A fuller exposition of the exploits of Samson (cf. short previous version):
We read in Judges 13:1 that the Philistines oppressed Israel for forty years because they sinned against the Lord again and thus He allowed another enslavement. This was the longest oppression that Israel experienced during the time of the judges. It is noticeable that the Philistines are widely regarded to be the major ancestors of the self-proclaimed 'Palestinians'.
The Philistine monopoly on the use of iron also kept the Israelites in subjection (cf. 1 Samuel 13:19-22). The Israelites were not permitted to make iron swords or spears and, later we find Saul's army is said to have been devoid of such weapons. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that Israelite warriors used such strange weapons during this period, e.g., Shamgar's ox-goad, Samson's jawbone, and David's sling; these simple weapons also made it clear that the power of God gave the victory to Israel and not the might of their weaponry or numbers. But is there any evidence that they used cowardly 'suicide bomber' type methods to kill people at random?
God raised up Samson to begin to deliver (v5) Israel from the oppression of the Philistines. But Samson was to be a 'Nazarite unto God' from birth. The spelling 'Nazirite' means 'devoted', 'separated' or 'consecrated' The stipulations of the Nazirite vow found in Numbers 6 are parallel to the restrictions placed on Samson's mother in v4-5. The three stipulations were: (1) not to drink 'wine nor strong drink' (i.e., drink made from grain, rather than from grapes); (2) not to eat any unclean thing or touch any dead body; and (3) not to cut his hair during the period of the vow. The restrictions given to the mother were apparently intended only for the time of her pregnancy while she would be carrying the child but, afterward, they would apply to the child himself. The Nazirite vow becomes the theological focal point of the story of Samson and gives it its meaning and purpose.
Two other important facts should be observed. First, the strength of Samson is clearly said to lie ultimately not in the length of his hair, but in the fact that he was moved by the 'Spirit of the Lord' (Judges 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14).
Secondly, the events of Samson's life clearly show that he broke each of the three stipulations of the Nazirite vow and thus lost his power (Judges 14:8-10; 16:19).
Many commentators have attempted to interpret the Samson narrative apart from the significance of this vow and therefore miss the entire point of the story.
The ordinary Nazirite vow was entered voluntarily for a temporary period, and thus the restrictions for the vow were also temporary. However, in Samson's life the vow was neither voluntary nor temporary and placed him in a unique category of his own. The purpose of this special son was that he was to 'begin to deliver' Israel from the Philistine oppression. This was extremely important in light of the fact that Israel had lapsed into a complacent co-existence with the Philistines, who were now infiltrating through trade and intermarriage. Israel's uniqueness as the people of God would have eventually been lost entirely had it not been for Samson's resistance to the Philistines. He engaged in a one-man war against the Philistines, with surprisingly little support from his own countrymen. So, again, he was involved in a solo struggle in which he used his bare hands against overwhelming odds.
Samson's birth and early childhood are clearly stated to have been blessed of the Lord (v24) and we see that God was clearly involved from the very beginning of his life in the exploits that will follow and, apparently, even during his youth, the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times for we read Judges 13:25: 'And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.' Like the other judges, he received this anointing for the task to which he was called and, in Samson's case, this meant spectacular human strength to wage a one-man campaign against the Philistines.
The events in Samson's life fall in two categories: (1) those prior to the incident at Gaza; and (2) those afterwards. However, the narrative divides itself in relation to the three women in Samson's life: the girl at Timnath, the prostitute at Gaza, and Delilah of the Valley of Sorek.
From the start it becomes obvious that a love for women was his weakness. His mighty deeds proved that the God of the Israelites was still alive and powerful and capable of helping His people, but Samson's personal actions bear the stamp of immature adventure, foolhardiness, and wilfulness, wrapped up in the pursuit of women. We also note that his personal weakness reflected the natural character of the nation of Israel to continually fraternize with the pagan nations they had chosen to live among. His frivolous attitude toward his vow of separation led to the insufficiency of his judgeship to procure a lasting supremacy for Israel over her foes but, by his manifestation of supernatural power, he nonetheless clearly showed Israel the possibility of deliverance.
