2 June Judges 16:1-3

2 June. Samson destroys the city gates at Gaza

“One day Samson went to [the Philistine city of] Gaza and saw a prostitute there. He went in to spend the night with her.”

“When the people of Gaza heard, ‘Samson has come here!’ they surrounded the place and waited for him near the city gate all night. They said to each other, ‘When dawn comes, we will kill Samson!’”

“But Samson only stayed with the prostitute until midnight. Then he got up and took hold of the doors and the two posts of the city gate and tore them loose, along with the bar [that held the gates shut at night].”

“He put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces the city of Hebron.”

          (Judges 16:1-3)



A short passage today, and not one that we would recommend for teaching children in Sunday school!

Samson travelled to Gaza to visit a prostitute, demolished the city gate so he could return home at midnight, and then carried it to the top of the hill facing east towards Hebron (see 3 on the map on 10 May).

This passage appears to be included in the Biblical account of Samson’s life solely to glorify Samson’s violence against the Philistine people of Gaza. Located on the Mediterranean coast of Palestine, Gaza originated as a prosperous Canaanite settlement on the caravan route between Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia.

It was the southern border town of Canaan (see Genesis 10:19) before the Avvites (the local Canaanite tribe) were driven out by the Caphtorites – a group of Philistines or ‘sea people’ who sailed across the Mediterranean from Cyprus and Crete in the 15th century BC (see Deuteronomy 2:23).

By the time the Israelites invaded Canaan in c.1406 BC, Gaza (meaning a ‘stronghold’) was firmly in the hands of the Philistines, who became rich by taxing the lucrative trade which passed along the Via Maris – the coastal route between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The Israelites soon captured the Canaanite hill towns of Hebron, Debir and Anab, but were unable to conquer the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath and Ashdod on the flat coastal plain because they deployed iron chariots (see Joshua 11:21-22 & Judges 1:19). Following a widespread military campaign by the Egyptian Pharoah Thutmose III, Gaza became an ally of Egypt, to whom it paid an annual tribute.

A collection of 14th century BC mummy-shaped pottery coffins from the ancient cemetery at Deir el-Balah, south of Gaza - showing clear signs of Egyptian influence - can be seen today at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Gold Canaanite jewellery from Tel el-Ajjul (4.5 miles / 7 km south west of Gaza) is on display at the British Museum in London, while other Canaanite and Philistine artefacts from this period can be found in the Al-Mathaf Museum of Archaeology on the coast just north of Gaza.

The photo (by Ramez Habboub) shows Gaza’s situation on the Mediterranean coast.

You can read more about Samson @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/28-the-israelites-face-continuing-opposition/samson-challenges-the-philistines

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