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The Pattern for Victory

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JUDGES 16:20


1.        Samson

a.        Threat to Judah

Samson is bound by the men of Judah: “we are come to bind thee, that we may deliver thee…” [15:13].

§        Samson is seen as a threat by his own people: “what is this that you have done…” [15:11].

b.        The Key to Victory  

The Lord is with Samson:  “Spirit of the Lord came upon him…” [15:14].

§        Victory: “slew a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass” [15:16].

§        God’s agenda: “sought an occasion against the Philistines…” [14:4].

§        Samson is established: “he judged Israel twenty years” [15:20].  

c.        Pattern of Deliverance/Personal Crisis

Dependence upon God: “he…called upon the Lord” [15:18].

§        ar'q.Y - “called” [15:18], qal imperfect, ‘cry out’; ‘call attention to oneself’;

i.        Recognition of Role

Samson recognised his God-given role: “thou hast given this great deliverance…servant” [15:18].

§        ^D>b.[ - “your servant” [15:18], ‘to work’; ‘to be a slave/servant to’;

ii.      God’s Deliverance  

His acknowledgement of Yahweh’s deliverance: “you have given this great deliverance…” [15:18].

iii.    Personal Prayer / Dependence upon God

Samson’s dependence upon God:

§        Avert his own death: “now shall I die of thirst…” [15:18].

§        Avoid capture by the Philistines: “fall into the hand…” [15:18].

2.        The Philistine Strategy 1   

a.        Strategy at Gaza

The Philistines ongoing desire to conquer Samson: “we shall kill him” [16:3].

§        God’s agenda: “sought an occasion against the Philistines…” [14:4].

b.        Samson Escapes

Samson is delivered: “he arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate…” [16:3].

§        Remarkable feat given (i) that guardroom structure with its six guardrooms around the city gates (Block, 450), and (ii) there would be six groups of guards present.

§        “If God be for us who can be against us…” [Rom.8:31]; “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” [1Jn.4:4].

c.        Ineffective Strategy

The Philistines are unable to stop Samson: “carried them up to the top…” [16:3].

§        Samson has become a riddle to the Philistines: “entice him, and see wherein…” [16:5].


The pattern of victory for Israel: recognition of God-given role; dependence upon God in prayer; victory by God’s grace/treatment of the enemy.

§        Just like the pattern of Israel’s life, Samson’s life is cyclical: involvement with the enemy; crisis; call to God; deliverance.

§        The riddle remains unsolved: “what is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” [14:18].

  1. the temptation

1.        Occasion

The occasion arises once more through Samson’s disregard for the authority of God’s Word: “he loved a woman…” [16:4].

§         יֶּאֱהַ֥ב  - “loved” [16:4], qal imperfect, ‘identify, choose, embrace, do everything for’;

§         Samson is still controlled by his sight: “every man did that which was right in his own eyes…” [17:5].

§         Unlike the references to his earlier affairs [cf. 14:1; 16:1], for the first time the text omits any reference to Samson “seeing” [14:1]. Whereas previously he had been driven by his senses, now womanising has become a fundamental aspect of his character.

2.        The Strategy 2

The agenda is set by the Philistines: “entice him, and see wherein…” [16:5].

§         פַּתִּ֣י  - “entice” [16:5], piel imperative, ‘to deceive’; ‘to persuade’; ‘to seduce’; ‘to open up, expose’;

a.        The Focus

The focus of the strategy is to discover where his strength lies: “see wherein his great strength lies…” [16:5].

§         רְאִי  - “see” [16:5], qal imperative, ‘to discover or uncover’;

§         כֹּחֹ֣ו  - “strength” [16:5],

i.        Overpower

To overpower him: “prevail against him…” [16:5].

§         נ֣וּכַל  - “prevail against” [16:5], qal imperfect,

ii.      Bind

To bind him up: “we may bind him…” [16:5].

§         אֲסַרְנֻ֖הוּ  - “bind him” [16:5], ‘to tie up’; ‘to confine’; ‘to capture’;

iii.    Afflict

To torture him: “to afflict him…” [16:5].

§         לְעַנֹּתֹ֑ו  - “afflict him” [16:5], piel infinitive construct,

3.        The Source of Temptation

The source of temptation: “the lords of the Philistines…” [16:5].

§        The Philistines had five major cities each ruled by a tyrant [1Sam.6:4].

There are three important principles of temptation embodied in Delilah:

a.        Moral Compromise

Moral compromise always makes us vulnerable. If Samson had not had a sinful relationship with Delilah he would never have been open to this temptation.

b.        Temptation is Attractive

Temptation comes to us in attractive packages. Delilah was a beautiful, attractive woman and Samson wanted her very much.

c.        Temptation & Wrong Company

Temptation comes when we choose the wrong company. Samson had an unfailing ability to choose the wrong girl.


