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Deeper Commentary

Jdg 16:1 Samson went to Gaza and saw there a prostitute, and went in to her-
The way this passage starts with "Then" (see Heb., AV) is one of several classic conjunctions which occur in the Biblical record. The "But" of Acts 5:1 is another. After the spiritual and personal glory of the fight at Lehi, "Then..." Samson goes to Gaza and sees a whore. It may not have happened immediately afterwards (Jud. 15:20), but it seems purposefully placed where it is in the record. A similar example occurs in Jud. 14:19,20 cp. Jud. 15:1: after repenting of his marriage with the Philistine girl and using his failure as an opportunity to seek occasion against God's enemies, Samson then relents and lets his human love for the girl take him over, and he goes to visit and sleep with her. And again in Jud. 16:3, we see Samson repentant as he lies there at midnight, and he rises up and in the spirit of the Lord's cross, carries away the gate of his enemies. And then, "it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman..." (Jud. 16:4). He simply couldn't keep up the level of spiritual intensity which he fain would have. And again, we know much about this problem .

And yet Samson went to Gaza conscious that his people had failed to drive out the tribes there (Josh. 11:22). Judah had captured it in Joshua's strength (Jud. 1:18), but had let the Philistines return. So Samson chose Gaza from spiritual motives; and yet he schemed out his plan to enable him to gratify his flesh. But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he "got up and took hold of the doors..." (Jud. 16:1,3 NIV).  If he went in to spend the night there, he presumably entered the house at around 7 or 8. He had what he wanted, and then lay there thinking, the record seems to suggest, and decided to not lay there all night as he planned, but get up and do God's work. Whilst it is unrecorded, surely there were prayers of deep and fervent repentance as he lay there? His conscience likewise seems to have struck him after he attempted to marry the Philistine girl, and also when he burnt up the vineyards. And so again here. He may have justified his behaviour by reference back (in his deep subconscious, maybe) to how the spies sought to destroy Jericho by entering the city and lodging with a whore.

When Samson decided to attack Gaza by going into a harlot's house, he may have been consciously imitating the way the spies played their part in Jericho's destruction (16:1). And yet it was once again only a surface imitation. He fell for the 'little of both' syndrome, justifying it under the guise of Scriptural examples.

Jdg 16:2 The Gazites were told, Samson is here! They surrounded him and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, staying quiet all night and saying, Wait until dawn, then we will kill him-
See on Ps. 118:10-12. The purpose of this final tragic chapter in Samson's life was to bring Samson to a final realization that there was no third way in the service of Yahweh: it's all or nothing. The Lord worked through Samson's 'little of both' syndrome. The Lord Jesus read the Samson record this way: He recommended that we too tear our eyes out to stop us stumbling from the path of total devotion (Mk. 9:47). We all know how the story turns out. And it's one of those parts of Scripture which I for one don't reading. I don't want to go on from chapter 15 to chapter 16. I know what's coming, and I'd rather not be reminded of the whole tragic sequence. And yet it's there, absolutely for our learning. And Samson should have already learnt. As his first wife had vexed her with her words to tease his secret from him, so Delilah did. As the Philistines laid wait for Samson as he lay with the whore in Gaza (16:2), so they laid wait in Delilah's bedroom (16:9). He had already repented of using God's service as an excuse for satisfying his own flesh in the incident with the Gaza prostitute. He had bitterly walked away from his first Philistine wife. He burnt down the vineyards, recalling how he had foolishly strolled in them as a Nazarite. He must have looked back and seen how he had played with fire. And now, he goes and does it all again. He goes to the valley of Sorek, 'choice vines', and Samson falls for Delilah, 'the vine'. He went down to the vineyards again; the Nazarite tried to take fire into his bosom again.

Jdg 16:3 Samson lay until midnight, then arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, picked them up, along with the bar, put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain that faces Hebron-
"Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight" (16:3 AV) gives a different picture: of Samson 'laying' with her as a man lays with a woman, and then getting up and going out to do God's work. The interplay between sexuality and spirituality was never stronger.

The incident in Gaza is evidently typical of the Lord's work. There was Samson, "the splendour of the sun" , 'compassed in' by his enemies (as Christ on the cross, Ps. 118:5,10-12) in Gaza ('fortified stronghold', cp. death). Then he arose in the darkness, rendered powerless the gates of death and carried them up 30 miles to a high altitude (cp. Heaven), to Hebron, 'the city of fellowship', where the tomb of Abraham was (Gen. 23:19), and where Gentile giants had once lived (Num. 13:22), conquered by faithful Israelites. Joshua had taken Hebron (Josh. 10:36) but Israel had not followed up his victory, and the Philistines had returned; Caleb then took it (Josh. 15:13), but again, by Samson's time, the Philistines were back. And Samson, although a type of Christ, was intensely aware of all this failure (cp. how he chose Gaza and Timnath, areas with a similar history, for his other exploits). It would seem that Samson killed the men at the gates, the leaders of the city, and then took the gates with him (16:3 cp. 2). The Hebrew used for Samson 'taking away' the gates is that translated 'possess' in the Genesis promises. Thus he possessed the gates of his enemies and slew their figureheads, as the Lord did through the cross. Samson obviously saw some specific meaning in taking the gates to Hebron and the tomb of Abraham. He surely saw that he was prefiguring Messiah's work of taking the gate of his enemies, as promised to Abraham. Or perhaps he saw himself as 'in' the Messiah, and sharing in what He would do in the future. Archaeologists have found tablets that refer to the power of Baal to possess the gates of all who oppose him; and Samson evidently wanted to show the superiority of Yahweh over Baal. The fellowship ('Hebron') which was enabled by the Lord's victory should never be undone by us; He died that He might gather together in one all God's people, to reconcile us all in one body both to each other and to God. To break apart the body is therefore to deny the essential intention of the cross. There are other points of contact with the Lord's passion. The men of Gaza laid wait in the gates of the city; they were therefore the rulers? But they decided to only kill him in the morning. The rulers of the Jews decided likewise.  

