The Strong Man: How He Lived and How He Died
Samson and Delilah
Judges xiii: 1, to
Jephthah three judges ruled in turn, named Ibzan,
Elon, and Abdon. None of these were men of war, and
in their days the land was quiet.
But the people of Israel again began to worship
idols; and as a punishment God allowed them once
more to pass under the power of their enemies. The
seventh oppression, which now fell upon Israel, was
by far the hardest, the longest, and the most widely
spread of any, for it was over all the tribes. It
came from the Philistines, a strong and warlike
people, who lived on the west of Israel upon the
plain beside the Great Sea. They worshipped an idol
called Dagon, which was made in the form of a fish's
head on a man's body.
These people, the Philistines, sent their armies up
from the plain beside the sea to the mountains of
Israel, and overran all the land.
They took away from the Israelites all their swords
and spears, so that they could not fight; and they
robbed their land of all the crops, so that the
people suffered for want of food. And as before, the
Israelites in their trouble cried to the Lord, and
the Lord heard their prayer.
In the tribe land of Dan, which was next to the
country of the Philistines, there was living a man
named Manoah. One day an angel came to his wife, and
said, "You shall have a son; and when he grows up he
will begin to save Israel from the hand of the
Philistines. But your son must never drink any wine
or strong drink as long as he lives. And his hair
must be allowed to grow long, and must never be cut,
for he shall be a Nazarite under a vow to the Lord."
When a child was given especially to God, or when a
man gave himself to some work for God, he was
forbidden to drink wine, and as a sign, his hair was
left to grow long while the vow or promise to God
was upon him. Such a person as this was called a
Nazarite, a word which means "one who has a vow,"
and Manoah's child was to be a Nazarite, and under a
vow, as long as he lived.
The child was born, and was named Samson. He grew up
to become the strongest man of whom the Bible tells.
Samson was no general, like Gideon or Jephthah, to
call out his people and lead them in war. He did
much to set his people free; but all that he did was
by his own strength, without any help from other
When Samson became a young man he went down to
Timnath, in the land of the Philistines. There he
saw a young Philistine woman whom he loved, and
wished to have as his wife. His father and mother
were not pleased that he should marry among the
enemies of his own people. They did not know that
God would make this marriage the means of bringing
harm upon the Philistines, and of helping the
As Samson was going down to Timnath, to see this
young woman, a hungry young lion came out of the
mountain, growling and roaring. Samson seized the
lion, and tore him in pieces as easily as another
man would have killed a little kid of the goats; and
then went on his way. He made his visit, and came
home, but said nothing to any one about the lion.
After a time Samson went again to Timnath, for his
marriage with the Philistine woman. On his way he
stopped to look at the dead lion; and in its body he
found a swarm of bees, and honey which they had
made. He took some of the honey, and ate it as he
walked; but told no one of it.
At the wedding-feast, which lasted a whole week,
there were many Philistine young men; and they
amused each other with questions and riddles.
"I will give you a riddle," said Samson. "If you
answer it during the feast, I will give you thirty
suits of clothing. And if you cannot answer it, then
you must give me thirty suits of clothing."
"Let us hear your riddle," they said. And this was
Samson's riddle for the young men of the Philistines
"Out of the eater came forth meat.
And out of the strong came forth sweetness."
They could not find the answer, though they tried to
find it, all that day, and the two days that
followed. And at last they came to Samson's wife,
and said to her, "Coax your husband to tell you the
answer. If you do not find it out, we will set your
house on fire, and burn you and all your people."
And Samson's wife urged him to tell her the answer.
She cried and pleaded with him, and said, "If you
really love me, you would not keep this a secret
At last Samson yielded, and told his wife how he had
killed the lion and afterward found the honey in its
body. She told her people, and just before the end
of the feast they came to Samson with the answer.
They said, "What is sweeter than honey? And what is
stronger than a lion?"
And Samson said to them, "If you had not plowed with
my heifer, you had not found out my riddle."
