The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 76
The End of Samson [Judges 16.23-16.31]

 

Scripture (KJV) Judges 16.23-31

23 Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.
24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.
25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.
26 And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.
27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.
28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, 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.
29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.
30 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 at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
31 Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the burying place of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.

 


Commentary


23 Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.—Judges 16.23 (KJV) 
23 Now, the Philistine rulers gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon and to celebrate. They said, “Our god handed Samson, our enemy, over to us.”—Judges 16.23 (GW)

Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them (themselves) together…
The five lords, along with their friends, met together for the purpose of holding a celebration; first, they would sacrifice to their god Dagon (see Article 16.10), and second, they would celebrate the capture of their enemy, Samson. This didn’t happen immediately after Samson’s capture, but it could have been as long as several months to a year.

It was a common practice for heathen nations; that when it was time for their solemn religious festivals, they would bring their war prisoners out from their places of confinement or slavery; and pile on them every kind of indignity, and they would offer their grateful tribute to the gods by whose aid they had triumphed over their enemies. Dagon was a sea idol, usually represented as having a human head and upper parts, while the rest of the body resembled a fish.

Samson's afflictions, particularly blindness and the loss of his strength, were the means of bringing him to deep repentance. By the loss of his bodily sight the eyes of his understanding were opened; and by depriving him of bodily strength, the Lord was pleased to renew his spiritual strength. The Lord permits some few to wander wide and sink deep and yet he gets them back at last, and although He may show his displeasure with their sin through their severe worldly sufferings, He saves them from sinking into the pit of destruction. Hypocrites may abuse these good people, and infidels may mock them, but true Christians will react by becoming more humble, watchful, and cautious; more dedicated to their dependence on the Lord, more fervent in prayer to be kept from falling, and in praise for being preserved; and, if they fall, they will be kept from sinking into despair.

for to get a great sacrifice to Dagon their god…
Later on their god was called Marnas, which signifies the lord of men, but now it is Dagon; who also had a temple at Ashdod, another of the five principalities of the Philistines, [1](1 Samuel 5:2) and at this time Dagon seems to have been their general and principal deity. According to Jarchi, Dagon was worshipped in Gaza as an idol made in the form of a fish; "dag" in Hebrew signifies a fish. Kimchi, when speaking of the same god says that from its navel upwards it was in the form of a man, and from its navel downwards in the form of a fish. Diodorus Siculus relates that Derceto, a goddess of Ashkelon, another of the five principalities of Palestine, said its face was human, and the other part of its body resembled a fish; and Cicero testifies, that the Syrians worshipped a fish, and Porphyry says, because of their god they will not eat any fish. Since Gaza was a maritime city, a sea port, their sea god might have been in the form mentioned above: but Ben Gersom, speaking of Gaza, said it was in the form of a man. However, whatever form Dagon was in, the Philistine princes met together to sacrifice to him and it was not a common offering, but a great sacrifice. It is very probable that this was a public festival of the Philistines, as Josephus says, an anniversary (one was held every year); and perhaps, on this occasion it was held in a more grand manner, due to the presence of their greatest enemy, Samson.

How disrespectfully the Philistines insulted the God of Israel, by the sacrifices they offered to Dagon, his rival. This Dagon they call their god, a god of their own making, represented by an image, the upper part of which was in the shape of a man, the lower part of a fish, purely a creature of some man’s imagination; yet it served to inflate their national pride to set up their god Dagon in opposition to the true and living God. To this fake deity they ascribe their success (Judges 16:23, 24): Our god has delivered Samson our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, into our hands. They knew Delilah had betrayed him, and they had paid her generously for doing it, yet they attribute Samson’s capture to their god. All people will walk in this way to pay tribute to the name of their gods: they will give them praise for their achievements. Shouldn’t we pay this kind of tribute to our God whose kingdom rules over all? Yet, considering what wicked tricks they used to get Samson into their hands, it must be asserted that only such a dunghill-deity as Dagon was fit to be made a sponsor of such evil behavior. Sacrifices were offered, and songs of praise sung, on the general thanksgiving day, for this victory obtained over one man; there were great expressions of joy, and all to the honor of Dagon.  We have so much more to be thankful for and many more reasons to give the praise for all our successes to our God. Thanks be to him who causeth us to triumph in Christ Jesus!

Article 16.10: Dagon
DA´GON (a fish), apparently a masculine god, 1 Sam. 5:3, 4, and mate of Atargatis, was the national god of the Philistines since their arrival in Canaan. "The god Dagon had been worshipped along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean long before the coming of the Philistines, but, like the Israelites who adopted the worship of the Baals, the Philistines adopted that of Dagon, and he was worshipped throughout the country." The most famous temples of Dagon were at Gaza, Judges 16:21-30, and Ashdod. 1 Sam. 5:5, 6; 1 Chron. 10:10. The latter temple was destroyed by Jonathan in the Maccabæan wars. Traces of the worship of Dagon likewise appear in the names Caphar-dagon (near Jamnia) and Beth-dagon in Judah, Josh. 15:41; and Asher, Josh. 19:27. Dagon was represented by all the great writers as half man and half fish. The fish-like form was a natural emblem of fruitfulness, and as such was likely to be adopted by seafaring tribes in the representation of their gods.
Dagon is derived from a Hebrew word for “fish,” dag. The description of Dagon, in his temple at Ashdod is given in 1 Samuel 5:4, which exactly agrees with the representations of a fish-god on the walls of Khorsabad, on slabs at Kouyunjik, and on various antique cylinders and gems. In these the figures vary. Some have a human form down to the waist, with that of a fish below the waist; others have a human head, arms, and legs, growing, as it were, out of a fish's body, and so arranged that the fish's head forms a kind of mitre (a type of headwear similar to that worn by Eastern priests) to the man's head, while the body and fins form a kind of cloak, hanging down behind. The fish was a natural emblem of fertility and productiveness, especially to a maritime people. The fish-shaped idol is found upon old Phoenician coins, and on some Assyrian gems in the British Museum. The superstition of the Philistines ascribed great honor to Dagon, whom they hailed as, "The father of Baal."
The Philistines credited their new acquisition (Samson) to their god Dagon as a victory over Yahweh of the Hebrews. So the lords of the Pentapolis (the 5 principle cities of the Philistines) gathered at Gaza for a great feast to praise their god. In Ugaritic literature he appears as the father of Baal. Dagon appears in name forms as early as the third millennium B.C. It is interesting to note the Philistines believed that by grinding out the grain, Samson was acknowledging the supremacy of their god, Dagon, over him!