Jdg 16:4 Afterward, he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah-
Samson had a mixed conscience when he slew the lion. He was in the vineyards, the very place where he shouldn't have been as a Nazarite, although he justified it by spiritual and even Biblical reasoning. He then burns up those vineyards in order to have a blameless conscience. He then loses that good conscience and cowers in the rocks. And then later he goes to the valley of Sorek (Heb. 'the vine') and forges a relationship with another worthless woman. Samson's marriage looks less acceptable in this context. So he returned to his old desire to walk near the forbidden fruit of the vine. His purges of conscience were temporary, and he returned to the old haunts and ways.

Jdg 16:5 The lords of the Philistines came to her and said, Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and how we might prevail against him to tie him up and subdue him. Then we will each one of us give you eleven hundred pieces of silver-
Prov. 6:26,27; 7:1 make clear allusion to Samson and Delilah, and they suggest that Delilah was a "whorish woman". In this case, her motivation for betraying Samson was fundamentally financial, apart from other lesser factors which there probably were. The bribe she was offered has been estimated in modern terms as around US$ 1 million (2019). And Judas likewise went to the chief priests and asked how much they would give him for betraying the Lord. Again, Samson was a type of Christ. This all indicates the unbelievable materialism which is in our natures: to betray a good man, even the Son of God, ultimately for pieces of metal. We must have all asked: 'Why, oh why, did Samson go on trusting her, when it was so obvious she was going to betray him?'. It may have been because she was an Israelitess (even if a renegade). The way she says "The Philistines are upon you!" (16:20) and the way the lords of the Philistines came up to her (16:5) may suggest this. Their offer of money to her was exactly after the pattern of the Jews' approach to Judas. The way "pieces of silver" feature in both records leads us to wonder whether the correspondence was so exact that she also betrayed the helpless Samson with a kiss, as Judas did. See on Jud. 14:5.

We note that the same sum of 1100 pieces of silver will occur in the next chapter; see on Jud. 17:2.

Jdg 16:6 Delilah said to Samson, Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be tied up and subdued-
As his first wife had vexed her with her words to tease his secret from him, so Delilah did. But Samson didn't learn from his life, and this is the tragedy of so much spiritual failure- people don't learn from history, both their own and others.

Jdg 16:7 Samson said to her, If I am tied with seven fresh cords that were never dried, then shall I become weak like other men-
He  teased Delilah to tie him with seven “cords” or AV "withs", the Hebrew word implying made from a vine. He just would mess with the forbidden. Samson tells Delilah that if he is bound, he will be weak "like one man" (16:7 Avmg.). This is surely an allusion to passages like Lev. 26:8 and Josh. 23:10- that one man would chase many. Samson implies that he fights like he is many men; he appropriated those blessings to himself. He came to assume he had faith. Lifetime Christians have the same tendency, with the joy and vigour of first faith now far back in time. Samson had been bound before and had burst those bonds (Jud. 15:13); he seems to have assumed that one past deliverance was an automatic guarantee of future ones. His great zeal for the Lord's work seems to have lead him to chose the single life; and yet he evidently was in the habit of occasional affairs (Jud. 14:3 "is there never..." ), using prostitutes and having on and off relationships with women like Delilah. Samson thought his devotion and the appalling apostacy of his brethren somehow justified it. Note how Timothy and Hezekiah seem to likewise have stumbled in their commitment to the single life.   

Jdg 16:8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought to her seven fresh cords which had not been dried, and she tied him with them-
As this all happened in the bedroom (:9 NEV "inner room"), it seems to me that she used them in some kind of sexual bondage game. Yet as noted on :9, even at such a low spiritual point in his life, God's Spirit remained with him.

Jdg 16:9 Now she had an ambush waiting in the inner room-
The idea is, "the bedroom". See on :8. The Philistines are described as "abiding" in Delilah's house (16:9 AV)- a word normally used in the sense of 'permanently living'. It would seem that Samson didn't permanently live with her, but occasionally visited her, until at the end he was happy to live with her (she pressed him "daily"), co-habiting with her other Philistine lovers. With his hair shaven, he 'went out, as at other times'- deciding bitterly that he had really had enough, and once again he would walk out on her, this time for good, and would 'shake himself' and take a hold on himself. But this time it was too late.   

