The Signs of the Times


October 13, 1881

In the Downward Path


One wrong step prepares the way for another. Samson had transgressed the command of God by taking a wife from the daughters of the Philistines, and ere long he ventured again among that people—now his deadly enemies—in the indulgence of his unlawful passions. Trusting confidently to his great strength, which had inspired the Philistines with such terror, he boldly entered Gaza, one of their largest and most powerful cities, and visited a harlot of that place. ST October 13, 1881, par. 1

The disgraceful fact was soon made known to the inhabitants of the city, who were eager to be avenged upon their dreaded foe. Fearing to attack him, however, they sent for reinforcements, and kept a vigilant watch at the gate of the city, determined by some means to put him to death in the morning. ST October 13, 1881, par. 2

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 despite his sin, God's mercy had not forsaken him. His great strength again served to deliver him. Wrenching the city gate from its place, he took it entire, with its posts and bars, and carried it several miles, to the top of a hill on the way to Hebron; the guards meanwhile, being too much surprised and terrified to intercept or pursue him. ST October 13, 1881, par. 3

But even this narrow escape did not serve to stay him in his evil course. The third step downward soon followed the second. He did not again venture into the territory of the Philistines, but sought at home those sensuous pleasures that were luring him on to ruin. “He loved a woman in the vale of Serek.” Her name was Delilah, which fitly signifies consuming, or wasting. In the society of this enchantress, the judge of Israel squandered precious hours that should have been sacredly devoted to the welfare of his people. But the blinding passions which make even the strongest weak, had gained control of reason and of conscience. The vale of Serek, a little valley not far from his own birthplace, was celebrated for its vineyards. These also had a temptation for the wavering Nazarite, who had already indulged in the use of wine, thus breaking another tie that bound him to temperance, to purity, and to God. ST October 13, 1881, par. 4

The Philistines were well acquainted with the divine law, and its condemnation of sensual indulgence. They kept a vigilant watch over all the movements of their enemy, and when he degraded himself by this new attachment, and they saw the bewitching power of the enchantress, they determined, through her, to accomplish his ruin. ST October 13, 1881, par. 5

Accordingly, a deputation consisting of one leading man from each of the five Philistine States was sent to the vale of Serek. It was not their purpose to seize him while in possession of his great strength, but to learn if possible some means by which that strength might be taken away. Such marvelous power, far exceeding anything which they had ever known before; that of the famed descendants of Anak, who dwelt among them, could not be compared with it, and the Philistine lords decided that it must be supernatural, the result of some condition that might be changed, or some charm that might be broken. They therefore bribed Delilah to discover the secret of his strength, and reveal it to them, offering her eleven hundred shekels of silver from each of their number, aggregating a sum of more than three thousand dollars. ST October 13, 1881, par. 6

As the betrayer plied Samson with her questions, he deceived her by declaring that the weakness of other men would come upon him if certain processes were tried. When she put the matter to the test, the imposition was discovered. Then she accused him of falsehood, saying, “How canst thou say thou lovest me, when thou hast deceived me and lied to me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth?” ST October 13, 1881, par. 7

Samson's infatuation seems almost incredible. At first he was not so wholly enthralled as to reveal the secret; but he had deliberately walked into the net of the betrayer of souls, and its meshes were drawing closer about him at every step. Three times he had the clearest evidence that the Philistines had leagued with his charmer to destroy him; but when her purpose failed and his strength returned, she had treated the matter as a jest, and he blindly banished all fear of danger. ST October 13, 1881, par. 8

Day by day Delilah pressed and urged him, until “his soul was vexed unto death,” yet a subtle power kept him by her side. Her heart was set upon the tempting bribe, and she exerted all her blandishments to secure it. Overcome at last by the bewitching spell which he seemed to have no power to break, Samson made known the secret: “There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my birth. If I be shaven then my strength will go from me, and I will become weak and be like any other man.” ST October 13, 1881, par. 9

Eagerly the betrayer listened to his words, fully convinced by his serious and earnest manner that he had told truth; and she determined to profit by it. A messenger was immediately dispatched to the lords of the Philistines, urging them to come once more to her chamber without delay. She next sent for a man who, while the warrior slept with his head upon her knees, shaved off the heavy masses of his hair. Then, as she had done three times before, she called, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson!” Suddenly awaking, he thought to exert his strength as before, and destroy them all; but his powerless arms refused to do his bidding, and then he knew that the Lord had departed from him. ST October 13, 1881, par. 10