By his "heifer"—which is a young cow—of course
Samson meant his wife. Then Samson was required to
give them thirty suits of clothing. He went out
among the Philistines, killed the first thirty men
whom he found, took off their clothes, and gave them
to the guests at the feast. But all this made Samson
very angry. He left his new wife and went home to
his father's house. Then the parents of his wife
gave her to another man.
But after a time Samson's anger passed away, and he
went again to Timnath to see his wife. But her
father said to him, "You went away angry, and I
supposed that you cared nothing for her. I gave her
to another man, and now she is his wife. But here is
her younger sister; you can take her for your wife
But Samson would not take his wife's sister. He went
out very angry, determined to do harm to the
Philistines, because they had cheated him. He caught
all the wild foxes that he could find, until he had
three hundred of them. Then he tied them together in
pairs, by their tails; and between each pair of
foxes he tied to their tails a piece of dry wood
which he set on fire. These foxes with firebrands on
their tails he turned loose among the fields of the
Philistines when the grain was ripe. They ran wildly
over the fields, set the grain on fire, and burned
it; and with the grain the olive-trees in the
When the Philistines saw their harvests destroyed,
they said, "Who has done this?"
And people said, "Samson did this, because his wife
was given by her father to another man."
The Philistines looked on Samson's father-in-law as
the cause of their loss; and they came, and set his
house on fire, and burned the man and his daughter
whom Samson had married. Then Samson came down
again, and alone fought a company of Philistines,
and killed them all, as a punishment for burning his
After this Samson went to live in a hollow place in
a split rock, called the rock of Etam. The
Philistines came up in a great army, and overran the
fields in the tribe-land of Judah.
"Why do you come against us?" asked the men of
Judah. "What do you want from us?" "We have come,"
they said, "to bind Samson, and to deal with him as
he has dealt with our people."
The men of Judah said to Samson, "Do you not know
that the Philistines are ruling over us? Why do you
make them angry by killing their people? You see
that we suffer through your pranks. Now we must bind
you, and give you to the Philistines; or they will
ruin us all."
And Samson said, "I will let you bind me, if you
will promise not to kill me yourselves; but only to
give me safely into the hands of the Philistines."
They made the promise; and Samson gave himself up to
them, and allowed them to tie him up fast with new
ropes. The Philistines shouted for joy as they saw
their enemy brought to them, led in bonds by his own
people. Little did they know what was to happen. For
as soon as Samson came among them he burst the bonds
as though they had been light strings; and picked up
from the ground the jawbone of an ass, and struck
right and left with it as with a sword. He killed
almost a thousand of the Philistines with this
strange weapon. Afterward he sang a song about it,
"With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps,
With the jawbone of an ass, have I slain a thousand
After this Samson went down to the chief city of the
Philistines, which was named Gaza. It was a large
city; and like all large cities was surrounded with
a high wall. When the men of Gaza found Samson in
their city, they shut the gates, thinking that they
could now hold him as a prisoner. But in the night,
Samson rose up, went to the gates, pulled their
posts out of the ground, and put the gates with
their posts upon his shoulder. He carried them
twenty miles away, and left them on the top of a
hill not far from the city of Hebron.
After this Samson saw another woman among the
Philistines, and he loved her. The name of this
woman was Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines
came to Delilah, and said to her:
"Find out, if you can, what it is that makes Samson
so strong; and tell us. If you help us to get
control of him, so that we can have him in our
power, we will give you a great sum of money."
And Delilah coaxed and pleaded with Samson to tell
her what it was that made him so strong. Samson said
to her, "If they will tie me with seven green twigs
from a tree, then I shall not be strong any more."
They brought her seven green twigs, like those of a
willow-tree; and she bound Samson with them while he
was asleep. Then she called out to him, "Wake up,
Samson, the Philistines are coming against you!"
And Samson rose up, and broke the twigs as easily as
if they had been charred in the fire, and went away
And Delilah tried again to find his secret. She
said, "You are only making fun of me. Now tell me
truly how you can be bound."