She said to him, The Philistines are upon you, Samson! He broke the cords, as a string of tow is broken when it touches the fire. So his strength was not known-
The thongs burst from him as when string comes close to a flame. This is similar to the scene in Jud. 15:14, where because the Spirit was upon him, Samson became like a burning fire which snapped his bonds. See on :12.

Jdg 16:10 Delilah said to Samson, You have made a fool of me and told me lies! Now please tell me how you can be tied-
We are left to imagine all the crocodile tears and lies told by Delilah regarding how she set him up to be ambushed and slain by Philistines, whilst claiming she loved him.

Jdg 16:11 He said to her, If I am tied with new ropes with which no work has been done, then I shall become weak like other men-
Samson ends up bound (s.w. "tied") in fetters of brass. He was truly an Israelite in bondage to the Philistines, the very thing he had so despised and given his life to fighting against. But in these bondage fames with Delilah, he liked being tied up in bondage to a Philistine. We have a deep insight here into how he actually both loved and hated Philistine bondage. This inability to wholly dedicate himself to Yahweh's ways and people was to be his undoing.

Jdg 16:12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them and said to him, The Philistines are upon you, Samson! The ambush was waiting in the inner room. He broke them off his arms like a thread-
In the next two occasions when Samson broke his bands (Jud. 16:12,14), the language of breaking them as if there was fire within him (as in :9, see note there) doesn't occur. It may be that although the fire of the Spirit was within him, Samson came to feel that he, of his own ability, was doing the miracles: "he snapped the ropes off his arms...". There is even a sense of unjustified, egoistic sarcasm in the way he gets the Philistines to tie him with flimsy pieces of grass and then breaks them off and kills them.

Jdg 16:13 Delilah said to Samson, Until now you have fooled me and told me lies. Tell me how you can be tied. He said to her, If you weave the seven braids of my hair into the fabric on the loom, I will become as weak as other men-
See on Ps. 118:10-12. He initially says: "If they bind me..." (16:7), but changes this to "If you..."; he knew beforehand that she would betray him, although couldn't admit it to himself. And so we see the complexity of Samson's situation. It was not that his telling of the secret to Delilah was necessarily a sin in itself. He trusted her and yet knew on another level she would betray him. This is just a part of human nature. It helps explain why the Lord Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray him (Jn. 6:64), and yet how He could really trust in Judas as his own familiar friend, confide in him (Ps. 41:9), tell him that he would sit with the other eleven on thrones in the Kingdom (Mt. 19:28). This was ever a serious contradiction for me, until considering the Samson : Delilah relationship in depth. A man can know something about someone on one level, but act and feel towards them in a quite different way than this knowledge requires. David likewise must have known Absalom’s deceit; but he chose not to see it, for love’s sake. “They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things [just as Absalom did in the gate]... but I, as a deaf man, heard not” (Ps. 38:12,13). Paul surely knew how Corinth despised him, how little they knew and believed, and as he himself said, the more he loved them, the less they loved him. And yet in all honesty he could say: “As you abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence and in your love to us” (2 Cor. 8:7). Yet the more abundantly he loved them, the less they loved him- not the more abundantly. Yet he saw them as loving him abundantly. One also gets the sense that the Gibeonites’ deception was somehow guessed by the elders of Israel, but against their better judgment they disregarded the telltale signs (Josh. 9:7). Or Amasa, taking no heed to the sword in Joab’s hand... against his better judgment, surely (2 Sam. 20:10). This is a feature of human nature; the contradictions evident in the Jesus : Judas relationship and the Samson : Delilah relationship are only explicable for me by realizing this. The whole thing is an eloquent essay in the Lord's humanity and the depth of His 'in-loveness' with Judas the traitor.

And this Lord is our Lord, the same yesterday and today. Our self-knowledge will be deepened by realizing that we too have this spiritual schizophrenia: it's not that we are spiritual one day and unspiritual the next. We are both flesh and spirit at the very same moment. Appreciation of this will help us cope with the more evident failures of our brethren. It doesn't necessarily mean that they must be written off as totally unspiritual and insincere because of acts and attitudes of evident unspirituality. The Spirit is still there, at the very same moment. Think of how Samson slept with a whore until midnight, and then in faith rose up and was granted the Spirit to perform a great act of Christ-like, cross-like victory over the enemies of God's people.

Jdg 16:14 She wove his hair into the fabric and fastened it with the pin, and said to him, The Philistines are upon you, Samson! He awoke and pulled away the pin from the loom and the fabric-
The way Samson asked Delilah to fasten the hair of his head with a nail and then try to have mastery over him is a parody of what would have been a well known incident: Deborah's mastery over Barak (Jud. 4:21). This would indicate that Scripture was never far from his mind. In Samson's relationship with Delilah, he got closer and closer to the edge. Samson tells Delilah to bind him, then he gets closer to showing his hand: he asks her to do something to his hair. And then, he falls to the final folly. It could even be that after the previous teasings he left her completely (16:14 AV "he went away")- after the pattern of his previous twinges of conscience concerning his first wife, his love of vineyards, his lying with the whore in Gaza... But he evidently returned to her.

