THE STRONG MAN: HOW HE LIVED AND HOW HE DIED
Judges xiii: 1, to xvi: 31.
FTER 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 men.
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 Israelites.
 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.
YOUNG SAMSON SLAYS 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 to
"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 from me."
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
 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 instead."
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 fields.
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 wife.
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, thus:
"With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps,
With the jawbone of an ass, have I slain a thousand men."
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
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 with
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."
DELILAH TRIES TO LEARN FROM SAMSON THE SECRET OF HIS STRENGTH
And Samson said, "Let them bind me with new ropes, that
have never been used before; and then I cannot get
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 he said:
"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
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
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 him:
"Take me up to the front of the temple, so that I may
stand by one of the pillars, and lean against it."
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 eyes!"
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 Philistines."
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.
SAMSON PULLING DOWN THE TEMPLE
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 people free.
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 its enemies.