Judges 13-16

Judges 13:5 no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God
What is a Nazarite? Well, it has nothing to do with the town of Nazareth or those from Nazareth called Nazarenes. A Nazarite was an individual whose life was set apart as a servant of the Lord.
“Naz'arite more properly Naz'irite (one separated), one of either sex who was bound by a vow of a peculiar kind to be set apart from others for the service of God. The obligation was either for life or for a defined time. There is no notice in the Pentateuch of Nazarites for life; but the regulations for the vow of a Nazarite of days are given. Numbers 6:1-21; The Nazarite, during the term of his consecration, was bound to abstain from wine grapes, with every production of the vine and from every kind of intoxicating drink. He was forbidden to cut the hair of his head, or to approach any dead body, even that of his nearest relation. When the period of his vow was fulfilled he was brought to the door of the tabernacle, and was required to offer a he lamb for a burnt offering, a ewe lamb for a sin offering, and a ram for a peace offering, with the usual accompaniments of peace offerings, Leviticus 7:12, 13; and of the offering made at the consecration of priests. Exodus 29:2; Numbers 6:15; He brought also a meat offering and a drink offering, which appear to have been presented by themselves as a distinct act of service. ver. 17; He was to cut off the hair of ‘the head of his separation’ (that is, the hair which had grown during the period of his consecration) at the door of the tabernacle, and to put it into the fire under the sacrifice on the altar. Of the Nazarites for life three are mentioned in the Scriptures—Samson, Samuel and St. John the Baptist. The only one of these actually called a Nazarite is Samson. We do not know whether the vow for life was ever voluntarily taken by the individual. In all the cases mentioned in the sacred history, it was made by the parents before the birth of the Nazarite himself…” (Dictionary of the Bible, William Smith, “Nazarite,” emphasis added)
Interestingly, all three Nazarites, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were born to barren, faithful women who were willing to give their sons to the Lord if he would make them fruitful. Angels announced the births of Samson and John; the priest Eli promised Hannah that she would bear Samuel in answer to her humble prayers (1 Sam. 1).
Incidental note should be made that Elder James E. Talmage did not agree that Samuel and John the Baptist were Nazarites for life. (Jesus the Christ, footnote 1, p. 83)
Judges 13:8 teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born
Wouldn’t it be nice to ask an angel, “What are we supposed to do with this child?” “Teach us how we are supposed to raise this one.” Without angelic visitation, we are not left without an answer. We have the scriptures, the latter-day prophets, and the Lord. We can always ask the Lord to answer the same questions for each of our children. If the answers don’t come by angelic visitation, they most certainly will by inspiration from the Holy Ghost.
“We trust God because we know he loves every soul. We are—every one of us—his children… At the birth of each of my children, during those precious, solemn moments when I held them for the first time, I felt the whisperings of the Spirit teaching me of their unique qualities. When these impressions first came, I doubted. But as my children grew, the truths suggested at their birth were verified. I feel wonder for a God who would thus offer counsel to a new father as He transferred His precious children to that father’s earthly care.
“This gentle teaching should not have come as a surprise. Did God not teach Rebekah of the struggling twins she carried in her womb? (See Gen. 25:21–23) And did he not instruct Samson’s father “what [he] shall do unto the child that shall be born”? (Judg. 13:8.) Surely there is no god like him.” (S. Michael Wilcox, “No Other Gods before Me,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 24)
Judges 13:22 we have seen God
By the time the scribes record our version of Judges, there is little faith that man can see God. Every time the story indicates direct contact between man and the Lord, the translation becomes fuzzy. If we read between the lines, we understand that the Lord spoke directly with the children of Israel (Judg. 2:1-5), the Lord commanded Gideon directly (see Judg. 6:12-24), and the veil was opened for Manoah and his wife! Even amidst this time of wickedness in Israel, the Lord is still working his magic among the faithful, giving the Israelites every attempt to repent of their idolatry and come to Him.