Jdg 16:15 She said to him, How can you say, ‘I love you’, when your heart is not with me? You have fooled me three times and have not told me where your great strength lies-
Even at his weakest, Delilah had observed that his heart wasn't with her: it was somewhere else, i.e. with the God of Israel.

Jdg 16:16 When she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, he became tired to death-
Samson's marriage reflects a spiritual brinkmanship which was his spiritual undoing, however. For the same word is used concerning how Delilah later vexed him unto death with her words, and then Samson rose up and slew the Philistines with God's help. The same word is used concerning how the Gentile enemies of an apostate Israel would afflict them (Dt. 28:53,55,57). Yet at this very same time, Samson had faith. But there came a time- there had to come a time, for the sake of Samson's eternal salvation- when this having a little of both had to be ended.  

Jdg 16:17 So he told her everything, and said to her, No razor has ever come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will go from me and I will become weak like any other man-
Samson's zeal to deliver Israel was confirmed by God, in that he was given gifts of Holy Spirit in order to enable him to deliver Israel. However, this doesn't mean that he himself was a man rippling with muscle. The Philistines wanted to find out the secret of his strength; it wasn't that he had such evidently bulging muscles that the answer was self-evident. He told Delilah that if his head were shaved, he would be like any other man. He was therefore just an ordinary man, made strong by the Father after the pattern of the Saviour he typified. It wasn't a permanent strength. This is in harmony with the way in which the Spirit was used in the New Testament. The Spirit came upon the apostles and they were filled up with is, as it were, and then drained of it once the work was done; and had to be filled with it again when the next eventuality arose. Indeed, the word baptizo strictly means 'to fill and thereby submerge'; hence the use of the term in classical Greek concerning the sinking of ships or the filling of a bottle. Therefore the idea of baptism with Holy Spirit could simply be describing a temporary filling of the Apostles with power in order to achieve certain specific aims.

If this is indeed how Samson experienced his fillings with the Spirit, it throws new light on the way he allowed Delilah to apparently suck information out of him. She asked for the secret of his strength; he knew she would betray him; he told her; she betrayed him, which meant a group of Philistine warriors came and hid themselves in the house (full known to Samson); and he then rose up and killed them, using the gift of God's Spirit. He was so sure that God would use him in this way, that he thought he could do anything in order to entice Philistine warriors into his presence- even if it involved gratifying his own flesh. The way he threw away the jawbone after killing 1000 Philistines at Lehi may suggest that  he felt that now he had done the job, the instrument was useless; and he begged the Lord to give him drink. He knew that now he was an ordinary man again.

Jdg 16:18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent for the lords of the Philistines saying, Come up once more, for he has told me everything. Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money with them-
It has been suggested from the way the Philistine lords are described as coming up to her, and the way in which she speaks of  "the Philistines" (16:18-20), that she was in fact an apostate Israelitess. And thus he justified himself. We are left to ponder how Delilah lived after she had received all the money she clearly coveted. Was she happy? Did what she did buy her happiness? Clearly not. 

Jdg 16:19 She made him sleep on her knees, and then she called for a man who shaved off the seven braids of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him-
See on 2 Chron. 33:12,13; Neh. 13:22. It should be noted that his strength was not somehow magically associated with his hair; his strength went from him because Yahweh departed from him (16:19,20). We have seen earlier that Samson was well into spiritual brinkmanship. It had characterized his life, according to the selection of incidents the record presents us with. The sequence of events is worth listing:
Delilah asked Samson to tell her his closest secret,
then Delilah bound Samson as he asked;
Samson awakes from a deep sleep with Delilah;
Delilah playfully afflicts Samson while he is bound and Samson overcomes Delilah (16:19 implies this happened each time);
Then Samson realizes Delilah has betrayed him;
and the Philistine warriors were there waiting in the bedroom.
Then Samson goes out of the bedroom, shakes himself and kills them.
Then Delilah says Samson doesn't really love her
- and they repeat the experience. 

This is the classic material for love : hate relationships. At first sight, Samson appears an incomprehensible fool. But more extended meditation reveals the human likelihood of it all. She would've convincingly repented and asked for one last chance- time and again. It is hard not to interpret his sleeping exhausted with her and then the bondage session as some kind of sex game, followed by drinking alcohol so that he fell fast asleep [thus mocking his Nazirite vow]. And yet Samson thought he was strong enough to cope with it, as did Solomon years later. He may even have had some kind of desire to simply mock the Philistines when he suggested they should tie him up with seven pieces of grass. He seems to somehow have known that his first wife would wangle his secret from him and betray him, and thus he would have the opportunity to kill Philistines- even though he didn't intend to open his heart to her (Jud. 14:16). And now the same happened. He seems to have known that she would betray him, although he evidently thought better of her; for he was deeply in love with her.

