Judges 16:1 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 16:1, NIV: One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her.

Judges 16:1, ESV: Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her.

Judges 16:1, KJV: Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.

Judges 16:1, NASB: Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a prostitute there, and had relations with her.

Judges 16:1, NLT: One day Samson went to the Philistine town of Gaza and spent the night with a prostitute.

Judges 16:1, CSB: Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went to bed with her.

What does Judges 16:1 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Samson was said to have judged (Judges 2:16–19) for twenty years. The "judges" of this book were not lawyers, nor simply leaders, or military commanders. Rather, they were some combination of all three, each with their own unique purpose. The term "judges" comes from the Hebrew sōpetim', from the root shaphat. This includes rescue, support, and even vengeance. Samson's story has already included a great deal of revenge (Judges 15:7, 11). His God-given purpose has been to shake Israel out of complacent subjugation under the Philistines (Judges 13:5; 14:4). We're not given details about what Samson was doing between the events explicitly recorded in the previous two chapters.

Scripture doesn't say how long passed between Samson's slaughter of a Philistine army (Judges 15:14–17) and this moment in Gaza. Nor does it specify when his twenty-year term officially began. What's recorded here, however, is part of the end of his story.

It's unknown why Samson went to Gaza. This was the southernmost Philistine stronghold of the five major Philistine cities (Joshua 13:3), and far from Samson's hometown of Zorah. He was well-known as an enemy of the Philistines. Easy identification such as photographs did not yet exist. Yet only one person who knew him would be enough to sound an alarm. Arriving at Gaza is risky enough. Choosing to stop overnight seems extremely unwise, even without considering who he stays with. Perhaps he planned to pass through quietly and couldn't contain his urges. It would not be his first (Judges 14:1–3) or last (Judges 16:4–5) stumble on account of a woman.

While in Gaza, Samson notices a prostitute, whom he hires for the night. Samson's lifestyle routinely proves he is not interested in walking closely with the Lord. God, however, can and will use Samson for His own ends (Judges 14:4). What happens next provides a vivid warning to the Philistines about their dominance over Israel.