And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave of 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.
Twenty years Samson judged Israel in the name of the Lord. He was a Nazarite and the Spirit of God was upon him. His life is given to us as an example of remarkable faith. It is true, of course, that his life was not without the taint of sm. Samson had some very apparent moral weaknesses, particularly in his relationships to women. Such things in his life as his marriage to the godless woman of Timnath and his visit to the harlot of Gaza can never be condoned. In fact, our first impressions upon reading through the life of Samson are apt to be more those of repulsion than of approval. But the Scriptures compel us to go deeper; and then we find that, in spite of Samson’s weaknesses, there was a deeper motivation behind all of these actions which is worthy of the highest recognition. Samson was a man of faith. He loved Israel as the people of God and hated the Philistines as their enemies. His deepest purpose, despite the improper means through which he at times sought to realize it was to broaden the breach between Israel and the Philistines, between the righteous and the wicked. For this his life was approved in. the sight of God and is given to us for an example.
It was at the close of this twenty years, however, that an incident took place which was entirely different. Samson, the representative of God in Israel, was led into a temptation which he could not resist. He fell into a sin for which there was no excusing. Because of it, he was deprived of his office in Israel, as well as his strength, his freedom, his sight, and finally his life. There can be little question as to what the real reason for it was. Samson, as is always the case when the people of God are led into temptation, had allowed himself to become lifted up with pride. In his early years as a Nazarite and a Judge in Israel, he had always realized full well that the extraordinary power which he possessed was purely a gift of God. It was in no sense due to the excellency of his own personal physique or being; but it was the Spirit of God who wrought mightily within him. In this humble awareness he labored. But now, after so many years of possessing this remarkable gift, he had come to, take it for granted. He assumed that strength and power were part of his own nature. His faith had faltered. The dedication to God, typified in his Nazarite vows, remained no longer the moving force of his heart. This the Lord could not endure, and Samson was led into temptation.
This was brought about through what had always been Samson’s greatest weakness, a love for fair and beautiful women. His steps were led to bring him through the valley of Sorek of the Philistines, where he came upon a woman named Delilah; and his heart went out to her. Immediately he began to cultivate her friendship, and his life was taken up in seeking to win her affection. In this there was no faith that was active. He was not moved by any desire to fight the battles of the Lord and to seek an occasion against the Philistines. It was purely a matter of carnal passions which cried out within him to be satisfied. In his heart, he had already forsaken his Nazarite vows.
The Philistines, as usual, were quick to recognize their opportunity, for Delilah was one of them. They had long since learned the futility of trying to prevail over Samson by force. The lessons of Timnath, Lehi, and Gaza were still too vivid within their memories. But it did not mean that their hatred for Samson and the cause which he represented had in the least begun to dim. They were determined to take Samson, if not by force, then by subtility; and for this the passionate love of Samson for Delilah was the opportunity. They needed only her cooperation. Again they knew better than to try to make use of threats and fear as they had with the daughter of Timnath; the consequences of that had proved too, painful. Rather, Delilah’s assistance they gained willingly by offering her a vast reward of money if only she would find for them the secret of Samson’s power. Loving the things of this world, Delilah was more than willing to lay her snare.
The way to her seemed easy. Knowing Samson’s passionate love for her, she returned it, at least in appearance. Samson was captivated. Soon all of his, time and attention was given to Delilah. The infatuation of her charm became his sole concern in life. Passion and lust became his master. This was exactly what Delilah wanted. It gave to her the opportunity for which she was looking. Now she began to draw back from him, teasing and sulking as though she doubted the sincerity of his affections. He had not given her his all. He had withheld from her the deepest secret of his life. So she turned pleadingly to him one day and said, “Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.”
It testifies to the shame of Samson that he was not alarmed at this. It is not likely, after all, that he did not suspect the real source of this question. He had dealt with the Philistines too often and knew them too well not to realize that they were always plotting against his life. In spite of all the feigned motivation, the question was evidently not her own. What interest could she possibly have in binding and afflicting him? Surely he must have seen through that. But Samson was not afraid. So long had he lived safely under the protection of God that he no longer seriously considered it possible that anyone could do him harm. He took the protecting hand of God completely for granted. Thus all that mattered to him now was that he should regain the full affection of Delilah. This he felt he should be able to do with ease by merely pretending to give to her an answer. So he said, “If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man.”