and to rejoice: for they said, our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hands…
The captivity of this dreaded hero was regarded by the Philistines as a great victory, which their princes resolved to celebrate with a great and joyous sacrificial festival in honor of their god Dagon, to whom they attributed this victory. There was to be "a great sacrifice," in which a large number of slain sacrifices would be offered up to their god; and that would be followed by a grand feast.

Although Samson's harlot had done it, and they had paid her for it, yet they attribute the capture of their great enemy to their god. This shows their blindness and stupidity; and yet it may shame us believers in the true God, who are so shy when it comes to giving thanks and praise to him for the great things he does for us, when such Heathens were so willing to give glory to their false deities, without any basis for it.

Samson may have justified his sin in his own mind by thinking he was only hurting himself. But his disobedience led to the giving of glory to false gods—he was their trophy. The message preached by the followers of Dagon was clear: "our god is stronger than the God of Israel, because we have conquered Samson." How often has the disobedience of God's leaders led many to doubt our God!

 

______________verse 23 notes___________________

[1](1 Samuel 5:1, 2; KJV) 1 And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. 2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.


24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.—Judges 16.24 (KJV)
24 When the people saw him, they praised their god. They said, “Our god gave our enemy, destroyer of our land and killer of so many, into our very hand!”—Judges 16.24 (GW)

And when the people saw him…
Samson is put on display for the people. Rulers and people alike praised Dagon; as Belshazzar did his god, [2](Daniel 5:4). They had heard so much about his great exploits, but now that he has been blinded and put in chains, he was a pitiful image of his former self. All the people took part in this festival, and sang songs of praise to the god who had given into their hands the enemy, who had laid waste to their fields and slain many of their countrymen.

The people saw him; not only on the occasion of his being brought into the temple as mentioned in ver. 25, but after his capture, and whenever they saw him grinding in the mill or at work elsewhere.

It was this universal ascription of praise to Dagon that led to the celebration of this great feast. This praise of Dagon is also dwelt upon to show that God, in what happened, vindicated the glory of his own great name, which was blasphemed by the servants of Dagon when they made their god superior to Jehovah. So Milton makes Samson say, “All the contest is now ‘Twixt God and Dagon .... He, be sure, will not connive or linger, thus provoked, but will arise, and his great name assert.”

The people sang hymns and songs composed for them to show how universally the capture of Samson was ascribed to Dagon, the substance of which was as follows:

or they said, our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country…

He damaged the country of the Philistines, by tying firebrands to the tails of three hundred foxes, and letting them go into their cornfields, vineyards, and olive yards.

{"Our god hath delivered into our hand our enemy"} This part of verse 24 has a number of lines in the Hebrew which have the same ending, apparently indicating some kind of a chant or song which the multitude were singing in honor of Dagon. Dalglish has attempted an English equivalent of this in the following:

"He has given, the god of us,
Into our hands the enemy of us,
Ravager of the land of us,
Multiplier of the slain of us."

The great thing in this passage, as pointed out by Hervey, is that the true God was blasphemed by this huge festival in honor of Dagon, in which they, "Made Dagon superior to Jehovah." Milton picked up this tremendous significance in his immortal lines from "Samson Agonistes": "All the contest is now twixt God and Dagon. He, be sure, will not connive, or linger, thus provoked, but will arise and his great name assert." God did indeed assert his superiority immediately after this.

which slew many of us…
The Hebrew is “and who multiplied our slain.” He killed thirty men at Ashkelon, more at Timnath, and 1000 with the jawbone of an ass at Lehi.

______________verse 24 notes___________________
[2](Daniel 5:4; KJV) They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. They had gods of all sorts, and of all metals; with wooden gods, and stone gods, beside!—Adam Clarke's Commentary

 

25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.—Judges 16.25 (KJV)
25 When all the Philistines were enjoying themselves, they said, “Call Samson in to entertain us.” Samson was called from the prison, and he made them laugh. They made him stand between two columns. —Judges 16.25 (GW)

And it came to pass when their hearts were merry…
They would not have acted as carelessly as to bring Samson out of his prison, unless their judgment was clouded with drink. Gaza was made famous by many writers for its festive lifestyle; their feasts and celebrations included eating, drinking wine, dancing, and music. It was common practice for the Heathens to feast in their temples, and no doubt they would on such an occasion as this.

and they said, call for Samson, that he may make us sport…
It was said before "when the people saw him", (Judges 16:24). They may have seen him at a distance or working at the mill so there was probably great anticipation among the population of Gaza to see him up close, where they could taunt him and abuse him. At the time he was not in the temple, but in the prison; and therefore a motion was made by some of the chief city dignitaries that he be brought from the prison to the temple, and that he be forced to entertain them.

and they called for Samson out of the prison house…
And it came to pass, when their hearts were made merry with wine, that they sent some messengers to the prison house to take charge of Samson and bring him to the temple, so that he may make us sport.

and he made them sport…
The Philistines’ great mistake was in thinking that their god had delivered Samson into their hands (vs. 23). Yahweh could not permit this illusion. He had delivered His faithless servant into their hands, but He would find one more occasion to pit Samson against the Philistines. At the peak of the revelry of the feast to Dagon, they called for Samson to make us sport, or entertain them. Every Philistine could dare to mock and curse the helpless blind hero who was made to put on a performance for the crowd.

