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Judges 13-16 The Message (MSG)

Samson

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.’”

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.”

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.”

(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.

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?”

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.

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.

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!”

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 thongs 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.”

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.”

So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me, dear, the secret of your great strength, and how you can be tied up and humbled.”

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:

Master, God!
    Oh, please, look on me again,
    Oh, please, give strength yet once more.

God!
    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.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Judges 13-16 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

The Birth of Samson

13 Again the people started doing what the Lord said was wrong. So the Lord allowed the Philistines to rule over them for 40 years.

There was a man named Manoah from the city of Zorah. He was from the tribe of Dan. Manoah had a wife, but she was not able to have any children. The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “You have not been able to have children. But you will become pregnant and have a son. Don’t drink any wine or any other strong drink. Don’t eat any food that is unclean, because you are pregnant, and you will have a son. He will be dedicated to God in a special way. He will be a Nazirite. So you must never cut his hair. He will be God’s special person from before he is born. He will save the Israelites from the power of the Philistines.”

Then the woman went to her husband and told him what had happened. She said, “A man of God came to me. He looked like the angel of God. He frightened me. I didn’t ask him where he was from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘You are pregnant and will have a son. Don’t drink any wine or other strong drink. Don’t eat any food that is unclean, because the boy will be dedicated to God in a special way. The boy will be God’s special person from before he is born until the day he dies.’”

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord. He said, “Lord, I beg you to send the man of God to us again. We want him to teach us what we should do for the boy who will soon be born.”

God heard Manoah’s prayer. The angel of God came to the woman again. She was sitting in a field and her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 So the woman ran to tell her husband, “The man is back! The man who came to me the other day is here.”

11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the same man who spoke to my wife before?”

The angel said, “I am.”

12 So Manoah said, “May what you say happen. Tell me, what kind of life will the boy live? What will he do?”

13 The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Your wife must do everything I told her. 14 She must not eat anything that grows on a grapevine. She must not drink any wine or strong drink. She must not eat any food that is unclean. She must do everything that I have commanded her to do.”

15 Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like for you to stay a while. We want to cook a young goat for you to eat.”

16 The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Even if you keep me from leaving, I will not eat your food. But if you want to prepare something, offer a burnt offering to the Lord.” (Manoah did not understand that the man was really the angel of the Lord.)

17 Then Manoah asked the angel of the Lord, “What is your name? We want to know so that we can honor you when what you have said really happens.”

18 The angel of the Lord said, “Why do you ask my name? It is too amazing for you to believe.[a]

19 Then Manoah sacrificed a young goat on a rock. He offered the goat and a grain offering as a gift to the Lord and to the One Who Does Amazing Things.[b] 20 Manoah and his wife were watching what happened. As the flames went up to the sky from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up to heaven in the fire.

When Manoah and his wife saw that, they bowed down with their faces to the ground. 21 He finally understood that the man was really the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord did not appear to Manoah and his wife again. 22 Manoah said to his wife, “We have seen God. Surely we will die because of this.”

23 But his wife said to him, “The Lord does not want to kill us. If he wanted to kill us, he would not have accepted our burnt offering and grain offering. He would not have shown us all these things or told us this.”

24 So the woman had a boy. She named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him. 25 The Spirit of the Lord began to work in Samson while he was in the city of Mahaneh Dan. That city is between the cities of Zorah and Eshtaol.

Samson’s Marriage

14 Samson went down to the city of Timnah. He saw a young Philistine woman there. When he returned home, he said to his father and mother, “I saw a Philistine woman in Timnah. I want you to get her for me. I want to marry her.”

His father and his mother answered, “But surely there is a woman from the Israelites you can marry. Do you have to marry a woman from the Philistines? Their men are not even circumcised.”

But Samson said, “Get that woman for me! She is the one I want!” (Samson’s parents did not know that the Lord wanted this to happen. He was looking for a way to do something against the Philistines. They were ruling over the Israelites at that time.)

