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16 One time Samson went to Gaza. There he saw a prostitute and went to her. The people of Gaza were told, “Samson has come here.” So they surrounded the town and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate, but they relaxed during the night, saying, “Let’s wait for the light of morning. Then we will kill him.”

But Samson slept only until midnight. He got up in the middle of the night, grabbed the doors of the city gate along with the two gateposts, pulled them up crossbar and all, set them on his shoulders, and took them up to the top of the hill opposite Hebron.

Samson and Delilah

Sometime after that, Samson fell in love with a woman from the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. The serens[a] of the Philistines approached her and said, “Persuade him to reveal where his great strength comes from and how we may overpower him, tie him up, and humiliate him. Each of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”[b]

So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me what the source of your great strength is, and how you can be tied up in order to humiliate you.”

Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me up with seven new bowstrings that have not yet been dried,[c] I will become weak and be like any other man.”

So the serens of the Philistines brought her seven new bowstrings that had not yet been dried, and she tied him up with them. She had men hiding in the room waiting to ambush Samson, and she said to him, “Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a flax thread that was scorched when brought near fire. So the source of his strength was not revealed.

10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Look! You made a fool of me and told me lies. Now please tell me how you can be tied up.”

11 Samson answered her, “Actually, if anyone ties me up with new ropes that have never been used for work, I will become weak and be like any other man.”

12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him up with them. Then she said to him, “Philistines are upon you, Samson!” There were men hiding in the room waiting to ambush Samson, but he tore the ropes off his arms as if they were thread.

13 Delilah said to Samson, “So far you have made a fool of me and told me lies. Tell me how you may be tied up!”

So he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my hair into the fabric of a loom ⎣and fasten them with a pin, I will be as weak as any other man.”

After she had waited for him to fall asleep, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them in the fabric of a loom.⎦[d] 14 She fastened them with the pin and said to him, “Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But Samson woke up from his sleep and pulled out the pin from the loom along with the fabric.

15 She said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? This makes three times you have made a fool of me, and you have not told me where your great strength comes from.” 16 This was how she tormented him with her words day after day and nagged him until he was sick to death of it.

17 Finally he told her everything in his heart. He said to her, “A razor has never touched my head, because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from the womb of my mother. If I am ever shaved, my strength will desert me, and I will become weak and be like any other man.”

18 When Delilah saw that he told her everything in his heart, she sent for the serens of the Philistines, saying, “Come back one more time, for he has poured out his heart to me.”

The serens of the Philistines came up to her and brought the silver in their hands. 19 Delilah let Samson fall asleep on her lap. Then she called for a man and shaved off the seven locks of his head. She began his humiliation, because his strength had left him. 20 She said, “Philistines are upon you, Samson!” He awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as I have time after time, and I will shake myself free.” But he did not realize that the Lord had left him.

21 The Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes, brought him down to Gaza, and restrained him with bronze shackles. He had to grind grain in the prison.

22 But the hair on his head began to grow after it had been shaved.

Samson’s Death

23 Meanwhile, the serens of the Philistines gathered to make a great sacrifice to their god Dagon and to celebrate. They said, “Our god has given our enemy Samson into our hands.”

24 When the people saw him, they praised their god: “Our god has given our enemy into our hands, the devastator of our land, who has caused the death of many of us.”

25 When they were feeling good, they said, “Send for Samson, so that he can provide amusement for us.” They summoned Samson from the prison, and he served as their entertainment.

They made Samson stand between the pillars. 26 He said to the young man who led him by his hand, “Put me where I can touch the pillars that support the building, so I can lean upon them.” 27 The building was full of men and women, as well as all the serens of the Philistines. On the roof were about three thousand more men and women watching Samson as he was amusing them.

28 Samson called out to the Lord. He said, “Lord God, remember me, I pray. Give me strength, I pray, this one more time, O God. Let me get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes in one act of vengeance.” 29 Samson then grasped the two central pillars supporting the building. He leaned against them, one with his right hand and one with his left. 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” He pushed with all his strength, and the building fell upon the serens and upon all the people who were inside.

The Philistines he put to death when he died were more numerous than those he had put to death during his lifetime.

31 Then his brothers and his father’s entire household went down, carried him back, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had served as judge of Israel for twenty years.


  1. Judges 16:5 The word seren is used only of the rulers of the five Philistine city states. It may be related to the Greek word tyrant, an autocratic ruler of a city state. Seren is a title like pharaoh or czar, which is applied to one specific class of rulers. Since this is a unique title, the translation uses the transliteration seren rather than the traditional rendering lord.
  2. Judges 16:5 The Hebrew text does not specify the unit of weight. It is assumed to be shekels. This is a huge amount. In Judges 17:10 the priest’s annual spending money was ten shekels.
  3. Judges 16:7 The Hebrew word translated bowstrings means sinews or guts. Bowstrings were made from the guts of sheep or cows.
  4. Judges 16:13 The words marked by half-brackets do not occur in the Hebrew text but are included in the Greek Old Testament. An accidental omission from the Hebrew text may have occurred as the copyist’s eye jumped from one occurrence of loom to another.

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