It has been supposed that Samson performed some unusual demonstrations of physical strength, but, since Jehovah had not yet come upon Samson, we are inclined to doubt that explanation. God would indeed use Samson again on this occasion, but that would be later on; it would come after Samson returned in his heart to the Lord and began to pray.

We don’t know how Samson reacted or if he did anything at all, but, surely, a man with such a great spirit as this hero, and who was in such dire circumstances as he was, would never, either by words or gestures, do anything on purpose to entertain his enemies, and make them laugh. Certainly, he was the object of their cruel games and contempt, and he put up with it patiently; he endured their cruel mocking, pummeling, and spitting; and by doing so, he was a type of Christ. It was an amusement to them to see him in his rattling chains, groping, and stumbling along from post to pillar.  Perhaps one of them gave him a blow to the ear, or a slap on the face, another pulling him by his nose or beard, and another spitting in his face, and others taunting him, and hurling accusations at him. It was a sign of their barbarity to trample upon a man in misery; especially this man, whom just a while ago they would have trembled at the sight of him. It put Samson into the depth of misery, and he felt like there was a sword in his bones, when they said, “Where is your God now?” Nothing could be more heinous to so great a spirit; yet, being a repentant, his godly sorrow makes him patient, and he accepts the indignity as the punishment for his sin.

Regardless of how unrighteous the Philistines were, he was convinced that God was righteous. In the past, he had made sport of others; therefore, the Philistines are justified in making sport with him. Uncleanness is a sin that makes men vile, and exposes them to contempt. Everlasting shame and contempt will be the portion for those that are blinded and bound by their own lusts.

and they set him between the pillars…
Samson was probably outside the temple where he could be seen by those on the roof; but, when they were done making sport of him, they brought him inside and they set him between the pillars, so he could be easily seen by most of the crowd. They believed they were in control, but things were happening and it was Providence (divine influence) that brought about what follows.

pillar—The word pillar refers to an architectural element that supports a roof. Use of pillars was common in the Near East long before the time of Abraham. Pillars were usually made of wood or stone. References to pillars as a part of a building occur throughout the Old Testament but not in the New Testament.

Wooden pillars were a prominent part of the tabernacle (Ex. 27:11; posts, NIV). But the only mention of pillars in the construction of Solomon’s Temple were the two that flanked the main entrance (1 Kin. 7:15–22). Solomon built a “Hall of Pillars” as part of his palace complex (1 Kin. 7:6). A famous reference to pillars occurs here in Judges 16:25–30, where Samson brought down the roof of a pagan temple by knocking out two key pillars. Excavators have found the remains of a Philistine temple that had two pillars close to each other, probably like the ones Samson pulled down

 

26 And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.—Judges 16.26 (KJV)
26 Samson told the young man who was leading him by the hand, “Let me rest. Let me touch the columns on which the building stands so that I can lean against them.”—Judges 16.26 (GW)

And Samson said to the lad that held him by the hand…
Their mocking of Samson is complete, as revealed by the fact that he was led by a boy; they don't need their strongest guards to control Samson—a little boy will do. This confirms for me what I have believed from the beginning; that Samson was not a muscle bound man who was naturally strong; his strength was truly supernatural, not natural.

suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth…
He might have known the structural details of this temple from information he had received or from personal knowledge of similar structures; that it was supported by pillars; and he might understand, by some means or another, that he was near these pillars, and placed between them. But, since he was blind, he did not know which way to move, for him to be able to touch them, as he planned to do, and therefore he asked the young man to guide his hands towards them.

Samson may have said something like this to the boy, "let me rest, and let me feel the pillars, that I may lean upon them." He pretended to be weary from the rough treatment he had just undergone at the hand of his enemies, and he asked if he could rest himself by leaning against the pillars. Spectators were on the flat roof, as well as under it. The lords and most important persons sat UNDER the roof, while the people, 3,000 according to the author, stood ON the flat roof. All the weight of the spectators and the structure rested upon the two pillars that Samson was now able to touch.

that I may lean upon them;
He was weary or at least he pretended to be. Josephus says; “either by grinding at the mill, or through being led to and fro in this house, that all might see him, and cast their flouts and jeers at him.”

 

27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.—Judges 16.27 (KJV)
27 The building was filled with people. All the Philistine rulers were there. On the roof there were about three thousand men and women who watched Samson entertain them.—Judges 16.27 (GW)

Now the house was full of men and women…
The purpose of this verse is to stress the size of the crowd. It was a "capacity" audience and then some. The three thousand people on the roof seem to have been a very unusual accommodation for such a building. It was either the prison-house, house of assembly, or a temple of Dagon, raised on pillars, open on all sides, or flat-roofed, so that it could accommodate a multitude of people on the top; but, I, for one, believe it was probably the pillared temple of Dagon. The lords and rulers were in the covered section below, while the crowd of guests was upon the roof watching Samson in the courtyard below. Cundall (p. 180) notes that the great host of people upon the roof may have made the whole structure unstable. After the performance, Samson was led by a young boy, and then he was chained to the pillars just under the edge of the roof. The details of the temple’s structure are unknown, for that reason we don’t know exactly how pulling out two pillars could collapse the whole structure. Such pillars, though, were common to Philistine temples (see Article 16.11) built around courtyards. A recent discovery of a Philistine temple at Tell Qas in 1972 revealed that the structure was made of sun-dried mudbricks arranged as stone foundations, with a central hall whose roof was supported by two wooden pillars set on round stone bases, proving that the Bible writer knew his facts. See “Samson and the House of Dagon,” Bible and Spade, 3.2 (1974), p. 5.