Samson went down with his father and mother to the city of Timnah. They went as far as the vineyards near that city. There a young lion suddenly roared and jumped at Samson! The Spirit of the Lord came on Samson with great power. He tore the lion apart with his bare hands. It seemed easy to him. It was as easy as tearing apart a young goat. But Samson did not tell his father or mother what he had done.

So Samson went down to the city and talked to the Philistine woman. She pleased him. Several days later, Samson came back to marry her. On his way, he went over to look at the dead lion. He found a swarm of bees in its body. They had made some honey. Samson got some of the honey with his hands. He walked along eating the honey. When he came to his parents, he gave them some of the honey, and they ate it too. But Samson did not tell his parents that he had taken the honey from the body of the dead lion.

10 Samson’s father went down to see the Philistine woman. The custom was for the bridegroom to give a party. So Samson gave a party. 11 When the Philistines saw that he was having a party, they sent 30 men to be with him.

12 Then Samson said to the 30 men, “I want to tell you a story. This party will last for seven days. Try to find the answer during that time. If you can answer the riddle in that time, I will give you 30 linen shirts and 30 changes of clothes. 13 But if you cannot find the answer, you must give me 30 linen shirts and 30 changes of clothes.” So the 30 men said, “Tell us your riddle, we want to hear it.”

14 Samson told them this riddle:

“Out of the eater came something to eat.
    Out of the strong came something sweet.”

The 30 men tried for three days to find the answer, but they couldn’t.

15 On the fourth day,[c] the men came to Samson’s wife. They said, “Did you invite us here just to make us poor? You must trick your husband into telling us the answer to the riddle. If you don’t get the answer for us, we will burn you and everyone in your father’s house to death.”

16 So Samson’s wife went to him and began crying. She said, “You just hate me! You don’t really love me! You told my people a riddle, and you will not tell me the answer.”

Samson said to her, “Look, I have not even told my father and mother. So why should I tell you?”

17 Samson’s wife cried for the rest of the seven days of the party. So he finally gave her the answer to the riddle on the seventh day. He told her because she kept bothering him. Then she went to her people and told them the answer to the riddle.

18 So before the sun went down on the seventh day of the party, the Philistine men had the answer. They came to Samson and said,

“What is sweeter than honey?
    What is stronger than a lion?”

Then Samson said to them,

“If you had not plowed with my cow,
    you would not have solved my riddle!”

19 Samson was very angry. The Spirit of the Lord came on Samson with great power. He went down to the city of Ashkelon and killed 30 Philistine men. He took all the clothes and property from the dead bodies and gave them to the men who had answered his riddle. Then he went to his father’s house. 20 So Samson’s wife was given to his best man.

Samson Makes Trouble for the Philistines

15 At the time of the wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife. He took a young goat with him as a gift. He said, “I am going to my wife’s room.”

But her father would not let Samson go in. He said, “I thought you hated her, so I let her marry the best man at the wedding. Her younger sister is more beautiful. Take her younger sister.”

But Samson said to him, “Now I have a good reason to hurt you Philistines. No one will blame me now.”

So Samson went out and caught 300 foxes. He took two foxes at a time and tied their tails together to make pairs. Then he tied a torch between the tails of each pair of foxes. He lit the torches that were between the foxes’ tails and let them run through the grain fields of the Philistines. In this way he burned up the plants growing in their fields and the stacks of grain they had cut. He also burned up their vineyards and their olive trees.

The Philistines asked, “Who did this?”

Someone told them, “Samson, the son-in-law of the man from Timnah, did this. He did this because his father-in-law gave Samson’s wife to the best man at his wedding.” So the Philistines burned Samson’s wife and her father to death.

Then Samson said to the Philistines, “You did this bad thing to me, so now I will do bad things to you. Then I will be finished with you!”

Samson attacked the Philistines and killed many of them. Then he went and stayed in a cave in a place named the Rock of Etam.

The Philistines went to the land of Judah and stopped near a place named Lehi. Their army camped there. 10 The men of the tribe of Judah asked them, “Why have you Philistines come here to fight us?”