The first woman in Samson's life was the girl from Timnath (Judges 14), a Philistine town only four miles down the valley from Zorah. The proximity of the Danites to the foreigners probably weakened the attitude of separation among the younger generation of Israelites, for Samson had no hesitation about marrying the girl, even though he was breaking the Mosaic law regarding mixed marriages (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-4).
It was unusual for Hebrew children to disobey their parents' wishes, yet Samson dismissed his parents opinion with his choice of the girl by demanding that they get her for me 'because she pleaseth me.' His poor and impatient choice is reflected by the fact that the marriage was to be a somewhat less than desirable situation. She is described by the common word 'woman' and is not designated as a virgin or maiden. Later, we find Delilah (Judges 16:4) called by the same term.
Samson then travelled down the valley with his parents to Timnath to contract the marriage. Evidently he became separated from his parents and at that time a young lion roared against him. Moved mightily by the Spirit of the Lord, he required no weapon (and probably could not obtain one because of the disarmament by the Philistines) to kill the lion. Sometime after talking with the girl at Timnath, Samson returned alone to the carcass of the lion to find that a swarm of bees had made honey in the dehydrated body. By eating the honey, Samson deliberately broke one aspect of his Nazirite vow, for he was not to touch a corpse. This is the reason he did not tell his parents the source of this gift he made to them (v9).
It was not long until the second part of the vow was also broken for verse 10 states that Samson made a feast at the wedding according to Philistine custom, and probably came under some pressure from the girl's family and friends. Feast (Hebrew mishteh) may refer to a meal as in Genesis 19:3, or a drinking feast. There is abundant evidence that the Philistines were given to drinking and carousing. Several beer mugs used for barley beer were found at Tell Abu Hureira (Gerar: a city of Arabia Petraea, under a king of the Philistines, 25 miles from Eleutheropolis beyond Daroma, in the south of Judah), and jugs and chalices found at Tell el-Far'ah and Tell en-Nasbeh, indicating the Philistines' fondness for drinking. We learn later that this was part of the scenario of Samson's greatest triumph. It is also strange that this wedding feast was at the bride's house, rather than the home of the groom. Perhaps Samson's marriage feast was not held in his home because his parents would not sanction the marriage.
We note again the fact that, although Samson was guilty of breaking several vows (and even making a wager based on an act of disobedience!), God still chose to use this fallible human vessel for 'the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily' (v19) so he could accomplish the feat of slaying thirty Philistines and using their garments in payment of the answered riddle. Thus, God had used all these circumstances, good and bad, to 'seek an occasion against the Philistines' (v4) who had dealt treacherously with Samson. In the meantime the Philistine girl's father was apparently offended by Samson's abrupt departure and instead gave the girl to the companion (best man) of Samson so that he 'gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle and his anger burned, and he went up to his father's house.' This marriage seems to have been a temporary arrangement in which Samson did not intend to live with the girl permanently, but, rather, to visit her upon occasion - reminiscent of the attitude to marriage of much of Western society today, and certainly an inauspicious beginning to his life as a faithful Nazirite husband!
It was now that he discovered that his bride had been given to his best man and, in response to the girl's father offering her younger sister to Samson in an admission that he had acted too hastily, Samson retaliated against all the Philistines in the region by burning their entire wheat crop ingeniously (Judges 15):
4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail, and put one torch in the middle between two tails. 5 When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves.
In doing this he turned his personal wrong into an exploit of national importance against the enemies of his people. Until this time Samson had been disobedient in his association with the Philistines but the disastrous attempted marriage to one of their women turned his attitude against them in such a way that God now used him to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines (as predicted in Judges 13:5).
Samson's identity was no secret to the Philistines, but they blamed the unwise action of his father-in-law for Samson's retaliation upon them. It is interesting that they did not try to harm Samson, who was evidently still in the area (cf. v7). Instead, they burned the girl and her father with fire, perhaps burning their house with them in it, the very fate she had tried to avert by exposing Samson's riddle! Whatever Samson used in his vendetta, we see again and again the greater cruelty of the Philistines.
