Judges 12-16 Common English Bible (CEB)
Jephthah defeats the Ephraimites
12 The Ephraimites were called up for battle and crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight the Ammonites and not call us to go with you? We’re going to burn down your house over you!”
2 Jephthah replied to them, “My people and I were in a great conflict with the Ammonites. But when I cried out to you, you didn’t rescue me from their power. 3 When I saw that you weren’t going to rescue me, I risked my own life and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the Lord handed them over to me. So why have you marched against me today to fight me?”
4 So Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought the Ephraimites. The Gileadites defeated the Ephraimites, because they had said, “You are fugitives from Ephraim! Gilead stands within Ephraim and Manasseh.”
5 The Gileadites took control of the Jordan’s crossing points into Ephraim. Whenever one of the Ephraimite fugitives said, “Let me cross,” the Gileadites would ask him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” 6 they would tell him, “Then say shibboleth.” But he would say, “sibboleth,” because he couldn’t pronounce it correctly. So they would seize him and kill him at the Jordan’s crossing points. Forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites fell at that time.
7 Jephthah led Israel for six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in one of the towns in Gilead.
Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon
8 After Jephthah, Ibzan from Bethlehem led Israel. 9 He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He married his thirty daughters to those outside his clan, and brought in thirty young women from outside for his sons. He led Israel for seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.
11 After Ibzan, Elon from Zebulun led Israel; he did so for ten years. 12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.
13 After Elon, Abdon, Hillel’s son from Pirathon, led Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons mounted on seventy donkeys. He led Israel for eight years. 15 Then Abdon, Hillel’s son from Pirathon, died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the Amalekite highlands.
13 The Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil, and he handed them over to the Philistines for forty years.
2 Now there was a certain man from Zorah, from the Danite clan, whose name was Manoah. His wife was unable to become pregnant and had not given birth to any children. 3 The Lord’s messenger appeared to the woman and said to her, “Even though you’ve been unable to become pregnant and haven’t given birth, you are now pregnant and will give birth to a son! 4 Now be careful not to drink wine or brandy or to eat anything that is ritually unclean, 5 because you are pregnant and will give birth to a son. Don’t allow a razor to shave his head, because the boy is going to be a nazirite for God from birth. He’ll be the one who begins Israel’s rescue from the power of the Philistines.”
6 Then the woman went and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and he looked like God’s messenger—very scary! I didn’t ask him where he was from, and he didn’t tell me his name. 7 He said to me, ‘You are pregnant and will give birth to a son, so don’t drink wine or brandy or eat anything that is ritually unclean, because the boy is going to be a nazirite for God from birth until the day he dies.’”
8 Manoah asked the Lord, “Please, my Lord,” he said, “let the man of God whom you sent come back to us once more, so he can teach us how we should treat the boy who is to be born.”
9 God listened to Manoah, and God’s messenger came once more to the woman. She was sitting in the field, but her husband Manoah wasn’t with her. 10 So the woman hurriedly ran and informed her husband. She said to him, “The man who came to me the other day has just appeared to me.”
11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. He came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?”
“I am,” he replied.
12 Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what should be the rules for the boy and how he should act?”
13 The Lord’s messenger answered Manoah, “The woman should be careful to do everything that I told her. 14 She must not consume anything that comes from the grapevine, drink wine or brandy, or eat anything that is ritually unclean. She must be careful to do everything I have commanded her.”
15 Manoah said to the Lord’s messenger, “Please let us persuade you to stay so we can prepare a young goat for you.”
16 But the Lord’s messenger replied to Manoah, “If you persuaded me to stay, I wouldn’t eat your food. If you prepare an entirely burned offering, offer it to the Lord.” Indeed, Manoah didn’t know that he was the Lord’s messenger. 17 Manoah said to the Lord’s messenger, “What’s your name, so that we may honor you when your words come true?”
18 The Lord’s messenger responded to him, “Why do you ask my name? You couldn’t understand it.”
19 So Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered them on a rock to the Lord. While Manoah and his wife were looking, an amazing thing happened: 20 as the flame from the altar went up toward the sky, the Lord’s messenger went up in the altar’s flame. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell facedown on the ground. 21 The Lord’s messenger didn’t reappear to Manoah or his wife, and Manoah then realized that it had been the Lord’s messenger. 22 Manoah said to his wife, “We are certainly going to die, because we’ve seen God!”
23 But his wife replied to him, “If the Lord wanted to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted the entirely burned offering and grain offering from our hands. He wouldn’t have shown us all these things or told us all of this now.”
24 The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew up, and the Lord blessed him. 25 The Lord’s spirit began to move him when he was in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman
14 Samson traveled down to Timnah. While he was in Timnah, a Philistine woman caught his eye. 2 He went back home and told his father and mother, “A Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye; now get her for me as a wife!”