They answered, “We have come to get Samson. We want to make him our prisoner. We want to punish him for what he has done to our people.”

11 Then 3000 men from the tribe of Judah went to the cave near the Rock of Etam and said to Samson, “What have you done to us? Don’t you know that the Philistines rule over us?”

Samson answered, “I only punished them for what they did to me.”

12 Then they said to Samson, “We have come to tie you up. We will give you to the Philistines.”

Samson said to the men from Judah, “Promise me that you yourselves will not hurt me.”

13 The men from Judah said, “We agree. We will just tie you up and give you to the Philistines. We promise that we will not kill you.” So they tied Samson with two new ropes and led him up from the cave in the rock.

14 When Samson came to the place called Lehi, the Philistines came to meet him. They were shouting with joy. Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Samson with great power. Samson broke the ropes—they were like burned strings falling from his arms and the ropes on his hands seemed to melt away. 15 Samson found a jawbone of a dead donkey and killed 1000 Philistine men with it.

16 Then Samson said,

“With a donkey’s jawbone,
    I killed 1000 men!
With a donkey’s jawbone,
    I piled[d] them into a tall pile.”

17 When Samson finished speaking, he threw the jawbone down. So that place was named Ramath Lehi.[e]

18 Samson was very thirsty. So he cried to the Lord. He said, “I am your servant. You gave me this great victory. Please don’t let me die from thirst now. Please don’t let me be captured by men who are not even circumcised.”

19 There is a hole in the ground at Lehi. God made that hole crack open, and water came out. Samson drank the water and felt better. He felt strong again. So he named that water spring En Hakkore.[f] It is still there in the city of Lehi today.

20 Samson was a judge for the Israelites for 20 years during the time of the Philistines.

Samson Goes to the City of Gaza

16 One day Samson went to the city of Gaza. He saw a prostitute there and went in to stay the night with her. Someone told the people of Gaza, “Samson has come here.” They wanted to kill him, so they surrounded the city. They hid near the city gate and waited all night for him. They were very quiet all night long. They had said to each other, “When morning comes, we will kill Samson.”

But Samson only stayed with the prostitute until midnight. Then he got up and grabbed the doors of the city gate and pulled them loose from the wall. He pulled down the doors, the two posts, and the bars that lock the doors shut. He put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill near the city of Hebron.

Samson and Delilah

Later, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who was from Sorek Valley.

The rulers of the Philistines went to Delilah and said, “We want to know what makes Samson so strong. Try to trick him into telling you his secret. Then we will know how to capture him and tie him up. Then we will be able to control him. If you do this, each one of us will give you 28 pounds[g] of silver.”

So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me why you are so strong. How could someone tie you up and make you helpless?”

Samson answered, “Someone would have to tie me up with seven fresh, new bowstrings.[h] If someone did that, I would be as weak as any other man.”

Then the rulers of the Philistines brought seven fresh, new bowstrings to Delilah, and she tied Samson with the bowstrings. Some men were hiding in the next room. Delilah said to Samson, “Samson, the Philistine men are going to capture you!” But Samson easily broke the bowstrings. They snapped like a string when it comes too close to a flame. So the Philistines did not find out the secret of Samson’s strength.

10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You lied to me. You made me look foolish. Please tell me the truth. How could someone tie you up?”

11 Samson said, “Someone would have to tie me up with new ropes. They would have to tie me with ropes that have not been used before. If someone did that, I would become as weak as any other man.”

12 So Delilah took some new ropes and tied up Samson. Some men were hiding in the next room. Then Delilah called out to him, “Samson, the Philistine men are going to capture you!” But he broke the ropes easily as if they were threads.

13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You lied to me again. You made me look foolish. Now, tell me how someone could tie you up.”

Samson said, “If you use the loom to weave the seven braids of hair on my head and tighten it with a pin, I will become as weak as any other man.”

