Judges 15 Commentary

 

 

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Judges 15 Commentary

Judges 15:1 But after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, it came about that Samson visited his wife with a young goat, and said, "I will go in to my wife in her room." But her father did not let him enter.

WHEAT HARVEST: Near the end of May or the beginning of June

A YOUNG GOAT: Such a gift was customary, as with Judah and Tamar (Ge 38:17).

In Shakespeare's Hamlet the lead character says "Give me that man who is not passion's slave." Samson, a man "designed for great exploits" but with a legacy of uncontrollable lust and savage fits of temper. (Jas 1:20) What paradox. Great physical strength but just as great inner weakness. The paradoxes culminate at the end of his life: he deliverer is delivered to his enemies, God's chosen scourge is beaten and blinded, the practical joker becomes a joke for reveling Philistines and finally the dying Samson kills more Philistines than the living one!

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Henry Rossier - Victories (Judges 15)
 

Judges 14 and 15 form really a single narrative, and before going further, I would like to return to the consideration of two or three points common to both.

The first is, that God always works out His ways, and that too through a multitude of circumstances that are far from answering to His thoughts. Yea, further, He uses these very circumstances to make good His purposes, which are, in the case we are considering, the deliverance of Israel by an instrument moulded by Him with this end in view; and this explains the words, "It was of the Lord" (Judges 14:4). God brings about His ways, not only by means of things that He approves of, but also by making, our very faults, His discipline, the opposition of Satan and of the world, in a word, everything to conduce to the desired result. Unfaithfulness on our part does not disturb the ways of God. This is seen, in a remarkable manner, all through the life of Samson, and can be verified in the history of the Church. These ways of God all culminate in victory and in the blessings consequent thereon. How encouraging to prove it! Very often, to our confusion, our own ways come to nothing. Witness Samson, who did not take the daughter of the Philistine as his wife. Frequently do the children of God find themselves unable to proceed farther in the path they are upon, because of some divine obstacle blocking up the way, and they are forced to retrace their steps with humiliation. At other times, our course, which should have been continued in the power of service, is suddenly interrupted without return to the point of deviation being possible. Samson again furnishes us with the proof. Nothing like this ever occurs in the ways of God. They overrule our ways. It was by the death of a blind Samson that Jehovah achieved the greatest victory. A Moses, whose way was stopped before entering the land of promise, was forthcoming on the holy mount in the same glory as Christ.

The second point is, that mixed as Samson's motives were, "he sought an occasion" in a time of ruin (Judges 14:4). And wherefore? To deliver Israel by smiting the enemy that held them in bondage. May this motive be ours also. "Redeeming the time" (seizing opportunities), says the apostle, "because the days are evil" (Eph 5:16-
note). May we then, Nazarites ourselves, have our hearts filled with tender pity for our brethren who are still in bondage, under the world's yoke, and seek occasion, in love and the energy of the Spirit, to deliver them from it. These two chapters strikingly illustrate the fact that Samson sought an occasion against the Philistines, and that the intensity of his desire enabled him to find it, and that too when the slothful and indifferent, meeting an obstacle in their path, would have turned back.

A third expression constantly occurs in these chapters: "The Spirit of Jehovah came upon him" (Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6, 19; Judges 15:14). When we see these words we may be sure that the conflict is entirely according to God and without mixture. We likewise may achieve such victories, not by being dependent upon a temporary action of the Holy Spirit coming upon us from without, but because we have, in virtue of redemption, been sealed by the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of power. Nevertheless, it is important to remark that we cannot estimate the moral worth of a man of God by the greatness of his gift. Nowhere in the Scripture do we find a stronger man than Samson, nor one weaker morally. The New Testament gives us a similar example in the Assembly at Corinth, which came behind in no gift of power, and yet permitted every sort of moral evil in their midst. Samson was a Nazarite, upon whom the Spirit of God often came, but he was also a man whose heart had never been judged, and so his state was not in keeping with the gift he exercised. Not once, from the beginning to the end of his career, did he hesitate following the path of his lusts; going, without a struggle, wherever his heart led him. Notwithstanding the power of the Spirit, he was a carnal man. When he visited his wife with a kid, his kindness was carnal; when the world proposed giving him another woman, which he did not care for, in exchange for the one he so earnestly desired, his anger was carnal. Yet thus it ever is that the world treats us, to our loss and shame, when we have desired anything from it. That which it gives, after so many fine promises, has no value to the child of God, and cannot satisfy him. In the matter of the three hundred foxes, the Spirit of Jehovah did not come upon him, for, as I have already said, his anger was carnal. He wanted to "do a displeasure" to the Philistines, by attacking them in their outward circumstances; and, with a view to this, resorted to a device which does not at all seem to be according to the mind of God. The enraged Philistines went up and burnt his wife, who was their accomplice, and her father.

Samson found in their vengeance (Jdg 15:7) a fresh opportunity for doing the work of God. Here again we find much mixture: "Yet will I be avenged of you," and it is not added that the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him; but if He did not openly appear, God was behind the scene, and, in spite of all, it was a deliverance for the people. "And he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam." It must necessarily be the case, that the believer finds himself isolated, when he takes sides with God against the world, and Samson understood this. Those who would be witnesses for Christ in a day of ruin must expect to be set aside, and this, too, alas! by the people of God.

