16:4-22 Samson and Delilah
fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name
was Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and
said, "See if you can lure him into showing you the
secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so
we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give
you eleven hundred shekels of silver.
Delilah said to Samson, "Tell me the secret of your
great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued."
answered her, "If anyone ties me with seven fresh
thongs that have not been dried, I will become as weak as
any other man."
the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh thongs
that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. With
men hidden in the room, she called to him, "Samson, the
Philistines are upon you!" But he snapped the thongs as
easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a
flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
Delilah said to Samson, "You have made a fool of me;
you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied."
said, "If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that
have never been used, I will become as weak as any other
Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with
men hidden in the room, she called to him, "Samson, the
Philistines are upon you!" But he snapped the ropes off
his arms as if they were threads.
then said to Samson, "Until now, you hove been making a
fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be
replied, "If you weave the seven braids of my head into
the fabric on the loom, and tighten it with the pin, I will
become as weak as any other man." So while he was
sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove
them into the fabric, and tightened it with the pin.
she called to him, "Samson, the Philistines are upon
you!" He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and
the loom, with the fabric.
she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when
you won't confide in me? This is the third time you have
made a fool of me and haven't told me the secret of your
great strength." With such nagging she prodded him day
after day until he was tired to death.
he told her everything. "No razor has ever been used on
my head," he said, "because I have been a Nazirite
set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my
strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any
Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word
to the rulers of the Philistines, "Come back once more;
he has told me everything." So the rulers of the
Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. Having
put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off
the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him.
And his strength left him.
she called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon
awoke from his sleep and thought, "I will go out as
before and shake myself free." But he did not know that
the Lord had left him.
Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes, and took him
down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him
to grinding in the prison. But the hair on his head began to
grow again after it had been shaved.
2:21-23 He will be called a Nazarene
took the child and his mother and went to the land of
Israel.... Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the
district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called
Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the
prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."
of the Sacred Scriptures #149 Head and hair
cannot know why the Naziriteship was instituted, or why
Samson's strength was from his hair, unless we know what the
head means in the Bible. The head means the heavenly wisdom
that angels and people have from the Lord through divine
truth. So the hair on the head means heavenly wisdom in the
most external things, and also divine truth in the most
fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name
was Delilah. (Judges 16:4)
morning's sermon is a warm-up for, and a preview of, the
topic for the second week at the Fryeburg New Church
Assembly this August. You can thank the Rev. Ken Turley of
the Fryeburg church for it. He is working on a musical
production of the Samson and Delilah story, which he plans
to perform with the Assembly's attendees. He has been asking
the lecturers for their topics; this sermon is my way of
looking over the story and finding a focus for my second
week lecture. For the brevity of the sermon you can
thank the Massachusetts Association, which is having its
meeting at Blairhaven this afternoon. My family and I are
going there for the luncheon, which means we have to get out
earlier than usual!
to our topic. Many couples are mentioned in the Bible,
especially in the Old Testament. One of the most famous--or
infamous--is Samson and Delilah. They are a classic case of
almost everything that can go wrong with a relationship.
the time Samson meets and falls in love with Delilah, he has
already had a disastrous marriage with a Philistine woman
who nagged him for a secret of his so that she could betray
his trust to her people, who were enemies of Israel in
general, and of Samson in particular. Her betrayal had led
to dozens of deaths, most of them inflicted by Samson in
revenge on the Philistines for their betrayal of him.
This led to a cycle of revenge, in which the Philistines
killed Samson's wife and her father, and in turn Samson
killed even more Philistines, eventually, the story
says, killing a thousand men with the jawbone of an ox. Now,
all of this was good for the Israelites, who rejoiced at
anything that made their Philistine overlords weaker. But to
modern eyes, it looks like one sick relationship!
Samson did not learn from his mistakes. In our story, he
falls in love with Delilah, another Philistine woman, who
proves just as treacherous as the one Samson had married
earlier. No sooner has Samson hooked up with Delilah than
the Philistines are at her to find out the secret of
Samson's strength so that they can subdue him.
we read about Samson lying to Delilah three times about what
will take away his strength, and Delilah each time trying it
out and shouting, "Samson, the Philistines are upon
you!" we may wonder Samson would ever tell her the
truth. Of course, the Philistines who intended to capture
Samson were hiding, and we are not told that they came out
on these three occasions; perhaps Samson did not realize
Delilah was laying a trap for him.
