Judges 15
Pulpit Commentary
But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in.
Verse 1. - Within a while - the same expression as that in Judges 14:8, rendered "after a time," and in Judges 11:4, rendered "in process of time." In the time of wheat harvest - about the month of May. The harvest, as appears from ver. 5, had begun, some corn being already cut, and in shocks; the rest still standing, and, being ready to be cut, of course extremely dry and inflammable. With a kid, as a present, intended no doubt to make peace (Genesis 38:17). His anger (Judges 14:19) had now passed away, and his love for his wife had returned. He was little prepared to find her married again to his friend.
And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her.
Verse 2. - Is not her younger sister, etc. Samson's father-in-law might well have thought that Samson had forsaken his wife, and would never forgive her treachery. Possibly too he was a covetous man, and glad to get a second dower. Anyhow, his answer was conciliatory; but Samson was not in a mood to accept excuses, or be softened by conciliation.
And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.
Verse 3. - I shall be more blameless than the Philistines. The phrase rather means, I shall be blameless (or guiltless) before the Philistines, i.e. in relation to the Philistines, - they will have nothing to lay to my charge; my revenge will be a just one, - as in Numbers 32:22: Then shall ye be guiltless before the Lord, and be. fore Israel. He means that so grievous an injury as he had received in having his wife taken from him and given to a Philistine will justify any requitals on his part.
And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.
Verse 4. - Foxes. The word here rendered fox (shu'al, in Persian shagal, which is etymologically the same word as jackal) includes the jackal, which is as common in Palestine as the fox. Here, and in Psalm 63:10, the gregarious jackals, the canis aureus, are undoubtedly meant. Caught. The Hebrew word means especially caught in nets or snares. See Amos 3:5 (have taken nothing at all); Psalm 35:8 (let his net catch himself); Jeremiah 18:22; Isaiah 8:14 (taken), etc. And it is in this sense that the A.V. uses the word caught. A clever sportsman, as no doubt Samson was, would have no difficulty whatever in netting or snaring 300 jackals, which always move in packs, and would be attracted by the vineyards of Thimnathah, for which their partiality is well known (see Judges 14:5, note). The writer of the additional article Fox in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' states that he had tried the experiment of throwing grapes to the foxes, jackals, and wolves in the Zoological Gardens. The wolves would not touch them, the others ate them with avidity. Took firebrands, etc. Many cavils have been directed against the truth of this account, but without the slightest reason. The terrified animals, with the burning torches and the blazing straw behind them, would necessarily run forwards. Samson would, of course, start the couples at numerous different points, and no doubt have a number of Hebrews to assist him. To the present day the corn-fields in that part of the Shephelah extend continuously for twenty or thirty miles.
And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.
Verse 5. - The shocks and the standing corn. See ver. 1, note. With the vineyards and olives. The Hebrew text has the orchards of olive trees - the word cherem, usually translated vineyard, meaning also any orchard; but the Septuagint in both codices supplies and, as does the A. Y., which gives the more probable sense, vineyards and olives. It is unlikely that the vineyards should not be mentioned, in a district abounding in them.
Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.
Verse 6. - And the Philistines... burnt her and her father with fire. See Judges 14:15. It appears from Genesis 38:24; Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9; Joshua 7:15, 25, that burning with fire was a judicial punishment among the Hebrews. Possibly the Philistines, in their fear of Samson, and perhaps also from a rude sense of justice, inflicted this punishment upon the Thimnathite and her father as the real authors of the destruction of their corn-fields, by giving Samson so unheard-of provocation. Note the fact of the identical fate overtaking Samson's wife which she had sought to escape by base treachery (cf. John 11:48 with what actually happened).
And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.
Verse 7. - And Samson said, etc. There are two ways of understanding Samson's speech: one, with the A.V., as meaning to say that though the Philistines had taken his part, and repudiated all fellowship in the shameful deed of the Thimnathite and her father, yet he would have his full revenge upon them; the other, translating the particle in its more common sense of if, makes him say, "If this is the way you treat me, be sure I will not cease till I have had my full revenge." This is perhaps on the whole the most probable meaning. It still leaves it uncertain whether the Philistines meant to do Samson justice, or to do him an additional injury, by putting his wife and her father to death.
And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.
Verse 8. - He smote them hip and thigh, etc. A proverbial expression, the origin of which is uncertain; it means, he smote them with a great and complete slaughter. It is reasonable to suppose that he had gathered a few Hebrews round him to help him. He went down, etc. This shows that Etam must have been situated lower than Tinmath, and seems to preclude its identification with Urtas, in the hill country of Judah, between Bethlehem and Tekoah, which apparently represents the Etam of 2 Chronicles 11:6. But there is another Etam in the tribe of Simeon (1 Chronicles 4:32), which may possibly be the Etam of our text. In the top of the rock. Rather, the cleft or fissure of the rock - some narrow and inaccessible ravine. The site has not been identified.

CHAPTER 15:9-20
Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.