Article 16.11: Temple
TEMPLE — a building in which a god (or gods) is worshiped. The Old Testament describes temples as some of the oldest buildings ever constructed. The Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:4) is the first recorded example of a structure that implies the existence of a temple, although this tower was not a temple itself. A temple was thought of as the building where the god manifested his presence, so the place the temple occupied was holy, or sacred. Because the god was thought to dwell in the temple, the Old Testament had no specific word for temple. It refers instead to the “house” of a deity.

Abraham was from Mesopotamia, where each city had a temple for its patron god. The Mesopotamians believed that the god owned their land, that the king was the vassal of the god, and that the land had to be blessed by the god in order to be fruitful. Their religious practices were, in part, designed to win the god’s favor.

Several Canaanite temples are mentioned in the Old Testament. They include the temples of the god Berith in Shechem (Judg. 9:46) as well as Dagon in Ashdod (Judg. 16:23–30; 1 Sam. 5:2–5; 1 Chr. 10:10) and in Beth Shean (1 Sam. 31:12).

and all the lords of the Philistines were there…
Their five lords were these: the lords of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron.

and there were upon the roof three thousand men and women…
This building may have been similar to the spacious and open amphitheaters well known among the Romans and still found in many countries of the East. They are built entirely of wood. The standing place for the spectators is a wooden floor resting upon two pillars and rising on an inclined plane, so as to enable all to have a view of the area in the center. In the middle there are two large beams, on which the whole weight of the structure lies, and these beams are supported by two pillars placed several feet apart, so that when these are pulled out of place, the whole pile must tumble to the ground.

Note that this temple had a roof, which is not part of the structure just described. Therefore, I believe what we have here is a building with a flat roof, and similar to the houses in Canaan and Phoenicia, and there might be some openings or windows in several parts of it, through which the people might be able to see what was going on below them; In this case they could watch the torment that Samson received from his Philistine captors.

Of course, as we have said before, we can’t know for sure what this temple of Dagon was like.

that beheld while Samson made sport;
When they were cheerful, feeling secure, and fun-loving from wine and the entertainment Samson provided, they didn’t think they were in any danger. When they saw Samson take hold of the pillars, we may suppose that the spectators laughed and made sport of him over that too. What will this feeble Jew do? How are sinners brought to depression and misery in a moment! They are lifted up in pride and merriment, so that their fall may be even more dreadful. Let us never envy the delight of wicked people, but we can infer from this occasion that their victory is short lived and their joy but for a moment.

The Philistine crowd was praising Dagon their god, and giving that honor to him which is due to God only, which is no less than treason against the King of kings, his crown and dignity. Therefore, it was justice served when the blood of these heathens was mingled with their sacrifices. Belshazzar was cut off when he was praising his man-made gods, [3]Daniel 5:4.

Many in the crowd that day were making sport with an Israelite, and insulting and abusing him, whom God loved. Nothing fills the measure of the iniquity of any person or people faster than mocking and misusing the servants of God, yes, it is through their own foolishness that they are brought low. Those that make sport with a good man don’t know what they are doing, or whom they offend.

________________verse 27 notes__________________
[3](Daniel 5:4; NKJV)  They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. They had gods of all sorts, and of all metals; with wooden gods, and stone gods, beside!—Adam Clarke's Commentary

 

28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, 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.—Judges 16.28 (KJV)
28 Then Samson called to the LORD, “Almighty LORD, please remember me! God, give me strength just one more time! Let me get even with the Philistines for at least one of my two eyes.”—Judges 16.28 (GW)

And Samson called unto the Lord…
This is the first mention we have of Samson praying since the memorable occasion when he gave the fountain the name of En-hakkoreh [4](Judges 15:19). Perhaps we may see in this, evidence that his affliction and shame had not been without their effect, in bringing him back to God, humbled and penitent. The language is very earnest. “O Lord, Jehovah, remember me strengthen me only this once, O God!” The threefold name by which he addresses the Almighty implies great tension of spirit. It was the outcome of his faith in God that strengthened him and enabled him to overthrow his enemies and the enemies of his country and that he is mentioned in [5]Hebrews 11:32, among those who were remarkable for their faith.

He prayed in an articulate  manner, within himself,  by mental prayer; though he might possibly have expressed it aloud, without being observed by the people or heard over the noise of the crowd; but, if it was heard, it might only cause more ridicule and contempt; be that as it may, the prayer must have been preserved by the Lord himself, and given by inspiration to the writer of this book; since there were none that heard it that lived to relate it to others, no, not Samson himself.

In this prayer he mentions only his personal injury, and not those indignities done to God and his people; he had done the same in the past, causing the rage of the Philistines to fall upon him alone, and diverting it from the people. That is why some believe this prayer was made with an audible voice, and he knew they would greet it with scorn and laughter.

It should be noted that this prayer was not an act of hatred and revenge, but of faith and zeal for God, who was publicly dishonored on this occasion; and Samson was justified, in vindicating God and the whole common-wealth of Israel, which was his duty, as Israel’s judge. And God, who heareth not sinners, and would never use his omnipotence to gratify any man's wickedness, did show by its result that his prayer was approved and accepted by God. He must be considered, in fact, as dying for his country's cause. His death was not designed or sought, except as it might be the inevitable consequence of his great effort.

and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee…
He is saying, “Lord remember the office that I have as judge of Israel, the vile allegations cast upon me, and which fall upon thy people; remember your loving-kindness, formerly expressed to me, the gracious promises made to me, and the help and assistance I have had from you.”

and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God;
It was a prayer of faith, and the proof of it is that it was heard, accepted, and answered; and it shows that his strength did not come from his hair, but was due to the LORD immediately giving him strength.