3 But his father and mother replied to him, “Is there no woman among your own relatives or among all our people that you have to go get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”
Yet Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, because she’s the one I want!” 4 His father and mother didn’t know that the Lord was behind this. He was looking for an opening with the Philistines, because they were ruling over Israel at that time.
5 Then Samson traveled down to Timnah with his father and mother. When he came to the vineyards in Timnah, suddenly a lone young lion came roaring to meet him. 6 The Lord’s spirit rushed over him, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as one might tear apart a young goat. But he didn’t tell his father or mother what he had done. 7 Then he traveled down and talked with the woman; she was the one Samson wanted.
8 After a while, he came back again to marry her. He turned aside to look at the lion’s remains, and there was a swarm of bees with honey inside the lion’s skeleton. 9 He scooped the honey into his hands, eating it as he continued along. When he got to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they ate it too. But he didn’t tell them that he had scooped the honey from the lion’s skeleton.
10 His father traveled down to the woman, and Samson put on a feast there, as was the custom for young men. 11 When the townspeople saw him, they selected thirty companions to be with him. 12 Then Samson said to them, “Let me tell you a riddle. If you can figure it out and tell me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I’ll give you thirty linen robes and thirty sets of clothes. 13 But if you can’t tell me the answer, then it’s you who have to give me thirty linen robes and thirty sets of clothes.”
So they replied to him, “Tell your riddle; let’s hear it.”
14 He said to them,
“Out of the eater there came something to eat.
For three days they couldn’t tell the answer to the riddle. 15 On the fourth[a] day they said to Samson’s wife, “Seduce your husband so he’ll tell us the answer to the riddle, or else we’ll set fire to you and your household. Were we invited here just to become poor?”
16 So Samson’s wife cried on his shoulder and said, “You hate me! You don’t love me! You told a riddle to my people but didn’t tell me the answer.”
He replied to her, “Look, I haven’t even told the answer to my father and mother. Why should I tell it to you?” 17 But she cried on his shoulder for the rest of the seven days of the feast. Finally, on the seventh day, he told her the answer, for she had nagged him. And she told her people the answer to the riddle. 18 So on the seventh day, before the sun set, the townspeople said to him,
“What’s sweeter than honey?
He replied to them,
“If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer,
19 Then the Lord’s spirit rushed over him, and he went down to Ashkelon. He killed thirty of their men, stripped them of their gear, and gave the sets of clothes to the ones who had told the answer to the riddle. In anger, he went back up to his father’s household. 20 And Samson’s wife married one of those who had been his companions.
Samson attacks the Philistines
15 Later on, at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife, bringing along a young goat. He said, “Let me go into my wife’s bedroom.”
But her father wouldn’t allow him to go in. 2 Her father said, “I was so sure that you had completely rejected her that I gave her in marriage to one of your companions. Don’t you think her younger sister is even better? Let her be your wife instead.”
3 Samson replied, “No one can blame me now for being ready to bring down trouble on the Philistines!”
4 Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes. He took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5 He lit the torches and released the foxes into the Philistines’ grain fields. So he burned the stacked grain, standing grain, vineyards, and olive orchards.
6 The Philistines inquired, “Who did this?”
So it was reported, “Samson the Timnite’s son-in-law did it, because his father-in-law gave his wife in marriage to one of his companions.” So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death.
7 Samson then responded to them, “If this is how you act, then I won’t stop until I get revenge on you!” 8 He struck them hard, taking their legs right out from under them.[b] Then he traveled down and stayed in a cave in the rock at Etam.
9 The Philistines marched up, made camp in Judah, and released their forces on Lehi. 10 The people of Judah asked, “Why have you marched up against us?”
“We’ve marched up to take Samson prisoner,” they replied, “and to do to him just what he did to us.”
11 So three thousand people from Judah traveled down to the cave in the rock at Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines rule over us? What have you done to us?”
But he told them, “I did to them just what they did to me.”
12 Then the people of Judah said to him, “We’ve come down to take you prisoner so we can turn you over to the Philistines.”
Samson responded to them, “Just promise that you won’t attack me yourselves.”
13 “We won’t,” they said to him. “We’ll only take you prisoner so we can turn you over to them. We won’t kill you.” Then they tied him up with two new ropes, and brought him up from the rock.
14 When Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines met him and came out shouting. The Lord’s spirit rushed over him, the ropes on his arms became like burned-up linen, and the ties melted right off his hands. 15 He found a donkey’s fresh jawbone, picked it up, and used it to attack one thousand men. 16 Samson said,
“With a donkey’s jawbone,
17 When he finished speaking, he tossed away the jawbone. So that place became known as Ramath-lehi.[c]
18 Now Samson was very thirsty, so he called out to the Lord, “You are the one who allowed this great victory to be accomplished by your servant’s hands. Am I now going to die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 So God split open the hollow rock in Lehi, and water flowed out of it. When Samson drank, his energy returned and he was recharged. Thus that place is still called by the name En-hakkore[d] in Lehi today.
