Judges 16:8, 9: Samson Snaps His Cords

Verse 8:[1] Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them.


Verse 9:[2] Now there were men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber. And she said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth (Heb. smelleth[3]) the fire. So his strength was not known.



[With an ambush lying with her, and in the chamber, etc., יֹשֵׁ֥ב לָהּ֙ בַּחֶ֔דֶר[4]] Sitting to her, or with her, in an inner chamber (Malvenda). They were abiding, that is, were hiding, in a chamber, namely, one quite hidden (Vatablus). And a lier in wait sitting, that is, was sitting (Piscator). It is the proper verb in this matter: Numbers 14:25, he sits in the valley,[5] that is, he lies in ambush against you. It belongs to liers in wait sedere, to sit. He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages, Psalm 10:8.[6] Hence also insidere, to settle in a position, to lie in wait, and the very name of insidiarum, ambush. It is not strange here, that they did not attack Samson while he was asleep, nor attempt to fall upon him unarmed and unaware, since they had already seen entire armies slaughtered and put to flight by him; in the like manner whereby no one dares to approach a sleeping lion, lest he, being awakened by whatever means, before he be altogether subdued, maul those that approach (Bonfrerius).


With her in the chamber; with her, that is, in the same house, in a chamber, that is, in a secret chamber within her call. Nor is it strange that they did not fall upon him in his sleep; partly because they feared to awake a sleeping lion; and partly because they expect an opportunity for doing their work more certainly, and with less danger.


[Upon thee, Samson, עָלֶיךָ] They are upon thee (Munster, Pagnine, Septuagint, Montanus). That is, they are overtopping thee, are now going to conquer and bind thee. For the preposition עַל/upon/over extends very broadly; and sometimes it expresses victory, whereby one overtops others. Thus in 2 Samuel 23:8, עַל־שְׁמֹנֶ֥ה מֵא֛וֹת, he was upon eight hundred,[7] that is, he defeated them in battle (Glassius’ “Grammar” 548). Others: they threaten thee (Arabic, Tigurinus); they came against, or upon, thee (Jonathan, Syriac, Vatablus), that is, they are prepared to rush upon thee. She says this so that she might frighten him, and test whether he is able to break his bonds (Vatablus).


[As one might break a thread, etc., פְּתִיל־הַנְּעֹרֶת[8]] A thread of tow (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus); a linen thread (Syriac, Arabic); a thread of silk (Jonathan).


[When it receives the smell of fire, בַּהֲרִיח֣וֹ אֵ֔שׁ] When it smells fire (Pagnine, similarly Montanus, Septuagint); when it feels fire (Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus, Syriac, Munster, Tigurinus). It is a Metaphor (Junius, Piscator). To smell is in the place of to feel; a species in the place of the genus (Drusius, Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals). Thus in Job 14:9, when it first smells water; in Psalm 58:9, before your thorns understand, that is, feel, the bramble,[9] that is, the fire of the bramble (Drusius). Thus in Job 39:25 the horse is said to smell the battle,[10] that is, to feel it, or to feel beforehand, and to have a presentiment of a coming fight. Thus, in Daniel 3:27, וְרֵיחַ, and the smell (that is, the sense) of fire passed not upon them. Thus, in Isaiah 11:3, where concerning the Christ,וַהֲרִיח֖וֹ בְּיִרְאַ֣ת יְהוָ֑ה, and His scenting shall be in the fear of the Lord, that is, His sense, judgment; hence it follows that He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes. Moreover, by a twofold trope, smell in the place of sense, and sense, which is proper to animals, is also attributed to other things καταχρηστικῶς/ catachrestically/improperly, as to a tree, Job 14:9, so also in this place to a thing, not only insensible, but also inanimate, namely, a thread of tow (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:9:151).

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּעֲלוּ־לָ֞הּ סַרְנֵ֣י פְלִשְׁתִּ֗ים שִׁבְעָ֛ה יְתָרִ֥ים לַחִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־חֹרָ֑בוּ וַתַּאַסְרֵ֖הוּ בָּהֶֽם׃


[2] Hebrew: וְהָאֹרֵ֗ב יֹשֵׁ֥ב לָהּ֙ בַּחֶ֔דֶר וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו פְּלִשְׁתִּ֥ים עָלֶ֖יךָ שִׁמְשׁ֑וֹן וַיְנַתֵּק֙ אֶת־הַיְתָרִ֔ים כַּאֲשֶׁ֙ר יִנָּתֵ֤ק פְּתִֽיל־הַנְּעֹ֙רֶת֙ בַּהֲרִיח֣וֹ אֵ֔שׁ וְלֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖ע כֹּחֽוֹ׃


[3] Hebrew: בַּהֲרִיחוֹ.


[4] חֶדֶר/chamber is related to the verb חָדַר, to surround.


[5] Numbers 14:25a: “Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley (יוֹשֵׁ֣ב בָּעֵ֑מֶק)….”


[6] Hebrew: יֵשֵׁ֤ב׀ בְּמַאְרַ֬ב חֲצֵרִ֗ים.


[7] 2 Samuel 23:8: “These be the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat, chief among the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite: against eight hundred (עַל־שְׁמֹנֶ֥ה מֵא֛וֹת), whom he slew at one time.”


[8] נְעֹרֶת/tow is that which is shaken off from flax when beaten, related to the verb נָעַר, to shake off.


[9] Psalm 58:9: “Before your pots can feel the thorns (בְּטֶ֤רֶם יָבִ֣ינוּ סִּֽירֹתֵיכֶ֣ם אָטָ֑ד), he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath.”


[10] Job 39:25: “He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off (וּֽ֭מֵרָחוֹק יָרִ֣יחַ מִלְחָמָ֑ה), the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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