14 Later, Samson went to sleep, so Delilah used the loom to weave the seven braids of hair on his head.[i] Then Delilah fastened the loom to the ground with a tent peg. Again she called out to him, “Samson, the Philistine men are going to capture you!” Samson pulled up the tent peg, the loom, and the shuttle.[j]

15 Then Delilah said to Samson, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you don’t even trust me? You refuse to tell me your secret. This is the third time you made me look foolish. You haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 She kept bothering Samson day after day. He got so tired of her asking him about his secret that he felt like he was going to die. 17 Finally, Samson told Delilah everything. He said, “I have never had my hair cut. I was dedicated to God before I was born. If someone shaved my head, I would lose my strength. I would become as weak as any other man.”

18 Delilah saw that Samson had told her his secret. She sent a message to the rulers of the Philistines. She said, “Come back again. Samson has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines came back and brought the money that they had promised to give her.

19 Delilah got Samson to go to sleep with his head lying in her lap. Then she called in a man to shave off the seven braids of Samson’s hair. In this way she made Samson weak, and his strength left him. 20 Then Delilah called out to him, “Samson, the Philistine men are going to capture you!” He woke up and thought, “I will escape as I did before and free myself.” But Samson did not know that the Lord had left him.

21 The Philistine men captured Samson. They tore out his eyes and took him down to the city of Gaza. Then they put chains on him to keep him from running away. They put him in prison and made him work grinding grain. 22 But his hair began to grow again.

23 The Philistine rulers came together to celebrate. They were going to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon. They said, “Our god helped us defeat Samson our enemy.” 24 When the Philistines saw Samson, they praised their god. They said,

“This man destroyed our people!
    He killed many of our people!
But our god helped us
    take our enemy!”

25 The people were having a good time at the celebration. So they said, “Bring Samson out. We want to make fun of him.” So they brought Samson from the prison and made fun of him. They made him stand between the columns in the temple of the god Dagon. 26 A servant was holding his hand. Samson said to him, “Put me where I can feel the columns that hold this temple up. I want to lean against them.”

27 The temple was crowded with men and women. All the Philistine rulers were there. There were about 3000 men and women on the roof of the temple. They were laughing and making fun of Samson. 28 Then Samson said a prayer to the Lord, “Lord God, remember me. God, please give me strength one more time. Let me do this one thing to punish these Philistines for tearing out both of my eyes!” 29 Then Samson took hold of the two columns in the center of the temple that supported the whole temple. He braced himself between the two columns. One column was at his right side and the other at his left side. 30 Samson said, “Let me die with these Philistines!” Then he pushed as hard as he could, and the temple fell on the rulers and everyone in it. In this way Samson killed many more Philistines when he died than when he was alive.

31 Samson’s brothers and all the people in his father’s family went down to get his body. They brought him back and buried him in his father’s tomb, which is between the cities of Zorah and Eshtaol. Samson was a judge for the Israelites for 20 years.

Footnotes:

  1. Judges 13:18 It is … believe Or “It is Pelei.” This means “amazing” or “wonderful.” This is like the name “Wonderful Counselor” in Isa. 9:6.
  2. Judges 13:19 the Lord … Amazing Things Or “the Lord Who Does Amazing Things.” Both of these are names for God, but Manoah didn’t know the man was really the angel of the Lord.
  3. Judges 14:15 fourth day This is from the ancient Greek version. The standard Hebrew text has “seventh day.”
  4. Judges 15:16 piled In Hebrew, the word “pile” is like the word “donkey.”
  5. Judges 15:17 Ramath Lehi This name means “Jawbone Heights.”
  6. Judges 15:19 En Hakkore This name means “The spring of the one who calls.”
  7. Judges 16:5 28 pounds Literally, “1100 shekels” (12.6 kg).
  8. Judges 16:7 fresh, new bowstrings Bowstrings were often made from sinew (tendons) which is brittle after it becomes old and dry.
  9. Judges 16:14 so Delilah … head This is found in the ancient Greek version but not in the standard Hebrew text.
  10. Judges 16:14 shuttle The tool used to pull the threads back and forth on a loom to make cloth.
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Copyright © 2006 by Bible League International

Judges 13-16 The Voice (VOICE)

13 Once again, though, the Israelites did evil according to the Eternal God, and He gave the Philistines power over them for 40 years. During that time, a man of Zorah named Manoah, from the tribe of Dan, was married to a wife who could bear him no children.

