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Judges 16:9

ESV Now she had men lying in ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings, as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.
NIV With men hidden in the room, she called to him, 'Samson, the Philistines are upon you!' But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
NASB Now she had men prepared for an ambush in an inner room. And she said to him, 'The Philistines are upon you, Samson!' But he tore the tendons to pieces just like a thread of flax is torn apart when it comes too close to fire. So his strength was not discovered.
CSB While the men in ambush were waiting in her room, she called out to him, "Samson, the Philistines are here! " But he snapped the bowstrings as a strand of yarn snaps when it touches fire. The secret of his strength remained unknown.
NLT She had hidden some men in one of the inner rooms of her house, and she cried out, 'Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!' But Samson snapped the bowstrings as a piece of string snaps when it is burned by a fire. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
KJV 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 the fire. So his strength was not known.

What does Judges 16:9 mean?

If Samson ever supposed Delilah was working with the Philistines (Judges 16:4–5), one would expect this to confirm those suspicions. Yet her approach, and his responses, make it all but certain he doesn't understand the risks. In response to her blunt questions (Judges 16:6), Samson has told her that if he is bound with seven fresh, undried bowstrings, he will become as weak as any other man. It is a lie (Judges 16:7–8).

Philistine rulers are behind Delilah's quest. They offered an amazing amount of money if she succeeds in seducing Samson and exploiting his secret. They have provided her with the seven bowstrings, and presumably also the men hidden in her inner chamber—her bedroom—ready to pounce as soon as Samson was subdued.

Once Samson is tied up, Delilah calls out a warning that his enemies are there. Either waking from sleep or in response to the strange game they are playing, Samson snaps the bowstrings easily. The description here echoes what happened to the new ropes once used to bind Samson for capture (Judges 15:14). Bowstrings were made from things like tough animal sinews, yet these came off as if disintegrating. Samson remains as strong as ever.

As with the gates of Gaza (Judges 16:3), the Bible does not refer to the Spirit of God "coming upon" Samson in this moment (Judges 14:5–6; 15:14–15). It's possible his supernatural strength was now a permanent part of his role as judge (Judges 15:20). It may also be that the onrush of the Spirit is assumed but not stated.

For now, Samson doesn't appear to realize there are actual Philistines in the room. Scripture does not say they attacked, only noting they were waiting. It would be unbelievable for Samson to continue playing with Delilah, let alone telling her the truth, if something so obvious had happened. More likely, he assumes she is flirting and teasing him. So, he flirts and teases back by breaking the bonds. It's even possible that her methods—including so many instances where nothing happens—took away any early skepticism he might have held.

Her answer in the following verse may have been in the same playful tone (Judges 16:10). Over time, however, her words become more personal and more desperate, and Samson will lose both his resolve and what's left of his common sense (Judges 16:20–21).
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