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Judges 16-18 Listen
Samson was no model Nazarite (Judges 16:1-3)
1 Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.
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.
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.
True, Samson was a judge of Israel for 20 years according to Judges 15:20 (see notes). However, Samson's favor with God was based upon his faith in the one true God, not his lifestyle. As a matter of fact, Samson's faith is commended in Hebrews 11:32 (see notes). The incident told to us about Samson here in verses 1-3 shows us the virtual indestructibility of Samson as long as he honored his Nazarite vow, despite the lack of good judgment shown by him in his activities. In this instance, he's spending the night with a prostitute...probably a Philistine at that. Gaza was on the Mediterranean coast in southern Israel where the Gaza strip is today. It was in the heart of Philistine country. So...here he is in the wrong place at the wrong time, right in the thick of the people who passionately hate him (he had just killed 1,000 of them at the end of Judges 15, see notes), engaging in a practice that served only to satisfy his own selfish base desires...WAY OFF GOD'S MISSION. When they try to take advantage of his compromised situation, he manages to, not only escape, but carry the gate of their city with him and deposit it near Hebron 35 miles east of Gaza. These three verses set up the rest of the chapter; you can see what an irritant Samson had become to the Philistines.
Was Delilah smart, or Samson a little slow? (Judges 16:4-31)
4 And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
11 And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man.
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.
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.
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.
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.
16 And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;
17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
18 And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand.
19 And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.
20 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.
21 But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.
22 Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.
23 Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.
24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.
25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.
26 And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.
27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.
28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.
30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
31 Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.
Let's face it though; this exchange between Samson and Delilah is a chart topper in the love-is-blind category (pun intended), don't you agree? I mean...first the bow strings, then the new ropes, then the weaving of his hair...accompanied by a startling alarm each time - what was he thinking! Who could be so love stricken so as not to realize what Delilah was up to? Then, with an incredulous act of naivety, Samson divulges the big secret - "don't cut my hair." Presumably, Delilah was a Philistine also; so of course she immediately cuts his hair, and he is captured and intentionally blinded. With Samson, love wasn't just blind, it was deaf and dumb also. After capture - notorious, blind and weak - he becomes Philistine entertainment until the day he brings the house down with his final performance (literally). This one act of faith becomes the focal point of Samson's life.
Samson was a reluctant hero. Here's a man with God's power upon him who only calls upon the Lord when he's desperate - twice...here and Judges 15:18 (see notes) when he was thirsty. On both occasions, his motives for calling upon the Lord are questionable...at best - personal thirst and personal vengeance. However, he was God's chosen vessel for the times. Hence, God created circumstances in Samson's life that directed him to achieve the greatness for which he was conceived. While he made attempts to schmooze with the Philistines, it was God who put him at odds with them. The end result? God uses Samson to wipe out the Philistine leadership structure in one swift act of mass destruction. You can see that the entire course of Samson's renegade life had built up to his final performance of finally accomplishing that which God had anointed him to do. Let's face it; God can use anyone to accomplish his will.
1 And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.
2 And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son.
3 And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee.
4 Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah.
5 And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.
6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
7 And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.
8 And the man departed out of the city from Bethlehemjudah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed.
9 And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Bethlehemjudah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place.
10 And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in.
11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons.
12 And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.
13 Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.
Micah was a thief - stole a fortune in silver from his mom. She was very, very rich. Not knowing who had stolen from her, she cursed the thief. After Micah admitted to being the thief, she sought to reverse the curse. Subsequent to the return of the stolen silver, they took a portion and had an expensive idol made. Micah then felt that he needed a priest; he ordained his son. Verse 6 is an interesting declaration, "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes." We also find these words in the last verse of the Book of Judges, Judges 21:25 (see notes).
When the opportunity to have a real Levite as a priest avails itself, Micah offers this young man from Bethlehem in Judah ten shekels per year to do so (remember he had stolen 1,100). Now Micah is convinced that he will prosper because he has his own priest, even though verse 5 says, "Micah had an house of gods." Oh, yeah...one more thing: all Levites weren't really priests - just the descendants of Aaron->Eleazar->Phinehas according to the covenant made in Numbers 25:13-18 (see notes). Of course, that waaaaaay wasn't the only point of Mosaic Law that Micah had wrong. This background information in chapter 17 sets up the story in Judges 18 (see below).
By the way, all indications are that Micah was a Jew himself. He obviously didn't care about the provisions of the Mosaic Law regarding priests, establishing his own priesthood orders - first with his son and then with the Levite. And then all of those idols...Micah was a very confused man regarding his faith.
1 In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.
2 And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.
3 When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here?
4 And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.
5 And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous.
6 And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.
7 Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.
8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?
9 And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.
10 When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.
11 And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war.
12 And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim.
13 And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.
14 Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do.
15 And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.
16 And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate.
17 And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war.
18 And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest unto them, What do ye?
19 And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel?
20 And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people.
21 So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.
22 And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah’s house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan.
23 And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company?
24 And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee?
25 And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household.
26 And the children of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house.
27 And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire.
28 And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein.
29 And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.
30 And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.
31 And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.
The five scouts from the Tribe of Dan find some property they like and send 600 soldiers way up into the northern-most part of Israel to take it from the unsuspecting inhabitants there. To them, that was necessary because they had failed to take and hold the land Joshua had assigned them as seen in Joshua 1:34 (see notes); that's what verse 1 means when it says, "...for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel." They are so confident of success, they take their families with them and subsequently take the land by force.
Remember Micah's personal Levite from chapter 17 (see above)? These Danites stop along the way and get him, along with Micah's pagan religious paraphernalia, as they continue their journey north. Having been robbed, Micah quickly puts together his own band of men to catch up to the thieving Danites with the intent of getting his property (and the Levite) back, but he lacks the intimidating force to make a sufficient impression on them. Their reply to Micah is basically, "Go home before you get hurt!"
They take the city (previously called Laish) and change its name. So, what shall we name the city? Dan, of course. Oh, and they set up the idol stolen from Micah in their new city. And that's how Dan ended up in northern Israel. Dan was very far removed from the Tribe of Dan, 100 miles or so over land. This city of Dan was 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee near the border of Lebanon. As a matter of fact, Jeroboam would later establish Dan as one of the two cities that would host one of the calf idols for the Northern Kingdom to worship after Israel split in I Kings 12:28-29 (see notes). Apparently he felt that he already had a good start there with the worshipping of false gods.
By the way, the priest accompanied them willingly when he was made to realize that being a priest over a whole city was a better position than priest to one man. However, they were big-time idol worshippers before and after establishing their new city of Dan, and the so-called priest was a conspirator with them in their paganism. Some have speculated that their propensity for idol worship is the reason why John overlooks them as he lists the 144,000 witnesses in Revelation 7 (see notes).
One piece of trivia regarding this land grab in northern Israel is worth mentioning. Later on in the Old Testament, when writers wanted to make certain that their readers understood that all of Israel was being referenced, they would frequently refer to it with the all encompassing term, "from Dan even to Beersheba." This phrase came to be known as that which referred to the northernmost and southernmost boundaries of Israel. We find nine occurrences of that phrase in the Old Testament.