Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1, 2. Gaza--now Guzzah, the capital of the largest of the five
Philistine principal cities, about fifteen miles southwest of Ashkelon.
The object of this visit to this city is not recorded, and unless he
had gone in disguise, it was a perilous exposure of his life in one of
the enemy's strongholds. It soon became known that he was there; and it
was immediately resolved to secure him. But deeming themselves certain
of their prey, the Gazites deferred the execution of their measure till
3. Samson . . . arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of
the city--A ruinous pile of masonry is still pointed out as the site
of the gate. It was probably a part of the town wall, and as this ruin
is "toward Hebron," there is no improbability in the tradition.
carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron--That hill
is El-Montar; but by Hebron in this passage is meant "the mountains of
Hebron"; for otherwise Samson, had he run night and day from the time
of his flight from Gaza, could only have come on the evening of the
following day within sight of the city of Hebron. The city of Gaza was,
in those days, probably not less than three-quarters of an hour distant
from El-Montar. To have climbed to the top of this hill with the
ponderous doors and their bolts on his shoulders, through a road of
thick sand, was a feat which none but a Samson could have accomplished
CORRUPTED BY THE
4. he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek--The location of this
place is not known, nor can the character of Delilah be clearly
ascertained. Her abode, her mercenary character, and her heartless
blandishments afford too much reason to believe she was a profligate
5. the lords of the Philistines--The five rulers deemed no means
beneath their dignity to overcome this national enemy.
Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth--They probably
imagined that he carried some amulet about his person, or was in the
possession of some important secret by which he had acquired such
herculean strength; and they bribed Delilah, doubtless by a large
reward, to discover it for them. She undertook the service and made
several attempts, plying all her arts of persuasion or blandishment in
his soft and communicative moods, to extract his secret.
7. Samson said . . ., If they bind me with seven green withs--Vine
tendrils, pliant twigs, or twists made of crude vegetable stalks are
used in many Eastern countries for ropes at the present day.
8. she bound him with them--probably in a sportive manner, to try
whether he was jesting or in earnest.
9. there were men lying in wait, abiding . . . in the chamber--The
Hebrew, literally rendered, is, "in the inner," or "most secret part of
10. And Delilah said--To avoid exciting suspicion, she must have
allowed some time to elapse before making this renewed attempt.
12. new ropes--It is not said of what material they were formed; but
from their being dried, it is probable they were of twigs, like the
former. The Hebrew intimates that they were twisted, and of a thick,
13. If thou weavest the seven locks of my head--braids or tresses,
into which, like many in the East, he chose to plait his hair. Working
at the loom was a female employment; and Delilah's appears to have been
close at hand. It was of a very simple construction; the woof was
driven into the warp, not by a reed, but by a wooden spatula. The
extremity of the web was fastened to a pin or stake fixed in the wall
or ground; and while Delilah sat squatting at her loom, Samson lay
stretched on the floor, with his head reclining on her lap--a position
very common in the East.
14. went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web--that is, the
whole weaving apparatus.
16. she pressed him daily with her words--Though disappointed and
mortified, this vile woman resolved to persevere; and conscious how
completely he was enslaved by his passion for her, she assailed him
with a succession of blandishing arts, till she at length discovered
the coveted secret.
17. if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me--His herculean
powers did not arise from his hair, but from his peculiar relation to
God as a Nazarite. His unshorn locks were a sign of his Nazaritism, and
a pledge on the part of God that his supernatural strength would be
19. she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven
locks of his head--It is uncertain, however, whether the ancient
Hebrews cut off the hair to the same extent as Orientals now. The word
employed is sometimes the same as that for shearing sheep, and
therefore the instrument might be only scissors.
20. he wist not that the Lord was departed from him--What a humiliating
and painful spectacle! Deprived of the divine influences, degraded in
his character, and yet, through the infatuation of a guilty passion,
scarcely awake to the wretchedness of his fallen condition!
Jud 16:21, 22.
21. the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes--To this cruel
privation prisoners of rank and consequence have commonly been
subjected in the East. The punishment is inflicted in various ways, by
scooping out the eyeballs, by piercing the eye, or destroying the sight
by holding a red-hot iron before the eyes. His security was made doubly
sure by his being bound with fetters of brass (copper), not of leather,
like other captives.
he did grind in the prison-house--This grinding with hand-millstones
being the employment of menials, he was set to it as the deepest
22. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again--It is probable
that he had now reflected on his folly; and becoming a sincere
penitent, renewed his Nazarite vow. "His hair grew together with his
repentance, and his strength with his hairs" [BISHOP
23. the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a
great sacrifice unto Dagon--It was a common practice in heathen
nations, on the return of their solemn religious festivals, to bring
forth their war prisoners from their places of confinement or slavery;
and, in heaping on them every species of indignity, 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 the
head and upper parts human, while the rest of the body resembled a
27. there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that
beheld while Samson made sport--This building seems to 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
wholly 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 almost close
to each other, so that when these are unsettled or displaced, the whole
pile must tumble to the ground.
28. Samson called unto the Lord--His penitent and prayerful spirit
seems clearly to indicate that this meditated act was not that of a
vindictive suicide, and that he regarded himself as putting forth his
strength in his capacity of a public magistrate. 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. His prayer must have been a silent ejaculation, and, from
its being revealed to the historian, approved and accepted of God.
31. Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and
took him, and brought him up, and buried him--This awful catastrophe
seems to have so completely paralyzed the Philistines, that they
neither attempted to prevent the removal of Samson's corpse, nor to
molest the Israelites for a long time after. Thus the Israelitish hero
rendered by his strength and courage signal services to his country,
and was always regarded as the greatest of its champions. But his
slavish 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