Judges 16-18 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Samson Carries Off the Gates of Gaza
16 One day while Samson was in Gaza, he saw a prostitute and went to her house to spend the night. 2 The people who lived in Gaza found out he was there, and they decided to kill him at sunrise. So they went to the city gate and waited all night in the guardrooms on each side of the gate.[a]
3 But Samson got up in the middle of the night and went to the town gate. He pulled the gate doors and doorposts out of the wall and put them on his shoulders. Then he carried them all the way to the top of the hill that overlooks Hebron,[b] where he set the doors down, still closed and locked.
Delilah Tricks Samson
4 Some time later, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in Sorek Valley. 5 The Philistine rulers[c] went to Delilah and said, “Trick Samson into telling you what makes him so strong and what can make him weak. Then we can tie him up so he can’t get away. If you find out his secret, we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”[d]
6 The next time Samson was at Delilah’s house, she asked, “Samson, what makes you so strong? How can I tie you up so you can’t get away? Come on, you can tell me.”
7 Samson answered, “If someone ties me up with seven new bowstrings that have never been dried,[e] it will make me just as weak as anyone else.”
8-9 The Philistine rulers gave seven new bowstrings to Delilah. They also told some of their soldiers to go to Delilah’s house and hide in the room where Samson and Delilah were. If the bowstrings made Samson weak, they would be able to capture him.
Delilah tied up Samson with the bowstrings and shouted, “Samson, the Philistines are attacking!”
Samson snapped the bowstrings, as though they were pieces of scorched string. The Philistines had not found out why Samson was so strong.
10 “You lied and made me look like a fool,” Delilah said. “Now tell me. How can I really tie you up?”
11 Samson answered, “Use some new ropes. If I’m tied up with ropes that have never been used, I’ll be just as weak as anyone else.”
12 Delilah got new ropes and again had some Philistines hide in the room. Then she tied up Samson’s arms and shouted, “Samson, the Philistines are attacking!”
Samson snapped the ropes as if they were threads.
13 “You’re still lying and making a fool of me,” Delilah said. “Tell me how I can tie you up!”
“My hair is in seven braids,” Samson replied. “If you weave my braids into the threads on a loom and nail the loom[f] to a wall, then I will be as weak as anyone else.”
14 While Samson was asleep, Delilah wove his braids into the threads on a loom and nailed the loom to a wall.[g] Then she shouted, “Samson, the Philistines are attacking!”
Samson woke up and pulled the loom free from its posts in the ground and from the nails in the wall. Then he pulled his hair free from the woven cloth.
15 “Samson,” Delilah said, “you claim to love me, but you don’t mean it! You’ve made me look like a fool three times now, and you still haven’t told me why you are so strong.” 16 Delilah started nagging and pestering him day after day, until he couldn’t stand it any longer.
17 Finally, Samson told her the truth. “I have belonged to God[h] ever since I was born, so my hair has never been cut. If it were ever cut off, my strength would leave me, and I would be as weak as anyone else.”
18 Delilah realized that he was telling the truth. So she sent someone to tell the Philistine rulers, “Come to my house one more time. Samson has finally told me the truth.”
The Philistine rulers went to Delilah’s house, and they brought along the silver they had promised her. 19 Delilah had lulled Samson to sleep with his head resting in her lap. She signaled to one of the Philistine men as she began cutting off Samson’s seven braids. And by the time she was finished, Samson’s strength was gone. Delilah tied him up 20 and shouted, “Samson, the Philistines are attacking!”
Samson woke up and thought, “I’ll break loose and escape, just as I always do.” He did not realize that the Lord had stopped helping him.
21 The Philistines grabbed Samson and poked out his eyes. They took him to the prison in Gaza and chained him up. Then they put him to work, turning a millstone to grind grain. 22 But they didn’t cut his hair any more, so it started growing back.
23 The Philistine rulers threw a big party and sacrificed a lot of animals to their god Dagon. The rulers said:
Samson was our enemy,
24-25 Everyone there was having a good time, and they shouted, “Bring out Samson—he’s still good for a few more laughs!”
The rulers had Samson brought from the prison, and when the people saw him, this is how they praised their god:
Samson ruined our crops
They made fun of Samson for a while, then they told him to stand near the columns that supported the roof. 26 A young man was leading Samson by the hand, and Samson said to him, “I need to lean against something. Take me over to the columns that hold up the roof.”
28 Samson prayed, “Please remember me, Lord God. The Philistines poked out my eyes, but make me strong one last time, so I can take revenge for at least one of my eyes!”[k]
29 Samson was standing between the two middle columns that held up the roof. He felt around and found one column with his right hand, and the other with his left hand. 30 Then he shouted, “Let me die with the Philistines!” He pushed against the columns as hard as he could, and the temple collapsed with the Philistine rulers and everyone else still inside. Samson killed more Philistines when he died than he had killed during his entire life.
31 His brothers and the rest of his family went to Gaza and took his body back home. They buried him in his father’s tomb,[l] which was located between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Samson was a leader[m] of Israel for twenty years.
Micah Makes Idols and Hires a Priest
17 Micah[n] belonged to the Ephraim tribe and lived in the hill country. 2 One day he told his mother, “Do you remember those eleven hundred pieces of silver[o] that were stolen from you? I was there when you put a curse on whoever stole them. Well, I’m the one who did it.”
His mother answered, “I pray that the Lord will bless[p] you, my son.”