The riddle comes back to the centre of the narrative: “what is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” [14:18].

  1. Implementation of the Plan – temptation  

1.        His Allegiance to God

The first request: “please tell me wherein thy great strength lies…” [16:6].

a.        Samson’s First Answer

Samson’s response: “bind me with seven green withes…” [16:7].

§         יַאַסְרֻ֗נִי  - “bind” [16:7], qal imperfect, ‘to tie up’; ‘to confine’; ‘to capture’;

i.        Details

Seven tendons from an animal freshly slaughtered: “seven green withes never dried” [16:7].

§         יְתָרִ֥ים  - “withes” [16:7], ‘bowstring’[Psa.11:2]; ‘tent cord’ [Job 30:11]; ‘strings of fresh, moist sinews’;

§         לַחִ֖ים  - “green” [16:7], ‘moist, fresh, new’; ‘probably of newly slaughtered cattle’;

§         חֹרָ֖בוּ  - “never dried” [16:7], ‘dried up’; ‘contract and hold fast in drying’;

b.        Significance – Allegiance to God

Samson trivialises the Nazirite vow: “eat not anything unclean…” [13:4].

§         Authority of God’s Word: “he shall come at no dead body…” [Num.6:6].

§         Undried sinews would have been construed as still parts of a corpse. By inviting Delilah to tie him with these, Samson was asking for contact with an object that was unclean for him in particular.

§         The answer raises the question as to where does Samson’s allegiance lie? As a Nazirite his allegiance should always be towards God: “from the womb unto the day of his death…” [13:7].

c.        The Outcome

The outcome: “he broke the withes, as a thread of bowstrings…” [16:9].


Response: “flee sexual immorality…” [1Cor.6:18]; “flee from idolatry…” [1Cor.10:14]; “flee youthful lusts…” [1Tim.2:22].

2.        The Second Attempt

The second attempt: “bind me fast with new ropes that never were used…” [16:11].

§         בַּעֲבֹתִ֣ים - “rope” [16:11], ‘twisted cord/rope’;

§         One metaphorical usage in connection to human moral life: “woe to them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were a cart rope” [Isa.5:18].

a.        The Significance  

The focus and significance: “new ropes that were never used…” [16:11].

§         חֲדָשִׁ֔ים - “new” [16:11], ‘newly made’;

§         נַעֲשָׂ֥ה - “used” [16:11], niphal perfect, ‘no wear and tear from others usage’;

§         The absolute inability of the strongest power in this world to overcome and bind the people of God.  

b.        The Outcome

The outcome: “he broke them off his arms…” [16:12].


3.        The Third Attempt  

a.        Outward Mark

The third attempt: “the seven locks of my head…” [16:13].

§         מַחְלְפֹ֥ות  - “locks” [16:13], ‘braids of hair’; ‘locks of hair intertwined wither with itself or to fasten with other items’; 

§         This was the visible mark of godliness: “no razor shall come upon his head…” [Num.6:5].

b.        Covenant with the World.

The action: “if you weave…” [16:13].

§         תַּאַרְגִ֗י  - “weave” [16:13], ‘interweave thread and yarn’; “My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle” [Job.7:6];

§         הַמַּסָּֽכֶת  - “web” [16:13], ‘web of unfinished stuff on the loom’; ‘the warp threads’; ‘the length-wise threads of a loom fabric’;

§         תִּתְקַע  - “fastened” [16:14], ‘attach an object to a usually larger frame or wall’;

§         בַּיָּתֵ֔ד  - “pin” [16:14], a device to fasten part of the weavings on a loom’;

§         הָאֶ֖רֶג  - “beam” [16:14], translated “weave” in [16:13].

c.        Outcome

The outcome: “he went away with the pin of the beam…” [16:14].


Significant factor: “he awaked out of his sleep…” [16:14].

4.        The Fourth Attempt

The fourth attempt: “if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me…” [16:17].

a.        The Enticement for Control

Delilah was a very persistent woman. Her stubbornness is a reminder that Satan does not give up easily: “how can you say…” [16:15-16].

§         אֲהַבְתִּ֔יךְ  - “I love you” [16:15],

§         לִבְּךָ  - “your heart” [16:15],

§         אִתִּ֑י  - “with me” [16:15],

§         הֵתַ֣לְתָּ  - “mocked” [16:15], hiphil perfect, ‘to deceive’; ‘to make a fool of’;

i.        The Pressure

Samson is under relentless pressure: “she presses him daily with her words…” [16:16].

§         הֵצִ֨יקָה  - “pressed” [16:16], hiphil perfect, ‘to inflict’; ‘to compel’;

§         תְּאַֽלֲצֵ֑הוּ  - “urged” [16:16], ‘speak with insistent words’; ‘to harass’; ‘to torment’;

b.        Submission

Samson at last gives in to Delilah: “his soul was vexed unto death that…” [16:16].