All three of these names for God; LORD, Yahweh, and Jehovah were used in Samson's appeal, which is another proof, along with a thousand others, that multiple names of God are not an indication that there were others that also prayed; rather “The three-fold name by which Samson addresses God implies great tension within his spirit. The language he uses is very serious.”

The liberal writers who slickly assign this narrative to "editors," or "compilers," should explain to us how anyone except an inspired writer in possession of the Spirit of God could have revealed this dying appeal of Samson. The inspired Samuel could have done it, but who else?

that I may be at [6]once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes;
Samson’s’ request was “once and for all, that he may take his final vengeance on them for the loss of his two eyes. This was said not from a private spirit of revenge for personal injuries; but as a civil magistrate, a judge of Israel, whose office it was to execute revenge and wrath; and though he only mentions his eyes, yet he suffered more than their loss; he had to endure every other indignity and injury, as a public person, the common enemy of the Philistines, and destroyer of their country, and protector of Israel; and in this character he now acted.

That I may be at once avenged means with one stroke — he would take one vengeance, but it would be so terrible that it would be sufficient payment for the loss of his two eyes. These words do not breathe the spirit of the Gospel, but they express a sentiment that was natural to the age, knowledge, and character of Samson. This shows how painfully Samson felt the loss of his two eyes; however, if Samson could have kept those precious eyes off of the immoral women that he met, he might have been able to keep them until his life ended.

______________verse 28 notes___________________
[4](Judges 15:19; GW) So God split open the hollow place at Lehi, and water gushed out. Samson drank some water. Then he was refreshed and revived. So he called the place En Hakkore [Spring of the One Who Calls Out]. It is still there at Lehi today.
[5](Hebrews 11:32, 33; KJV)  And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:  Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
[6] according to my calling which is to execute God’s judgments on the wicked.

 


29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.—Judges 16.29 (KJV)
29 Samson felt the two middle columns on which the building stood. With his right hand on one column and his left on the other, he pushed hard against them.—Judges 16.29 (GW)

And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars, upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up…
Some have raised the objection, that a building as large as this one could not be supported by two pillars, especially if they were placed in the middle, and so near to each other that Samson could take hold of both of them at once; and lean on them. On the other hand, it has been observed, that we know very little about the architecture of the ancients, and they might have had remarkable and ingenious building arts that have been lost in the ages; but several authors have taken notice of two Roman theatres built by Curio, that held abundantly more people than this temple did, which were supported only by a single pin or hinge, as Pliny relates; and the famous Westminster hall, which was built by William Rufus, and is two hundred and seventy feet long, and seventy four feet wide, and has the largest roof in all of Europe, is supported without any pillars at all.  Add to all of that the mention being made of the two middle pillars of this temple, and it leads one to suppose that there were others in other parts of it, though these were the main ones, on which the weight of the building was supported.

A lot of time and labor has been lost, as many have attempted to prove that a building like this could stand on two pillars. But, how useful is it? There might have been as many pillars here as were in the temple of Diana at Ephesus.  There could have been four pillars at the front, four at the back, and two along each side; and yet the two centre pillars could be the key of the building; once these have been pulled down, the whole house would collapse.

of the one with his right hand, and the other with his left…
We are not told how long he stood with his arms stretched out, like Jesus on the cross, of which he was a type, which is often pointed out.

 

30 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 at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.—Judges 16.30 (KJV)
30 “Let me die with the Philistines,” he said. With that, he pushed with all his might, and the building fell on the rulers and everyone in it. So he killed more Philistines when he died than he had when he was alive.—Judges 16.30 (GW)

And Samson said, let me die with the Philistines…
He desired their death, and was content to lose his own life in the process, and the reason was that he sought to extract vengeance from them; but in his actions to accomplish his desires he did not act the part of a criminal. He was a judge of Israel; therefore, from a public spirit he might desire the death of their enemies, and seek to cause it by all means possible; and he was more justified at this point than at any other time, because they were not only insulting him, the representative of his nation, but were offending the most high God with their idolatries; even now, they were in the temple of their idol, and sacrificing to him. Nothing fills up the sins of any person or people faster than mocking and misusing the servants of God, even though it is by their own recklessness that they are brought low. God put it into Samson's heart, as a judge of Israel, to take vengeance on them for God's quarrel, Israel's, and his own. That strength which he had lost by sin, he recovers by prayer. Thus we know that Samson did not act from passion or personal revenge, but from holy zeal for the glory of God and Israel, because God accepted and answered his prayer.

As for his own death, he did not simply desire to die, but he could not be avenged on his enemies without dying in the process. He was willing to submit to his death, yet he did not lay hands on himself, and cannot be charged with being guilty of suicide, and in the end, he did no more than what a man of valor and public spirit would do. It was for the good of his country that he was willing to expose his life to danger, and for their sake he will engage in a desperate enterprise, when he knows for certain that he must perish in it. Besides, Samson said let me die with the Philistines, and did what he did under the direction and influence of the Spirit of God; and in this he was a type of Christ, who freely laid down his life for his people, so that he might destroy his and their enemies.