Bruce R. McConkie wrote that Manoah and his wife indeed saw the Lord—just as the text declares (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ 603). When did they see Him? Well it must have been that moment when the text elusively declares, “the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.” The angel must have shown this faithful couple the Lord—what a blessing for Samson’s parents! What an incentive to raise him strictly according to the vow of a Nazarite, set apart and sanctified to the Lord.
Judges 14:2 I have seen a woman in Timnath… now therefore get her for me to wife
Samson was stricken with this woman immediately—it was love at first sight. This story is not just another man falling for a beautiful woman. The text says Samson’s enchantment was “of the Lord.” The Lord can make exceptions whenever he wants. Israelites were not to marry among their idol worshipping neighbors, and the Philistines were the worst of all! Samson’s parents appropriately objected. Yet, this marriage would put Samson in a position to destroy the enemy, to demonstrate his supernatural strength, to redeem the children of Israel from Philistine oppression.
Samson’s first wife is also a type for what would come later—Delilah. Samson chose women outside the covenant throughout his life. His first was like the rest—she pressured him to find out his secrets. She would be true to her people and not to Samson. She would be a traitor. Samson did not reject his first wife, but he did leave her in Timnath, upset that the men won the bet by “ploughing with [his] heifer” (v. 18). The lost bet meant instead of getting rich, Samson was going to have to come up with “thirty sheets and thirty change of garments” (v. 12).
“The famous weapon of a woman’s tears found its victim… In order to humiliate Samson the guests waited until the very last day of the feast, just before the sun went down or ‘before he entered the room,’ i.e., formally to take his bride… the formal acts of marriage came at the end of the period of festivities rather than at the beginning (cf. Gen. 29:21-28). But the marriage was not complete without that act, and Samson’s hasty and angry retreat would have brought disgrace upon the bride if her parents had not given her forthwith to the best man (cf. John 3:29). The payment of the wager is beset with the problem of the distance of some twenty miles between Timnah and Ashkelon.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. by G. A. Buttrick et al [New York, Abingdon Press, 1952] vol. 2, p. 785-786)
How could Samson come up with that many changes of garments? Well, killing some rich Philistines would do the trick. The text does not impute any impropriety to killing 30 men and taking their wealth because they were enemies of Israel. This nationalism will pervade the text for the rest of the Old Testament. It is fair to say that the Lord condoned and even set up the circumstances which would demonstrate Samson’s strength to the Philistines. For Samson, when he was in the Spirit of the Lord, killing 30 men single-handed was not difficult, nor was killing a lion with his bare hands.
Judges 15:4 Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail
Samson’s father-in-law had decided Samson’s absence meant he was forever forsaking his new bride. That was not the case. After his anger had abated, Samson returns to see her only, to find that his father-in-law has given her to one of his friends. This provides Samson with a renewed anger; revenge would be the order of the day.
Samson’s choice of destruction shows his creativity in destroying the enemy. He could use whatever was available, killing Philistines with the jawbone of an ass or burning all the crops with three hundred foxes. Who can catch 300 foxes? That task in and of itself is remarkable! But once he caught them, he tied each end of a rope to the tail of a fox and placed a burning torch in the middle. This produced 150 pairs of scared, scattering foxes running throughout the countryside with a burning torch running along the ground between them. To make the Philistines even angrier, Samson’s act of destruction was done at “the time of wheat harvest” (v. 1).
Judges 15:15 he found a new jawbone of an ass… and slew a thousand men therewith
“Samson seized the weapon readiest to hand, the jawbone of an ass, and with it slew company after company, ‘heap upon heap,’ till, probably in various encounters, no less than 1000 of the enemy strewed the ground. Only one more thing was requisite. All ‘this great deliverance’ had evidently been given by Jehovah. But had Samson owned Him in it; had he fought and conquered ‘by faith,’ and as a true Nazarite? Once more it is through the operation of natural causes, supernaturally overruled and directed, that Samson is now seen to have been the warrior of Jehovah, and Jehovah the God of the warrior.” (Edersheim, Alfred, Old Testament Bible History, chap. 19)
Judges 15:17 he… called that place Ramath-lehi
Ramath-Lehi means literally “the hill of Lehi.” Lehi means cheek, jaw, or jawbone. Likely, it did not receive its name until after Samson used the jawbone of an ass to slay the Philistines. Interesting it is that this name of Lehi reminds us of another Israelite that would follow Samson centuries later. Nephi’s father was likely named after the place made famous by Samson.
