Samson starts out (vv. 1-2) spending the night with a zonah, with a harlot. Except that, true to his nature (he can’t seem to connect with women in a sustained way), he jumps up in the middle of the night (v3), grabs the doorposts of the Philistine city, and carries them 35 miles up the mountain to Hebron. Score one for Samson as he shames the Philistines who were plotting against him. From here it is all down hill.
Samson loves Delilah (v 4) – the only women he loves. It’s not clear if Delilah is Philistine or not, but her Philistine friends lean on her to help them capture Samson. They want to degrade him (afflict him – also “make him helpless” – not a good translation). The verb used here (v 5 and 6) is ahnah (‘nh) [there is another ‘nh meaning answer]. We see the same verb used in Jud 16:19, as well as Gen 16.6 (Hagar) Gen 34.2 (Dinah), Jud 19.24 (wife and daughter), Jud 20.5 (Levite’s pilgesh).
Q: Why does Samson give in to Delilah, when he knows the end result will be capture? See v 16 “his soul was vexed unto death,” or “he was wearied to death.” Was he tired of living? Tired of being nagged?
Q: Would Delilah have been a heroine to her people?
The Philistines capture Samson and make him “grind in the prison house” (“become a mill slave in the prison”) (v 21). See Job 31:9-10 “let my wife grind for another.” Job says that if he lied, he is to be punished by having his wife grind for another. (Note that degrading the wife is hardly a fair treatment if Job is the liar.) Grind stones, or be ground by a man, it’s ambiguous. That same ambiguity applies to Samson grinding. He is indeed degraded at this point.
In vv 25 and 27 Samson is required to “make sport,” or “dance.” Tzachak – same root is used when Ishmael sports with Isaac (Gen 21.9), similar to the name Yitzak (Isaac).
What does Samson accomplish as a judge? He judges Israel 20 years. In the entire time, the Philistines rule the Israelites (this continues until the time of Saul). In death Samson avenges his two eyes. God helps Samson to kill more Philistines in his suicide mission than he slew in his life (v 30). Samson is a tragico-comic creature, not at all the strong man of popular legend.
Q: Why is the story of Samson so prominent in the book of Judges, taking up 3 chapters?
Q: What does the story of Samson say about the relationship between humanity and God?