The Book of Judges Bible Study: Chapter 16

Judges 16: Samson the Nazirite, and End Time Apostasy

 

By I Gordon

 

Matt 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

 

Introduction

 

In the previous study in this series, we looked at Samson, the last Judge to rule in the book of Judges. And what an interesting character he is! Able to leap small buildings in a single bound, yet we discovered that as Superman had his kryptonite, so Samson had his… Philistine women! The problem however, as we saw, went a lot deeper than that, as on several occasions Samson acted anything but a Nazirite. Now in the last study, we took instruction from Samson’s life mainly for our own individual lives. For this study, the focus will be mainly for the church as a whole, especially as it relates to the last days before Jesus returns for His bride. In many ways this is quite a serious study for Samson is a serious example of serious mistakes[1]. Now before we even get to Samson and Delilah, I want to examine a parable and the message to the last church in Revelation, because they do, in a round about way, relate to the chapter before us in Judges.

 

What’s this woman up to then aye?

 

No, not the woman Delilah just yet because I’m sure we all know what her plans are! I’m talking about the mysterious woman in the parable mentioned at the top of the page. Here is a woman and she puts a tiny bit of leaven into a large amount of flour, until, eventually, the whole dough has been leavened throughout. What does that mean? Have you thought about it before? Leaven in the Bible, from cover to cover, is a consistent type of sin and false teaching, and I believe that this parable is speaking of the corruption and false teaching that would increase and reach it's pinnacle in the last days.[2] If you think this is too ‘negative’ a way to look at the parable I would remind you that it does line up with what Jesus, Paul, and John taught about the end times.[3] It is also not surprising that we see a woman who is introducing this leaven. Its ok, sit down again and put your stones back in your pocket because I’m not being sexist! A parable is a story with symbolic meaning, and as a type, a woman speaks of either the true bride of Christ, or, as I believe in this case, a false bride…a false religious system. We get a glimpse, do we not, of this woman in full control, where the dough has all been leavened and false religion reigns, in Revelation chapter 17? There we see this woman… a woman riding the beast, dominant throughout the earth until this last world leader has no use for her.  

 

The Last Church - The Church of the People’s Opinions.  

 

Before getting onto Samson, I just want to draw your attention to the message given to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14-22. The church in Laodicea gives us a glimpse of what part of the church is like leading up to the return of Jesus.[4]

 

Rev 3:15-20 …I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.  

 

Now, I am sure you will agree with me that the above is one sad commentary! Disturbing, you would even say when you think of how vividly it summarises a lot of churches in the western world today. Let’s look firstly at the attitude within the church and then at Jesus’ response.

 

Firstly, the church was neither cold nor hot... lukewarm. They were a mix of ‘Christian’ religion and worldliness. Because of this compromise, they equated their material wealth and prosperity with spirituality! And oh how ‘spiritual’ that made them think they were! Sound familiar? ‘I am rich’ they would say, ‘and do not need a thing.’ This they would say even to the one who had said ‘without me you can do nothing!’ You can imagine the church today… a flash church, no expense spared, with all the programs and hype that associates itself with such an establishment. Prosperity and giving would be widely preached, but with less and less biblical content of course. The congregation, mainly middle to upper class, enjoy the sermon on ‘the greatest of all sins…a lack of self esteem’! Made them feel good! All the latest techniques, taken from the advertising and marketing world of course, are used to reel the ‘fish’ in! In the eyes of men, it has it all. [5]

 

In the eyes of Him who searches the entire earth looking for those who are fully His, it is ‘wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.’ Their strength in their prosperity, and their lack of need, is their great weakness. So blind are they that they can’t even see they are naked! And worst of all, Jesus is pictured outside of the church, knocking on the door! Not just put to one side… He is fully outside. I’m sure you can now understand why Jesus can’t stand the taste of this type of ‘professing Christianity’. What can He do with them? If they were completely worldly and totally cold to spiritual things, then surely they would see the emptiness of it and be convicted of their need of Christ. But to make ‘worldliness’ a key focus of the church… how can the Lord use such a church?

 

So through unholy alliances, we have seen that false religion and worldliness will increase in the last days. Let us now read the commentary of Samson and learn from the lessons presented to us in his life.