Let me die with the Philistines, was Samson's prayer for God to allow him to die; since that appears to be the only way out of the terrible disgrace into which he had fallen. God did hear Samson, and God answered his prayer. David, who, when he had provoked the Spirit of grace to withdraw from him, prayed, Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit (Psalms 51:12).  We may suppose that this was only a mental prayer, and that his voice was not heard (for it was made in a noisy rowdy crowd of Philistines); but, though his voice was not heard by men, his prayer was heard by God and graciously answered, and though he didn’t live to give an account himself and of this his prayer, as Nehemiah did of his, yet God not only accepted it in heaven, but, by revealing it to the inspired penmen, provided for the recording of it in his church. He prayed to God to remember him and strengthen him this one time, thereby acknowledging that the strength to do what he had already done had come from God, and he begged for that strength once more, to give them a parting blow. Samson died praying, so did our blessed Savior; but Samson prayed for vengeance, Christ for forgiveness. Samson should be classified as a hero, who saw that it was necessary for him to plunge into the midst of his enemies with the inevitable certainty of death, in order to bring about (long after his death) the deliverance of God's people and to demonstrate the superiority of Jehovah. Remember, when God selected him as a judge of Israel, He said that Samson would BEGIN to deliver Israel.  

If Samson had survived, he would have still been a slave of the Philistines, grinding at the mill, led around by the hand, the laughing-stock of his enemies. The mercy of God granted deliverance from the continuation of that fate for Samson.

and he bowed himself with all his might…
The humiliating consequences of Samson’s sin must certainly have caused him to do some serious thinking and had probably moved him to repentance. The very fact that he prayed to the Lord gives some evidence of spirituality. After he had prayed to the Lord for strength for this last great deed, he embraced the two middle pillars upon which the building was erected, leaned heavily upon them, one with his right hand, the other with the left, and said, "let me die with the Philistines." That is, I am content to die, so I can contribute to the vindication of God's glory, and the deliverance of God's people. This is no encouragement to those who wickedly murder themselves: for Samson did not desire, or procure his own death voluntarily, but by mere necessity; he was by his office obliged to seek the destruction of these enemies and blasphemers of God, and oppressors of his people; which in these circumstances he could do nothing without his own death. At this instant the Lord gave him fresh strength, and a large measure of it, and therefore, he made the attempt for which he is reckoned among the heroes for faith in [7](Hebrews 11:32).
and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein…

Samson’s final act occurred in an open court, where Samson was humiliated and forced to perform publicly. Ancient Near Eastern temples had similar constructions in which a covered portion overlooked the court. The roof was supported by wooden pillars placed on stone foundations. Some 3,000 spectators were on the roof (v. 27). One final burst of strength enabled Samson to push the large columns off their foundations, and the roof collapsed, killing three thousand who were on the roof and all those below, including Samson himself; a symbol of the destruction of Satan, and his principalities and powers, by the death of Christ. God had responded to Samson’s prayer (v. 28).

The God of Israel was justified for the sudden destruction He brought upon them by the hands of Samson. Thousands of the Philistines had got together with their lords, to celebrate the capture of Samson and sacrifice to their idol god, Dagon; and along with the joys of this day, to be the spectators of this comedy that was Samson; but it proved to be a fatal tragedy for them, for they were all slain, and buried in the ruins of the temple.

So far as the fact itself is concerned, there is no ground for questioning the possibility of Samson's bringing down the whole building with so many men inside by pulling down two middle columns, since we have no accurate knowledge of the style of its architecture. In all likelihood we have to picture this temple of Dagon as resembling the modern Turkish kiosks, namely as consisting of a "spacious hall, the roof of which rested in front upon four columns, two of them standing at the ends, and two close together in the centre. Under this hall the leading men of the Philistines celebrated a sacrificial meal, whilst the people were assembled above upon the top of the roof, which was surrounded by a handrail or fence."  God never forsook Samson, even when he was disobedient. God's mercies were even there in a Philistine prison; all Samson had to do was turn his heart back towards God and receive them.

so the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life…
In addition to the lords that were in the house, there were 3000 men and women on the roof, which fell in, and they lost their lives also, so it is very likely there were at least 6000 or 7000 killed; Philo Byblius says 40,000, which is not probable. Comparing those figures to the men he killed in his life, we only read of 1000 slain by him with the jawbone, besides thirty men at Ashkelon, and the slaughter made when he smote hip and thigh, the number of which is not known.

The God of Israel could not permit His enemies and their idols to gain a victory over His champion. The Lord must prove to them, even through Samson's death, that the shame of his sin was taken away from him, and that the Philistines had no ability to triumph over him. Thus Samson gained the greatest victory over his foes in the moment of his own death. He may have been the terror of the Philistines while he was living, but he became a destroyer of the temple of their idol when he died. Through this last act of his he vindicated the honor of Jehovah the God of Israel, against Dagon the idol of the Philistines. "The dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life."

Dr. Cassel (p. 224) must be given credit here for an ingenious observation. He asks the question, “Who furnished the report of the last hours of the hero’s Iife?” If this is no mere folk legend, how were the details reported? Cassel observed that the lad who led the blind Samson by the hand (vs. 26) was probably a Hebrew slave, for surely they would have been too afraid of Samson to let a Philistine boy near the Hebrew rogue. The boy may even have been Samson’s helper, who willingly stayed with him in the prison. Knowing what he was about to do, it is unlikely that Samson would have let the boy die with him. The lad could have reported the events of the feast and Samson’s prayer when he escaped to his home.

We are informed that the house was full of men and women, with about three thousand of them on the top; now when the pillars were removed, the weight of 3,000 people brought the roof down with a fearful crash, and those above fell together with the stones and timbers upon those below, and a great slaughter was the result, Samson himself perished under the ruins. Included with those that were slain were the lords of the Philistines. The death of these leaders, along with so many of the inferior chiefs of the people, was such a crush to the Philistine dominance, that they didn’t bother Israel for several years, and did not even attempt to prevent Samson's relatives from taking away and burying his dead body

The house was pulled down, not by the natural strength of Samson, but by the almighty power of God. In his case it was right that he should avenge the cause of God and Israel. Thus Samson died in bonds, and among the Philistines, as an awful rebuke for his sins; but he died repentant. The effects of his death epitomize the death of Christ, who, of his own will, laid down his life among transgressors, and thus overturned the foundation of Satan's kingdom, and provided for the deliverance of his people. As great as the sin of Samson was, and as surely as he deserved the judgments he brought upon himself, he obtained mercy from the Lord at last; and everyone who repents of their sins and takes Christ as their Savior shall obtain mercy. All who flee for refuge to that Savior whose blood cleanses from all sin shall be saved.

