Notes on Judges 16, verses 4-15
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 16:4, KJV: And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name (was) Delilah. then shall I be weak, and be as another man.
This happened after the encounter with the harlot of Gaza as mentioned above. The text does not say when this happened but does give the woman’s name, Delilah. Her nationality is not given so she may not have been a native-born Philistine woman. The valley of Sorek is only mentioned in this one verse. The location is uncertain but was probably close to the border between Israel and the Philistines’ land.
5 And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength (lieth), and by what (means) we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred (pieces) of silver.
The Philistines seemed to have different forms of government over the years. In Abraham’s day, Abimelech was the Philistine king of Gerar (Genesis 20) and his descendant, also named Abimelech, was king of Gerar in Isaac’s day (Genesis 26:1). During Samson’s day the Philistines appeared to be governed by “lords”; there is no mention here of a king. Later, during David’s lifetime, Achish was the king of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10, e.g.). There is no explanation for these changes.
Also, the text does not say how many “lords” approached Delilah. There were five major cities so there were possibly five, maybe more of these lords. The offer of 1100 “pieces” of silver was a great deal of money—it is not specified how they acquired this money but there is no condemnation of this wealth, in and of itself. But this would have been blood money: the lords promised Delilah thousands of these coins in exchange for Samson.
6 And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength (lieth), and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.
Why would she ask about this? And why would she be asking about how he could be bound? This kind of conversation is alarming but Samson does not seem to be concerned.
7 And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man.
“Withs” is an expression for green twigs, taken off a living tree. This may indicate that Samson’s visits with Delilah took place in springtime.
8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them.
These wooden twigs or branches were hard to break, being green. Note that Delilah herself bound Samson with these (but when?). Other Philistines were there (verse 9) but they didn’t bind Samson.
9 Now (there were( men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber. And she said unto him, The Philistines (be) upon thee, Samson. And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire. So his strength was not known.
Delilah and the group of Philistines were waiting in the chamber or bedroom to capture Samson. Apparently they took his words as truth but were surprised to see him break the “withs” or green twigs easily. Although they didn’t “know his strength”, this did give them a sign or hint that green twigs would not do the job of binding him.
10 And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound.
Delilah is beginning to show more of her true colors here. Samson loved her (verse 4) but there is no mention that she ever loved him, except, perhaps, as a way to “earn” thousands of silver coins.
Note how cold hearted she was in her next conversation (!) with Samson: “you made fun of me and lied to me—now, tell me how you can be bound!” What kind of relationship was this? Clearly, this was not what God intended for His children: Delilah was no kind of “help meet” for Samson (Gen. 2)!
11 And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied,
This time Samson (in jest?) tells Delilah that if he was bound with brand new ropes, he would be weak like anyone else. They may not have known, and Samson may have had some amusement with this, that years before the men of Judah delivered Samson up to the Philistines, binding him (the text does not say where) with two new ropes (“cords”; KJV: Judges 15:12-14). Samson broke or snapped those easily, then went on to slay1000 Philistines using a donkey’s jawbone.
Did he think Delilah was playing some kind of game with him?
12 Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said unto him, The Philistines (be) upon thee, Samson. And (there were) liers in wait abiding in the chamber. And he brake them from off his arms like a thread.
As before, when Delilah bound Samson with some “withs” or green, flexible twigs, she used new ropes to bind Samson. The text does not say if Samson was asleep or awake when Delilah bound him with the new ropes. Other Philistines were in place, also as before, waiting perhaps for the signal or moment to arrest Samson. But when Delilah said, “The Philistines are upon you!” he broke the new ropes like thread.
Why was he staying with a woman like Delilah?
13 And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound. And he said unto her, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web.
Delilah isn’t giving up on her quest to find the “secret” of Samson’s strength. This makes the third time she has asked him how he might be bound (one might sense a pattern of repeated behavior here). Why Samson continued to put up with this is anybody’s guess.
Samson’s reply seems a bit abrupt or incomplete in the King James Version (KJV). The reader is encouraged to consult other sources, commentaries, etc. for further research or information.
Note also that Samson is getting closer to revealing the secret of his strength. He had started off with suggesting he could be bound with green twigs or “withs”,and then he mentioned new ropes. Neither of these worked, in that Samson was able to break the bonds easily thanks to God’s gift of strength. Now he mentions his hair, which, as a Nazarite, he was never supposed to cut off until the days of his vow were completed. Numbers 6 has the details of the Nazarite vow.
14 And she fastened (it) with the pin, and said unto him, The Philistines (be) upon thee, Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web.
Somehow Delilah did something with Samson’s hair. What the writer means by saying Delilah fastened his hair with a pin is not certain. At this time, Samson was asleep but when he was roused out of his sleep, he the web and the pin of the beam (these may be parts of a loom but this is not certain). Notice that at this encounter, there were no other Philistines to capture Samson.
15 And she said unto him, 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).
Delilah asked Samson one of the oldest questions in the book, “How can you say you love me, when your heart isn’t with me?”—meaning, perhaps, you won’t tell me what I want to know so how can you say you love me? Then she insults him by saying, “you mocked (made fun of) me three times and (even worse!) you haven’t told me where your great strength lies!” This “strategy” is much like the tactics Samson’s first wife used in order to find the answer to his riddle (see Judges 14:12-20). There, she was trying to get Samson’s riddle in order to save her life (the other Philistines had threatened to burn her alive) but here Delilah was trying to, apparently, get the promised silver coins in exchange for Samson.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).