SDA Sabbath School Lessons
June 15, 1996
#11 Strong and Weak
Read for this week's study:
Judges 16:20, KJV
Samson was physically strong but morally weak. By surrendering his special relationship to God, he lost God's power, the secret of his success.
The Weakest Point. The Great Wall of China, stretching for thousands of miles across northern China, is the longest structure built by human beings. It stands about 25 feet high and has thousands of watchtowers. Construction of the wall, done entirely by hand, took centuries and required hundreds of thousands of laborers, working under tremendous hardship, with the loss of many lives.
According to Chinese historical sources, the wall was begun by Shih-huang-ti, a ruler of the Ch'in dynasty, who ruled from 221-210 B.C. His intention was to defend China's border against warlike tribesmen who lived in the Mongolian plains to the north. But there have been many occasions when the wall has failed to protect China. The northern enemies have simply found the weakest, most lightly guarded points, and poured through. Because some of China's governments were weak and corrupt, the massive walls were not always well defended. China's northern enemies were often able to surmount them.
A wall, a chain, or a person is only as strong as the weakest point. Physically, Samson was the strongest man who ever lived, as far as we know. But he had a weak point. Once his enemies found it, he soon became history.
- Sunday June 9: Irresistible Force (Judges 15:20-16:3).
- Coming immediately after the story of Samson's great victory with the jawbone of a donkey, the notice that he judged Israel for 20 years (Judges 15:20) implies that the Philistines did not again successfully trouble the Israelites for several years.
- Before Samson's victory, the Philistines had felt free to raid the Israelites. That is how they had tried to capture him: They made a raid, intimidating the Judahites into helping them (Judges 15:9-13). But after Samson's victory, the book of Judges does not record another battle between him and the Philistines. Fear must have kept them from attempting to capture him. As long as he remained free, the Philistines would not dare risk arousing him to retaliatory action by attacking his people.
- How did Samson foolishly jeopardize his safety and that of his people? Judges 16:1, 2.
- As Israel's deliverer, Samson had a great responsibility. But he made a foolhardy excursion to indulge his sexual appetite. Fascinated by foreign women, he had married a Philistine. (Compare 1 Kings 11:1-8.) Now he sought a liaison that was not only out of bounds owing to the fact that the woman was a Philistine; it was outside the bounds of marriage altogether.
- The prostitute was also outside the bounds of safe territory; she was in Gaza, a strongly fortified, walled Philistine city. Thirsting for revenge, the Philistines surrounded Samson and laid an ambush at the city gate where he would go out in the morning.
- "At midnight, Samson was aroused. The accusing voice of conscience filled him with remorse, as he remembered that he had broken his vow as a Nazarite. But notwithstanding his sin, God's mercy had not forsaken him. His prodigious strength again served to deliver him."--Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 565.
- The Philistine soldiers did not stop Samson. Nor did the heavy city gate, which was attached to the ground: "Samson seized the bar that was locked through gateposts and, exerting his magnificent strength, uprooted the posts. . . . Samson carried away the whole mass in one piece, the doors and the entire framework."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 396.
- Why does God sometimes deliver people who are presumptuous and overconfident, but He does not deliver others? Illustrate your answer.
- Monday June 10: Samson's Weakness (Judges 16:4, 5).
- Samson "fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose mane was Delilah" (Judges 16:4, RSV). She is not called a Philistine or a harlot. Perhaps Samson had learned his lesson regarding Philistines and prostitutes. Delilah lived near Zorah, which was Samson's home (Judges 13:2), so she may have been an Israelite. The fact that she was free to be alone with Samson suggests that she was an unattached woman not under the control of male relatives.
- Why did the Philistines think they could use Delilah to trap Samson? Judges 16:5.
- Whatever Delilah's nationality, Samson was not married to her. So she did not have the commitment to him that a wife would have had. Recognizing an opportunity to accomplish what force had failed to do, the rulers of the Philistine city-states offered her an enormous bribe to betray Samson--1,100 pieces of silver from each of them. If the rulers of all five Philistine cities were involved, the total amount was 5,500 shekels, equivalent to the value of 183 slaves at 30 shekels each. (See Exodus 21:32.)