We are not informed of the number of fatalities resulting from the destruction of Dagon's temple, probably because nobody knew how many died. With regard to who might have been among the casualties, we have a natural curiosity regarding Delilah.

Was Delilah among those whom Samson "liquidated" by this feat? We feel that only an affirmative answer is possible. Would the lords of the Philistines have staged such a tremendous celebration of their victory over Samson, in which their favorite prostitute had played such an important part, without inviting her?
Certainly not! There sat Delilah with her benevolent "customers," the lords of the Philistines; and when the slain were removed, we feel a positive certainty that Delilah, along with the lords who bribed her, received the just reward of her deeds.

______________verse 30 notes___________________
[7](Hebrews 11:32; KJV) And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Samson—Who was appointed by God to deliver Israel from the oppressive yoke of the Philistines; and, by extraordinary assistance, discomfited them on various occasions. Judges 13-16.—Adam Clarke's Commentary

 

31 Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the burying place of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.—Judges 16.31 (KJV)
31 Then his relatives and his father's whole family went to Gaza. They took Samson and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. Samson had judged Israel for 20 years.—Judges 16.31 (GW)

Then his brethren, and all the house of his father, came down…
By his brethren we may infer that Samson’s relatives traveled to Gaza, after hearing what happened to him there. This must mean his kindred and near relations, those of his father's family; though it is not unlikely that he had brethren in a usual sense, since though his mother was barren before his birth, yet afterwards, she might have born many children, as Hannah had, whose case was similar to her case.

"All the house of his father," in connection with "his brethren," must mean the whole tribe of Dan, working together for the common cause of retrieving the body of their champion. The Danites, taking advantage of the apprehension of the Philistines, and of the death of their lords and chief men, went down in force to Gaza, and recovered the body of their great captain and judge, and buried him in his father's sepulcher.

and took him and brought him up…
They took his body out of the ruins of the temple, and placed him in a bier (in a box or coffin), which was probably transported on a cart, to his own country; and perhaps they treated him with great funeral pomp, which was due to him as a judge of Israel. There is no need to wonder why the Philistines would allow them to take Samson’s body; that is the way it has been in all ages, and among all people, to allow even an enemy to bury their dead; besides Samson's friends had done them no injury, only Samson himself. It is difficult to express the depth of the grief, and shock that the Philistines were under, but it is for certain they had neither the heart nor spare time to prevent them taking the body of Samson. This terrible blow, delivered by Samson, made a powerful impression upon the Philistines, not only plunging them into deep mourning at the death of their princes and so many of their countrymen, and the destruction of the temple of Dagon, but filling them with fear and terror at the omnipotence of the God of the Israelites. It is logical that at this time the Philistines might have been in fear of the Israelites attacking them, and attempting to deliver themselves out of their hands. In view of the fact that their five lords were dead, and no doubt many more of their principal men with them, they might have thought this was not a good time to refuse such a favor, since it might result in a quarrel, which they were not in a condition to engage in; and if Israel had taken this opportunity to fight against them, in all likelihood they might have freed themselves from them.

Under normal conditions, the Philistines would have abused the body of Samson as they did that of King Saul [8](I Sam 31:9–10), but this awful catastrophe seems to have so completely paralyzed the Philistines, that they neither attempted to prevent the removal of Samson's corpse, or to molest the Israelites for a long time after this incident. Thus the Israelitish hero rendered by his strength and courage a great service to his country, and was always regarded as the greatest of its champions. But his mindless subjection to the domination of his passions was unworthy of so great a man and lessens our respect for his character. Yet he is ranked among the ancient worthies who maintained a firm faith in God [7](Heb 11:32). Under these circumstances it is conceivable enough that the brethren and relatives of Samson were able to come to Gaza, and return with the body of the fallen hero, and to bury it in his father's grave in the hill-country overlooking the Valley of Sorek; and between Zorea and Eshtaol [9](see Judges 13:25).

The author uses the term his brethren in the line before this one. Some infer from this that Samson’s mother gave birth to other children after the birth of Samson. But the Hebrew’s use of the word brethren is very broad; for example, it is applied to cousins, members of the same household, those having the same father, and all those of the same tribe, that we can’t say with certainty what the word means here. But, I suppose his brethren might mean the Danites generally, and all the house of his father, whom we would say he was more closely related than the others.

His father was probably dead, and indeed the mention of his father’s burying-place, or rather sepulchre, makes it certain.

and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol, in the burying place of [10]Manoah his father;
Zorah seems to have been his home town, and [11]Eshtaol was near it; and between these the Spirit of the Lord first began to move him, and here is where his father was buried; see [12](Judges 13:2, 25). He judged Israel for twenty years; by tormenting and weakening their enemies; and though he did not complete their deliverance from the Philistines, yet no doubt their oppressions were fewer, and their burdens easier, because of him; the time period of his judging Israel was stated before [13](Judges 15:20), and it’s repeated here to confirm it.

And he judged Israel twenty years.
He judged Israel twenty years; and, if they had not been as mean and sneaking as he was brave and daring, he would have left them free of the Philistines' yoke. They might have lived easy, safe, and happy, if they would have given God and their judges the opportunity to make them so.

