There are two ways to understand this verse; either
- They wanted to gloat about their victory of their enemy( שָׂחַק = laugh at), Samson, and so jeer at him
- They wanted him to dance or perform to entertain them (צְחַק laugh or perform).
The two verbs are capable of meaning both. Thus, I believe they intended both. The Pulpit commentary observes:
That he may make us sport. And he made them sport. The two verbs are
not the same in Hebrew, but they have much the same meaning. It is not
certain whether the idea conveyed is that of the A.V., that Samson was
brought there to be as it were baited by the populace, jeered and
jested at, reviled and reproached, perhaps struck or pelted; or
whether the words do not simply mean to dance with music, which is
certainly the meaning of the latter verb (he made sport before them,
A.V. and margin) in 1 Samuel 18:7 (played, A.V.; see ver. 6); 2 Samuel
6:5, 21; 1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 15:29.
Benson also observes:
Jdg 16:25. Call for Samson, that he may make us sport — May be the
subject of our mirth and derision. Thus Christ was made the subject of
the sport and derision of the chief priests and elders, Matthew
26:67-68, and of the Roman soldiers, Matthew 27:29. No doubt they
loaded him with bitter scoffs and indignities, and perhaps required of
him some proofs of the more than ordinary strength yet remaining in
him, like the ruins of a great and goodly building. By this, it seems,
he lulled them asleep, until, through this complaisance, he prepared
the way for that which he designed.