§         תִּקְצַ֥ר  - “vexed” [16:16], literally ‘to be short’; ‘to reach the limit of one’s patience and endurance’;

§         יַּגֶּד  - “told” [16:17], ‘to bring a report’; ‘to inform’;

§         The riddle is explained: “what is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” [14:18].

c.        Confession/Profession

He shares the sacred truth that his strength comes from God: “there has not come a razor upon my head…” [16:17].

i.        The Nazirite Vow

The Nazirite vow: “I have been a Nazirite unto God from my mother’s womb…” [16:17].

§         נְזִ֧יר  - “Nazirite” [16:17], ‘to separate’; ‘a consecrated person’;

§         אֱלֹהִ֛ים  - “God” [16:17], the generic designation of God rather than Yahweh, “Lord”. Accordingly, as far as Delilah is concerned, he could be an ascetic devotee of any god.

§         גֻּלַּ֙חְתִּי  - “shaven” [16:17], ‘to cut off an object from a base’;

ii.      Samson’s Strength

Samson’s strength: “my strength will go…” [16:17].

§         כֹחִ֔י  - “strength” [16:17], ‘strength, power’;

§         סָ֣ר  - “will go” [16:17], qal perfect, ‘turn aside’; ‘change of direction from a course or path’;

iii.    The Result

The result will be that Samson can no longer be distinguished from others: “become weak, and be like any other man” [16:17].

§         חָלִ֥יתִי - “weak” [16:17], ‘to be ill, weak, faint’;

§         כְּכָל־הָאָדָֽם - “be like” [16:17], ‘like the rest of humankind’;

d.        The Outcome

There is now a dramatic shift of power: “Come up this once, for he has showed me…” [16:18].  

§         תָּ֙חֶל  - “began” [16:20], hiphil imperfect, ‘to initiate a process’;

§         לְעַנֹּותֹ֔ו  - “afflict” [16:20], piel infinitive construct, ‘to afflict, oppress, mistreat’;

i.        The Control  

Significant factor: “she made him sleep upon her knees…” [16:19].

§        תְּיַשְּׁנֵ֙הוּ֙  - “made him sleep” [16:19], piel imperfect, ‘be in a state of rest and unconsciousness’;

§        תְּגַלַּ֕ח  - “shave” [16:19], piel imperfect, ‘to cause to shave off’;

ii.      The Result

The result: “his strength went from him...” [16:20].

§         יָּ֥סַר  - “went” [16:20], qal imperfect, ‘to turn aside’; ‘to go from’; ‘change linear direction’;


5.        The Conclusion

a.        Sss

The sleeper awakes: “He awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as before…” [16:20].

§         יִּקַ֣ץ  - “awoke” [16:20],

§         אֵצֵ֞א  - “go out” [16:20], qal imperfect, ‘exit’; ‘to leave an area’;

§         כְּפַ֤עַם  - “as before” [16:20], ‘pattern of behaviour’; ‘previous occurrence’;

§         אִנָּעֵ֔ר  - “shake” [16:20], niphal, ‘what is shaken and departs into another area’;


The tragic theological reality: “he did not know that the Lord departed from him” [16:20].

§         יָדַ֔ע  - “know” [16:20], ‘the knowledge of the intimate relationship’; 

§         סָ֥ר  - “departed” [16:20], qal perfect, ‘to turn aside’; ‘to go from’; ‘change linear direction’;

§         יְהוָ֖ה  - “Lord” [16:20], Jehovah the Lord [Exo.3].

§         מֵעָלָֽיו  - “from him” [16:20], literally ‘from upon him’;


Jesus’ teaching: “give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine…” [.Mat.7:6].

§         The danger: “lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” [Mat.7:6].

§         ‘When we toy with temptation it traps us’;

Overnight this man is transformed from one whose life is governed by sight and whose actions are determined by what is right in his own eyes into a blind man with eyes gouged out: “the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes…” [16:21].

§         Overnight a man with the highest conceivable calling, the divinely commissioned agent of deliverance for Israel, is cast down to the lowest position imaginable: “he did grind in the prison house…” [16:21]. >>> Samson’s sun has set!

§         Samson’s experience is paradigmatic for what happens to Israel when she fritters away her high calling, lives by what is right in her own eyes, and provokes Yahweh to abandon her.

§         If Delilah knew anything about the ascetic Nazirite vow, at this point she must have wondered how Samson could be so casual in his relations with not only foreign women but women of ill-repute.

§         More specifically, she must have wondered how he could allow himself to be defiled by contact with the fresh tendons that had been used to tie him up.

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