- This was not the first time the Philistines had used a woman to pry a secret out of Samson. (Compare Judges 14:15-17.) His wife gave in to the threat of burning. A threat would not work with Delilah; she knew that Samson could protect her.
- What made Samson so vulnerable where women were concerned? Judges 14:1-3, 15-17; Judges 16:1, 2, 4.
Which of the following best answers the above question?
- Samson had a strong need for affection, but since his marriage had failed, he had serious emotional hang-ups.
- Seeking intimacy outside the safety of marriage to an Israelite woman, he came under the influence of women who had little vested interest in him.
- He couldn't bear to see a woman he loved unhappy day after day. So an unhappy woman could put a lot of pressure on him.
- Another answer:
- All the above.
- What con you do if your relationships make you spiritually vulnerable?
- Tuesday June 11: Attempts at Betrayal
- The Philistines assessed Delilah's character accurately enough. Perhaps her love of money was known to them. In any case, their bribe outweighed her loyalty to Samson. Of course, she only agreed to betray Samson into the control of the Philistines; she said nothing about killing him (Judges 16:5).
- How did the Philistines get the idea that there was some secret behind Samson's strength? Judges 16:5
- The magnitude of Samson's achievements made it clear that his strength had a supernatural aspect. For example, David and Benaiah also killed lions (1 Sam. 17:34-37; 2 Sam. 23:20), almost certainly using weapons, but Samson ripped a lion apart with his bare hands (Judges 14:6). When Samson uprooted the city gate of Gaza and carried the entire structure to the top of a hill (Judges 16:3), the Philistines must have been speechless with amazement. The Philisitnes "imagined that he probably possessed some magic charm that was the secret of his power. Perhaps Samson at some time had boasted that there was a secret source of his strength."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 397.
- What do Samson's responses to Delilah reveal about his level of trust in her? Judges 16:7, 11, 13.
- Delilah could not betray Samson without his betraying himself first. She was not subtle in the way she asked him about his strength; she basically used the same words with which the Philistines had approached her. (Compare verses 5 and 6.) Although she was his mistress, he avoided telling her his secret, which was not only a personal matter; it was a matter of survival. He did not trust her completely, just as he had not completely trusted his Philistine wife (Judges 14:16). In order to satisfy Delilah, he made up strategies for binding him that sounded as if they revealed his secret.
- If Samson's suspicions were not aroused by Delilah's question, it is hard to imagine that they were not aroused by the sudden appearance of the Philistines each time Delilah bound him (Judges 16:9, 12, 14).
- How does Delilah's approach compare to Satan's? How does Satan try to get us to betray ourselves into his power? How could Samson have found deliverance, and how can we?
- Wednesday June 12: The Secret of Success
- The Philistines asked Delilah to find a way to bind Samson successfully (Judges 16:5), so she asked him how he could be bound (verse 6). Thus, he told her how to bind him, first with seven fresh bowstrings (verse 7) and then with new ropes (verse 11). Since the secret of his strength had nothing to do with how he could be bound, these things were no more effective than the new ropes with which the Judahites had bound him earlier (Judges 15:13, 14).
- How did the third strategy for binding Samson (Judges 16:13, 14) come dangerously close to the true secret of his strength?
- Like the first two, the third strategy had to do with binding, but it also involved Samson's hair, which was the real secret, It appears that he was beginning to weaken in his resolve not to betray himself to Delilah.
- What was the connection between Samson's hair and his strength? Judges 16:17-20
- There was nothing magical about Samson's hair. But the Lord had made it a sign of Naziriteship, a special, holy relationship with Himself (Judges 13:5). The gift of superhuman strength from the Spirit of the Lord was not simply for Samson; it was for Samson the Nazirite. When his hair was cut off (Judges 16:19), his Nazirite status was cut off. Since he was no longer Samson the Nazirite, he was also cut off from the Source of his strength.