There may even be some hidden symbolism in the saving miracle that came from Samson’s jawbone. Apparently, God modified the used and bloodied bone to quench Samson’s thirst. The weapon of death soon became Samson’s source for living water. Is it fair to draw any parallels between the spring of saving water which came from Samson’s jawbone and the generations of righteous generations which came from Father Lehi?
Judges 16:4 he loved a woman… whose name was Delilah
George Q. Cannon
You remember Samson, a mighty man in some respects, a man whom God raised up to redeem His people, but he married strange women. He married a woman of the Philistines, and the result was that it brought about his destruction. And we need only refer to the great king who sat upon the throne during the golden days of Israel, a man who was considered the wisest man that ever lived—King Solomon. His heart, we are told in the Scriptures, was turned aside from the Lord our God, because he took to himself strange wives, women of the nations with whom God had commanded Israel not to marry, and because of this he was led as he grew in years into idolatry. (Journal of Discourses, 25:364)
Howard W. Hunter
The Bible contains excellent examples of men who otherwise would have been great. But when they broke the law of chastity it broke them. For example, Samson, a man of powerful physical strength, with an uncontrollable lust for women, was betrayed by Delilah and finally committed suicide while in chains of bondage to the Philistines. God blessed Solomon with great wisdom; nevertheless, he debauched his life with numerous concubines. (LDS Church News, 1998, 05/30/98)
Judges 16:6 Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth
“The Bible describes Delilah as a woman living in the valley of Sorek, leaving her nationality and livelihood vague. Josephus states plainly that she was a Philistine harlot, and everything about her story suggests that she was a courtesan of unholy persistence who had personal charm, mental ability, self-confidence, and considerable nerve. It might be argued that from the Philistine point of view, she was a patriot who betrayed Samson for the sake of her people, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Delilah was consistent; she used her abilities for one purpose—money.
“The chapter introducing Delilah begins, ‘Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there a harlot, and went in unto her.’ That woman was not Delilah, but the mention of the harlot reveals the nature of Samson's habits. The experiences following his unfortunate marriage had not cured him of his love for Philistine women. He was not a welcome visitor in Philistine cities—his visits were made at some risk—yet he persisted. The scriptures go on to say that eventually Samson came to love a woman named Delilah. The rest of the story reads like an allegory, so exactly does it describe the downfall of a man enslaved by his own passions.
“Samson could not possibly have cherished any illusions about Delilah. He had already been betrayed by a woman of her nationality, and many of her actions would have aroused suspicion in any lover. But unlike Joseph, who fled his temptress, Samson was confident. He didn't fear her. Instead, he dallied with temptation, trifling with sin, allowing himself to be brought ever nearer to destruction as Delilah plied him with her charms.
“Delilah was skillful, to be sure. ‘Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth,’ she cooed. He jokingly answered that if she were to bind him with seven undried withs (new cords), he would be weak like other men. When she tried it, he flexed his muscles and laughingly threw off his bonds. Try new ropes, he suggested. When they failed, he let her weave his long hair into her loom. For Delilah, with a fortune in silver at stake, the game was serious. But for Samson, the episodes were light, playful interludes in their more serious love-making.
“At last, bored or simply not in a mood for sport, he told her the truth. He was a Nazarite. His hair had never been cut. That, he believed, was the source of his strength.
