13 And then the People of Israel were back at it again, doing what was evil in God’s sight. God put them under the domination of the Philistines for forty years.
2-5 At that time there was a man named Manoah from Zorah from the tribe of Dan. His wife was barren and childless. The angel of God appeared to her and told her, “I know that you are barren and childless, but you’re going to become pregnant and bear a son. But take much care: Drink no wine or beer; eat nothing ritually unclean. You are, in fact, pregnant right now, carrying a son. No razor will touch his head—the boy will be God’s Nazirite from the moment of his birth. He will launch the deliverance from Philistine oppression.”
6-7 The woman went to her husband and said, “A man of God came to me. He looked like the angel of God—terror laced with glory! I didn’t ask him where he was from and he didn’t tell me his name, but he told me, ‘You’re pregnant. You’re going to give birth to a son. Don’t drink any wine or beer and eat nothing ritually unclean. The boy will be God’s Nazirite from the moment of birth to the day of his death.’”
8 Manoah prayed to God: “Master, let the man of God you sent come to us again and teach us how to raise this boy who is to be born.”
9-10 God listened to Manoah. God’s angel came again to the woman. She was sitting in the field; her husband Manoah wasn’t there with her. She jumped to her feet and ran and told her husband: “He’s back! The man who came to me that day!”
11 Manoah got up and, following his wife, came to the man. He said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife?”
He said, “I am.”
12 Manoah said, “So. When what you say comes true, what do you have to tell us about this boy and his work?”
13-14 The angel of God said to Manoah, “Keep in mind everything I told the woman. Eat nothing that comes from the vine: Drink no wine or beer; eat no ritually unclean foods. She’s to observe everything I commanded her.”
15 Manoah said to the angel of God, “Please, stay with us a little longer; we’ll prepare a meal for you—a young goat.”
16 God’s angel said to Manoah, “Even if I stay, I won’t eat your food. But if you want to prepare a Whole-Burnt-Offering for God, go ahead—offer it!” Manoah had no idea that he was talking to the angel of God.
17 Then Manoah asked the angel of God, “What’s your name? When your words come true, we’d like to honor you.”
18 The angel of God said, “What’s this? You ask for my name? You wouldn’t understand—it’s sheer wonder.”
19-21 So Manoah took the kid and the Grain-Offering and sacrificed them on a rock altar to God who works wonders. As the flames leapt up from the altar to heaven, God’s angel also ascended in the altar flames. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell facedown to the ground. Manoah and his wife never saw the angel of God again.
21-22 Only then did Manoah realize that this was God’s angel. He said to his wife, “We’re as good as dead! We’ve looked on God!”
23 But his wife said, “If God were planning to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted our Whole-Burnt-Offering and Grain-Offering, or revealed all these things to us—given us this birth announcement.”
24-25 The woman gave birth to a son. They named him Samson. The boy grew and God blessed him. The Spirit of God began working in him while he was staying at a Danite camp between Zorah and Eshtaol.
* * *
14 1-2 Samson went down to Timnah. There in Timnah a woman caught his eye, a Philistine girl. He came back and told his father and mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, a Philistine girl; get her for me as my wife.”
3 His parents said to him, “Isn’t there a woman among the girls in the neighborhood of our people? Do you have to go get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”
But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the one I want—she’s the right one.”
4 (His father and mother had no idea that God was behind this, that he was arranging an opportunity against the Philistines. At the time the Philistines lorded it over Israel.)
5-6 Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother. When he got to the vineyards of Timnah, a young lion came at him, roaring. The Spirit of God came on him powerfully and he ripped it open barehanded, like tearing a young goat. But he didn’t tell his parents what he had done.
7 Then he went on down and spoke to the woman. In Samson’s eyes, she was the one.
8-9 Some days later when he came back to get her, he made a little detour to look at what was left of the lion. And there a wonder: a swarm of bees in the lion’s carcass—and honey! He scooped it up in his hands and kept going, eating as he went. He rejoined his father and mother and gave some to them and they ate. But he didn’t tell them that he had scooped out the honey from the lion’s carcass.
10-11 His father went on down to make arrangements with the woman, while Samson prepared a feast there. That’s what the young men did in those days. Because the people were wary of him, they arranged for thirty friends to mingle with him.
