Judges 16-18 The Message Bible

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Samson at Gaza

16 1  Samson went to Gaza and saw a prostitute. He went to her. 2  The news got around: "Samson's here." They gathered around in hiding, waiting all night for him at the city gate, quiet as mice, thinking, "At sunrise we'll kill him." 3  Samson was in bed with the woman until midnight. Then he got up, seized the doors of the city gate and the two gateposts, bolts and all, hefted them on his shoulder, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

Samson and Delilah

4  Some time later he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek (Grapes). Her name was Delilah. 5  The Philistine tyrants approached her and said, "Seduce him. Discover what's behind his great strength and how we can tie him up and humble him. Each man's company will give you a hundred shekels of silver." 6  So Delilah said to Samson, "Tell me, dear, the secret of your great strength, and how you can be tied up and humbled." 7  Samson told her, "If they were to tie me up with seven bowstrings - the kind made from fresh animal tendons, not dried out - then I would become weak, just like anyone else." 8  The Philistine tyrants brought her seven bowstrings, not dried out, and she tied him up with them. 9  The men were waiting in ambush in her room. Then she said, "The Philistines are on you, Samson!" He snapped the cords as though they were mere threads. The secret of his strength was still a secret. 10  Delilah said, "Come now, Samson - you're playing with me, making up stories. Be serious; tell me how you can be tied up." 11  He told her, "If you were to tie me up tight with new ropes, ropes never used for work, then I would be helpless, just like anybody else." 12  So Delilah got some new ropes and tied him up. She said, "The Philistines are on you, Samson!" The men were hidden in the next room. He snapped the ropes from his arms like threads. 13  Delilah said to Samson, "You're still playing games with me, teasing me with lies. Tell me how you can be tied up." He said to her, "If you wove the seven braids of my hair into the fabric on the loom and drew it tight, then I would be as helpless as any other mortal." 14  and drew it tight. Then she said, "The Philistines are on you, Samson!" He woke from his sleep and ripped loose from both the loom and fabric! 15  She said, "How can you say 'I love you' when you won't even trust me? Three times now you've toyed with me, like a cat with a mouse, refusing to tell me the secret of your great strength." 16  She kept at it day after day, nagging and tormenting him. Finally, he was fed up - he couldn't take another minute of it. 17  He spilled it. He told her, "A razor has never touched my head. I've been God's Nazirite from conception. If I were shaved, my strength would leave me; I would be as helpless as any other mortal."

18  When Delilah realized that he had told her his secret, she sent for the Philistine tyrants, telling them, "Come quickly - this time he's told me the truth." They came, bringing the bribe money. 19  When she got him to sleep, his head on her lap, she motioned to a man to cut off the seven braids of his hair. Immediately he began to grow weak. His strength drained from him. 20  Then she said, "The Philistines are on you, Samson!" He woke up, thinking, "I'll go out, like always, and shake free." He didn't realize that God had abandoned him. 21  The Philistines grabbed him, gouged out his eyes, and took him down to Gaza. They shackled him in irons and put him to the work of grinding in the prison.

22  But his hair, though cut off, began to grow again.

The Death of Samson

23  The Philistine tyrants got together to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon. They celebrated, saying, Our god has given us Samson our enemy! 24  And when the people saw him, they joined in, cheering their god, Our god has given Our enemy to us, The one who ravaged our country, Piling high the corpses among us. 25  Then this: Everyone was feeling high and someone said, "Get Samson! Let him show us his stuff!" They got Samson from the prison and he put on a show for them. 26  Samson said to the young man who was acting as his guide, "Put me where I can touch the pillars that hold up the temple so I can rest against them." 27  The building was packed with men and women, including all the Philistine tyrants. And there were at least 3,000 in the stands watching Samson's performance. 28  And Samson cried out to God: Master, God! Oh, please, look on me again, Oh, please, give strength yet once more. God! With one avenging blow let me be avenged On the Philistines for my two eyes! 29  Then Samson reached out to the two central pillars that held up the building and pushed against them, one with his right arm, the other with his left. 30  Saying, "Let me die with the Philistines," Samson pushed hard with all his might. The building crashed on the tyrants and all the people in it. He killed more people in his death than he had killed in his life. 31  His brothers and all his relatives went down to get his body. They carried him back and buried him in the tomb of Manoah his father, between Zorah and Eshtaol. He judged Israel for twenty years.

Micah's Images and His Priest

17 1  There was a man from the hill country of Ephraim named Micah. 2  He said to his mother, "Remember that 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you? I overheard you when you pronounced your curse. Well, I have the money; I stole it. But now I've brought it back to you." His mother said, "God bless you, my son!" 3  As he returned the 1,100 silver pieces to his mother, she said, "I had totally consecrated this money to God for my son to make a statue, a cast god." 4  Then she took 200 pieces of the silver and gave it to a sculptor and he cast them into the form of a god. 5  This man, Micah, had a private chapel. He had made an ephod and some teraphim-idols and had ordained one of his sons to be his priest. 6  In those days there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing.