In reaction to the Philistines' cruel murder of the girl and her father, Samson turned upon them. His words to them ("Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you, but after that I will quit"- v7) imply that the cowardly Philistines had sought to pacify Samson by their act of cruelty but he then turned on those who had burned the girl and her father and 'struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter.' (v8)
The narrative gives thorough evidence of the timid attitude of the Hebrews to the Philistine menace, as experienced by previous judges such as Gideon, for the men of Judah criticized Samson for his acts: 'Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us - what is this that thou hast done unto us?' (v11) Thus, the one-man army found no support, even from among his own people for, fearing the threat of war, they begged Samson to leave them and the Philistines alone. This reveals the cowardly attitude among the Hebrews of Samson's day. It also indicates the powerful control and influence of the Philistines over Judah and the failure of the Jews to trust their God. The Philistine encroachment was an ever-threatening menace in chose days and it is clear that Israel needed a deliverer. The subtle Philistine approach would soon have permanently overpowered Israel and threatened the life of the nation.
The Philistines camped in the valley before the face of the cliff in which Samson's cave was cut. The method of entering these Judaean caves was by descending from the top of the cliff and swinging into the mouth of the cave. Evidently, the 'three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam' (v11) and called down to Samson to surrender. When they promised not to attempt to slay him, he permitted them to bring him up, bind him, and take him to the Philistines.
As the Philistines met him in Lehi they shouted in triumph but the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were 'as flax that is burned with fire,' and he easily broke his bonds. Samson seized the jawbone of a freshly slain ass and attacked the Philistines with it with devastating results demonstrating, again, that the power of God working in a man is greater than any natural power man may think he can rely on.
The Philistines prided themselves on their knowledge, and monopoly of, the iron industry. Presumably they had acquired this knowledge as they passed through the northern lands which had been under domination of the Hittites, who are thought to have been the first people to produce iron. Control of the iron industry meant military dominance by virtue of superior weapons and military control gave them economic and commercial control as well. The Philistines refused to allow any iron production in subject lands, thus preventing the development of weaponry comparable to theirs. This also meant they could charge high prices for selling and repairing iron farm tools (see I Samuel 13:19-22). The Philistines kept this monopoly, and with it the control of most of Palestine, until they were defeated by Saul and David. Then, Israel was able to exploit the iron industry to her own great advantage.
But, again, we see a Judge of the Hebrews using the most unusual of weapons, in this case a fresh jawbone of a donkey, to show observers that the God of Israel was able to give victory to His people over all opposing advantages. Using this unusual weapon, Samson slew a thousand Philistines and put the rest to panic and flight. Commentators have speculated that the number, one thousand, may be a round number for a great host, for no details are given of the battle, and the reference to heaps may imply that he slew the thousand in several encounters as he pursued the fleeing army, but we are talking supernatural events here and there is no reason, except unbelief, for a Christian to doubt the figures. When he had finished speaking he threw the jawbone from his hand and named that place Ramath-lehi (i.e. the high place of the jawbone).
Samson had much to fear if he stepped outside of the protection of God, for he stood alone in his conflict with the enemy. The passage gives adequate evidence of the apathetic attitude of the men of Judah who were not ashamed to drag their bound hero into the enemy's hands, who remained unmoved when the Philistines shouted against Samson and, even worse, apparently made no intervention to aid Samson in the conflict. Their faith in God was so weak that they feared to trust Him even under these circumstances. As great as the triumph of Samson was the failure of Israel was even greater, for Samson was fully conscious that he was fighting for the Lord when he referred to himself as the Lord's servant (v18), and yet the so-called people of God gave him no aid. It should be noted that the above incident reveals that Samson's strength was dependent upon the Lord alone and not upon his own strength and ability. Apparently he did not learn this lesson very well for even in his victory there was a note of defeat because it was wrought by the jawbone of a dead animal which was unclean according to the Law and his Nazirite vow should have precluded its' use!