 

It Begins With Ungodly Alliances…

 

Judges 16:1-4 ‘One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her… Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah.’

 

Our study on the later part of Samson’s life starts in Judges Chapter 16, where Samson has gone down into that great Philistine stronghold, Gaza. And why has he gone we ask? To deliver Israel one might hope? I wish he had! No, it was to find a woman… even a prostitute![6] After that, Samson loved another Philistine woman called Delilah. So the chapter begins with an ungodly alliance. Seemed good to Samson but what a mistake it shall prove to be!  

 

Judges 16:5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”

 

Samson may not have known it, but his love of the Philistine Delilah would soon bring about his own demise. Here, in verse five, are the words of the enemy. Read them carefully for they show the intent of the enemy in any age. Samson’s alliance with Delilah was the trap sprung by the enemy to strip Samson of his strength. The ‘Delilah’ the enemy uses today to strip the church of its strength, are the alliances with worldliness and false religion that we have seen at the start of this study. The objective never changes. Hopefully God’s people do! (Compared to Samson)

 

Judges 16:6-9 So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.” Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh thongs that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the thongs as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered. 

 

Now, Delilah is not exactly what you would call subtle is she? You would think that Samson would wonder why Delilah wants to know how he can be tied up and subdued. You would think that he would be smelling an even bigger rat when, after giving Delilah a false answer, he finds himself tied up and attacked by the Philistines in exactly that manner! You would think that Samson would see that she was trying to harm him. But maybe love is blind, as they say. Maybe Samson wasn’t as sharp as he was strong! Or maybe there was an arrogance within Samson that made him think he could play with the enemy and not be burnt. I think that is closer to the truth.

 

Judges 16:10-12 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”  He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.

 

So again he tells Delilah a method in which he can be tied up and weakened. And again he finds himself bound in that manner! Can’t Samson see what is happening? Why so blind? Can’t say I really understand it. Nor, for that matter, can I understand the blindness amongst some prominent Christian leaders in our day who make alliances with the Roman Catholic Church, calling them ‘brothers’ and promising not to evangelise them, when every major Roman Catholic doctrine denies the finished work of Jesus on the cross.[7] This ‘unity’ may look good to man, like it did to Samson, but at the heart of it all, the enemy works, wanting to strip the church of its strength.

 

Judges 16:13-15 Delilah then said to Samson, “Until now, you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.” He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric and tightened it with the pin. Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric. Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 

 

All that needs to be said here is that the longer this alliance goes on, the closer Samson is getting to the truth… and the closer Samson is to losing his strength! Before, Samson just spoke about being tied up but here he finally starts mentioning his hair (which was of course his true strength being an outward symbol of his Nazarite vow to the Lord). Delilah is wearing him down and giving in is becoming easier. Samson is like a moth attracted to the flame, and the longer this union with Delilah carries on, the closer he is to being burned.

 

Judges 16:16-17 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death. So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

 

The NASB says that as Delilah pressed him daily ‘his soul was annoyed to death.’ Kind of feel sorry for the man – that’s pretty extreme nagging! So Samson finally relents and tells Delilah the truth. In so many words, Samson declares ‘I am a Nazarite, separated unto God. That is the source of my strength. The outward sign of my devotion to God is my long hair. If you cut that, you cut my separation unto God and there goes my strength. Without God I am as weak as any other man.’ Have you found that to be true in your life? Have you seen that God Himself is the source of your strength and without Him you are as weak as any other man? The centrality of Jesus is not just an optional extra… He is an imperative! He is our life as the Bible declares - our ‘all in all’.

 

The Fruit of the Ungodly Alliance

 

Judges 16:18-20 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines…Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

 

Oh Samson, you never saw what this alliance would lead to! Like the pride of Laodicea, in his own self confidence Samson thought he would go out and shake the Philistines off like he had previously. He didn’t even know that his strength was gone… or even worse that the Lord had left Him. Concerning the Lord leaving Samson, William Newell writes ‘Oh, sad consummation! Irreparable loss! Unutterable shame! Next to the loss of heaven, most dreadful!’ Likewise, and to their shame, Laodicea didn’t see that their strength spiritually was gone or that Jesus was outside of the church. And remember that Laodicea speaks of the dominant church in our age (in the western world anyway)… Convicting is it not?

