Judges 12–16: Samson & Delilah

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 8: Tuesday

“For behold, you shall be with child and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”
Judges 13:5 LSB

Today’s Bible reading is Judges 12–16. Judges 12 records the last years of Jephthah, and briefly mentions three other judges: Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon, but the judge who looms large, to say the least, in today’s Bible reading is Samson with four chapters spent on his exploits. Here is Arthur Cundall’s list of the twelve judges (my emphasis).

“…the twelve main characters from whom the book derives its name: Othniel (3:7–11), Ehud (3:12–30), Deborah, with Barak in support (4, 5), Gideon (6–8), Jephthah 10:6–12:7 and Samson (13–16). These are usually regarded as the major judges, while the minor judges, considered in far less detail, are Shamgar (3:31), Tola and Jair (10:1–5) and Ibzan, Elon and Abdon (12:8–15).”1

F. F. Bruce comments on the minor judges:

“These minor judges…have no mighty deeds recorded of them, such as are told of the great judges. Their function may have been more purely judicial: Albright describes them as ‘intertribal arbitrators’.”2

Samson is the last of the judges. He is widely known because his life was colorful and dramatic (Cecil B. DeMille put him up on the big screen with Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr, but I won’t vouch for biblical accuracy!). In addition to Gideon, Samson is someone else I remember reading about as a child in the Bible stories featured in our newspaper’s Sunday color comic strip pages.

At the time of Samson, the Philistines had taken over Israel. If you go back to Judges 2:1–5ff (see especially 2:20–23), you’ll find God had told Israel that because of their disobedience He would not drive out all of the inhabitants of Canaan. In Judges 3:1–4, the Philistines are mentioned as being among those nations He left to test Israel. The Philistines had already oppressed Israel before the days of Samson, and they will continue to be a problem after him.

Samson was a Nazirite (For Nazarite vow and law see: Numbers 6:1–21). Bruce writes the word means “‘consecrated’ or ‘dedicated’.”3 Cundall writes:

“The Nazirite vow is delineated in Numbers 6:1–21 and contains three stipulations: the Nazirite was to abstain from all products of the vine; his hair was to be left uncut during the period of his vow; he was not to defile himself by contact with a dead body…It is clear from the Samson stories that he concerned himself only with the regulation concerning his hair.”4

When we think of Samson, we think of his hair because of his strength: losing it caused his downfall, its regrowth caused him to seek the demise of his enemies.

As you read about Samson’s life, it’s obvious from the beginning that he was an impulsive man ruled by his desires and his passions. He had great strength, but little wisdom. He falls prey, not once, but twice, to the guile of a woman, the most famous of whom is Delilah. Cundall wryly comments:

“It has frequently been observed that Samson was not a typical judge, although such a statement could be countered with the question, ‘What is a typical judge?’ All the judges were individualists; most of them had their flaws of character. Perhaps a ‘typical judge’ exists only in our imagination! Nevertheless it must be agreed that, in a group of unique individuals Samson was in a category all of his own. Endowed with the Spirit of the Lord and dedicated to a lifelong Nazirite vow, his life seems to have revolved around illicit relationships with prostitutes and loose-living women…It is a sad tale of a lack of discipline and true dedication, and the reader is left wondering what Samson might have achieved had his enormous potential been matched and tempered by these mental and spiritual qualities.”5

He was used by God, however. In Judges 1–6: Disobedience & Deliverance I quoted Cundall as saying, “The judges were primarily the ‘saviours’ or ‘deliverers’ of their people from their enemies.”6 (See the post for more on the meaning of the Hebrew word for judge). Bruce writes:

And he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines. [13:5] This may mean ‘he will be the first to save…’; the work was continued by Samuel, Saul and Jonathan, and completed by David.”7

Two instances are recorded in which he called upon God: once, when he had slain a thousand Philistines, and again at the end of his life. After he had been imprisoned, blinded, and mocked by the Philistines, notice that at the end, Samson calls out to God as Yahweh, and then as Adonai (Lord), and Elohim (God).8

Then Samson called to Yahweh and said, “O Lord Yahweh, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.”
Judges 16:28 LSB

According to the HELPS Lexicon of the Discovery Bible, Adonai translated in Judges 16:28 as Lord:

“Lord, referring to Yahweh 456 times out of its 458 occasions – “the destiny-Maker,” one of the two chief, divine titles of Yahweh…refers to Yahweh as the one determining the destiny (eternal meaning) of every scene of life, the one-and-only moral Governor…properly means “proprietor-owner”…the one who “makes the final call” to appraise all things. All is under His jurisdiction as owner.”9

While Elohim translated in Judges 16:28 as God, is:

“properly, the Strong One…Yahweh’s chief title…expresses Yahweh is in charge of every circumstance as the Creator, the all-powerful One establishing all the physical scenes of life. This divine title in an emphatic plural in Hebrew to dramatically convey Yahweh as always in charge – whose plan always triumphs!…”the circumstance-Maker.””10

And Yahweh? Yahweh is God’s covenant name for His people. I’ve written more on Yahweh as well as Adonai and Elohim in God’s Name to His People. As Alec Motyer summarize, ‘God’ is what he is; Yahweh is who he is.”11

With his death he killed more Philistines than he had killed during his life.12 More importantly, he called on God, using His covenant name, and God’s two chief titles. We don’t know his full mind, we can only hope that iduring his time of humiliation and slavery, he went beyond calling out to God for help to avenge his lose of sight, to calling out to God in repentance.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Samson the Hero: in Ashdod, Israel. Public Domain.
1,4,5,6,8,12Arthur E, Cundall, Judges: An Introduction and Commentary (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1968) This commentary is published in the same volume as the commentary, Ruth, by Leon Morris. 22, 156–157, 154–155, 15, 180–181, 181: “a conservative estimate would be in the vicinity of eleven hundred (14:19; 15:8,15).”
2,3,7F. F. Bruce, “Judges,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 267, 269, 269.
9,10“HELPS Lexicon, The Discovery Bible. Retrieved 21 February 2023.
11Alec Motyer, Psalms By The Day: A New Devotional Translation (Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Ross-shire, Scotland, U.K. 2016) 10.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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