the case, Delilah eventually wears Samson down with her
continuous nagging and prodding day after day, and finally
Samson tells her the truth: that his great strength comes
from his consecration to the Lord as a Nazirite, and that if
his hair is cut, he will become "as weak as any other
man." The law of the Nazirite is given in Numbers
chapter six. It specifies that among other requirements, men
and women who dedicate themselves to the Lord as Nazirites
are not allowed to cut their hair until the end of their
period of dedication, when their hair is cut in a special
Samson's birth, an angel tells his parents-to-be that Samson
is to be a Nazirite "from birth until the day of his
death" (Numbers 13:7). Samson's hair was never
to be cut. His long hair is a symbol of his dedication to
the Lord, and the source of his great strength. When Delilah
has her Philistine friends shave Samson's head as he sleeps
in her lap, it breaks his Nazirite vow, and also his
superhuman strength. Samson ends out blinded and shackled in
prison, where he was forced to do the monotonous, and, for a
man of those times, disgraceful work of grinding grain with
the hand mills that the women used. As our reading ends, we
are given the hopeful note that "the hair on his head
began to grow again." If you don't know the exciting
climax to this story, read the rest of Judges 16 when you
we read Samson's story, it is easy to dismiss him as the
perfect comic book superhero: a man with a lot of brawn and
very little brain. For all his physical strength, Samson has
little endurance when it comes to resisting things that are
bad for him--especially bad relationships. First he marries
a woman who betrays him before the wedding feast is over.
Later he spends the night with a Philistine prostitute,
whose house is quickly surrounded by enemies intent on
killing him. And finally, he falls in love with Delilah and
lives with her, leading eventually to his imprisonment and
death. "Doesn't he ever learn?" we might ask.
asking that question, we are falling into exactly the
"trap" that the Lord has set for us in telling us
this story of human strength, pride, and folly. For Samson's
is really our story. We may not have the strength of
ten men, but each one of us has developed some
strength of character--especially in those areas where we
have turned to the Lord for guidance and help.
don't we also make the same mistakes over and over again?
Once we have gotten used to some addictive or destructive
habit, we seldom quit cold turkey and never look back. Much
more often, we struggle again and again with the same flaws
and shortcomings that have been plaguing us for years. For
all the spiritual strength we may have developed over the
years going to Sunday School, attending church, reading the
Bible and other spiritual books, and so on, when the rubber
hits the road, we are still fallible, mistake-prone humans!
story is our story. To use another mighty figure from
mythology, our Achilles heel is represented by Delilah.
Delilah is that simple, stubborn bad habit that we continue
to fall into even when we have seen its destructive effects.
We know the excuses and arguments we use to justify
it are false. But when we feel that allure; when that desire
comes over us; when something or someone pushes our
button, we throw aside all our spiritual principles,
ignore everything our rational mind tells us, and surrender
to the moment once more.
Samson's story does not have a happy ending. This, too, is
realistic. When we continue to live in ways we know we
shouldn't, it damages both ourselves and others, just as
Samson both killed others and was himself maimed, and
eventually killed in his revenge against the Philistines.
For us, it sometimes does take the breakup of a marriage,
the loss of a job, the destruction of family relationships
and close friendships, to wake us up to what is happening.
If, like Samson we do not heed these warnings, things will
continue to go downhill.
old life may have to die before we can begin a new one--just
as Samson died so that the Israelites could go on to the
next step in their development as a nation. We can only hope
that in that death of the old, what dies is our old attitude
of pride in our own selves, and the false notion that what
counts is what we believe, and not whether we live
by it. That attitude of belief without action, of religious
faith that is not expressed in kindness toward others, is
what the Philistines represent. It is an attitude that is
just as deadly to us today as the Philistines were to the
Israelites in Samson's day.
time we indulge once more in that bad habit, or yield to
that old weakness, we demonstrate for ourselves once more
that our beliefs must be backed up by action, or they
come to nothing. Each time we feel the consequences of what
we have done, or have not done, it is another
opportunity to learn that when we abandon our faith in our
actions, it results in damage and pain both to ourselves and
there is always the possibility of redemption. In the Old
Testament there is only one other mention of the Nazirite
vow after Samson's story (in Amos 2:11-12), and it is a
reference to breaking the Nazirite vow. However, in
our brief reading from Matthew, we have a tantalizing
reference. Joseph took Mary and the young Jesus and they
"went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was
fulfilled what was said through the prophets, 'He will be
called a Nazarene.'" If you look in a Bible that has
cross-references, you will find no reference to any Old
Testament prophesy that says "He will be called a
it is a reference to a book that is not in our present
Bible. But I suspect Matthew was making a play on words
(Nazarene instead of Nazirite), referring to the story of
Samson. And so, once again, we are reminded that when our
own strength of character is not enough to overcome that old
character flaw that has bedeviled us for so long, we do have
a place to turn for a new and deeper strength that is equal
to the task: we can and must turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.