Verse 9. - Went up, i.e. from their own country in the Shephelah to the hill country of Judah. As Samson had avenged his wrongs on the whole Philistine people, so they now came up to Judah to take vengeance for Samson's injuries. In Lehi, or, rather, hal-Lehi, the Lehi, the place afterwards so called, as related in vers. 17 and 20 (see Judges 7:25, note). Lehi has been identified by some with Tell-el-Lekhiyeh, four miles above Beer-sheba; and by others with Beit-Likiyeh, in the Wady Suleiman, two miles below the upper Beth-heron, and so within easy distance of Timnath and other places mentioned in the history of Samson. But no certainty can at present be arrived at.
And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us.
Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.
Verse 11. - Men of Judah. It is rather three thousand men went down from Judah, showing that the rock Etam was below. The top. It should be the cleft, as in ver. 8. Knowest thou not, etc. The language of these cowardly men shows how completely the Philistine yoke was fastened upon the necks of Judah. The history gives no account of the Philistine conquest; except the brief allusion in Judges 10:6, 7; but Samson's story brings to light the existence of it. The abject state to which they were reduced is shown By their complaint of Samson, What is this that thou hast done unto us?" instead of hailing him as a deliverer. As they did unto me, etc. It is instructive to read Samson's defence of himself in the very words used by the Philistines in ver. 10. "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." There is no end to rendering "evil for evil."
And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves.
Verses 12, 13. - We are come down to bind thee. There is something very base in this deliberate agreement with their Philistine masters to deliver up Samson bound into their hands. But it is not very unlike the spirit in which the Hebrews looked upon Moses when he first began to work to rescue them from their Egyptian bondage (Exodus 2:14; Acts 7:25-28). Samson's forbearance towards his own countrymen is commendable. Brought him up - from the deep ravine or cleft in which he was hid. His place of concealment was probably unknown to the Philistines, or may be they had quite a superstitious fear of Samson from their experience of his prowess.
And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.
And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.
Verse 14. - When he came, i.e. as soon as he was come to Lehi, where the Philistine camp was (ver. 9). Shouted against him. Rather, shouted as they ran out to meet him. It expresses concisely the double action of their all going out to meet him, and shouting with joy when they saw him bound and, as they thought, in their power.
And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.
Verse 15. - A most vivid and stirring description! The Spirit of the Lord (Judges 14:19), with that suddenness which marks his extraordinary movements (1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16; Acts 2:2; Acts 8:39, etc.), came upon Samson, and mightily strengthened him in his outer man. The strong new cords snapped asunder in an instant, and before the Philistines could recover from their terror at seeing their great enemy free, he had snatched up the heavy jawbone of an ass recently dead, and with it smote the flying Philistines till a thousand of them had fallen under his blows.
And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
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.).
And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi.
Verse 17. - Made an end of speaking, i.e. of reciting the song about the heaps of slain. It is singular that the word rendered speaking might also be rendered destroying, as in 2 Chronicles 22:10. Called that place Ramath-lechi, i.e. the height of Lechi, or of the jawbone, or, rather, the throwing away of the jawbone. He commemorated the exact spot where the slaughter ceased and the weapon Was thrown away by giving it the name of Ramath-Lechi, or, as it was called for shortness, Lechi (or hal-Lechi).
And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?
Verse 18. - He was sore athirst. The incredible exertions which he had made in pursuing and slaying the Philistines put him in danger of his life from thirst. He thought he should die, and be found and abused by his uncircumcised foes. His only resource was prayer to God, who had helped him hitherto, We may note by the way that the more God gives, the more he encourages us to ask.
But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.
Verse 19. - But (or, and) God clave, etc. Cf. Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:8, 11. The A.V. (as the Septuagint and Vulgate seem to have done, and Luther and others) has quite misconceived the statement in the text, as if God had cloven a hollow place in the jawbone, and brought out the water thence; whereas the statement is quite clear that God clave the hollow place which is in Lehi (hal-Lehi, ver. 9, note), and that a spring of water came out, to which Samson gave the name En-hakkorch, the spring of him that called upon God, which name continued till the time of the writer. The spring apparently continued till the time of St. Jerome, and of other later writers, in the seventh, twelfth, and fourteenth centuries; but Robinson was unable to identify it with any certainty ('B.R.,' 2:64). The word translated the (not a) hollow place (ham-maktesh) means a mortar; also the cavity in the jaw from which the molar teeth grow. The hollow ground from which the spring rose, with which Samson quenched his thirst, from its shape and from the connection with hal-Lechi (the jawbone) was called hammaktech. In Zephaniah 1:11 it is also a proper name, apparently of some spot near Jerusalem. The name thereof, i.e. of the fountain, with which thereof, which is in the feminine gender, agrees. Which is in Lehi unto this day. This punctuation does not agree with the Hebrew accents, which put a strong stop after Lehi. The Hebrew accents rather convey the sense that the name En-kakkoreh continued to be the name of the well unto the day of the writer.
And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
Verse 20. - And he judged Israel, etc. See ch. 16:81. It looks as if it had been the intention to close the history of Samson with these Words, but that ch. 16. was subsequently added, possibly from other sources. Compare the close of chs. 20. and 21. of the Gospel of St. John. A possible explanation, however, of this verse being placed here is that it results from the statement in ver. 19, that Samson's spirit came again, and he revived, or came to life again, after being on the very point of death; and, adds the writer, he judged Israel after this for twenty years.

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