SAMSON’S TRUST: WHAT YOU TRUST, YOU RISK (JUDGES 16:4-22).
“After this”, we are told that “he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (Judges 16:4). This sets the stage for the final part of the narrative, where Samson’s ongoing trajectory downhill hits the pits, and he “loves” a woman whose name sounds like the Hebrew word for night. There’s something poetic about this that the writer is also trying to convey.
When the lords of the Philistines knew about Samson and Delilah, they found her and tasked her with finding out “where his great strength lies, and by what means (they) may overpower him” (Judges 16:5). In return for her achievement, they promised to pay her with 5500 pieces of silver. This is no small sum, and she is clearly motivated by this reward (Judges 16:8). Like Samson, Delilah was one who worked towards getting what she wanted. To her, Samson was the means to achieving her financial security. And we’ve already seen how Samson sought his own sexual fulfilment in whoever he could find, and at this point, it was Delilah. Judges 16 exposes the relationship between Samson and Delilah for how fake, shallow and transactional it is.
Delilah proceeds to press Samson to reveal the “secret of his strength” so that someone could overcome him (Judges 6 :6-16). To Delilah and the Philistines, there appeared to be a magical source behind his strength. But as readers we know that God is his strength! He was only strong because the presence and provision of God. Three times Delilah asked, and Samson replied with something false. In each of his answers, we see the repetition of the phrase “become weak and become like any other man” (Judges 16: 7,11,13). Samson thinks about himself as someone unlike other men.
Delilah fails in her first three attempts but in her fourth try, her words seem to have an effect on Samson. She accuses him of mocking her, and not having his heart with her (Judges 16:15). She doesn’t give up, and “pressed him hard with her words day after day and urged him”, until “his soul was vexed to death” (Judges 16:16). In return, Samson “told her all his heart” (Judges 16:17). This section from verses 15 to 18 repeatedly draws attention to the heart and this is important and intentional. The Bible is not just talking about information transfer between two parties, but is talking about the trust and confidence that Samson puts into Delilah. He ignores the fact that she is a Philistine and has tried repeatedly to overpower him. Samson did not heed the command in Proverbs 4:23 to” keep his heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life”.
After baring his heart to her, Samson proceeds to fall asleep “on her knees” (Judges 16″19). He is not fearful or anxious and could fall asleep peacefully in her presence. This is a picture of utmost trust and Samson’s god is effectively Delilah now.
Delilah has someone shave off his locks, and then began to torment him. Samson awoke and initially thought that he could “go out as at other times and shake (himself) free” (Judges 16:20). This is, after all, the fourth time this had happened, and he was clearly brimming with confidence. Unfortunately, he did not know that unlike the previous times, times time, “the Lord had left him” We see here how success can lull us into a false sense of confidence in the self. Samson has surpassing confidence in himself and he has used his strength and power to escape from tricky situations thus far. He thinks that he is unlike other man. In the same way, it is so easy for us to think like Samson does and create exemptions to the rules for ourselves.
Thus, this time, Samson is taken captive (Judges 16:21). He is seized as he no longer has the strength to resist. The Philistines gouge out his eyes, a tragedy especially for one who did everything that he pleased and according to what was right in his eyes. The Philistines also brought him to Gaza, and bound him with bronze shackles. Samson was made to ground at the mill in prison. He had lost everything — his strength, family, confidence, and sight. Samson was a shadow of his former self. Yet, verse 22 sneaks in something for us that hints that this story is not over — “the hair of his head begin to grow again after it had been shaved”.
We know that his power did not lie his hair, but because God was with him and this hints at how God was still using Samson in this narrative.
To be continued …