Messenger of the Eternal One (appearing to Manoah’s wife): You are barren and have no children, but all of that is about to change. You will conceive and have a son. Be careful that you don’t drink wine or any other spirits (strong drink), and don’t eat anything that is ritually impure, for you are going to become pregnant and have a son. Don’t ever use a razor on his head, because you will raise this boy as a Nazirite, dedicated to the True God from his conception, and he will be the one to begin delivering Israel from the Philistines.

Manoah’s Wife (to her husband): A man of the True God visited me. He looked like a messenger of God, awe-inspiring. I didn’t ask where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name, but he told me that I was going to become pregnant and bear a son. He told me not to drink wine or other spirits or to eat anything ritually unclean because our boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart for God from the day he is conceived until the day he dies.

Manoah (to the Lord): Eternal One, please let the man of God whom you sent visit us again and teach us what to do with the boy You are giving us.

The True God heard Manoah and sent His messenger to visit the woman one day while she was in the fields. Manoah was not with her, 10 so she ran to tell him.

Manoah’s Wife: Look, the man who spoke to me the other day is here again!

11 Manoah got up, followed his wife, and came to where the man was.

Manoah (to the messenger): Are you the one who spoke to my wife the other day?

Messenger of the Eternal One: I am.

Manoah: 12 When your words come true, what rules should we apply to the boy? What is his mission in life?

Messenger of the Eternal One: 13 Your wife should do as I told her on my first visit. 14 She must not eat or drink of the vine, she must not drink any other strong drink, and she must not eat foods that are ritually impure. She must do all that I have commanded.

Manoah: 15 If you will wait, we would like to prepare a young goat for you to eat.

Messenger of the Eternal One: 16 Even if you try to detain me, I will not eat your food. If you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Eternal.

Manoah had not realized that he was speaking to the Eternal’s messenger. 17 That is why he asked the Eternal’s messenger a question.

Manoah: What is your name, so that we may honor you when your words become truth?

Messenger of the Eternal One: 18 Why do you ask my name? It is incomprehensible, beyond human understanding.

19 Manoah took the young goat, together with the offering of grain, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Eternal, to the wonder-working God. While Manoah and his wife watched 20 the flame going up toward heaven from the altar, the Eternal’s messenger rose up to heaven in the flames, and Manoah and his wife put their faces to the ground. 21 When he did not reappear, Manoah realized that they had seen the Eternal’s messenger.

Manoah (to his wife): 22 We are most certainly going to die, for we have seen the True God!

Manoah’s Wife: 23 If the Eternal had desired to kill us, then He would not have accepted the grain and burnt offerings from us or shown us these wonders or brought these announcements at this time.

24 In due time, the woman did bear a son, and she named him Samson. The boy grew, the Eternal God blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the Eternal One began to move in him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

14 Samson went down from the hill country to the Philistine town of Timnah, on the coastal plain, and he saw a Philistine woman there. When he came home, he told his parents,

Samson: I saw this woman in Timnah who captured my attention. She’s a Philistine, but I want her for a wife. I beg you, make the arrangements for her to be my wife.

Samson’s Parents: What? Isn’t there a single woman among your tribe, among all of our people, the people of Israel? Do you have to take a wife from among the uncircumcised Philistines?

Samson (to his father): You have to get her for me. She is the one and is pleasing in my eyes.

The longer the Israelites are in Canaan, the more they find themselves drawn into the beliefs and practices of those around them. Samson, although he is a deliverer of his people and set aside by God, demonstrates the worst traits of his people. He actually takes a wife from among the other people who are trying to conquer Canaan, the Philistines.