3-4 Micah returned the silver to his mother, and she said, “I give this silver to the Lord, so my son can use it to make an idol.” Turning to her son, she said, “Micah, now the silver belongs to you.”
But Micah handed it back to his mother. She took two hundred pieces[q] of the silver and gave them to a silver worker, who made them into an idol.[r] They kept the idol in Micah’s house. 5 He had a shrine for worshiping God there at his home, and he had made some idols and a sacred priestly vest. Micah chose one of his own sons to be the priest for his shrine.
6 This was before kings ruled Israel, so all the Israelites did whatever they thought was right.
7-8 One day a young Levite came to Micah’s house in the hill country of Ephraim. He had been staying with one of the clans of Judah in Bethlehem, but he had left Bethlehem to find a new place to live[s] where he could be a priest.[t]
9 “Where are you from?” Micah asked.
“I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah,” the man answered, “and I’m on my way to find a new place to live.”
10 Micah said, “Why don’t you stay here with me? You can be my priest and tell me what God wants me to do. Every year I’ll give you ten pieces of silver and one complete set of clothes, and I’ll provide all your food.”
The young man went for a walk, 11-12 then he agreed to stay with Micah and be his priest. He lived in Micah’s house, and Micah treated him like one of his own sons. 13 Micah said, “I have a Levite as my own priest. Now I know that the Lord will be kind to me.”
18 These things happened before kings ruled Israel.
The Tribe of Dan Takes Micah’s Priest and Idols
About this time, the tribe of Dan was looking for a place to live. The other tribes had land, but the people of Dan did not really have any to call their own. 2 The tribe chose five warriors to represent their clans and told them, “Go and find some land where we can live.”
The warriors left the area of Zorah and Eshtaol and went into the hill country of Ephraim. One night they stayed at Micah’s house, 3 because they heard the young Levite talking, and they knew from his accent that he was from the south. They asked him, “What are you doing here? Who brought you here?”
4 The Levite replied, “Micah hired me as his priest.” Then he told them how well Micah had treated him.
5 “Please talk to God for us,” the men said. “Ask God if we will be successful in what we are trying to do.”
6 “Don’t worry,” answered the priest. “The Lord is pleased with what you are doing.”
7 The five men left and went to the town of Laish, whose people were from Sidon,[u] but Sidon was too far away to protect them. Even though their town had no walls, the people thought they were safe from attack. So they had not asked anyone else[v] for protection, which meant that the tribe of Dan could easily take over Laish.[w]
8 The five men went back to Zorah and Eshtaol, where their relatives asked, “Did you find any land?”
9-10 “Let’s go!” the five men said. “We saw some very good land with enough room for all of us, and it has everything we will ever need. What are you waiting for? Let’s attack and take it. You’ll find that the people think they’re safe, but God is giving the land to us.”
11 Six hundred men from the tribe of Dan strapped on their weapons and left Zorah and Eshtaol with their families.[x] 12 One night they camped near Kiriath-Jearim in the territory of Judah, and that’s why the place just west of Kiriath-Jearim is still known as Dan’s Camp.[y] 13 Then they went into the hill country of Ephraim.
When they came close to Micah’s house, 14 the five men who had been spies asked the other warriors, “Did you know that someone in this village has several idols and a sacred priestly vest? What do you think we should do about it?”
15-18 The six hundred warriors left the road and went to the house on Micah’s property where the young Levite priest lived. They stood at the gate and greeted the priest. Meanwhile, the five men who had been there before went into Micah’s house and took the sacred priestly vest and the idols.
“Hey!” the priest shouted. “What do you think you’re doing?”
19 “Quiet!” the men said. “Keep your mouth shut and listen. Why don’t you come with us and be our priest, so you can tell us what God wants us to do? You could stay here and be a priest for one man’s family, but wouldn’t you rather be the priest for a clan or even a whole tribe of Israel?”
20 The priest really liked that idea. So he took the vest and the idols and joined the others 21 from the tribe of Dan. Then they turned and left, after putting their children, their cattle, and the rest of their other possessions in front.
22 They had traveled for some time, before Micah asked his neighbors to help him get his things back. He and his men caught up with the people of Dan 23 and shouted for them to stop.
They turned to face him and asked, “What’s wrong? Why did you bring all these men?”
24 Micah answered, “You know what’s wrong. You stole the gods[z] I made, and you took my priest. I don’t have anything left.”
25 “We don’t want to hear any more about it,” the people of Dan said. “And if you make us angry, you’ll only get yourself and your family killed.” 26 After saying this, they turned and left.
Micah realized there was no way he could win a fight with them, and so he went back home.
The Tribe of Dan Captures Laish
27-28 The tribe of Dan took Micah’s priest and the things Micah had made, and headed for Laish, which was located in a valley controlled by the town of Beth-Rehob. Laish was defenseless, because it had no walls and was too far from Sidon for the Sidonians to help defend it. The leaders of Laish had not even asked nearby towns to help them in case of an attack.
The warriors from Dan made a surprise attack on Laish, killing everyone and burning it down. Then they rebuilt the town and settled there themselves. 29 But they named it Dan, after one of Israel’s[aa] sons, who was the ancestor of their tribe.
30-31 Even though the place of worship[ab] was in Shiloh, the people of Dan set up the idol Micah had made. They worshiped the idol, and the Levite was their priest. His name was Jonathan, and he was a descendant of Gershom the son of Moses.[ac] His descendants served as priests for the tribe of Dan, until the people of Israel were taken away as prisoners by their enemies.
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