Bible Reference: Judges 16:1-3
Heart of the Story: Instead of spending the entire night with the Gaza prostitute, Samson left early. On his way out of Gaza, he picked up the city gates and placed them so they looked out toward Hebron in Judah, thus thumbing his nose at both the residents of Gaza and Judah.
Back Story: Earlier the men of Judah convinced Samson to allow the Philistines to capture him. The Judahites were subjects of the Philistines at the time.
Story Line: All of his adult life Samson interacted with the Philistines. Their women were irresistible to him. Toward the end of Samson’s judgeship, he went to Gaza, a thriving Philistine city in Southern Canaan (Judges 16:1-3). Because Gaza was a port city, it teemed with prostitutes. Samson saw one of them and went in to spend the night with her.
By this time most Philistines knew Samson by sight and most definitely knew his reputation. They knew he killed many Philistine men and caused the destruction of Philistine crops and orchards. They both hated and feared Samson. When the men of Gaza learned Samson was in the house of the prostitute, they surrounded it. They set an ambush for Samson near the city gate to Gaza. They kept quiet all night. Their plan was to wait until the first morning light, then attack and kill Samson.
At about midnight Samson got up and left the prostitute’s home, avoiding the Philistine ambush. But, perhaps the potential ambush irked Samson. He picked up the doors of the city gate, bars and all, and dislodged the two door posts. He put the doors, bars, and posts on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that looked toward Hebron. There, Samson deposited the Gaza city gate. Hebron was the chief city of Judah. Likely, Samson’s choice to place the gate and door post on a hill that could be seen by Hebron was Samson’s way of thumbing his nose at the men of Judah for turning him over to the Philistines.
Pondering Relationships: One more time we read that Samson, for all of his strength, sinned because he saw a Philistine woman and wanted her. This time she was a prostitute who Samson spent part of the day with. These three verses in Judges depict to the devolution of Samson as a man and as a judge. Nowhere in this episode do we read that the Spirit of God was with Samson. By this time in Samson’s life, he no longer met the conditions of a Nazarite. He touched the dead carcass of an animal and he drank wine, fermented grape juice. The only requirement that Samson kept that designated him a Nazarite was that he never cut his hair.
Reflection: Just what was Samson’s problem? The woman was a Philistine. Was she a sinner?
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Copyright August 7, 2016; Updated July 10, 2018: Carolyn A. Roth