The shame of the final fight is graciously unrecorded. The events of 16:19-21 seem a little out of sequence. It would seem that Delilah awoke Samson, and he thought he would go outside, shake himself and kill the Philistines whom he was sure were in wait. But she started to tease him as before in their games of bondage; but this time, "she began to subdue him, and he began to weaken" (16:19 LXX; one meaning of 'Delilah' is 'the one who weakens'). "Began" is a strange translation; it is often translated to profane / humble. She spiritually abused him. And then she called the Philistines. He was powerless, physically, beneath that woman, and was therefore no match for them. The fact she was physically stronger than him when the Spirit of the Lord left him is proof enough that he was not a physically strong man in his own right. The way the apostate woman subdued him physically, in the name of a love / sex game, would have remained in his memory. He, the strong man of Israel, had been conquered by a worthless woman. His humiliation was to be typical of Israel's: "children are their oppressors (cp. the young lad at the feast?), women rule over them" (Is. 3:12). It is quite possible that Peter had Samson in mind, when he wrote of how "they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness... they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world... they are again entangled therein, and overcome..." (2 Pet. 2:18-20). Samson had been spiritually overcome, and therefore physically he was overcome and brought in bondage.

Jdg 16:20 She said, The Philistines are upon you, Samson! He awoke out of sleep and said, I will go out as before and shake myself to be free of them. But he didn’t know that Yahweh had departed from him-
See on Jud. 15:16. The way Samson was so deeply sleeping on Delilah's knees that he didn't feel them shave him, and then he went out and shook himself (this seems a fair translation)- all this could suggest he was drunk. There is no concrete evidence for this, but his love of vineyards would suggest he had a yearning for the forbidden fruit. And Sorek means the vine, and "Delilah" can be understood as 'vine woman'. He had broken the Nazarite vow by touching dead bodies, he obviously thought that having unshaven hair was only tokenistic and irrelevant to the real spirit of Nazariteship, and therefore he may have reasoned that alcohol was also another tokenism. Thus his reductionism destroyed him (almost). Perhaps it was brought about by a wilful misunderstanding of God's waiving of the Nazarite ban on touching dead bodies; for after all, God had made Samson a Nazarite, and then empowered him to go and kill Philistines in personal combat, thereby touching dead bodies. So God waived one principle for a more important one; and yet Samson abused this, taking the principle far further than God intended, to the point that he ended up justifying sin as righteousness.

 "He didn't know that Yahweh had left him" is the depth of spiritual tragedy. The Lord Jesus may have had this in mind when He spoke of how the rejected would not know what hour He would come upon them (Rev. 3:3). Samson went through the experience of rejection at the Lord's hands in advance of the actual judgment seat. He was set grinding in the prison- a figure which was later picked up as representative of the unbeliever generally (Is. 42:7; 61:1; 1 Pet. 3:19). He was as it were delivered to satan, that he might learn (1 Tim. 1:20); his own wickedness corrected him (Jer. 2:19). And this finally brought him to himself. His experience was a pattern for the apostate Israel whom he loved. Yahweh forsaking His people is associated with them cutting off their hair in Jer. 7:29- an evident allusion to Samson's shame. As the Philistines rejoiced over Samson and praised their god for their victory, so Babylon was to do years later, as Zedekiah like Samson had his eyes put out.  

Jdg 16:21 The Philistines seized him and put out his eyes, and they brought him down to Gaza, bound him with fetters of brass, and made him work at grinding in the mill in the prison-
"Bound" is the word used for how Delilah had bound Samson with weak things like grass and hair, just as the Israelites had bound him before handing him over to the Philistines. The same word is used. He now found that he was unable to break what he was bound with. He was truly an Israelite in bondage to the Philistines, the very thing he had so despised and given his life to fighting against. 

He was given women's work in prison, grinding at the mill, in order to rub the point in (Ex. 11:5; Mt. 24:41). 'Grinding' was some kind of figure of speech for the sex act (s.w. Job 31:10). The "fetters of brass" with which he was bound would have recalled his games of bondage with Delilah, and the same word is translated "filthiness" in a sexual context (Ez. 16:36). The word used for 'prison' means literally 'house of binding'- an extension of Delilah's house, they would have joked. One can imagine how the story of how Delilah enticed him would have become the gossip of the nation.

The idea of binding the strong man must surely look back to Samson. The language can't just be accidentally similar (cp. Jud. 16:21). This means that the Lord saw Samson as the very epitome of Satan, even though ultimately he was a man of faith (Heb. 11:32). Thus the Spirit doesn't forget a man's weakness, even though ultimately he may be counted righteous.

Jdg 16:22 However the hair of his head began to grow again after he had been shaved-
The record seems to suggest there was a link between the growth of his hair, and God giving him strength again. This doesn't mean that there was some metaphysical link between his strength and his hair. Rather does it show how God responded to his faith and what was behind the growth of his hair, and therefore gave him strength to destroy the Philistines. It would seem that Samson decided to keep the Nazarite vow again. He was in no position to offer the inaugatory sacrifice which the law required; and yet he threw himself upon God's grace, trusting that his zeal would be accepted by God; that he, the sinner and failure and shamer of Yahweh, could be allowed to make that special act of devotion in Nazariteship. And he was accepted in this, as witnessed by the great power of the death of Samson. 
It must be emphasized that his strength was not tied up in his hair. He only ground in the prison a short time, until the great sacrifice was offered to Dagon in thanks for Samson's capture. In that time, his hair grew- but not very long, in such a short time (no more than months, Jud. 16:22,23). The growth of his hair is to be associated with his renewed determination to keep the Nazarite vow. He was reckoned by God as a lifelong Nazarite (Jud. 15:7); the time when his hair was cut was therefore overlooked by God. His zealous repentance and desire to respond to the gracious way in which God still recognized him as a lifelong Nazarite, although he wasn't one, inspired him to a real faith and repentance. It was this, not the fact he had some hair again, which lead to God empowering him to destroy the palace of Dagon.  