 

Judges 16:21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison. But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

 

With the strength of the Lord gone due to his ungodly alliances, Samson is left at the mercy of his enemies. And mercy is not big on their agenda. They put out his eyes and he is reduced to the status of a slave. I don’t want to push the analogy too far, but it is worth noting that Laodicea, having departed from the centrality of Jesus, is also said to have lost her eyesight. She has lost her ability to see and discern things spiritually! Now no one ever starts out with the intention of losing their strength and sight spiritually. Samson certainly didn’t know it would come to this, but it is, nevertheless, the inevitable result of worldly compromise. So is there hope? Of course there is. Samson’s hair is starting to grow again… but it will involve him getting back to first principles as we shall see.

 

Judges 16:23-25 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.” When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands….”  While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.   

 

So a blind enslaved Samson has been reduced to something of a circus freak entertainment show for the Philistines. And did you notice who it is that is getting the praise? Not the one true God of Heaven, but Dagon, a Philistine god. When the church becomes like the world it is the world’s gods that get the praise and it only brings dishonour for our dear Lord.

 

Death to Self Brings Disaster for the Philistines!

 

Judges 16:26-29 …Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform.  Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”  Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 

 

With his hair beginning to grow again, and being in such a place of weakness, Samson asks the Lord for strength just one last time. It is only the second time in the four chapters given to Samson’s life that we read that he prayed to the Lord. (The first being in Judges 15:18 when he again thought he may die.) With all the lords of the Philistines assembled, Samson stretches one hand out to the left pillar, and one stretched out to the right. And through this sign of the cross, like Jesus, Samson would once again be victorious, even through death!

 

Judges 16:30-31 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years.

 

Finally, an end to self! Finally he is willing to die! Of course, it didn’t have to cost him his life physically. If Samson had chosen to die to his own selfish desires and allow God to work through his life earlier, then it wouldn’t have come to this. But at least, at this last hour, Samson came to the end of himself and dies obeying the Lord instead of his own selfish lusts. William Newell in his Old Testament Studies applies this well to our lives writing ‘Yes, at last he chooses death to self, and thus disaster to the hosts of Philistia! And God says, so the dead that he slew at his death were more than he slew in his life.[8] What a lesson for those in Christ! We, as Paul said, are to RECKON that we died with Christ! (Gal 2:20, Rom 6:6,11)

 

Conclusion

 

So Samson is a wake up call for us. It is a call to be alert to the ways of the enemy; a call against compromise and worldliness. It has been prophesied that in the last days difficult times will come. It has been prophesied that many will fall away from the faith and follow after their own lusts. It has been prophesied that the time will come when people will no longer put up with sound teaching.

 

Against these things, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to run the race with endurance, fixing our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us remain true to His word, even if others turn away, and upon His return hear those words ‘well done good and faithful servant.’ It is the King of Kings that you serve.   

 

 



[1] If you have read many of the studies on the Jesus Plus Nothing web site, you will know that I enjoy writing about our ‘common salvation’ (to borrow an expression from Jude 3). Like Jude understood however, there are times when it is necessary to write, ‘appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once and for all handed down.’ This is one of those times.

 

[2] Some say that it speaks of the small beginnings of the gospel and its growth throughout the world. Certainly the Christianity has grown tremendously from such small beginnings so I guess there is an aspect of truth there. But this thought seems to be the main teaching in the parable of the growth of the mustard seed (Matt 13:31). Nor would you say that Christianity has risen to such heights that the world is ‘all leavened’ in that sense. No, the Bible is consistent in its use of the word leaven. From its first mention in Ex 12:15 ‘put away leaven out of your houses’ to its last mention in Gal 5:9 where they were not obeying the truth - ‘A little leaven leavens the whole lump’ - the truth remains the same. Leaven speaks of corruption - sin and false teaching. Also, to confirm that Jesus was using leaven in this way, just think of who Jesus was speaking to… Jews! They had been brought up from day one to know that leaven was prohibited from offerings made to the Lord and because of this, to say that the Kingdom of Heaven was like a woman who hid leaven in the meal would have been a great shock.