But in all of this, we are told, God is working out a purpose; Samson has the Spirit of God. Not only does God use imperfect human beings for His own designs, but God can use human weakness to achieve His goals. Samson’s weakness, although it leads to his personal destruction, becomes God’s strength and leads to great victories for Israel.

Samson’s parents did not know that this passion was planned by the Eternal, who was working out a way to move against the Philistines who ruled over Israel.

Samson and his parents went down to the vineyards of Timnah. While they were traveling, a young lion roared at him. The Spirit of the Eternal moved upon Samson in that instant, and with his bare hands, he tore the lion apart as one might rend a small goat; but since he was by himself when this happened, he did not tell his parents what he had done. Afterward he continued on to Timnah and talked with the woman. Samson was quite taken with her for she was very attractive.

So Samson returned later to marry her, and on the journey, he turned aside to see again the carcass of the lion he had killed. A swarm of bees was in the carcass, where they had made their hive with some honey. Although he had been set aside as a Nazirite, and was not supposed to touch a corpse, he scraped some honey out and went on, eating it from his hands. When he came to his parents, he gave some of it to them to eat, but he did not tell them where he had gotten it.

10 His father went ahead to the Philistine woman, and Samson made a wedding feast with food and drink, as was the custom for young men being married. 11 The Philistines of the bridal party invited 30 men to serve as companions for Samson at the feast, since he had not brought any of his friends.

Samson (to the 30 young men): 12 I have a riddle for you. If you can solve it during the seven days we eat and drink here, I will give each of you a set of linen garments and a change of clothes. 13 If you cannot solve it in the seven days, then you will have to give me 30 linen garments and 30 sets of clothes.

Thirty Men: Ask away. What is your riddle?

14 Samson: Out of the eater came something to eat,
        and out of the strong came something sweet.

For three days the young men puzzled over Samson’s riddle. 15 On the fourth[a] day, they went to Samson’s wife and threatened her.

Thirty Men: Trick your husband, seduce him if necessary, whatever it takes to find out the answer to this riddle, or we will burn down your father’s house with you in it. Did you invite us to this party just to take away what is ours?

16 Samson’s wife went to him and wept in front of him.

Samson’s Wife: You say you love me, but you don’t. You asked my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.

Samson: I haven’t even told my parents the answer. Why should I tell you?

17 She went on crying until the seventh day of the feast; and, at last, because she continued to bother him, he told her the answer. Then she reported it to the young men, 18 so that before the sun went down on the last day of the feast, they knew the answer.

Thirty Men: What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?

Samson: If you hadn’t gone behind my back with my wife, you would never have found the answer to this riddle.

19 The Spirit of the Eternal came upon Samson, and he immediately received great strength. He went down to the Philistine town of Ashkelon where he killed 30 men, took their possessions, and gave their garments in payment to the young men who had answered his riddle. Then, furious, he left the feast and went back up to his father’s house, 20 and Samson’s wife was instead given to the companion who had been his best man.

15 Later, during the time of the wheat harvest, Samson tried to return to his wife, bringing with him a young goat.

Samson: I want to go in and be with my wife.

But his father-in-law refused.

Samson’s Father-in-law: When you left us, I thought you didn’t want her anymore. So I gave her to your companion from the feast. Anyway her younger sister is much prettier than she is. Why don’t you take her instead?

Samson: This time no one will blame me when I hurt the Philistines.

Samson went and caught 300 foxes. Tying them tail-to-tail, he put a torch between each pair of tails so that when they were lit, the foxes ran into the fields of the Philistines and burned everything up. The grain standing in the fields burned, as well as the grain that had been gathered up along with the olive groves and the vineyards.

Philistines (seeing the disaster): Who did this?

Other Philistines: Samson, the son-in-law of the man from Timnah, because he gave Samson’s wife away to his best man.

So the Philistines went and set their house afire, and Samson’s wife and her father were burned alive.

Samson: Is this how it’s going to be? Then I won’t stop until I have taken great revenge on you.

So he fought them mercilessly and killed many of them. And then he went and hid out in a cave near the rock of Etam.