The question arises: why did Samson tell Delilah that if his hair was cut, he would become weak? Surely he must have known within him that she would do it, in line with past experience? He went out as before to fight the Philistines, surely aware that he had been shaved, and yet assuming God would still be with him. He had come to realize that his long hair was not the real source of his strength, on some kind of metaphysical level. He saw that his strength was from the Spirit of God, not long hair or Nazariteship. He went out knowing, presumably, that his hair had been shaven, and yet still assumed he would have God's strength. And even when his hair began to grow again, he still had to pray for strength (Jud. 16:28). He fell into the downward spiral of reductionism. He figured that if his hair was shaved, well it was no big deal. He was supposed to be a Nazarite all the days of his life, and yet perhaps he came to reason that because he had touched plenty of dead bodies, he therefore needed to be shaved anyway (Num. 6:9). He thought that therefore God would accept him in principle as a Nazarite even though he had broken the letter of Nazariteship, and therefore losing his hair was only a surface level indicator of spirituality.   And yet there is also good reason to think that there was an association in Samson's mind between his hair and his God-given strength. For why did he " tell her all his heart" by saying that if he were shaved, he would lose his strength? And of course, when his hair was cut off, then his strength went. Samson saw a link between being a Nazarite and having strength (Jud. 16:17). When Samson went outside from Delilah and shook himself as he usually did, was he not shaking his hair free before attacking the Philistines, as if he saw in his hair the source of his strength? However, this must all be balanced against the evidence that Samson originally realized that his strength came from God, not his hair. Whilst he even had this realization, theoretically, when he gave Delilah the possibility of shaving him, he also at this time had the conception that his strength was associated with his hair length. I would suggest that this can be resolved by understanding that although his strength was not in his hair, this is how Samson came to see it. And therefore God went along with this view, and treated Samson as if his strength was in his hair. And therefore He departed from him when he allowed his hair to be shaved. If Samson had really told Delilah the truth about the source of his strength, he would have said: 'Faith, causing the Spirit of God to come upon me to do His work'. Samson knew this, and therefore he allowed her to shave him; and yet it was also true that in his heart of hearts, he also at the same time believed that his hair was the source of his strength. So he was the victim of reductionism, as well as tokenism. He came to see the mere possession of long hair as a sign of spirituality. And yet at the same time he reduced and reduced the real meaning of Nazariteship to nothing. Difficult as this analysis may be to grasp, I really believe that it has much to teach us; for the latter day brotherhood is afflicted with exactly these same problems.  

Jdg 16:23 The lords of the Philistines gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, for they said, Our god has delivered Samson our enemy into our hand-
The Philistines didn't kill Samson immediately; they wanted to prolong the agony of his death. It was evidently their intention to kill him. Perhaps it was their plan to torture him and then finally torture him to death at the feast to their god- cp. the Lord's planned death at Passover. The great sacrifice which they planned to offer (Heb. 'kill') was probably Samson.

Jdg 16:24 When the people saw him, they praised their god. They said, Our god has delivered our enemy, the destroyer of our country who has slain many of us, into our hand-
See on Jud. 14:14. Gentiles praising their gods, mocking Yahweh, and then suddenly being destroyed was a scene repeated in Dan. 5:4.  

Jdg 16:25 When their hearts were merry they said, Call for Samson so that he can entertain us. They called Samson out of the prison, and he performed before them. They set him between the pillars-
Samson suddenly called up out of the prison house (16:25) recalls Joseph (Gen. 41:14) and John the Baptist (Mt. 14:9). The same Divine hand was at work in such different lives, leaving the same hallmarks behind in the record. And the more familiar and thoughtful we are about Biblical history, the more we too will perceive this.

Jdg 16:26 and Samson said to the boy who held him by the hand, Allow me to feel the pillars on which the house rests so that I can lean on them-
A read through all the recorded words of Samson will reveal a growing humility and spirituality. "Suffer me that I may... that I may" (16:26 AV) reflects a courtesy and humility distinctly lacking in his previous recorded speech. His growth came to its intended climax in the repentance and final peak of spirituality which he achieved in his time of dying. Or it may be that the utter exhaustion of Samson from their afflictions (prodding with sticks?) is revealed when he asks the lad "Suffer me..." (Heb. 'allow me to rest / take a break'). This pointed forward to the Lord's physical exhaustion, driven to the limit of human endurance, must be imagined.