Delilah was undoubtedly jubilant. Here was already the answer which she sought. Not only were green withs or twigs known to be extremely strong, but the answer of Samson reflected the kind of mystical symbolism that was considered so important in that day. The number seven was generally known to be a very important number in the Hebrew nation. It could be seen in the religious observance of every seventh day by the children of Israel, and in the seven locks into which Samson kept his hair divided. In addition, the green withs symbolized the power of nature still unaffected by the hand of man. As soon as possible, she relayed the answer back to the lords of the Philistines and instructed them to bring her the required green twigs. Carefully she laid everything ready while the Philistines hid themselves in eager anticipation behind the curtains of her room. Thus when Samson next appeared she was completely prepared. As though in a spirit of playfulness, she threatened to make Samson her slave by binding him with the twigs; and Samson willingly cooperated. Standing as though helpless, he watched her fuss so carefully in binding the twigs. It was only when she cried out suddenly, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson,” that his reflexes responded naturally by breaking apart the twigs as though they were old ropes weakened in the fire. Delilah had to fight not to reveal her complete dismay; and the Philistines hidden behind her curtains could only wait until Samson was gone so that they might quietly sneak away.
Still Delilah was not ready to give up. The reward which had been offered her was too great and she wanted it too badly. Besides, now she had added grounds for forcing the issue. Samson had lied to her, and she would not let him forget it. Before she would receive him into her favor, she could threaten, he would have to tell her the truth. The next time he appeared, she made it immediately apparent that she was displeased with him. In the weeping way of women she hurled at him her accusation, “Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies; now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound.”
Samson was dismayed. He wanted nothing else but that Delilah should be content and pleased. But she was pressing him concerning the deepest secret of his own existence, and how could it ever be safe with a godless woman as she? He could think; of nothing more than to try to placate her again with another lie. He said, “If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied then shall I be weak, and be as another man.”
Once again Delilah made her preparations; she obtained the needed ropes, and called the Philistines to hide within her room. When Samson next appeared, she was ready to test him. This time any attempt at playfulness and festivity was shallow and unconvincing. There was the tension of two people that did not quite trust each other. As Delilah bound him, Samson did his best to appear helpless beneath the ropes. But long years of conditioning could not refrain from responding to the sudden cry, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson,” and he broke the ropes as thread.
Still a third time the process was repeated all over again. This time Samson answered to her plea, “If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web.” The situation was becoming tense all around. Unconsciously, Samson’s suggestion was coming closer to the true secret of his power. No longer did Delilah dare call the Philistines, nor did she dare to reveal openly to Samson her intentions. She waited until he was asleep and wove his hair into the web. But when her call aroused him, he stood up as always and walked away pin, beam, web, and all.
By now the situation had become extremely tense and frustrated. It was the strong passions of Samson’s nature which brought him back to this plotting woman over and over again. He must have come to realize by this time how evil her intentions really were; but his lust held him ensnared. He was convinced that he could care for himself even before her plotting ways; nor would he seriously believe that the Lord would forsake him in any case. But the persistency of sin won out. The day came when he weakened under her incessant pleading and said, “There hath not come a razor 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.”
Delilah knew immediately that at last success had come to her efforts. Exuberantly she called the lords of the Philistines saying, “Come, up this once, for he bath showed me all his heart,” so that they came with their money in hand. With sadistic joy, she met Samson when he came again and enticed him to sleep with his head on her knees. Quietly a Philistine barber was beckoned and put to work removing the badge of dedication to God from Samson’s head. Only then did Delilah dare to let all of her pent-up hatred for Samson burst forth. Crying, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson,” she began to tease and afflict him.
Samson could hardly believe it. So accustomed, had he become to the Lord’s blessing, he could not believe that it had left him. But it had. He had no more strength left than any other man. He was helpless before the Philistines, debilitated by a woman, and by his own weakness in the way of faith.