A company of Philistines went up then and camped in Judah, where they made a raid against Lehi.

Men of Judah (to the company of Philistines): 10 Why are you doing this?

Philistines: We’ve come up to capture Samson, to make him suffer the way he has made us suffer.

Then 3,000 men of Judah went to the rock of Etam to talk to Samson.

Men of Judah (to Samson): 11 Are you crazy? The Philistines are our masters! They have the upper hand. Don’t you know what you’re doing to us?

Samson: I’m only paying them back for what they have done to me.

Men of Judah: 12 We’ve come to capture you and take you to the Philistines.

Samson: Will you swear not to kill me yourselves?

Men of Judah: 13 We agree not to kill you, but we will tie you up and hand you over to them.

So they tied him with two new ropes and led him away from the cave near the rock of Etam. 14 When the Philistines at Lehi saw them coming, they raised a mighty shout and ran to seize Samson. At that moment, the Spirit of the Eternal came upon Samson, and he immediately had great strength. He broke free of the ropes on his arms, as if they were no more than string burned with fire, and the bonds fell from his hands. 15 Grabbing up a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he began fighting them. That day he killed 1,000 Philistines.

16 Samson (singing): With the jawbone of a donkey,
        I have piled them high.
    With the jawbone of a donkey,
        I have killed 1,000 men.

17 When he finished his triumphant song, he threw away the jawbone, and he called that place Ramath-lehi, “the high place of the jawbone.” 18 He was now very thirsty from his exertion, and he cried to the Eternal.

Samson: You have given this great victory into my hands. But am I going to die of thirst now and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines?

19 Then God split open a place in the rock at Lehi so that water gushed out. When Samson drank, he found his strength returned and his spirit revived. So that place was called En-hakkore, “the spring of the one who called,” and it is still in Lehi to this day.

20 Samson judged and delivered Israel during the days of the Philistines for 20 years.

16 When Samson went to Gaza, he saw a prostitute there who pleased him, so he went in to be with her. Word went out to the men of Gaza that Samson had arrived. So they surrounded the house and waited quietly for him at the city gate, thinking, “When morning comes, we will strike him down.” But Samson fooled the men of Gaza: he stayed with the prostitute only until midnight. Then he rose from the bed, took hold of the closed city gates, and pulled them, still barred, and the posts that held them, out of the ground. Then he hoisted them onto his shoulders and carried them up onto the hill in front of Hebron.

After this he fell in love with Delilah, a woman from the valley of Sorek. The rulers of the Philistines came to her with a plan.

Philistine Rulers: If you can charm him into giving you the secret of his great strength so that we can overpower and capture him, each of us will give you 1,100 pieces of silver.

Delilah agreed. On one of their visits, she questioned him.

Delilah (to Samson): What makes you so strong? How could anyone bind you and control you?

Samson: If you were to bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not dried yet, I would be weak and no different from any other man.

It seems as though Samson is toying with Delilah in his answer.

The Philistine rulers brought Delilah seven fresh bowstrings. As Samson slept, she bound him with them. When the warriors had taken their places in the inner chamber, Delilah called out to him.

Delilah: Wake up, Samson! The Philistines are attacking!

But he snapped the bowstrings the way a thread snaps when it is touched by a flame and fended off the attackers. So the secret of his strength remained hidden.

Delilah (to Samson): 10 You’re making fun of me now. You haven’t told me the truth. Please tell me: how could I bind you and take away your strength?

Samson: 11 If you were to bind me with new ropes that have never been used, I would be weak and no different from any other man.

12 Using new ropes Delilah bound Samson as he slept. When the warriors had taken their places in the inner chamber, Delilah called out to him.

Delilah: Wake up, Samson! The Philistines are attacking!

But he snapped the ropes like a thread and fended off the attackers. So the secret of his strength remained hidden.

Delilah (to Samson): 13 You just go on making fun of me. You haven’t told me the truth. Please tell me: how could I bind you and take away your strength?

