the old story, man backsliding and God restoring.
I. The very words which might represent the celestial entreaty of heavenly wisdom, are those of the most fascinating sin and temptation. The salvation of none of us depends upon our perception, but upon our strength.
II. Notice the manner of Samson's fall: it was by the extortion of his secret; therefore has it been said, "Keep thine heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues," or, which is the same thing, within it is the secret of life. The strength of life lies in having something we will not yield; something within, over which the tempter has no power. Samson renounced his profession as a Nazarite. That was the fatal step. He revealed the secret of the Lord to the scorn of the Philistines; he surrendered his sacred vow to the foes of the Lord.
III. In the spectacle of Samson asleep we see the carelessness of the tempted soul. Strength is gone; character is gone. Israel's hero has lost himself. He surrendered the secret of the Lord, and awoke to find the Spirit of the Lord departed from him.
E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 388.
Jdg 16:17Samson is unlike any other character in Scripture. Although the sphere in which he moved was a comparatively narrow one, he seems to have made a profound impression on the men of his time. The whole active life of Samson was spent in the district which bordered on the old Philistine frontier. He lived among the men of his own little tribe of Dan, and his history seems to have been compiled from its annals. His work consisted in a series of dashing exploits calculated to raise the hopes and spirits of his down-trodden countrymen, and to strike the Philistines with apprehension and terror, and thus he prepared the way for a more systematic and successful revolt in after times.
It was the turning-point in Samson's career when he told his secret to Delilah. It was the passage of the Rubicon which separated his life of triumphant vigour from his life of humiliation and weakness. Until he spoke these words, he was master of his destiny; after he had spoken them, nothing awaited him but disaster and death.
I. The first thing that strikes us in this account of Samson's ruin is the possible importance of apparent trifles to the highest well-being of life and character. Samson's unshorn hair told other Israelites what to expect of him, and rebuked in his own conscience all in his life that was not in keeping with his Nazarite vow. The great gift of physical strength was attached to this one particular of Nazarite observation which did duty for all the rest. In itself it was a trifle whether his hair was cut or allowed to grow, but it was not a trifle in the light of these associations.
II. Samson's history suggests the incalculably great influence which belongs to woman in controlling the characters and destinies of men. Delilah is the ruin of Samson; Deborah is the making of Barak. Deborah's song suggests what Samson might have been had Delilah been only as herself.
III. Nothing is more noteworthy in this history than the illustration it affords of the difference between physical and moral courage. Samson had physical courage; it was the natural accompaniment of his extraordinary strength. But he lacked the moral strength which lies not in nerve, nor in brain, but in a humble yet vivid sense of the presence of God.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 1111.
Reference: Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 358.
Jdg 16:20Of all the heroes whose exploits we read in the Book of Judges, none so keenly awakens our sympathy, or so fully arrests our attention, as that solitary hero, Samson. His life is no romance of the past, but it is a type and picture of your life and mine, with its difficulties, temptations, and dangers. From the story of Samson we learn:—
I. The absolute necessity there is of our achieving a nobler morality, a higher level of religion, than is to be found in the mere conventional standards Which are rife around us. What was it made Samson strong? He refused to accept the low degraded religious standard which his contemporaries were content with. To him nothing short of a real harmony between the promise of God and the fact of his people's freedom would be satisfactory.
II. On no account sacrifice your convictions. The conviction of Samson was that the dominion of God was absolute and irresistible, that the promises of God were true and everlastingly faithful. The force of conviction in your mind that Christ is true, that His Holy Spirit is a real power and influence in your heart, will make you strong, nay omnipotent, against all evil in the world.
III. Temptation comes gradually. It seems like a sudden catastrophe when Samson, who had been the glory of his people, the very hero of Dan, is led a nerveless and enslaved captive into the dungeons of the Philistines. Yet the progress of sin was very gradual over his heart. Inch by inch Delilah wearied out the strength of resistance, and then came the terrible catastrophe.
IV. With every sin there comes a blunting of that moral capacity by which you detect its presence—"He wist not that the Lord was departed from him." No man is the same after sin; no man ever can be. Sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a destiny.
V. Notice two thoughts arising from the story: (1) True convictions can be had from Christ alone. (2) Preserve the consecration of your whole life to Him.
Bishop Boyd Carpenter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 299.
References: Jdg 16:20.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 413; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p 46; Parker, vol. vi., p. 169; S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 121. Jdg 16:20-21—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 224. Jdg 16:21.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 87. Jdg 16:23.—W. Meller, Village Homilies, p. 79 Jdg 16:25,—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 316.
Jdg 16:28I. To lose our vision is the doom of losing our strength. Impaired moral perception is one of the penalties we pay for depraved action. In Samson we behold what weakness everywhere is; in him we behold what it is for the will not to be master in its own house; borne along by the vehemence of ungovernable impulses.
II. But there came an hour of triumph and recovery for Samson. He had still one resource: he had the voice of prayer; he had still power with God. The building we may conceive of as rude and frail, rough, cyclopean, in harmony with the style of the architecture of that time. It was the temple of the great Merman, or Fish-god. Possibly Samson was brought out to attempt some exhibition of his strength. It is not impossible that the Philistines intended that he should sell his life by some daring hazard, some blind gladiatorship, some display of strength in contest with beasts let loose upon him.
III. Samson's death is not to be regarded as suicide. If so, then every death in battle is suicide; every death that looks forward to a great possibility is suicide. It is not at all clear that Samson intended to kill himself. As he thought of old times he felt within him again the pulses of spiritual strength. His spirit kindled to the height of his great prayer, and as the building fell, he bowed his head and expired like a victor in the moment of victory.
E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 407.
References: Jdg 16:30.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 81; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iii., p. 388. Jdg 17:3.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 261. Jdg 17:6.—Parker, vol. vi., p. 124. 13.—Ibid., p. 236. Jdg 18:9.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 261. Jdg 18:9, Jdg 18:10.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 330. Jdg 18:24.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 109. Jdg 18:26.—Parker, vol. vi., p. 170. 19—Ibid, p. 144. Jdg 20:3.—Ibid., p. 170. Jdg 21:3.—Ibid., p. 151. See on Judges, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 115.
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.
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.
And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.
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.
And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.
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.
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.
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.
And she fastened it with the pin, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web.
And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.
And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;
That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a rasor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand.
And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.
And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.
But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.
Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.
Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.
And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.
And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.
And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.
Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.
And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.
And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.