The fifteenth chapter concludes with the note that Samson judged Israel in the days of the Philistines for twenty years. Following the humiliating defeats inflicted by Samson's single-handed efforts, the Philistines no longer seemed to attempt to confront him and their penetration of the Judaean hill country would have been temporarily halted. Israel probably enjoyed relative peace and security during these years as a result of the partial deliverance accomplished by Samson who remained among his people during these years as a judge.
Samson either remained in the vicinity of Zorah or possibly lived in Hebron, the unofficial capital of chose days, and we read that 'he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines' (v20). Although he had these bursts of zeal for the Lord and was equipped by God with every necessary potential to be a great leader in Israel, he continued to squander his greatest opportunities to serve the Lord. The hero who could strangle a lion and kill a thousand men single-handedly could not conquer his own passion and lust and his fall began with a trip to the Philistine city of Gaza, which was southernmost of the Philistine Pentapolis. Tell el-Ajjul has been identified as the most likely site of ancient Gaza. Excavations there in the 1930s by Sir Flinders Petrie revealed substantial amounts of Philistine pottery.
One of the great lessons of the spiritual life has always been that one must take heed when he thinks he is standing sure, lest he fall (I Corinthians 10:12), thus Samson came to Gaza and was tempted by a harlot (Hebrew zanah) and lusted for her in his heart and 'went in unto her' (v1). This Hebrew euphemism almost always means that he entered her chamber for the purpose of sexual intercourse. We also notice that he lay till midnight. Those who try to excuse him and say he only intended to lodge for the evening in this house should ask why he arose at midnight to leave? It seems more likely that he went to her house for the single purpose of engaging the woman sexually and then leaving when he was finished. Even at this low point of Samson's life, God was ready to deliver him from the Philistines. When the men of Gaza found out that Samson was in their city, they came to the gate of the city to wait out the night and ambush him in the morning. Many have questioned how Samson could have carried off the gate while they were there but the clear purpose of the record is to show that, despite Samson's repeated sin, God was willing to cause great and humiliating victories through him. In verse 2 we find that the Gazites laid in wait for him all night and slept by the gate, supposing to take him in the morning when he left the city. Thus, the phrase they were quiet all the night indicates that they lapsed into careless repose and fell asleep. Arriving at midnight, Samson took them by surprise and carried away the entire gate in which they were trusting so greatly. In ancient times the gates of walled cities were locked at night and the Gazites probably imagined that Samson could not get out until the gate was opened in the morning, at which time they would be ready for him.
Taking the doors of the gate, the two posts, bar and all, he broke it loose from the wall and carried it away to the top of a hill that was before Hebron. Hebron was the chief centre of the tribe of Judah in those days and may have been Samson's residence during his judgeship. However, Hebron was nearly thirty-eight miles from Gaza, a straight climb uphill from the coastal plain to 3,300 feet above sea level on the crest of the mountains of Judah - this was clearly another extraordinary supernatural feat! Commentators have argued whether the text means that Samson carried the gate to the foothills that are before Hebron, to the top of a hill near Gaza towards Hebron, or that he actually carried the gate to Hebron, but we must consider these factors: (1) having taken the gate of Gaza as his trophy he may have wanted to keep it in mockery of the Philistines; (2) for the gate of Gaza to lie before the Israelite city of Hebron would have marked a sign of triumph over the powerful Philistines; (3) a man with the supernatural strength to attack an entire army without a weapon (v2,12) could surely carry the gate of Gaza, however heavy it might have been, up to the summit of Hebron.