Samson: If you were to weave my seven locks of hair into the loom’s web and make it tight with a pin, I would be weak and no different from any other man.

14 While he slept, Delilah wove his seven locks of hair into the loom’s web and tightened it with the weaver’s comb. When the warriors had taken their places in the inner chamber, Delilah called out,

Delilah: Wake up, Samson! The Philistines are attacking!

But Samson woke up and easily pulled out the comb from the loom and his hair from the web and fended off the attackers. So the secret of his strength remained hidden.

Delilah: 15 How can you say you love me when your actions prove your heart is somewhere else? Three times now you’ve lied to me and haven’t told me why you have such great strength.

16 She continued to ask him, day after day, always nagging; and finally he was tired of it, so tired he couldn’t stand to hear it any longer. 17 Samson told her the truth.

Samson: I have been a Nazirite, set aside to God since I was in my mother’s womb, and my hair has never been cut. If my head were shaved, my strength would vanish. I would be weak and no different from any other man.

18 Delilah at last saw that he was telling her the truth. She sent for the rulers of the Philistines and told them, “This time he has told me his whole secret.” So the lords of the Philistines came, bringing the money they had promised to pay her for betraying Samson.

Samson’s bride and Delilah are both presented as unfaithful and deceitful, and Delilah’s name has become synonymous with any wily and seductive woman who wants to ruin a man. Although these betrayals are part of God’s purpose, some readers have used these particular stories to put down all women. It’s good to remind ourselves that earlier in the Book of Judges God uses Deborah and Jael, brave and strong women, to achieve His purpose. The characters in the story of God’s people—men and women alike—are sometimes good and sometimes evil. Even a Levite, someone set aside to the priesthood of God, can behave with selfishness and cowardice.

19 She helped Samson fall asleep in her lap and called in a man to shave off the seven locks of Samson’s hair. Immediately his strength left him. 20 This time she called to him.

Delilah: Wake up, Samson! The Philistines are attacking!

His strength was gone. Samson woke up and thought he would shake himself free, as he had before, because he did not know that the Spirit of the Eternal had left him.

21 But this time the Philistines seized and held him. They put out his eyes. Then they took him to Gaza, where they bound him with bronze chains and put him to work grinding grain in the prison mill. 22 But while he was there, his hair began to grow back.

23 One day, the rulers of the Philistines gathered for a festival of sacrifice to their god Dagon to celebrate Dagon giving their great enemy, Samson, into their control. 24 Whenever the Philistines saw Samson trudging in the mill, it made them joyful.

Philistines: Our god has given us the great ravager of our land, Samson, who killed so many of us.

25 And during the festival when they were feeling merry, they called for Samson.

Philistine Mob: Bring Samson out, and have him entertain us.

So Samson was led out of the prison and brought before all the people gathered for the festival. They displayed him between the pillars for their entertainment, 26 and Samson spoke to the boy leading him.

Samson: Put me between the main pillars, the ones that hold up the roof, so that I can lean against them.

27 For this occasion the building was full of people—men and women and all the rulers of the Philistines were there. About 3,000 people stood on the roof watching as Samson leaned against the pillars. The crowd watched and waited with anticipation.

Samson (crying out to the Lord): 28 Lord, Eternal One, remember me and fill me with strength this one last time, O True God, so that with this last act of revenge I can pay back the Philistines for the loss of my sight.

29 He took hold of the two main pillars of the building, the ones supporting the roof, and he leaned hard against them, his right hand on one, his left hand on the other.

Samson: 30 Let me die here with the Philistines.

He pushed with all his might. The pillars gave; the building collapsed on the rulers and all the Philistine people who were in it. The number of enemies that he killed at his death was greater than the number of Philistines he had killed during the rest of his life.

31 Then his brothers and the rest of his family came down from the hill country and took his body back up to be buried between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol in the burial ground of his father Manoah. Samson had been judge of Israel for 20 years.

Footnotes:

  1. 14:15 Hebrew reads, “seventh.”
The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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