- Samson's life reflects dynamics that characterized the experience of the Israelites during the period of the Judges. God chose him for a privileged covenant relationship, as He had chosen them. His special relationship with God, and theirs also, was conditional upon obedience, which included the maintenance of a distinct lifestyle. As long as Samson and the Israelites kept God's covenant, they were invincible. When they formed liaisons with unbelievers, they gave in to evil influences and gave up their special relationship with God. Then they were powerless. They were like worthless salt, which has lost its distinctiveness (Matt. 5:13), and like dead branches disconnected from their trunk (John 15:6).
- What is the secret of your spiritual success? Do you need to keep it a secret?
- Thursday June 13: Carnival and Carnage
- Samson awoke, thinking he could win as usual. But he didn't know that the Lord had left him (Judges 16:20). As far as the Philistines were concerned, death was too good for Samson; their revenge demanded lingering suffering. Blind and grinding at a Philistine mill, his physical condition reflected what he had been spiritually all along: a blind slave to sin (verse 21).
- What happened to other people in the Bible who were forsaken by God because they rejected Him?
1 Sam. 28:5-7; 31:2-10
2 Chron. 36:15-21
- The overjoyed Philisitnes proclaimed a joyous religious festival and brought out Samson for all to gaze upon. Samson decided to get the final revenge. His hair had begun to grow again, but more important, he realized his dependence upon God and remembered how to pray, as he had when he nearly died of thirst (Judges 15:18). This time, his prayer was not for self-preservation but for revenge (Judges 16:28). Nevertheless, as before, God used Samson's revenge to further His plan: partial deliverance of the Israelites from the Philistines (Judges 13:5). By bringing a crowded building down upon his own head, he destroyed more Philistines than he had during the rest of his life (Judges 16:30). Samson, the lone, avenger, was a great deliverer.
- Did Samson commit suicide or perform self-sacrifice? Judges 16:28-30.
- God helped Samson to do what he did. Since God does not approve of murder (Exod. 20:13), would He have helped Samson to commit suicide, which is self-murder? Hardly. Samson's goal was not the destruction of himself but the destruction of his enemies, who were Israel's enemies. He helped Israel by sacrificing his own life.
- Divine retribution, which God used His people to dispense, at various stages of their history, to the incurably lost, was not murder; it was execution, capital punishment. In our much different social setting, the execution of unrepentant unbelievers is not our work. God administers punishment. (See Heb. 10:26-31.)
- Friday June 14:
Further study: Study the Bible instruction regarding kindness and love to our enemies: Exod. 23:4; Prov. 24:17; Prov. 25:21, 22; Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:20. How do you relate this Old and New Testament teaching to God's plan to use Samson to deliver Israel from the Philistines? Read Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, "Samson," pp. 565-568.
- "Samson in his peril had the same source of strength as had Joseph. He could choose the right or the wrong as he pleased. But instead of taking hold of the strength of God, he permitted the wild passions of his nature to have full sway. The reasoning powers were perverted, the morals corrupted. God had called Samson to a position of great responsibility, honor, and usefulness; but he must first learn to govern by first learning to obey the laws of God. Joseph was a free moral agent. Good and evil were before him. He could choose the path of purity, holiness, and honor, or the path of immorality and degradation. He chose the right way, and God approved. Samson, under similar temptations, which he had brought upon himself, gave loose rein to passion. The path which he entered upon he found to end in shame, disaster, and death. What a contrast to the history of Joseph!"--Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, October 13, 1881.
- Discussion Questions:
- Like Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-8), Samson was fascinated by foreign women. Can you think of some reasons why "grass is greener on the other side of the fence"?
- What similarities and differences can you see between the life of Samson and that of Jesus?
- Samson's hair was a sign of his special relationship with God. What is the sign of our relationship with God? (See Exod. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20.) How does studying the importance of Samson's sign in his life affect your view of the place of God's sign in your life?
Seeking sinful pleasure and trusting in his own strength, Samson made himself vulnerable. But his strength was not ultimately his own. It was a gift from God. When he gave up his relationship with God, he was easily overcome by his enemies. Nevertheless, God answered Samson's final prayer in order to help His people. Even so today, God works through weak instruments who seek His help.
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Last updated on June 10, 1996.