12-13 Samson said to them: “Let me put a riddle to you. If you can figure it out during the seven days of the feast, I’ll give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of fine clothing. But if you can’t figure it out then you’ll give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of fine clothing.”
13-14 They said, “Put your riddle. Let’s hear it.” So he said,
From the eater came something to eat,
From the strong came something sweet.
14-15 They couldn’t figure it out. After three days they were still stumped. On the fourth day they said to Samson’s bride, “Worm the answer out of your husband or we’ll burn you and your father’s household. Have you invited us here to bankrupt us?”
16 So Samson’s bride turned on the tears, saying to him, “You hate me. You don’t love me. You’ve told a riddle to my people but you won’t even tell me the answer.”
He said, “I haven’t told my own parents—why would I tell you?”
17 But she turned on the tears all the seven days of the feast. On the seventh day, worn out by her nagging, he told her. Then she went and told it to her people.
18 The men of the town came to him on the seventh day, just before sunset and said,
What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?
And Samson said,
If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer,
You wouldn’t have found out my riddle.
19-20 Then the Spirit of God came powerfully on him. He went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men, stripped them, and gave their clothing to those who had solved the riddle. Stalking out, smoking with anger, he went home to his father’s house. Samson’s bride became the wife of the best man at his wedding.
* * *
15 1-2 Later on—it was during the wheat harvest—Samson visited his bride, bringing a young goat. He said, “Let me see my wife—show me her bedroom.”
But her father wouldn’t let him in. He said, “I concluded that by now you hated her with a passion, so I gave her to your best man. But her little sister is even more beautiful. Why not take her instead?”
3 Samson said, “That does it. This time when I wreak havoc on the Philistines, I’m blameless.”
4-5 Samson then went out and caught three hundred jackals. He lashed the jackals’ tails together in pairs and tied a torch between each pair of tails. He then set fire to the torches and let them loose in the Philistine fields of ripe grain. Everything burned, both stacked and standing grain, vineyards and olive orchards—everything.
6 The Philistines said, “Who did this?”
They were told, “Samson, son-in-law of the Timnite who took his bride and gave her to his best man.”
The Philistines went up and burned both her and her father to death.
7 Samson then said, “If this is the way you’re going to act, I swear I’ll get even with you. And I’m not quitting till the job’s done!”
8 With that he tore into them, ripping them limb from limb—a huge slaughter. Then he went down and stayed in a cave at Etam Rock.
* * *
9-10 The Philistines set out and made camp in Judah, preparing to attack Lehi (Jawbone). When the men of Judah asked, “Why have you come up against us?” they said, “We’re out to get Samson. We’re going after Samson to do to him what he did to us.”
11 Three companies of men from Judah went down to the cave at Etam Rock and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines already bully and lord it over us? So what’s going on with you, making things even worse?”
He said, “It was tit for tat. I only did to them what they did to me.”
12 They said, “Well, we’ve come down here to tie you up and turn you over to the Philistines.”
Samson said, “Just promise not to hurt me.”
13 “We promise,” they said. “We will tie you up and surrender you to them but, believe us, we won’t kill you.” They proceeded to tie him with new ropes and led him up from the Rock.
14-16 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came to meet him, shouting in triumph. And then the Spirit of God came on him with great power. The ropes on his arms fell apart like flax on fire; the strips of leather slipped off his hands. He spotted a fresh donkey jawbone, reached down and grabbed it, and with it killed the whole company. And Samson said,
With a donkey’s jawbone
I made heaps of donkeys of them.
With a donkey’s jawbone
I killed an entire company.
17 When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone. He named that place Ramath Lehi (Jawbone Hill).
18-19 Now he was suddenly very thirsty. He called out to God, “You have given your servant this great victory. Are you going to abandon me to die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” So God split open the rock basin in Lehi; water gushed out and Samson drank. His spirit revived—he was alive again! That’s why it’s called En Hakkore (Caller’s Spring). It’s still there at Lehi today.
20 Samson judged Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.
* * *
16 1-2 Samson went to Gaza and saw a prostitute. He went to her. The news got around: “Samson’s here.” They gathered around in hiding, waiting all night for him at the city gate, quiet as mice, thinking, “At sunrise we’ll kill him.”