And Samson said, "Let them bind me with new ropes,
that have never been used before; and then I cannot
While Samson was asleep again, Delilah bound him
with new ropes. Then she called out as before, "Get
up, Samson, for the Philistines are coming!" And
when Samson rose up, the ropes broke as if they were
thread. And Delilah again urged him to tell her; and
"You notice that my long hair is in seven locks.
Weave it together in the loom, just as if it were
the threads in a piece of cloth."
Then, while he was asleep, she wove his hair in the
loom, and fastened it with a large pin to the
weaving frame. But when he awoke, he rose up, and
carried away the pin and the beam of the
weaving-frame, for he was as strong as before.
And Delilah said, "Why do you tell me that you love
me, as long as you deceive me, and keep from me your
secret!" And she pleaded with him day after day,
until at last he yielded to her, and told her the
real secret of his strength. He said:
"I am a Nazarite, under a vow to the Lord not to
drink wine, and not to allow my hair to be cut. If I
should let my hair be cut short, then the Lord would
forsake me, and my strength would go from me, and I
would be like other men."
Then Delilah knew that she had found the truth at
last. She sent for the rulers of the Philistines,
saying, "Come up this once, and you shall have your
enemy; for I am sure now that he has told me all
that is in his heart."
Then, while the Philistines were watching outside,
Delilah let Samson go to sleep, with his head upon
her knees. While he was sound asleep, they took a
razor and shaved off all his hair. Then she called
out as at other times, "Rise up, Samson; the
Philistines are upon you."
He awoke, and rose up, expecting to find himself
strong as before; for he did not at first know that
his long hair had been cut off. But he had broken
his vow to the Lord, and the Lord had left him. He
was now as weak as other men, and helpless in the
hands of his enemies. The Philistines easily made
him their prisoner; and that he might never do them
more harm, they put out his eyes. Then they chained
him with fetters, and sent him to prison at Gaza.
And in the prison they made Samson turn a heavy
millstone to grind grain, just as though he were a
beast of burden.
But while Samson was in prison his hair grew long
again; and with his hair his strength came back to
him, for Samson renewed his vow to the Lord.
One day a great feast was held by the Philistines in
the temple of their fish-god Dagon. For they said,
"Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.
Let us be glad together and praise Dagon."
And the temple was thronged with people, and the
roof over it was also crowded with more than three
thousand men and women. They sent for Samson, to
rejoice over him; and Samson was led into the court
of the temple, before all the people, to amuse them.
After a time, Samson said to the boy who was leading
"Take me up to the front of the temple, so that I
may stand by one of the pillars, and lean against
And while Samson stood between two of the pillars,
he prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said, "O
Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and give me
strength only this once, O God; and help me, that I
may obtain vengeance upon the Philistines for my two
Then he placed one arm around the pillar on one
side, and the other arm around the pillar on the
other side; and he said, "Let me die with the
And he bowed forward with all his might, and pulled
the pillars over with him, bringing down the roof
and all upon it upon those that were under it.
Samson himself was among the dead; but in his death
he killed more of the Philistines than he had killed
during his life.
Then in the terror which came upon the Philistines
the men of Samson's tribe came down and found his
dead body, and buried it in their own land. After
that it was years before the Philistines tried again
to rule over the Israelites.
Samson did much to set his people free, but he might
have done much more, if he had led his people,
instead of trusting alone to his own strength; and
if he had lived more earnestly, and not done his
deeds as though he was playing pranks and making
jokes upon his enemies. There were deep faults in
Samson, but at the end he sought God's help and
found it; and God used Samson to begin to set his
The tribe to which Samson belonged was the tribe of
Dan, a people who lived on the edge of the mountain
country, between the mountains and the plains by the
sea-coast, which was the home of the Philistines.
The tribe-land of Dan was northwest of Judah,
southwest of Ephraim, and west of Benjamin. Samson
ruled over his own tribe, but not much over the
other tribes. Yet his deeds of courage and strength
kept the Philistines, during his lifetime, from
getting control over the lands of Judah and
Benjamin; so that Samson helped to save Israel from
Samson and Delilah