(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
The above picture represents Samson in the Philistine prison. It says in Judges 16:21 (Contemporary English Version), “The Philistines grabbed Samson and poked out his eyes. They took him to the prison in Gaza and chained him up. Then they put him to work, turning a millstone to grind grain.” It is a sad end to one of the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11:32: “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets.” Samson is the third of six heroes mentioned in this one verse.
How did he end up blind, grinding grain in a Philistine prison? Samson had supernatural strength, and we are told in Judges 16:31, “He…judged Israel twenty years.” But Samson had oversized feet of clay! And his weaknesses and foibles finally did him in!
What were his strengths?
- His was a miraculous birth!
✡ Judges 13:2 – “Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children.” ✡ Judges 13:3 through 5 – “...the Angel of the Lord [the pre-incarnate Christ] appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Indeed...you shall con- ceive and bear a son. Now...be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat any- thing unclean....And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.’” ✡ Judges 13:24 – “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.”
- God endowed Samson with such abundant physical strength that he accomplished feats of miraculous power!
✡ Judges 14:5 through 7 – Near “...the vineyards of Timnah...a young lion came roaring against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart...” with his bare hands! ✡ Judges 14:19 – “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men....” ✡ Judges 15:4 and 5 – When Samson’s betrothed Philis- tine bride was given to another man, he took revenge! He “...caught three hundred foxes...turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a [burning] torch between each pair of tails....[then] he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up... the...grain...the vineyards and olive groves.” ✡ Judges 15:7 and 8 – The Philistines killed Samson’s bride and her family because of her father giving her to someone else. The attack had resulted from Samson burning their fields and orchards. So “... Samson said to them, ‘...I will surely take revenge on you....So [single-handedly] he attacked them hip and thigh with a great slaughter....” ✡ Judges 15:9 through 14 – The Philistines came to ar- rest Samson. So his fellow Hebrews securely tied him up and turned him over to the Philistine soldiers, who received their prisoner with shouts of joy! “Then the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him; and the ropes...became like flax...burned in the fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands.” ✡ Judges 15:15 – Samson “...found a fresh jawbone of a donkey...and took it, and killed a thousand men with it.” ✡ Judges 16:1-3 – He then went down to the Philistine city of Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went into her house to have a good time! The Philistines found out where he was, and lay in wait for Samson all night at the city gate. “And Samson...arose at midnight, took hold of the doors of the gate...and the two gate- posts, pulled them up...put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.”
But Samson’s downfall was Delilah, a beautiful woman who lived in the Philistine territory of the Valley of Sorek. He was in love with her! The five Philistine lords came to her with an offer of 5,500 pieces of silver…if she could find out the secret of Samson’s strength! Three times Delilah coddled an answer from him, and three times he lied to her!
- Judges 16:7 – “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
- Judges 16:11 – “If they bind me securely with new ropes that have never been used, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
- Judges 16:13 – “If you weave the seven locks of my hair into the web of the loom….”
Each time Delilah tested his confession: “Now there were men lying in wait, staying with her….And she said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ ” And each time he snapped the bowstrings, broke the ropes, and pulled apart the loom with his hair still woven around the batten and the web! And Delilah wept and kept bugging him!
You would think he would learn! But ‘love is blind,’ so they say, and Samson was being led to the slaughter like a not-so-innocent sheep! He finally told her…
“No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” (Judges 16:17).
So Delilah lulled him to sleep with his head on her lap. And she called for a barber who stealthily cut off Samson’s hair. “And she said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ ” (Judges 16:20). He jumped up to break free as before… “But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.” (Judges 16:20).
Judges 16:21 (Contemporary English Version) – “The Philistines grabbed Samson and poked out his eyes. They took him to the prison in Gaza and chained him up. Then they put him to work, turning a millstone to grind grain.” That is the visual depiction at the start of this Gem: Samson turning a millstone to grind grain in the prison house!
But Samson had one last victory!
- Judges 16:22 – “However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.”
- Judges 16:23 –“…the Philistines gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god….”
- Judges 16:25 (English Standard Version) – “And when their hearts were merry, they said, ‘Call Samson, that he may entertain us.’ So they called Samson out of the prison, and…made him stand between the pillars.”
- Judges 16:26 – “…Samson said to the lad who held him by the hand, ‘Let me feel the pillars which support the temple, so that I can lean on them.”
- Judges 16:28 – “Then Samson called…‘O LORD God…strengthen me…just this once, O God, that I may…take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!”
- Judges 16:30 – “Then Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ And he pushed [on the two supporting pillars] with all his might, and the temple fell….” The temple was packed with people, and there were three thousand more on the roof watching the antics! All of them died…including Samson!
That ignominiously ended the judgeship of one of the Heroes of Faith listed in Hebrews 11! And Satan used the age-old temptation of sex and self to defeat Samson!
- He did not even try to resist temptation!
- He just did not take the directions of the LORD seriously!
- He gave in to his own thoughts and feelings – and that’s always dangerous!
Running our own life, Jeremiah 17:9 applies: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? ” So to follow our own way is extremely dangerous! (See Proverbs 14:12 or 16:25).
I wonder what Samson could have accomplished if he had really obeyed God!
And I wonder what you and I can accomplish
…if we fully obey God!