3 Samson was in bed with the woman until midnight. Then he got up, seized the doors of the city gate and the two gateposts, bolts and all, hefted them on his shoulder, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.
* * *
4-5 Some time later he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek (Grapes). Her name was Delilah. The Philistine tyrants approached her and said, “Seduce him. Discover what’s behind his great strength and how we can tie him up and humble him. Each man’s company will give you a hundred shekels of silver.”
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me, dear, the secret of your great strength, and how you can be tied up and humbled.”
7 Samson told her, “If they were to tie me up with seven bowstrings—the kind made from fresh animal tendons, not dried out—then I would become weak, just like anyone else.”
8-9 The Philistine tyrants brought her seven bowstrings, not dried out, and she tied him up with them. The men were waiting in ambush in her room. Then she said, “The Philistines are on you, Samson!” He snapped the cords as though they were mere threads. The secret of his strength was still a secret.
10 Delilah said, “Come now, Samson—you’re playing with me, making up stories. Be serious; tell me how you can be tied up.”
11 He told her, “If you were to tie me up tight with new ropes, ropes never used for work, then I would be helpless, just like anybody else.”
12 So Delilah got some new ropes and tied him up. She said, “The Philistines are on you, Samson!” The men were hidden in the next room. He snapped the ropes from his arms like threads.
13-14 Delilah said to Samson, “You’re still playing games with me, teasing me with lies. Tell me how you can be tied up.”
He said to her, “If you wove the seven braids of my hair into the fabric on the loom and drew it tight, then I would be as helpless as any other mortal.”
When she had him fast asleep, Delilah took the seven braids of his hair and wove them into the fabric on the loom and drew it tight. Then she said, “The Philistines are on you, Samson!” He woke from his sleep and ripped loose from both the loom and fabric!
15 She said, “How can you say ‘I love you’ when you won’t even trust me? Three times now you’ve toyed with me, like a cat with a mouse, refusing to tell me the secret of your great strength.”
16-17 She kept at it day after day, nagging and tormenting him. Finally, he was fed up—he couldn’t take another minute of it. He spilled it.
He told her, “A razor has never touched my head. I’ve been God’s Nazirite from conception. If I were shaved, my strength would leave me; I would be as helpless as any other mortal.”
18 When Delilah realized that he had told her his secret, she sent for the Philistine tyrants, telling them, “Come quickly—this time he’s told me the truth.” They came, bringing the bribe money.
19 When she got him to sleep, his head on her lap, she motioned to a man to cut off the seven braids of his hair. Immediately he began to grow weak. His strength drained from him.
20 Then she said, “The Philistines are on you, Samson!” He woke up, thinking, “I’ll go out, like always, and shake free.” He didn’t realize that God had abandoned him.
21-22 The Philistines grabbed him, gouged out his eyes, and took him down to Gaza. They shackled him in irons and put him to the work of grinding in the prison. But his hair, though cut off, began to grow again.
23-24 The Philistine tyrants got together to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon. They celebrated, saying,
Our god has given us
Samson our enemy!
And when the people saw him, they joined in, cheering their god,
Our god has given
Our enemy to us,
The one who ravaged our country,
Piling high the corpses among us.
25-27 Then this: Everyone was feeling high and someone said, “Get Samson! Let him show us his stuff!” They got Samson from the prison and he put on a show for them.
They had him standing between the pillars. Samson said to the young man who was acting as his guide, “Put me where I can touch the pillars that hold up the temple so I can rest against them.” The building was packed with men and women, including all the Philistine tyrants. And there were at least three thousand in the stands watching Samson’s performance.
28 And Samson cried out to God:
Oh, please, look on me again,
Oh, please, give strength yet once more.
With one avenging blow let me be avenged
On the Philistines for my two eyes!
29-30 Then Samson reached out to the two central pillars that held up the building and pushed against them, one with his right arm, the other with his left. Saying, “Let me die with the Philistines,” Samson pushed hard with all his might. The building crashed on the tyrants and all the people in it. He killed more people in his death than he had killed in his life.
* * *
31 His brothers and all his relatives went down to get his body. They carried him back and buried him in the tomb of Manoah his father, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
He judged Israel for twenty years.