Judges 16:21 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 16:21, NIV: Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison.

Judges 16:21, ESV: And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison.

Judges 16:21, KJV: But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.

Judges 16:21, NASB: Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and restrained him with bronze chains, and he became a grinder in the prison.

Judges 16:21, NLT: So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. They took him to Gaza, where he was bound with bronze chains and forced to grind grain in the prison.

Judges 16:21, CSB: The Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles, and he was forced to grind grain in the prison.

What does Judges 16:21 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The Lord has left Samson, because Samson has now entirely violated every command given him by God. The one prophetic requirement given to Samson before his birth was that he never cut his hair (Judges 13:5). Under intense pressure from a woman he loves (Judges 16:4)—and who pretends to love him—Samson has divulged that secret. His superhuman strength is because of his special status before God, symbolized by his long, uncut hair. Delilah has betrayed him for the modern equivalent of millions of dollars (Judges 16:5). He has given her his secret, and she has used it to remove the Lord's one requirement for Samson to continue in his God-given supernatural power (Judges 16:17–20).

As in their prior "games," Delilah has called out a warning to Samson, This time, when Samson leaps up to snap his bonds, he is helpless. Seeing that their hated enemy is truly subdued, the Philistines waiting in ambush burst from hiding inside Delilah's inner chamber. This is the last thing Samson will see on earth. The attackers rush Samson, who is probably still tied up, and gouge his eyes out. The man who once piled up Philistine corpses (Judges 15:14–15) and walked away carrying the gates of Gaza (Judges 16:3) is now humiliated, maimed, and utterly dominated by his enemy.

The Philistines transport Samson to Gaza, where he recently embarrassed them by tearing away the defenses of their fortified city. Gaza is the southernmost of the five major Philistine cities near the Mediterranean Sea (Joshua 13:3). This might have been done to exact revenge for his earlier actions. Or, Gaza might have been chosen to keep Samson far from the main population of Israelites to avoid rescue attempts.

Samson is bound with bronze shackles, far stronger than the ropes he once snapped with ease (Judges 16:12). The Philistines won't take any chances with him, but they will mock him mercilessly. They decide that killing Samson is too good for him. Instead, they condemn him to labor in their prison at Gaza, grinding out grain at a mill. This matches the overall approach the Philistines had taken towards Israel (Judges 13:1). Samson's life was meant to shatter that comfortable oppression (Judges 13:5), but now it seems as if the opposite has happened. The arrogant, selfish, unbeatable Samson is finally brought low.

God, however, has one more feat for Samson to do. The same flaw—arrogant complacency—provides an opportunity for Samson to regain his power (Judges 16:22) and achieve a last act of revenge.