Despite this triumph, Samson's weakness for Philistine women had again been aroused and would lead to his humiliation. The beauty and voluptuousness of these women of Greek descent proved more than he could handle, and the Hebrew hero who sent fear into the hearts of the Philistine warriors would be conquered by a woman, at least partially, just as the enemies of Israel had been conquered by women in the days of Deborah and Barak (Judges 4). The simple statement (v4) of the text says she was a woman in the valley of Sorek and most commentators have assumed she was a Philistine, though she is not definitely specified as such. Living in the Valley of Sorek, where both peoples freely mingled, indicates she could have been either Philistine or Hebrew. However, Samson definitely had a passion for Philistine women and it seems unlikely that the five Lords of the Philistines would venture into Hebrew territory to bribe an Israelite girl. Though her name is Semitic in form, the Philistines often borrowed names from the Semitic peoples about them. Whoever this girl was, she was the instrument of Samson's great downfall.
God will not permit His own children to continue indulging in sin without soon receiving its stinging results. Twice before, Samson's passion had led him into great danger and this second amorous adventure was to be the last. The escape at Gaza had taught the mighty warrior nothing about God's patience to deliver his erring soul. From the nature of the encounter it seems likely that Delilah was another prostitute, or 'a woman of ill-repute,' and her residence in the Valley of Sorek placed her near the hometown of Samson at Zorah. Almost immediately the Lords of the Philistines (probably of the Pentapolis) came to bribe Delilah into discovering the secret of Samson's strength. They each offered to give her 1,100 pieces of silver, which would have amounted to a colossal fortune of 5,500 pieces of silver for betraying Samson into their hands. They must have learnt from the beatings they had taken at the hands of Samson that his abnormal strength came from a supernatural source. As a nation who went into battle (2 Samuel 5:21) carrying their portable images or idols with them they would have recognised spiritual power at work. But they could not have recognised that Samson's strength was the result of the moving of the Spirit of the Lord upon him; and this was related to the provisions of his Nazirite vow, although they were intent on discovering a physical source of the power through human cunning.
Delilah immediately set out with ruthless efficiency to procure the "secret" from Samson (v6). Moved by the desire to satisfy his own lustful passion, Samson became blinded to the motives behind her continuous questions. It would appear from her repeated attempts to find the answer that he was in the habit of visiting her regularly and so she continually pursued the matter. Cunningly she lulled Samson into sleeping passivity and her continual pleading to know the source of his strength brought out the juvenile nature that Samson had long displayed as he teased her in a deadly lovers' game. The first suggestion he gave her was to bind him with seven fresh cords ('fresh bowstrings' in the RSV). After this disclosure, the Lords of the Philistines brought her the bowstrings to try on Samson and left men to lie in wait to ambush Samson once the secret was discovered. Upon her next opportunity, Delilah bound Samson as he slept and called: 'The Philistines be upon thee' (v9), but, awaking from his sleep, he immediately snapped the bowstrings. We should note that, unlike the works of art portraying this moment in history, the text does not say that those lying-in-wait in an inner room actually came upon him, but only that she screamed out these warning words. Had these men rushed into the room the three times we read that Samson pretended to have disclosed his secret, he would certainly have been suspicious of Delilah's treachery, so we can assume with reasonable certainty that the Philistines didn't try to seize him until he had finally revealed the truth.
The second mischievous suggestion by Samson was to bind him with new ropes, which had failed to hold him years earlier (15:13) and, again, Delilah tied him up and cried out in pretense of attack upon him. Attempt number three brought Samson perilously close to the truth when he told her to pin his hair into the mechanism of a weaver's loom. The loom in her house was probably vertical with the two posts fixed in the ground and fastened by a crossbeam from which the warp threads were suspended. Perhaps by weaving Samson's long hair into the warp she pinned it in the web so that it resembled a piece of cloth. Upon her screaming her warning of a Philistine attack again, Samson awoke and jerked his head free from the fixing that had been made. Delilah was now tired of Samson's disarming replies and began to put even more the pressure on him: 'Thou hast mocked me these three times. How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? Thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.' (v15). Her nagging became so incessant that she pressed him daily with her words so that his soul was 'vexed unto death' (v16). Delilah almost literally 'nagged him to death.' Like many a man before and since Samson acquiesced to a woman's demands and revealed all his heart to her concerning the Nazirite vow and, possibly, the fact that the uncut hair was the only remaining sign of his consecration to God.
