It was tragic that a servant of the Lord, raised in a godly home, was now the humiliated slave of the enemy. But even worse, the Philistines gave glory to their god Dagon for helping them capture their great enemy. Instead of bringing glory to the God of Israel, Samson gave the enemy opportunity to honor their false gods. Dagon was the god of grain, and certainly the Philistines remembered what Samson had done to their fields (15:1-5).
The people at the religious festival called for Samson to be brought to entertain them. They were in high spirits because their enemy was now in their control and Dagon had triumphed over Jehovah. They thought that Samson’s blindness rendered him harmless. They didn’t know that God had forgiven him and restored his strength.
In the KJV, two different words are translated “make sport” in 16:25 (“entertain” and “perform” in the NIV). The first means to celebrate, frolic, joke, and entertain; and the second means to perform, make sport, and laugh. We aren’t told exactly how Samson entertained the huge crowd in Dagon’s temple, but one thing is sure: He gave them every reason to believe he was harmless and under their control. He was even in the hands of a boy who was leading the blind man from place to place. We’ve seen previous indications that Samson was clever and had a sense of humor. He no doubt he gave the audience just what it wanted.
In previous visits to Gaza, Samson had undoubtedly seen this temple and noted its construction. After all, it housed over 3,000 people, and it would be difficult for him not to notice it. At some point during the day’s entertainment, Samson asked his attendant to lead him over to the pillars; and there he uttered his last prayer. The fact that God answered suggests that all was right between him and his Lord (Ps. 66:18-19).
It’s likely that his parents were dead by now, but his relatives on his father’s side came and recovered the body and buried it. The word “brethren” in Judges 16:31 in the Hebrew carries a broad meaning of “relatives.” As far as we know, Samson was an only child. The phrase “between Zorah and Eshtaol” in verse 31 reminds us of 13:25. Samson is back where he started, only now he’s dead. The light has failed.
*Life Application: Although God did not completely abandon Samson (Jdg 16:28-30), he allowed Samson’s decision to stand, and the consequences of his decision followed naturally. We may choose to be close to God or to go our own way, but there are consequences resulting from our choice. Samson didn’t choose to be captured, but he chose to be with Delilah, and he could not escape the consequences of his decision.
How do you assess the life and ministry of a man like Samson? I think Alexander Maclaren says it well: “Instead of trying to make a lofty hero out of him, it is far better to recognize frankly the limitations of his character and the imperfections of his religion”
His decline began when he disagreed with his parents about marrying a Philistine girl. Then he disdained his Nazirite vow and defiled himself. He disregarded the warnings of God, disobeyed the Word of God, and was defeated by the enemies of God. He probably thought that he had the privilege of indulging in sin since he wore the badge of a Nazirite and won so many victories for the Lord, but he was wrong.
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Prov. 25:28, NKVJ).
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Prov. 16:32, NKJV).
I wonder whether Solomon was thinking about Samson when he wrote those words.
* Life Application: In spite of Samson’s past, God still answered his prayer and destroyed the pagan temple and worshipers. God still loved him. He was willing to hear Samson’s prayer of confession and repentance and use him this final time. One of the effects of sin in our lives is to keep us from feeling like praying. But perfect moral behavior is not a condition for prayer. Don’t let guilt feelings over sin keep you from your only means of restoration. No matter how long you have been away from God, he is ready to hear from you and restore you to a right relationship. Every situation can be salvaged if you are willing to turn again to him. If God could still work in Samson’s situation, he can certainly make something worthwhile out of yours.
We can be strong with God’s help.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament
Life Application Bible Notes