“And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew in his death were move than they which he slew in his life.”
Samson had been a Nazarite; he was no more. His head had been shaved and his strength was gone.
Samson had been an unusual figure in the history of the judges. He was from his birth a Nazarite unto the Lord. The Nazarite in Israel was a person who had taken unto himself the vow of absolute dedication and service to Jehovah God. There were usually three distinguishing marks of this office or position. A Nazarite might not drink strong drink, he might not touch a dead body, and he might, not cut his hair during all of the time he was under the vow. It appears that particularly this latter mark was the distinguishing feature of Samson. He had been appointed a Nazarite from his birth, and so he had never cut his hair. It hung in seven long locks down his back, giving him a very distinctive appearance: It signified that he in his appearance and office had never been formed or altered by any instrument in the hands of man. Without regard for appearance or style, his nature was wholly given to the service of God. Thus he was fitted also to serve as a judge. He represented the cause of Jehovah God over against all the enemies of Israel, and particularly against the Philistines. For the performance of this office, God gave to him extraordinary strength. It was not the strength of an unusually large and powerful physique. It was a miraculous strength given to him by the Spirit of God and which no human force, no matter how large, could ever overcome. In his life was literally fulfilled the promise of Joshua (Josh. 23:10) “One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you; as he hath promised you.” Meanwhile no one was able to do him harm. He was protected in the way of which Psalm 91 speaks, “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” (5-7) This was the life of Samson.
But now all this was changed. It was because of the cutting of his hair. Samson’s Nazarite vow was broken. His appearance was altered so that he no longer bore the distinguishing mark of a man dedicated completely unto God. So his strength had fled him.
It was not Samson’s own doing as such. His hair had been cut secretly by a wicked conspiracy while he slept. But the guilt was his just as much. Following the inclination of his passions, he gave himself into the hands of a wicked and seductive Philistine woman. Even when it became evident that she was determined to find out the secret of his strength and put it to the n test, Samson continued to let his passions be his guide. Under the relentless beguilements of her seductive ways, he finally broke down Andy told her wherein the Secret of his strength did lie. Delilah was a cruel and determined woman. Sadistically she held his sleeping head upon her own knees while a Philistine barber cut his seven locks away. Then with cruel torments she awoke him from his sleep. His strength was gone with the mark of his Nazarite vows. He was as an ordinary man.
At first Samson would not believe it. Through his long years of service under the Spirit of God, he had come to take his miraculous strength for granted. Even though in his mind he must have known better, he had somehow come to feel that no one could really take his strength away no matter what they did. Thus, when Delilah’s tormenting awoke him from his sleep, he lifted himself from her knees and said, “I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself.” But this time it was different. Having betrayed the mark of his office: the Spirit of God was gone, and with Him went His strength.
It was surely a pathetic scene that followed. About Samson swarmed like so many biting flies the wicked Philistines and Delilah, intoxicated with their newfound power. Hardly daring to believe it, like a person I awakening from a dream, they had to try and test the situation over and over again to be sure that it was real. Prodding, spitting, striking with the fist, every humiliation they could imagine to inflict upon him was repeated over and over again to the accompaniment of insane peals of laughter and glee. The pent-up hatred of decades burst forth as a torrent to be racked upon the bowed head of Samson. So often had he walked freely through the land with head erect and confident, knowing that none would dare to stop him. But now he was pushed about as a dumb animal, falling and groveling in the dust at every blow. The mighty man of Israel was fallen, and the Philistines were determined to exact from him the last ounce of cruel joy.
Basically, of course, the hatred which burst forth upon Samson was not as much a hatred for him personally as for the God whom he represented. The Philistines hated the God of Israel; they could not help but do that. He was different. All of the nations had their own gods. They were for the most part gods molded and formed from gold and silver, wood and stone. They were gods which finally could be made in the form which they wanted them to be; but not the God of Israel. From the day that Israel had entered the land of Canaan, He had proved Himself different. To Him belonged a strength and power which defied all competition. The most carefully laid plans of men, and the greatest alliances of earthly gods were equally helpless against Him. Men before Him were rendered helpless. But even more provoking to all was the morality which came with Him. Where the worship of all other gods included the satisfaction of the most carnal desires, the God of Israel rejected such entirely. He demanded that His people live lives which were pure and holy; and really He demanded the same of all other nations also. The constant moral demands which poured forth from Israel irritated and offended the Philistines as well as all of the, other heathen nations. It aroused within them an indignant hatred for the God of Israel.