7  Meanwhile there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah and from a family of Judah. He was a Levite but was a stranger there. 8  He left that town, Bethlehem in Judah, seeking his fortune. He got as far as the hill country of Ephraim and showed up at Micah's house. 9  Micah asked him, "So where are you from?" He said, "I'm a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah. I'm on the road, looking for a place to settle down." 10  Micah said, "Stay here with me. Be my father and priest. I'll pay you ten pieces of silver a year, whatever clothes you need, and your meals." 11  The Levite agreed and moved in with Micah. The young man fit right in and became one of the family. 12  Micah appointed the young Levite as his priest. This all took place in Micah's home. 13  Micah said, "Now I know that God will make things go well for me - why, I've got a Levite for a priest!"

Micah and the Danites

18 1  In those days there was no king in Israel. But also in those days, the tribe of Dan was looking for a place to settle down. They hadn't yet occupied their plot among the tribes of Israel. 2  The Danites sent out five robust warriors from Zorah and Eshtaol to look over the land and see what was out there suitable for their families. They said, "Go and explore the land." 3  As they neared Micah's house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. They went over and said to him, "How on earth did you get here? What's going on? What are you doing here?" 4  He said, "One thing led to another: Micah hired me and I'm now his priest." 5  They said, "Oh, good - inquire of God for us. Find out whether our mission will be a success." 6  The priest said, "Go assured. God's looking out for you all the way."

7  The five men left and headed north to Laish. They saw that the people there were living in safety under the umbrella of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting. They had everything going for them. But the people lived a long way from the Sidonians to the west and had no treaty with the Arameans to the east. 8  When they got back to Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers asked, "So, how did you find things?" 9  They said, "Let's go for it! Let's attack. We've seen the land and it is excellent. Are you going to just sit on your hands? Don't dawdle! Invade and conquer! 10  When you get there, you'll find they're sitting ducks, totally unsuspecting. Wide open land - God is handing it over to you, everything you could ever ask for." 11  So 600 Danite men set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, armed to the teeth. 12  Along the way they made camp at Kiriath Jearim in Judah. That is why the place is still today called Dan's Camp - it's just west of Kiriath Jearim. 13  From there they proceeded into the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah's house.

14  The five men who earlier had explored the country of Laish told their companions, "Did you know there's an ephod, teraphim-idols, and a cast god-sculpture in these buildings? What do you think? Do you want to do something about it?" 15  So they turned off the road there, went to the house of the young Levite at Micah's place and asked how things had been with him. 16  The 600 Danites, all well-armed, stood guard at the entrance to the gate 17  while the five scouts who had gone to explore the land went in and took the carved idol, the ephod, the teraphim-idols, and the god-sculpture. The priest was standing at the gate entrance with the 600 armed men. 18  When the five went into Micah's house and took the carved idol, the ephod, the teraphim-idols, and the sculpted god, the priest said to them, "What do you think you're doing?" 19  They said to him, "Hush! Don't make a sound. Come with us. Be our father and priest. Which is more important, that you be a priest to one man or that you become priest to a whole tribe and clan in Israel?" 20  The priest jumped at the chance. He took the ephod, the teraphim-idols, and the idol and fell in with the troops. 21  They turned away and set out, putting the children, the cattle, and the gear in the lead. 22  They were well on their way from Micah's house before Micah and his neighbors got organized. But they soon overtook the Danites. 23  They shouted at them. The Danites turned around and said, "So what's all the noise about?" 24  Micah said, "You took my god, the one I made, and you took my priest. And you marched off! What do I have left? How can you now say, 'What's the matter?'" 25  But the Danites answered, "Don't yell at us; you just might provoke some fierce, hot-tempered men to attack you, and you'll end up an army of dead men." 26  The Danites went on their way. Micah saw that he didn't stand a chance against their arms. He turned back and went home.

27  So they took the things that Micah had made, along with his priest, and they arrived at Laish, that city of quiet and unsuspecting people. They massacred the people and burned down the city. 28  There was no one around to help. They were a long way from Sidon and had no treaty with the Arameans. Laish was in the valley of Beth Rehob. 29  When they rebuilt the city they renamed it Dan after their ancestor who was a son of Israel, but its original name was Laish. 30  The Danites set up the god-figure for themselves. Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his descendants were priests to the tribe of Dan down to the time of the land's captivity. 31  All during the time that there was a sanctuary of God in Shiloh, they kept for their private use the god-figure that Micah had made.

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