We read in verse 18 that Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart and sent for the Lords of the Philistines, saying, 'Come up this once, for he hath showed me all his heart.' Poor unsuspecting Samson! His disregard for his consecration to the Lord now lead to the removal of the last sign of the Nazirite vow and rendered him useless to the Lord's service. Many suggest that Samson thought his strength lay in his uncut hair alone, but we should notice that every mention of his physical prowess is accompanied by the remark that 'the Spirit of the Lord came upon him' and this was the source that moved him to such great physical strength. The importance of the uncut hair was that it was one of the signs of the vow, but the only one of the three signs that was outwardly observable. He had told Delilah that a haircut would break the vow and render him powerless because physical strength was the particular gift he had from God as a result of his consecration to Him. His loss of strength afterwards was clearly attributed to the departure of the Spirit from him (v20) for, when he awoke, Samson thought he could shake himself as before, but the end of verse 20 has to be one of the saddest comments in all Scripture: 'And he knew not that the Lord was departed from him.' The special manifestation of the Spirit of God as the fulfilment of the Nazirite vow was now gone, for the last stipulation of Samson's consecration had been broken. Samson's experience may be said to parallel that of Israel during those times (cf. Judges 2:11-15), as well as later (cf. 1 Samuel 4:21, 22; 28:15, 16; Ezekiel 10:18-11:23; Hosea 7:8-15).
God had patiently dealt with Samson after he touched the dead lion, drank wine at the feast, and fought with the jawbone of a dead ass; but now, as the outward sign of Samson's Nazirite vow disappeared, His patience turned to judgment, and Samson was utterly powerless without the help of the Lord. The Lords of the Philistines rushed into Delilah's chamber for the first time and took Samson, cruelly put out his eyes, bound him with fetters of brass, and brought him to Gaza in this state of utter humiliation. The very city whose gate he had recently carried away now welcomed its blind captive. Samson's future potential was now apparently annulled for his uncontrolled lust had placed him in a condition where God could no longer use him to battle the Philistines hand to hand, for he was blind. He had disqualified himself by his selfish sin. The Philistines allowed him to live, but not out of any sense of kindness, for they chained him to the grinding mill where he ground out the grain by hand. This was the most tedious and lowest form of slave labour and was usually the work of women slaves (cf. Judges 9:53). It is unlikely that he ground at an ox or ass mill, as depicted by artists through the centuries, for his strength was no longer abnormal, and such large, animal-powered mills did not even exist until the fifth century B.C. The treatment Samson received was not unique to him, for ancient Akkadian texts suggest that it was a common practice for conquered warriors to be blinded and shackled so that they could not escape and then to be forced to grind grain in the prison.
There was another reason for Samson's humiliation grinding grain. The Philistines credited their new acquisition to their principal god Dagon as a victory over the God of the Hebrews. Dagon was the Semitic grain deity (cf. 1 Samuel 5:1-7; 1 Chronicles 10:8-10) whom the Philistines had 'borrowed' from the Canaanites. Earlier commentators thought Dagon to be a fish deity (Hebrew dag, "fish"), but recent Semitic studies have shown Dagon to be derived from the Hebrew word dagan (grain). Therefore, he was probably part of the fertility pantheon of the Canaanites and Temples of Dagon have been identified at eighteenth-century B.C. Mari, in Mesopotamia, and at thirteenth-century Ugarit, in northern Phoenicia. Dagon appears in name forms as early as the third third millennium B.C. and, in Ugaritic literature, he appears as the father of Baal. 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!
Thus, the Philistines brought Samson to the depth of utter humiliation. In the now empty sockets of his eyes he carried the mark of his shame and unfaithfulness as God's servant and, although his hair is said to have begun to grow again, he was not in prison very long before the Philistines brought him forth to celebrate their victory. There is no evidence at this point that the growing of his hair caused him to receive any strength, as some commentators mistakenly assumed, until after he called upon the Lord (v28), but the Lords of the Pentapolis who gathered the people at Gaza for a great feast to praise their God had made the great mistake of thinking that their god had delivered Samson into their hands (v23)! The God of Israel would not permit this illusion for long! He had delivered His faithless servant into their hands, but He would yet find one more occasion against the Philistines because of Samson. At the peak of the revelry of the feast to Dagon, they called for Samson to entertain them. Every Philistine would have the opportunity to mock and curse the helpless blind hero who was made to put on a performance for the crowd. How very different from the cowardly, healthy, suicide bomber who destroys his own life and that of dozens of innocent by-standers!