 God patiently worked through the weakness of Samson to achieve not only a great final victory over the Philistines, but also Samson's own salvation. The way Samson asked the lad to guide him to the pillars in the Philistine language, learnt in his mis-spent relationships with women, the way he knew the architectural structure of the Dagon-temple, where presumably he had been in his earlier love-hate affair with the Philistines- God didn't reject him for these earlier failures, but worked with him, making use of the knowledge and experience which Samson had picked up along the road of earlier failure. This is how God works with us, too- if only we would have the humility to realize it. And the least we can do is to replicate it in our dealings with our failing brethren. 

Samson dying between the two pillars is broadly similar, as a kind of silhouette, to the Lord's death between two other crosses. The way the lad (also a Hebrew? for they spoke the same language?) "held" Samson's hand is significant, for the same word is translated 'to strengthen / encourage'. Perhaps the lad strengthened Samson as the repentant thief did the Lord.

Jdg 16:27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about three thousand men and women watching while Samson performed-
The destruction of them all would have left a huge hole in Philistine power. And yet still Israel failed to capitalize on this victory, for by Saul's time, Israel were effectively in bondage to them again.

Jdg 16:28 Samson called to Yahweh and said, Lord Yahweh, remember me please, and strengthen me please, just this once oh God, that I may with one blow be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes-
Like Paul and the crucified thief, Samson by his death came to a deep realization of the reality of judgment to come: "Remember me" must be read in this context. It carries the connotation of 'remember me for good and therefore forgive me at the judgment' in Ps. 25:6,7; Lk. 23:46. It seems that Nehemiah was inspired by this at his end (Neh. 13:22,31; did he too come to a finer realization of his failures at the end?). "Remember me" was a cry only used prior to Samson by men in weakness: Gen. 15:8; Josh. 7:7; Jud. 6:22 (Gideon, Samson's hero, had used it). Yet now Samson appropriates it to himself in faith that he will be mercifully treated at the judgment. And his example in turn inspired Nehemiah. The intensity of Samson's repentance was quite something. It must have inspired Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:11), who like Samson was bound (16:21) and humbled (Jud. 16:5,16,19 AVmg.)- and then repented with a like intensity. And Zedekiah went through the same basic experience, of capture by his enemies, having his eyes put out, his capture attributed to false gods; and he likewise repented (2 Kings 25:7).  
Samson is therefore listed amongst those who out of weakness were made strong (Heb. 11:34). A character study of Samson must remember this about him. This could suggest that he was even weaker than a normal man; or it could be a reference to the way in which out of his final spiritual weakness and degradation he was so wonderfully strengthened.

But Samson's death plea for vengeance against the Philistines for his two eyes sounds woefully human. Indeed, the RSV and RVmg. speak of him asking for vengeance "for one of my two eyes", as if he felt that even if God gave the destruction he asked for, this would only half avenge him. This would indicate a real bitterness, an unGodly hatred of both sinner and sin. In some ways, for all the intensity of weeping before God in repentance (16:28 LXX), Samson had not progressed much from his attitude in Jud. 15:7, over 20 years before- where he once again had admitted that his motive for 'seeking occasion against the Philistines' was partly just personal revenge. The spirit of not avenging oneself but leaving it to God to do was evidently something he never quite rose up to in his life (Rom. 12:19). "That I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes" seems to be quite without any desire for the vindication of God's Name. Although it seems to me it was wrong, and betrayed some unspirituality, yet it is taken as the epitome of the desire of all the faithful for vindication through the coming of Christ (Rev. 6:10). Samson died therefore with some unconquered weakness, just as we will and as will our brethren. Yet we are assured in Heb. 11:34 that he will be saved in the end.  

In the time of his humbling and mocking, in the wake of years of spiritual self-assurance, Job set such a clear prototype of Samson that Samson surely must have realized this, as he ground in the prison house. Job too suffered from blindness in his afflictions (Job 11:20; 17:5; 19:8; 30:12).  

Job 30:1 mocked by youth = Judges 16:26

Job 30:6 The wicked dwell in the rocks = Judges 15:8

Job 30:9 "Now I am their song, yes, I am their byword" = Judges 16:25

Job 30:11 "He has loosed my cord and afflicted me" = In Judges 16:8 the same word is used of the cords with which Samson was bound, and which the Philistines loosed. Only a short time later God was afflicting him through Delilah (16:19)

Job 30:12 "Upon my right hand rise the youth; they push away my feet... they mar my path, they set forward my calamity". This indicates Job's poor eyesight and how the youth abused him. = This is exactly what happened to Samson. The lad made him dance, according to Jewish tradition, by poking Samson with sticks (16:25,26)

Job 30:17 "My bones are pierced in me in the night season: and my sinews take no rest". = Both Samson and Job came to fellowship something of the Lord's future cross: the unnatural darkness, the pierced bones, the constant ache of sinews: as Samson ground and danced, and as the Lord heaved Himself up and down on His sinews to breathe.

Job 30:19 "He has cast me into the mire (sometimes an idiom for prison), and I am become like dust and ashes" = As Samson in prison came to be like an ordinary man (dust and ashes; 16:11).

Job 30:20 "I cry unto You... I stand up" = Samson cried to Yahweh, standing up (16:28)

Job 30:24 "Howbeit he will not stretch out his hand to the grave" = Samson likewise would have come to the hope of personal resurrection.

