March 24 Reading: Judges 16-18 Commentary
“No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” (Judges 16:17)
Judges 16 – More Women for Samson
Samson had an Achilles heal. He was attracted to women that didn’t share his value system and did not believe in his God. His first wife clearly didn’t, as she was a Philistine (Judges 15). That pattern of behavior continues into Chap. 16
The first woman (another Philistine from Gaza) was a prostitute (v. 1). Samson spent the night with her and, in the process, found himself trapped by the men of the city. They surrounded the place where they were all night long, with plans to kill him in the morning (v. 2).
“…lay low till midnight; then he arose at midnight, took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two gateposts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron” (v. 3).
Once again, God demonstrated His strength through Samson by allowing him to escape. Carrying the city gates up to the top of a mountain is not an ordinary human feat of strength. And once again, God worked through Samson to further the conflict with the Philistines.
Samson and Delilah
One woman in particular – a Philistine woman named Delilah – would prove to be too much for him. She was another Philistine woman who lived in the valley of Sorek (v. 4). When the five (presumably 5 – see Judges 3:3) Philistine lords found out she had a relationship with Samson, they came to her with a proposition. Each agreed to pay her 1,110 pieces of silver if she could find out the secret to Samson’s super strength.
What strategy would make Samson give up the secret to his super strength? Good old-fashioned pestering. Delilah decided to ask him as many times as it took to wear him down and break him.
There are three recorded rounds of questioning by Delilah to Samson in Judges 16 (vv. 6-14). Each time Samson lies and gives her a false secret to his strength. When she tries to execute each possibility, Samson breaks free and overcomes the Philistines trying to capture him.
Finally…“she said to him, ‘How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies.’ And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death…” (vv. 15-16).
At this Samson could take it no longer. So he told her all his heart saying, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man” (v. 17).
A Sad Moment
Delilah knew Samson had confessed his secret to her. Then one night, while he slept, she called for a man to come and cut the seven locks of his head (v. 19). And his strength left him.
Then, as before, she called out saying, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” (v. 20). And he awoke from his sleep thinking he would take care of them as before.
Then comes one of the saddest moments in the book in verse 20. We read that “…he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.”
Samson disobeyed by breaking his vow. He dishonored God and the calling on his life. The consequences were severe: “Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison” (v. 21).
In what is a bit of foreshadowing, verse 22 tells us that, while in prison, Samson’s hair begins to grow back.
Sometime later, the Philistine lords came together at their temple to “offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god”, and to rejoice in how their god delivered Samson into their hands (vv. 23-24). When they were drunk, they asked for Samson to be brought out so that they could make fun of him (v. 25).
Upon arrival, Samson asked a young servant boy to position him between the main support pillars of the temple (v. 26). All the Philistine lords were there, along with about 3,000 people in and around the temple and on the roof (v. 27). It’s at this moment Samson gets a measure of redemption.
Samson called to the Lord one final time:
“O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left.Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life” (vv. 28-30).
Samson judged Israel 20 years (v. 31). One has to wonder what Samson’s life could have been if he had given himself more wholeheartedly to the Lord.
Judges 17 – Micah’s Shrine
An odd two chapter section begins with Judges 17. Micah, a man from the tribe of Ephraim, stole 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother and then gave it back. Upon receiving it back, Micah’s mother told him she had originally dedicated this money to the Lord to make a carved image and a molded image. So she gave 200 shekels of silver to a silversmith who created the idol and image which were subsequently placed in Micah’s house (vv. 1-4).
By count, that paragraph contains at least 3 broken Ten Commandments (no stealing, no other Gods before Me, no graven image – see Exodus 20).
But, as verse 6 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Micah even made a shrine, an ephod and other idols and consecrated one of his sons as priest. That’s another violation of the law. One could not have their own private priest. And he wasn’t even a Levite.
But Micah took care of the Levite part. One day, a Levite traveling from Bethlehem to Ephraim happened to cross Micah’s path. Micah invited him to stay and be his household priest in exchange for ten shekels of silver per year, a suit of clothes and food (v. 10). The Levite agreed and Micah consecrated the priest (v. 12), even though he was not authorized to do so.
Micah now assumed God’s favor would be on him since a priest lived in his house (v. 13).
Judges 18 – Danites Embrace Micah’s Idolatry
Who were the Danites? They were the people of the tribe of Dan. Verse 1 tells us that they were seeking an inheritance for themselves because the inheritance “had not fallen to them.”
In reality, Joshua did grant them an inheritance (Joshua 19:41-47). But they had failed to capture all of it and possess it completely (Judges 1:34-35). So they sent out five men to spy out the land, similar to what Moses and Joshua had done (Numbers 13; Joshua 2), looking for a place to settle. Specifically, they are looking in the mountains of Ephraim (v. 2).
While there, who should they encounter but Micah. They also interact with the Levite priest living in his house who blesses their journey (vv. 3-5).
Afterward, the spies found a livable city called Laish and went back to their brethren with a report about it. They all agreed to seize the city and live in it (vv. 7-10).
Theft of Idols and a Priest
600 men of the family of the Danites set out to seize Laish. On the way though, they cross paths with Micah’s house again. The soldiers camp outside while the five spies go inside and convince the Levite priest to come with them. Their argument goes like this:
“Is it better for you to be a priest to the household of one man, or that you be a priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?” (v. 19)
This seemed to please the priest, so he went with them. Additionally, the men take all the idols and carved images from Micah’s house to use for themselves (v. 18).
Evidently, Micah had not been there when this all went down. When he found out, Micah gathered some men to pursue the army of Dan (v. 22). Upon catching up with them, he angrily questions why they have done this thing (v. 24).
The men of Dan are not deterred. They easily outnumber Micah and are not willing to return the things they have stolen. When Micah realizes he is outmatched, he returns home (vv. 25-26).
The Danites Apostasy
The Danites moved on from their encounter with Micah. They seized Laish, burnt it, rebuilt it and renamed it Dan (vv. 27-29). It now served as their new home.
But what about the priest? He, along with his descendants, served the Danites for many years, “until the day of captivity of the land” (v. 30).
And Micah’s carved image remained all the time the house of God was in Shiloh (v. 31).
This whole narrative does not have God in it. We do not see him condoning these events or prompting people’s actions. What began with one man creating his own priesthood, ballooned into an entire group of people conducting false forms of worship.
One has to wonder if the religious actions in this region of the land is the reason that, years later, Jeroboam I would set up idolatrous shrines in Dan (I Kings 12).
Questions to Consider:
Have you ever gotten mixed up with people that didn’t share your beliefs? How did that impact your life? What problems did it cause?
Close friendships with people who don’t hold to your godly value system are dangerous. Most likely, they will end up pulling you down instead of you pulling them up.
Samson let his emotional and physical attraction to an ungodly women be his undoing. God still used him. But we are left to wonder what could have been had Samson been more devoted to God. Are you giving God all of you? If not, why?
Where have you seen one man’s actions influence an entire group of people to do the same?
What other points would you want to know about in our Judges 16-18 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.