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Discovery Magazine 4/1/2000

City Walls, City Gates, and a Really Strong Man!

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

In Old Testament times, before the people of Israel had kings, God appointed judges to rule over Israel. One of the most famous of those judges was a man named Samson. However, Samson wasn’t famous for his wise rulings or for how well he governed. Instead, he was most famous for his immense physical strength. On one occasion, he went into battle against the Philistines, who were Israel’s feared enemies, and killed a thousand warriors all by himself. He used nothing but the jawbone of a donkey! (Read Judges 15:9-17.)

On another occasion (read Judges 16:1-3), Samson did something that most men could only dream of accomplishing. While he was visiting the city of Gaza, the men of that city decided they would kill Samson early one morning. When Samson learned of their plot, he walked to the city walls at midnight and removed the two huge doors that guarded the entrance into the city. He did this all by himself! In fact, the Bible says that Samson tore down not only the two doors, but the wooden posts and metal bars that fastened them to the walls. And that’s not all. Samson put the two giant doors on his shoulders and carried them approximately 40 miles away toward the city of Hebron (which sits on a hill around 2,800 feet above sea level!). If you have a section in the back of your Bible that contains maps, locate Gaza (near the Mediterranean Ocean); then look due east and you’ll see Hebron. What a walk that must have been!

Can you imagine having that kind of strength? And can you imagine how silly the men of Gaza must have felt when they awoke the next morning and discovered that Samson had torn down the huge gates in the city walls that were supposed to protect them from invaders—and deposited them 40 miles away near the top of a mountain?

Of course, Samson did not come by this strength naturally. The Scriptures make it clear that "the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him" to make such feats possible (Judges 14:6; 15:14). God used Samson to teach the people of Gaza an important lesson. They could build thick walls with huge gates. But God could create a man that was powerful enough to tear down those gates single-handedly and leave the city completely vulnerable to its enemies. Walls and gates—no matter how tall, how thick, or how strong they may appear to be—are no match for the power of God!

In Joshua 6 there is another story about the power of God and the walls of a city. Jericho’s walls collapsed without the Israelites ever having laid a hand on them. Such stories as those about Jericho and Gaza should remind us of God’s awesome power, and of the fact that God always is in control. What a marvelous God we love and serve!

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