The result was a unique and unusual degree of competition between Israel and its heathen neighbors, including the Philistines. These nations longed, not only to overcome Israel’s power, but also and especially to undermine its morals. All through the history of Israel we find that there was a very determined effort on the part of the heathen nations to induce Israel to follow them in their idolatrous practices. When they succeeded, as only too often they did, it served for them a double purpose. Jehovah in His anger and judgment would often withdraw His hand from supporting Israel, allowing these heathen nations to overrun the land; and it also soothed the consciences of the heathen to see Israelites following them in their idolatrous practices.
That was where the hatred of Samson entered in. He represented all that the Philistines hated in Israel’s God. Before he appeared on the scene, they had all but succeeded in subduing the national and religious life of Israel. The Israelites were submissively following them in whatever they suggested. Then Samson came, with overwhelming power he demanded that Israel maintain its own distinctive national and religious life. He insisted that the Philistines should be recognized as an infidel heathen nation, unworthy of recognition by Israel. Nor were the Philistines able to do anything to disprove him. With power Samson went throughout the land, doing everything he could to force a complete separation between them and Israel. They were powerless to stop him; but all the time their hatred for Samson and His God mounted within them.
Now they had Samson. They had won over him by the same method they had always succeeded with the children of Israel. They had seduced him through his carnal passions. Now they were ready to gloat in the superiority of their morality, or lack of it, over that of the God of Israel. Now that they had conquered, they were not about to let it be forgotten. Each humiliation they could heap upon Samson was a repudiation of His God. They wanted everyone to know.
The cruel revenge of the Philistines knew hardly any bounds. Having tormented him no end, they finally put out his eyes. Bound in fetters of brass, they took him down to Gaza and put him on public display. Only after the public curiosity was fully satisfied did they place him in the closed prison. But even there they would not allow him to rest in peace. Binding him to a millstone, they forced him to march around and around to grind grain like a dumb animal.
It is hard for us to say just how long this servitude of Samson lasted. We may be sure, though, that the days and months which passed were marked for him by the sorrow of a repentant heart. How he must have relived with grief his unfaithfulness to the great and glorious office which God had given him. Not only had he brought himself to misery, but he had put the name of his God to an open shame. In the place of his pride came a humility greater than he had ever known. And accordingly also there came a gradual change in his appearance. His hair began to grow, restoring the mark of his Nazarite vows.
Meanwhile the Philistines could not be satisfied. We can only imagine how often they came to gloat over the blind Samson silently treading his way around the mill, or took him out to mock and ridicule him in public display. Finally they determined to set aside a day of sacrifice and feasting to their god Dagon, in which Samson would be the feature attraction, for as they said, “Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.”
It was a jovial crowd that gathered that day in Gaza. Thousands came, and Samson was there to be seen by all as they came into the city. With mocking glee they cried in his ears, “Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.” Surely Samson’s heart wept as he heard it.
Finally the throng retired to the temple of Dagon for the concluding feast of wild abandon. Into the temple poured all of the lords of the Philistines, with some three thousand men and women filling the temple and its open roof. Last they called for Samson that they might make sport of him.
By a small lad he was led into the midst of the wicked. The crowd roared with laughter for the meek way in which he now had to follow where only a small lad led him. But to the lad he whispered his instructions, “Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.” It looked like weakness that caused him to lean upon those great pillars; but from his heart there rose one last prayer to heaven, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.”
While the Philistines looked on in amazement, the body of Samson once more began to stand erect as it had in former days. It was too late for them to stop him, nor could they have, had they tried. With all of his might he gathered the pillars into his grasp until they crumbled, and the temple plunged with a mighty roar into ruin. It was a curse for Samson so to die with the wicked. He knew that, for his parting words of humble acknowledgment for his great sin were, “Let me die with the Philistines.” But it was an act of faith. By it more perished with his death than he had ever slain while he lived. God was justified of His enemies.