Notes on Judges 16, verses 1-3
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 16:1, KJV: Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.
Gaza was another of the five leading Philistine cities, located near the southern extremity of Philistine territory and Israel’s land. This city and others were all in the land given to Judah (Joshua 15:47), and Judah did conquer Gaza early in Israel’s conquest (Judges 1:18), By this time, the city had been reconquered and was firmly in Philistine control.
Why Samson would seek female company among Israel’s enemies, especially after what had happened to him before in Timnath at some time before this (see Judges 14-15), is nowhere explained. Even worse, Samson had also broken one of the Ten Commandments (thou shalt not commit adultery, Exodus 20:14).
2 (And it was told) the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed (him) in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him.
News like this couldn’t have stayed hidden for long. When Samson came down to “visit” the harlot, he may have thought he could enter the city secretly. That, clearly, didn’t happen. Some of the people hid near the city’s gate, planning to kill Samson in the morning, when they assumed he would leave.
Some might observe that this was another step downward towards Samson’s fall from God’s plan for him. Before this, he had married a woman of Timnath (chapters 14-15), which displeased his parents. Nothing is mentioned in the text about her moral character. Apparently he never even had the chance to enjoy (!) any kind of married life with
her, as he left her and returned to his parents’ house.
When he decided to return to her, he found out that his father-in-law had married her off (was there ever a divorce or annulment?) to his “companion”, or best man, in today’s terms. Now he is seeking the company of a harlot, when he could have had a suitable life companion if he had only asked God for one. Regardless, God was still protecting Samson, allowing him to escape another trap the Philistines had set in place for him.3 And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put (them) upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that (is) before Hebron.
When, or at what time, Samson came to Gaza is not mentioned in the text. Clearly he was there before midnight; this verse says he “lay till . . . and arose at midnight”. How he managed to reach the city gate, get past any guards or other people waiting and watching for him in order to capture him, and then remove the doors and posts, is another miracle.
Note that the text does not say he carried the doors and posts all the way to Hebron, which was a good distance away (estimates in terms of mileage vary). He did carry them to the top of a hill “before” Hebron. So he made it back to Israel, safely, but there is no indication he ever gave thanks to God about this.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).