 

[3] Jesus spoke repeatedly of the deception in the last days where ‘if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived.’ The Apostle Paul’s last letter, 2 Timothy, is full of instruction about the difficult times in the last days (see 2 Tim 3:1-9, 3:13, 4:3-4). And as mentioned above, John, in Revelation 17 shows this false woman, mystery Babylon, in full swing in the end times. Is it any surprise that we see the different religions joining together in our age? And is it any surprise that the Roman Catholic Church is leading the way in this? And yes, I do believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the woman indicated in Revelation 17. She will head the false ‘one world religion’ I believe. She is the one who clothes herself in purple and scarlet (the official colors worn by Catholic Priests), is drunk on the blood of the saints, and is the city on seven hills. In 1 Peter 5:13, Rome is even called Babylon.

 

[4] There are three ways to interpret the messages given to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Firstly, they were literal churches that existed in the time when John wrote Revelation. That is simple enough… the message was incredibly relevant to them. Secondly, they give us a cross section of the types of churches (with both the commendable points and their errors) that exist in any age of church history. That is why Jesus gave John a message for some pretty obscure churches! So if we take our age for example, you will find churches like Ephesus who have deserted their first love. You will find lukewarm Laodicean churches as well as some evangelistic, commendable ‘brotherly love’ type churches like Philadelphia. Thirdly, as Revelation is a prophetic book, these seven churches give a prophetic overview of Church history for the last 2000 years. Taken like this most believe, for example, that Philadelphia represents the missionary era of approx. 1750-1925. Laodicea represents the last era of approx. 1925-return of Jesus for His bride. So it is with the last church, Laodicea, which we concern ourselves with as it gives a picture of the western church leading up to Jesus’ return.

 

[5] I’m going to an extreme here obviously… in reality the message of Laodicea is probably closer to home than the picture of a ‘church’ which I am giving above. Laodicea speaks to all of us. In fact I could have called this study Samson the Nazarite and End Time Apathy... lukewarm to the things of God. 

 

[6] Time for a hunting lesson don’t you think? The ring tailed monkey is very difficult to catch. Being extremely agile, many hunters have tried in vain to catch this monkey. But the Zulu’s have been catching them for years! For they know that the monkey has a great weakness – melon pips! What the Zulu’s do is cut a narrow slip in a melon, just wide enough for a monkey to slide his hand in sideways. The monkeys can’t resist. They slide their hand in, grab the pips, but suddenly find that they can’t get their hand out once they have made a fist in clinching the pips. Wanting the pips real bad, they don’t even think to let go – and there they stay… trapped! Well, Samson, with his particular type of temptation, was like these Monkeys and from the start of this chapter we learn that he didn’t let go either! It would be a trap that would cause his downfall.

[7] I’m talking about the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I’m sure there are many Catholics who do love the Lord and are saved. But the official teachings of the church are totally against the finished work of Jesus and keep the masses in darkness. You can’t believe in Purgatory, where Catholics believe people go to pay off their own sins, and also believe that Jesus paid the full price on the cross. You can’t believe in the Roman Catholic ‘Mass’, and also believe the declaration in Hebrews that Jesus, having suffered and offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, is now seated at the right hand of the Father. You cannot believe that Mary intercedes for us, let alone worship her, when there is only one mediator between God and mankind – Jesus Christ.

Have a look at this newsletter from ‘The Berean Call’. You can’t help but wonder what will happen to the church when you read of what the next generation of church ‘leaders’ think.

See http://www.thebereancall.org/newsletters/jun02.htm

[8] While so much of Samson’s life can’t be compared to the Lord Jesus (for fairly obvious reasons!) we could at least say that here, in his death, Samson is a small type of the Lord Jesus. The Bible says that Samson accomplished more in his death than he did in his life. So it was in the life of the Lord Jesus. Despite the numerous people whose lives were profoundly changed through the life of the Lord Jesus, it was in his death (and subsequent resurrection) that true victory was obtained for the entire world. Hence the Lord achieved more in his death than he did in his life.