20 Samson led Israel for twenty years during the time of the Philistines.
Samson and the prostitute
16 One day Samson traveled to Gaza. While there, he saw a prostitute and had sex with her. 2 The word spread[e] among the people of Gaza, “Samson has come here!” So they circled around and waited in ambush for him all night at the city gate. They kept quiet all night long, thinking, We’ll kill him at the first light in the morning. 3 But Samson slept only half the night. He got up in the middle of the night, grabbed the doors of the city gate and the two gateposts, and pulled them up with the bar still across them. He put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the hill that is beside Hebron.
Samson and Delilah
4 Some time after this, in the Sorek Valley, Samson fell in love with a woman whose name was Delilah. 5 The rulers of the Philistines confronted her and said to her, “Seduce him and find out what gives him such great strength and what we can do to overpower him, so that we can tie him up and make him weak. Then we’ll each pay you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me what gives you such great strength and how you can be tied up and made weak.”
7 Samson replied to her, “If someone ties me up with seven fresh bowstrings that aren’t dried out, I’ll become weak. I’ll be like any other person.” 8 So the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that weren’t dried out, and she tied him up with them.
9 While an ambush was waiting for her signal in an inner room, she called out to him, “Samson, the Philistines are on you!” And he snapped the bowstrings like a thread of fiber snaps when it touches a flame. So the secret of his strength remained unknown.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You made a fool out of me and lied to me. Now please tell me how you can really be tied up!”
11 He replied to her, “If someone ties me up with new ropes that haven’t been used for work, I’ll become weak. I’ll be like any other person.”
12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him up with them. Then she called out to him, “Samson, the Philistines are on you!” Once again, an ambush was waiting in an inner room. Yet he snapped them from his arms like thread.
13 And Delilah said to Samson, “Up to now, you’ve made a fool out of me and lied to me. Tell me how you can be tied up!”
He responded to her, “If you weave the seven braids of my hair into the fabric on a loom and pull it tight with a pin, then I’ll become weak. I’ll be like any other person.”[f]
14 So she got him to fall asleep, wove the seven braids of his hair into the fabric on a loom,[g] and pulled it tight with a pin. Then she called out to him, “Samson, the Philistines are on you!” He woke up from his sleep and pulled loose the pin, the loom, and the fabric.
15 Delilah said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t trust me? Three times now you’ve made a fool out of me and not told me what gives you such great strength!” 16 She nagged him with her words day after day and begged him until he became worn out to the point of death.
17 So he told her his whole secret. He said to her, “No razor has ever touched my head, because I’ve been a nazirite for God from the time I was born. If my head is shaved, my strength will leave me, and I’ll become weak. I’ll be like every other person.”
18 When Delilah realized that he had told her his whole secret, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come one more time, for he has told me his whole secret.” The rulers of the Philistines came up to her and brought the silver with them.
19 She got him to fall asleep with his head on her lap. Then she called a man and had him shave off the seven braids of Samson’s hair. He began to weaken,[h] and his strength left him. 20 She called out, “Samson, the Philistines are on you!”
He woke up from his sleep and thought, I’ll escape just like the other times and shake myself free. But he didn’t realize that the Lord had left him. 21 So the Philistines captured him, put out his eyes, and took him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze chains, and he worked the grinding mill in the prison.
22 But the hair on his head began to grow again right after it had been shaved.
23 The rulers of the Philistines gathered together to make a great sacrifice to their god Dagon and to hold a celebration. They cheered, “Our god has handed us Samson our enemy!” 24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said, “Our god has handed us our enemy, the very one who devastated our land and killed so many of our people.” 25 At the height of the celebration,[i] they said, “Call for Samson so he can perform for us!” So they called Samson from the prison, and he performed in front of them. Then they had him stand between the pillars.
26 Samson said to the young man who led him by the hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that hold up the temple, so I can lean on them.” 27 Now the temple was filled with men and women. All the rulers of the Philistines were there, and about three thousand more men and women were on the roof watching as Samson performed. 28 Then Samson called out to the Lord, “Lord God, please remember me! Make me strong just this once more, God, so I can have revenge on the Philistines, just one act of revenge for my two eyes.”[j] 29 Samson grabbed the two central pillars that held up the temple. He leaned against one with his right hand and the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” He strained with all his might, and the temple collapsed on the rulers and all the people who were in it. So it turned out that he killed more people in his death than he did during his life.
31 His brothers and his father’s entire household traveled down, carried him back up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had led Israel for twenty years.