Judges 15:16
And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass.—Here we once more find ourselves in very primitive regions of poetry and paronomasia. Samson’s exultation over his extraordinary achievement finds vent in a sort of punning couplet, which turns entirely on the identity of sound between chamor, a heap, and chamor, an ass, and the play of meaning between aleph, a thousand, and aleph, an ox. In the Hebrew the couplet runs:—

“Bi-lechi ha-chamor chamor chamorathaim.

Bi-lechi ha-chamor hicceythî eleph eesh.”

Literally, with some attempt, however clumsy, to keep up the play of words,

With jaw of the ass, a (m)ass two (m) asses,

With jaw of the ass I smote an ox-load of men.”

The versions are, of course, unable to preserve these rough paronomasias, which are characteristic of the age. It would be quite a mistake to infer that they show any levity of spirit in Samson. On the contrary, such peculiarities of expression often arise out of deep emotion. When John of Gaunt begins his dying speech to Richard II. with—

“Old Gaunt, indeed! and gaunt in being old,” &c.,

the king asks:—

“Can sick men play so nicely with their names?”

and the dying prince makes the striking answer:—

“No; misery makes sport to mock herself.”

I have fully examined the whole subject in Chapters on Language, pp. 227-238. These sallies of playful fancy tended no less than the flashes of military prowess to prepare the nation for better times by keeping up their buoyant mood. “The nation felt unsubdued in mind and body, while its sons could flow out in such health and vivacity;” and thus Samson began to deliver them, though his actual deeds were casual—“a sort of teasing, reiterated mark of mortifying humiliation” (Ewald).

Jdg 15:16. Heaps upon heaps, &c. — Hebrew, a heap, two heaps. As much as to say, I have not only slain enow to make one heap, but two or more. I have slain a thousand men — What could be too hard for him to do, on whom the Spirit of the Lord came mightily? This seems like a short hymn or song of triumph, which Samson uttered after he had routed the Philistines. It is strange that the men of Judah did not now, at least, come to his assistance. But he was to be a type of him who trod the wine-press alone.

15:9-17 Sin dispirits men, it hides from their eyes the things that belong to their peace. The Israelites blamed Samson for what he had done against the Philistines, as if he had done them a great injury. Thus our Lord Jesus did many good works, and for those the Jews were ready to stone him. When the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, his cords were loosed: where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, and those are free indeed who are thus set free. Thus Christ triumphed over the powers of darkness that shouted against him, as if they had him in their power. Samson made great destruction among the Philistines. To take the bone of an ass for this, was to do wonders by the foolish things of the world, that the excellency of the power might be of God, not of man. This victory was not in the weapon, was not in the arm; but it was in the Spirit of God, which moved the weapon by the arm. We can do all things through Him that strengtheneth us. Seest thou a poor Christian, who is enabled to overcome a temptation by weak, feeble counsel, there is the Philistine vanquished by a sorry jaw-bone.There is a play upon the word, three times repeated, which means both "an ass" and also "a heap." The spirit of riddle-making Judges 14:12, Judges 14:18 is apparent in this song of triumph (compare Judges 5:1; Exodus 15:1; 1 Samuel 18:6-7). 16. With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men—The inadequacy of the weapon plainly shows this to have been a miraculous feat, "a case of supernatural strength," just as the gift of prophecy is a case of supernatural knowledge [Chalmers]. This, though it might seem difficult, yet is not at all impossible or incredible; especially seeing the learned affirm of the asses of Syria, that they were larger and stronger than ours, and so consequently were their bones. And withal, it must be acknowledged that there was something extraordinary and miraculous in this, as there was unquestionably in Samson’s strength, and so all the difficulty vanisheth.

And Samson said,.... In a kind of triumphant song:

with the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps; that is, with such an instrument he had slain heaps of men, who lay dead in heaps upon one another; in the words for an "ass", and for an "heap", is an elegant "paronomosia", not easy to be expressed in our language:

with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men: this he said not in a proud and haughty manner, ascribing it to himself, as Josephus suggests (m), since he takes notice of the mean instrument he used; which showed that he was sensible it was not done by his own power, but by the power of God, which enabled him by such weak means to do such wonderful things.

(m) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 8. sect. 9.

And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. heaps upon heaps] See marg., and cf. Exodus 8:14 [Hebrews 10, lit. heaps, heaps]. But a verb is wanted to complete the parallelism with clause b; and, simply pronouncing the words differently, we may render heaping I have heaped them, i. e. I have heaped them high. The verb ḥamar was chosen for its similarity to ḥamôr = ‘ass.’ The Verss. give a verb, LXX, Vulgate delevi, Peshitto ‘I have heaped heaps of them.’

Verse 16. - And Samson said, etc. The exploit gave birth to one of Sam son's punning, enigmatical, sayings: "With the jawbone of the ass, one heap, two heads of slain." Hamor, an ass, means also an heap. If one were to imitate the passage in English, supposing that the jaw of a sheep had been the implement, it might run something like this - By the jaw of a sheep they fell heap upon heap. A Latin imitation is, Maxilla cervi, acervum acervos (Bochart). He adds, as if in explanation, With the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. So the women sang, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands (1 Samuel 18:7), And a Latin song is quoted, in which Aurelian is made to say after the Sarmatic war - "Mille Sarmatas, mille Frances, Semel et semel occidimus, Mille Persas quaerimus" (Bp. Patrick on Judges 15.). Judges 15:16As soon as he was relieved of his bands, he seized upon a fresh jaw-bone of an ass, which he found there, and smote therewith a thousand men. He himself commemorated this victory in a short poetical strain (Judges 15:16): "With the ass's jaw-bone a heap, two heaps; with the ass's jaw-bone I smote a thousand men." The form of the word חמור equals חמר is chosen on account of the resemblance to חמור, and is found again at 1 Samuel 16:20. How Samson achieved this victory is not minutely described. But the words "a heap, two heaps," point to the conclusion that it did not take place in one encounter, but in several. The supernatural strength with which Samson rent asunder the fetters bound upon him, when the Philistines thought they had him safely in their power, filled them with fear and awe as before a superior being, so that they fled, and he pursued them, smiting one heap after another, as he overtook them, with an ass's jaw-bone which he found in the way. The number given, viz., a thousand, is of course a round number signifying a very great multitude, and has been adopted from the song into the historical account.
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