It is difficult to ascertain the time of Samson's judgeship, and the extent of the territory over which he presided. His jurisdiction seems to have been very limited, and to have extended no farther than over those parts of the tribe of Dan adjoining the land of the Philistines. Many suppose that he and Eli were contemporaries, Samson being rather an executioner of the Divine justice upon the enemies of his people, rather than an administrator of the civil and religious laws of the Hebrews. If it is true that Eli and Samson were contemporaries, it is reasonable to put Eli in the position of the administrator.

The character and work of Samson are both vague. His birth was announced by an angel; Judges 13:1-21. He was a Nazirite (Numbers 6:1-27; Judges 13:5), who constantly defiled his Nazirite vow through fleshly appetites. Called of God to judge Israel, and endued wonderfully with the Spirit, he wrought no abiding work for Israel, and perished in captivity to his enemies the Philistines. What was real in the man was his mighty faith in Jehovah in a time of doubt and apostasy, and this faith God honored by including his name in Hebrews 11:32.

 

Summary

The biblical writers do not hesitate to record valid history that includes both the victories and defeats of its heroes, and no attempt is made to conceal the moral impurities of Samson. Thus, Garstang (p. 341) concluded that there is no reason to doubt the original authenticity of Joshua-Judges. Samson’s spiritual failures are not condoned by the text; rather, they are the means of his downfall. He is a tragic picture of a man of God fully equipped to serve the Lord, but whose service is rendered ineffective by his passion and lust. I will offer these comments about this complicated man of God:
1. SAMSON does not appear to have left any posterity. His affairs with the different women mentioned in the history were unproductive as to children. If he would have married according to the laws of his country, he would have been both a more useful and happy man, and may not have come to a violent death.
2. We seldom find much mental energy dwelling in a body that in size and bulk greatly surpasses the ordinary proportions of man; and wherever there are great physical powers, we seldom find proportionate moral faculties. Samson was a man with a little intelligence, a slave to his passions, and the wretched dupe of his mistresses. He was not a great man, though he was a strong man; and even his muscular force would have been lost, or spent in beating the air, had he not been frequently under the influence of the Divine Spirit. He often got himself into brawls and difficulties from which nothing but supernatural assistance could have saved him. His attacks upon the Philistines were never well planned, as he does not appear to have asked for God’s counsel; instead, he seems to have consulted nothing but his own passions, particularly those of inappropriate love and revenge; and the last effort of his extraordinary strength was, not to avenge his people for the oppressions which they had suffered under the Philistine yoke, nor to avenge the quarrel of God's covenant against the enemies of his truth, but to be avenged of the Philistines for the loss of his two eyes.
3. Samson is a solemn proof how little physical prowess prevails where judgment and prudence are wanting, and how dangerous all such gifts are in the hands of any man who does not have his passions under proper discipline, and the fear of God continually before his eyes.
4. A parallel has often been drawn between Samson and our blessed Lord, of whom he is supposed to be a most illustrious type. By a prolific imagination, and the abundance of words and facts, we may force resemblances anywhere; but not one will naturally result from a sensible comparison between Jesus Christ and Samson. A more exceptionable character is not to be found in the sacred oracles. It is no small dishonor to Christ to be compared with Israel’s defender. There is no resemblance in the qualities of Samson's mind, and there is none in his moral conduct, that can entitle him even to the most insignificant comparison with the chaste, holy, benevolent, and immaculate Jesus. That man dishonors the law of unchangeable righteousness, who endeavors to make Samson a type of anything or any person that can be called holy, just, and pure.
5. Those who compare him to Hercules have been more successful. Certainly, the heathen god of strength appears to have been borrowed from the Israelitish judge; but if we regard Hercules preference of virtue over pleasure, we shall find that the heathen is, morally speaking, vastly superior to the Jew.

______________verse 31 notes___________________
[8](I Sam 31:9–10; KJV) And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people. And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan. And they cut off his head—It is possible that they cut off the heads of his three sons likewise; for although only his head is said to be cut off, and his body only to be fastened to the walls of Beth-shan, yet we find that the men of Jabesh-gilead found both his body and the bodies of his three sons, fastened to the walls, 1 Samuel 31:12. Perhaps they only took off Saul's head, which they sent about to their temples as a trophy of their victory, when they sent the news of the defeat of the Israelites through all their coasts, and at last placed it in the temple of Dagon, 1 Chronicles 10:10. They put his armor in the house of Ashtaroth—As David had done in placing the sword of Goliath in the tabernacle. We have already seen that it was common for the conquerors to consecrate armor and spoils taken in war, to those who were the objects of religious worship. They fastened his body to the wall—probably by means of iron hooks; but it is said, 2 Samuel 21:12, that these bodies were fastened in the STREET of Beth-shan. This may mean that the place where they were fastened to the wall was the main street or entrance into the city.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[9](Judges 13:25; KJV) And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol. He felt the degrading bondage of his countrymen, and a strong desire to accomplish something for their deliverance. These feelings and motions he had from the Divine Spirit.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[10]MANOAH [muh NOH uh] (quiet) — father of Samson the judge (Judg. 13:2–23). A Danite of the city of Zorah, Manoah and his wife tried to persuade Samson not to marry a Philistine woman, but he was determined to do so. They accompanied Samson to Timnah, where the ceremonies took place. Samson was buried “between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah” (Judg. 16:31).
[11]ESH´TAOL (a pass), a town in the low country—the Shefelah—of Judah, afterwards allotted to Dan. Josh. 15:33; 19:41. Here Samson spent his boyhood, and here after his last exploit his body was brought. Judges 13:25; 16:31; 18:2, 8, 11, 12.
[12](Judges 13:2, 25; KJV). And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. See note 9 above for verse 25.
[13](Judges 15:20; KJV) And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

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