“Perhaps his three victories over the Philistines, together with his threefold resistance to Delilah's wiles, had made him feel invincible. On the other hand, he enjoyed flirting with disaster. Perhaps he believed that even cutting his hair would not weaken him.” (Jerrie W. Hurd, Our Sisters in the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 110-111)
Judges 16:12 Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee
Consider Samson’s history: his first wife had weaseled the riddle’s meaning out of him. Now Delilah has tried twice to subdue him. He tells her seven green withs will make him weak, and she immediately binds him with them. Next, he tells her that new ropes will be strong enough, and she immediately ties him up. Not only does she tie him up, but she also tells him the Philistines are coming for him. Delilah is obviously trying to subdue Samson’s power. Why would Samson tell her the real source of his strength? It just doesn’t make sense. For a man who has been so frequently deceived by Philistine women, he should have known better. In fact, he probably knew what Delilah was doing, but couldn’t leave her alone.
In a way, Samson represents the danger which every priesthood holder faces. Power in God is dependent on the Lord’s covenants. Violation of the covenant means no power. Just as Samson’s long hair represented the vow of the Nazarite and therefore God’s power, obedience to the priesthood covenant is a secret to harnessing the power of God.
What places this great power at risk? Sexual sin. Samson knew Delilah was trouble but he couldn’t help himself. After she had three times tried to subdue him, he continued in her company. He was “whooped.” As Solomon ironically warned:
If sinners entice thee, consent thou not (Prov. 1:10)
For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil:
But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword.
Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell…
Remove thy war far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house (Prov. 5:3-8)
Gordon B. Hinckley
I lift a warning voice to all, boys and men, to shun sin. Transgression is incompatible with divine authority. Avoid pornography as you would avoid the plague. Avoid sexual sin of any degree…
We are reminded of “the oath and covenant of the priesthood” as set forth in section 84. I am satisfied that our Father in Heaven is not pleased with any man or boy who accepts ordination and then indulges in evil. In the very process of accepting ordination he enters into an oath and covenant between himself and his God.
How magnificent a figure, how royal a character is a man who has been ordained to that priesthood which is called Melchizedek after the great high priest of Salem, who walks with dignity and yet with humility before his God, who lives with respect and appreciation for his associates, who turns his back upon the temptations of the adversary, who becomes a true patriarch in his home, a man of kindness and love, who recognizes his wife as his companion and a daughter of God and his children as those for whom he has a God-given responsibility to nurture and lead in righteousness and truth. Such a man need never hang his head in shame. He lives without regret. Men may speak of him as they will, but he knows that God knows his heart and that it is pure and unsullied. (“Only upon Principles of Righteousness,” Ensign, Sept. 1992, 70)
Judges 16:20 he wist not that the Lord was departed from him
“As Delilah cut Samson's hair, his vow was broken, and the Lord's power departed from him.
“When a Nazarite vow or covenant was broken, it was sometimes possible to renew the vow after a period of repentance. (Num. 6:9-12.) Apparently Samson went through a period of repentance and recommitment because he again received extraordinary strength as he destroyed the Philistine temple and his own life. (Judg. 16:30.)
“Tragedy came upon Samson because as he broke one commandment (morality) he lost the Spirit of the Lord. This led to his breaking other covenants and resulted in weakness, blindness, slavery, and death (both physical and spiritual).” (Victor L. Ludlow, Unlocking the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 72)
Hugh W. Pinnock
If only Samson had known the results of his association with Delilah, he never would have made the first visit. (Ensign, May 1982, 12)
Heber C. Kimball
Those who defile themselves will not prosper; they have injured themselves by their own conduct. They are like Samson when he was shorn of his locks by Delilah. With that measure that ye mete, it shall be measured back to you again, in all circumstances of life. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 9: 42 - 43)
Wilford Woodruff
I have seen Oliver Cowdery when it seemed as though the earth trembled under his feet. I never heard a man bear a stronger testimony than he did when under the influence of the Spirit. But the moment he left the kingdom of God, that moment his power fell like lightening from heaven. He was shorn of his strength, like Samson in the lap of Delilah. He lost the power and testimony which he had enjoyed, and he never recovered it again in its fulness while in the flesh, although he died in the Church. It does not pay a man to sin or to do wrong. (Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 1, March 3rd, 1889)