According to Samson's appreciation of these links, so he would have reaped encouragement and hope. Job's last words were followed by a final humbling, and then the glorious justification of himself and the judgment of his enemies, to culminate in his future resurrection. One hopes that Samson saw the point and grasped hold of the hope offered. And this is not all. There were other words in Job which would have so comforted Samson at the end: "Behold, God is strong... He withdraws not His eyes from the righteous... and if they be bound in fetters, and be held in cords of affliction; then He shows them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. He opens also their ear to discipline, and commands that they return from iniquity... but the hypocrites in heart... cry not (as Samson did) when He binds them" (Job 36:5-13).  

There is further evidence, from later Scripture, that Samson's zeal was born from the word. A character study of Samson needs to consider what later Scripture implies about him. It seems that Jeremiah was one of several later characters who found inspiration in Samson, and alluded to him in their prayers to God, seeing the similarities between his spirit and theirs:

"O Yahweh [Samson only used the Yahweh Name at the end of his life], You know: remember me [as Samson asked to be remembered for good], and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors ["that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines"]... know that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke [the Philistines doubtless mocked Yahweh as well as Samson]. Your words were found, and I did eat them [cp. Samson loving the word and eating the honey which he "found" in the lion]: and Your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart... I sat not in the assembly of the mockers... I sat alone because of Your hand [Samson's separation from an apostate Israel]... why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable?" [the finality of his blindness] (Jer. 15:15-17). If these connections are valid, Samson's love of the word was a very big part of his life. 

Jdg 16:29 Samson took hold of the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and leaned on them, one with his right hand and the other with his left-
The way he chose to destroy the Philistines at the end by bringing down the posts of their temple (16:29,30) has some connection with the way he chose to take up the posts of Gaza. Perhaps he remembered his earlier failure and repentance in Gaza, and now he was back there (16:21), he repented again and wished to replicate his earlier repentance and victory for the Lord.   

Jdg 16:30 Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines! He pushed with all his might and the house fell on the lords and on all the people who were there. So he killed more in his death than he killed in his life-
Samson's desire to die with the Philistines could be read as suicidal. In this case, he had elements of weakness at the end, and yet he was accepted as dying in faith. Or it could be understood that he wanted to die because he believed that through his death, he would achieve God's plan for taking the gates of his enemies. In this case he would have had the spirit of Christ.

Samson's death was died in faith, and at his time of dying he had been made strong out of weakness, on account of his faith (Heb. 11:32-34). "Let me ('my soul', AVmg.) die with the Philistines" was surely a recognition that in his heart he had been a Philistine, for all his hatred of them and despising of them as uncircumcised, and thus outside the covenant (15:18). It could be that he was too hard on himself. Yet Samson wanted to receive the just desert for his life: to die with the Philistines. His mind may well have been on Scripture as he died, such as Josh. 23:10,11, which spoke of how one man would chase a thousand (he had earlier appropriated this to himself in Jud. 16:7)- if Israel took good heed to their souls (AVmg.). And perhaps Samson realized that he hadn't taken good heed to his soul, and therefore had ultimately been unable to chase a thousand men. And yet he died in faith, even though with a deeply appreciated recognition of his sinfulness. As with Paul and Jacob, deep recognition of personal sinfulness was a feature of their spiritual maturity. And as with Jacob, Job and Moses, Samson seems to have reached a progressively higher appreciation of the Name of God. His calling on Yahweh Elohim at the end, weeping before Him, was the first and only time he ever used that title; and the first time we actually read the covenant Name on his lips (cp. Jud. 15:18). 

Samson's recalls the words of Heb. 2:14,15 about the Lord Jesus: "through death he (destroyed) him that had the power of death". Through His own death, Christ destroyed the power of sin, epitomized in the dead Philistines. Heb. 2:15 goes on to say that the Lord delivered "them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage". Those words are packed with allusions to the time of the judges- Israel in hard bondage to their Philistine masters, living in fear, until judges or 'deliverers' like Samson delivered them from their oppressors. The same great relief which Israel felt after Samson's deliverances of them, can be experienced by us spiritually. The sins, the doubts, the fears which we all have as we analyze our spiritual standing, should melt away when we recall the great deliverance which we have received.

 The final effort of Samson, both to speak and to act, bowing himself (Heb. 'stretching himself out to his full extension') with all his spiritual and physical energy: this was the final effort of the Lord. Again, we see in both how we are lead to a final crescendo of spiritual effort at the end of life, although this may be articulated in various forms.

Samson died with a confession of unworthiness on his lips- in his case, that he deserved to die the death of a Philistine (Jud. 16:30)- but he will actually be in the Kingdom (Heb. 11:32).

Jdg 16:31 Then his brothers and all the household of his father came down and took him, and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the burial site of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel for twenty years-
The way the body was taken up by brave Israelites after Samson's death recalls the action of Joseph and Nicodemus.  It was no accident that he was buried in the very place where his conscience was first awakened (Jud. 13:25); he maybe asked for this burial place, to show he had at last returned to his innocent spiritual beginnings.