The feast was probably the pillared temple of Dagon and the Lords and rulers were in the covered section below, while the crowd of guests was upon the roof (v27) watching Samson in the courtyard below. After his humiliation, Samson was chained to the pillars just under the edge of the roof, being led by a young boy to emphasise how the once mighty warrior of the Danites was now dependent on a child! Critics argued for years about the details of the temple's structure, and about the impossibility of pulling out two pillars to collapse the whole structure. Such pillars, though, were common to Philistine temples built around courtyards. A recent discovery of a Philistine temple at Tell Qas in 1972 revealed that the structure was made of sun-dried mud-bricks laid 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.
Samson asked the lad who guided him to place him at the central pillars. The humiliating consequences of Samson's sin must have caused him to do some serious thinking and had probably moved him to repentance as evidenced by his prayer to the Lord (v28):
Then Samson called to the Lord and said, "O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes."
This is the only recorded prayer of Samson that we have in Scripture and, surely, even the hardest heart will melt a little at his sincere request to God to allow him to do the only thing that he could now do in his tragic weak, blind, state? He called upon God using three different titles, Adonai, Yahweh, Elohim as (v29-30) he 'grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the Lords and all the people who were in it: 'So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.' How many were killed is not specified, although we know that there were 3,000 on the roof alone (v27), and, because we read that the number was more than he had previously killed during his life-time we know that it was certainly more than 1,000! Archaeologists have discovered remains of Philistine temples and buildings which were erected during the twelfth century B.C. The type of construction consisted of two main pillars which supported the entire building and, in the excavation, they have found husks, and husks with strainers, among the various artifacts. These show that they drank strong beverages made from products with husks which required straining before drinking as part of their worship system, and we know there was drunken revelry going on when Samson was being humiliated in the Philistine temple. The proximity of the pillars to one another has been shown to be such that a man could touch both pillars and Samson's supernaturally imbued strength enabled him to lean upon them and collapse the entire structure of the building.
The death of the Philistine Lords, who were also the military leaders, corresponds to the defeat of the Philistines by Samuel in I Samuel 7. God in His sovereignty, allowed Samson to destroy the military leaders with his own death. That act helped Samuel as he rallied the people to defeat the Philistines who were left without adequate military leadership. Thus God allowed the sadly tortured, blinded, and humiliated Samson to fulfil his prayer by taking out the enemies leaders with his bare hands - not with weapons of any kind and without killing innocent men, women, and children!
After Samson died, his brothers and all his father's household came down to collect his body and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father in the hill country overlooking the Valley of Sorek, the very scene of his greatest triumphs and his greatest failures! This is the first hint of any action on their part and may have been their first glimpse of the need to stand up for their God against the enemy. The Philistines evidently made no attempt to refuse Samson a proper burial in his family tomb, though they were not so kind to Saul in later times (I Samuel 31:9-10) - perhaps they were too utterly devastated by the way in which their triumphant feast had been turned into a disaster by the blinded and supposedly helpless servant of the God of Israel who had humiliated their impotent grain 'god', Dagon!
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. Samson's spiritual failures are not condoned by the text, but are seen to be the means of his own downfall. He is a tragic picture of a man of God fully equipped to serve the Lord, but whose service was often rendered ineffective by his passion and lust.
The clear agenda of the 'Sky' article is to try and deflect criticism of 'terrorism' by tarring others with the same brush. But, even bringing as many other nations and beliefs as possible into their article, they cannot get away from the clear fact that the vast majority of indiscriminate suicide terrorist atrocities in history are committed by Muslims!