When he had been shaven, Delilah began to annoy him and cause him pain, thus making a trial of his strength; for the Philistines dared not approach him till fully convinced that his power was gone. Then they seized him, and having put out both his eyes, they took him to Gaza. Here he was bound with strong fetters of brass, and kept in their prison house as a trophy of their victory, and compelled to drudge in hard labor. ST October 13, 1881, par. 11

What a change to him that had been the judge and champion of Israel!—now weak, blind, imprisoned, degraded to the most menial service! Little by little he had violated the conditions of his sacred calling. God had borne long with him, but when he had so yielded himself to the power of sin as to betray his secret, that moment God departed from him. There was no virtue in the length of his hair, in itself, but it was a token of his loyalty to God, and when the symbol was sacrificed in the indulgence of lustful passion, the blessings of which it was a token were also forfeited. Had Samson's head been shaven without fault on his part, his strength would have remained. But his course had shown contempt for the favor and authority of God as much as if he had in disdain himself severed his locks from his head. Therefore God left him to endure the results of his own folly. ST October 13, 1881, par. 12

In his sufferings and humiliation, a sport for the Philistines, Samson had opportunity for reflection, and he learned more of his own weakness than he had ever known before. As his afflictions led him to repentance, his hair began gradually to grow, indicating the return of his extraordinary powers, but his enemies, regarding him only as a fettered and helpless prisoner, felt no apprehensions. ST October 13, 1881, par. 13

As the Philistines exulted over their great victory, they ascribed the honor to their gods, praising them as superior to the God of Israel. The contest, instead of being between Samson and the Philistines, was now between Jehovah and Dagon, and thus the Lord was moved to assert his almighty power and his supreme authority. A favorable opportunity for this was soon presented. The Philistines held a feast in honor of their God Dagon. A vast company was assembled, and in the height of their sacrilegious festivities, they ordered the captive to be produced, that the people might have a new source of amusement. The multitude greeted his appearance with shouts of triumph, and praised their god who had thus subdued the “destroyer of their country.” Samson had been made the sport of the people before; But now even the rulers of the nation mocked at his misery. ST October 13, 1881, par. 14

The immense building was thronged with the brave and the fair. Even the roof was crowded with thousands of spectators. After a time, as if weary, Samson asked permission to rest against the two central pillars which supported the temple roof. Then he breathed the prayer, “O Lord Jehovah, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” With these words he seized the pillars in his mighty arms, and with the cry, “Let me die with the Philistines,” he bowed himself and the roof fell, destroying at one dread crash, all that vast company. “So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.” ST October 13, 1881, par. 15

God designed that Samson should accomplish a great work for Israel. Hence the utmost care had been taken at the very outset of life to surround him with the most favorable conditions for physical strength, intellectual vigor, and moral purity. Had he not in after years ventured among the ungodly and the licentious, he would not so basely have yielded to temptation. Physically he was the strongest man upon the earth; but in self-control, integrity, and firmness, he was the weakest of men. His passions were not held in subjection to reason and the fear of God. The blandishments of beautiful women often have dangerous temptations to the young. Those who do not make God their strength will be overcome by Satan's devices. ST October 13, 1881, par. 16

The very men whom God purposes to use as his servants, the dread adversary uses his utmost power to lead astray. Yet the sacred word presents for our encouragement noble examples of men who have in the strength of God resisted the fiercest attacks of the powers of darkness. The youthful Joseph was subjected to a most severe temptation. It came from one in high position, one whose enmity might destroy his worldly prospects. The future of Joseph's life was determined by the decisions made in that trying hour. He calmly looked up to Heaven, and exclaimed, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” The fires of unholy passion were not permitted to kindle. God's commands, God's promise were before Joseph. He felt that the all-seeing eye was upon him, extending to all his thoughts, penetrating to the secrets of the heart, to the motives underlying every action. ST October 13, 1881, par. 17

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! ST October 13, 1881, par. 18

The youths of today can bless or blight their future life. God calls young men in the strength and glory of their manhood to do service for him. But many whom God could use refuse to obey. They desire to secure worldly gain and worldly honor. To become a servant of Christ they consider as requiring too great a sacrifice. ST October 13, 1881, par. 19

The history of Samson conveys a lesson for those whose characters are yet unformed, who have not yet entered upon the stage of active life. The youth who enter our schools and colleges will find there every class of mind. If they desire sport and folly, if they seek to shun the good and unite with the evil, they have the opportunity. Sin and righteousness are before them, and they are to choose for themselves. But let them remember that “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption: but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” ST October 13, 1881, par. 20