The three thousand men of Judah, the stillness of whose servitude was disturbed by Samson's testimony, consent to help the world which wishes to get rid of him; preferring the yoke of the Philistines to the difficulties and risks arising from this testimony. Nowhere in the hook of Judges do we find a lower moral state than this. Not only does Israel no longer cry to Jehovah, but they do not wish to be delivered. The man of God, their rightful deliverer, was an encumbrance to them. The Philistines said: "We are come up, to do to him as he hath done to us" (Jdg 15:10). Judah said: "What is this that thou hast done unto us?" (Jdg 15:1). In thus identifying themselves with the enemy who enslaved them, Judah was no longer Judah, but morally exchanged their name for that of the Philistines. Fellowship between them was complete; both were enemies of the testimony, though Judah was far the worse, preferring slavery to the unhindered power of the Spirit of God, of which Samson was the instrument.

Samson allowed them to bind him, and this finds its counterpart in the history of Christendom. The people of God have acted towards the Holy Ghost in a similar manner that Judah did to Samson. His power disturbed them; and not wanting the liberty of the Spirit, they have hindered His action, fettering Him, as it were, with their new methods, like the new cords with which Judah bound their liberator, saying to him all the time: "Surely we will not kill thee." Samson could have acted very differently, for these worthless fetters were to him like so many spider's webs, as he proved later on. The strong man laughed at their new cords, but he consented to be bound. What a responsibility for the three thousand men of Judah who had such a slight appreciation of the gift that God had given them! What shame for them! Surely there was no shame for Samson. If anything casts merited reproach upon the Christians that are linked with the world, it is the restraint put upon the free working of the Holy Spirit among them, because His action embarrasses them, and they are at a loss what to do.

But, at a given moment, the power of the Spirit bursts all bonds. "The Spirit of Jehovah 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" (Jdg 15:14). Then God made use of a bone cast away in the fields, the worthless jawbone of an ass, to gain a signal victory, and the place was called Ramath-lehi, from the name of the despicable instrument used in the combat. Such instruments are we m the hands of the Spirit of God (see 1Co 1:27, 28, 29), but it pleases the Lord to associate our names with His victory, as if the jawbone of an ass had slain "heaps upon heaps."

After his victory Samson "was sore athirst" (Jdg 15:18). The activity of the believer is not all; conflict does not quench the thirst. Something was necessary for Samson to meet his personal need, otherwise, as he said, "I shall die for thirst, and tall into the hand of the uncircumcised." If we do not wish to lose the results of conflict, we must use the word of God for our refreshment, and not only for combat. In his extremity, Samson called on Jehovah, who showed him a refreshing spring flowing out of a rock cleft by God's hand. The rock everywhere and always is Christ. "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink" (John 7:37). Let us get back into Christ's presence after conflict. His word will refresh us Samson was alive to the dangers which closely attend victory. The fact that God had "given this great deliverance into the hand of His servant" would be very likely to make us "fall into the hands of the uncircumcised," if the soul does not at once seek shelter, refreshment and strength by the waters of grace, of which Christ is the dispenser. In that day of blessing, Samson was characterized by these two things: a great activity in conflict for others, and, as to himself, a humble dependence upon God, which enabled him to avail himself of the resources in Christ.

The first part of Samson's history closes with these words: "And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years" (Jdg 15:20), It contains, notwithstanding all the failures which we have pointed out, God's approbation of the public career of His servant. The ensuing chapter shows us the loss of his Nazariteship.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:1-8. His Revenge upon the Philistines.— Some time after, Samson visited his wife in the time of the wheat harvest with a kid,—a customary present at that time (Gen. 38:17),—and wished to go into the chamber (the women’s apartment) to her; but her father would not allow him, and said, “I thought thou hatedst her, and therefore gave her to thy friend (Judg. 14:20): behold her younger sister is fairer than she; let her be thine in her stead.” (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:2 And her father said, "I really thought that you hated her intensely; so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please let her be yours instead."

Although he had never consummated the marriage, Samson thought he was legally married to the woman of Timnah. Therefore, he took a gift and went to visit her in her father’s house. How shocked he was to learn that not only was he not married, but also the woman he loved was now married to his best-man!

There are several surprised bridegrooms in the Bible. Adam went to sleep a single man and woke up to learn (happily) that he was married (Ge2:21-25). Jacob woke up and discovered he was married to the wrong woman (Ge29:21-30). Boaz woke up to find his prospective wife lying at his feet on the threshing floor (Ru3:1-13). Life is full of rude awakenings!

 

Judges 15:3 Samson then said to them, "This time I shall be blameless in regard to the Philistines when I do them harm."

Samson’s claim of innocence (of any charges of wrong-doing the Philistines might bring against him) may have been correct (v3). Even the Philistines still referred to him as “the Timnite’s son-in-law” (v6). True, he had not immediately consummated the marriage, but was this sufficient ground for the divorce effected by the father? Later on David did not hesitate to take back his wife Michal forcibly, though Saul had given her to another man (1Sa25:44; 2Sa3:13-15).

There is a very significant omission here. It does not say that the Spirit of God either moved him or empowered him to do this. This was not divine judgment, it was the venting of Samson's personal resentment and anger. It grew out of his pique and had nothing to do with God's will. It was a very cruel and inhumane thing to do. But it evened the score: Samson - 2; the Philistines - 2.

The passion to get even seemed to govern Samson’s life. His motto was, “As they did unto me, so have I done unto them” (15:11). Certainly as the defender of Israel, Samson’s calling was to defeat the enemy; but you long to see him fighting “the battles of the Lord” and not just his own private wars. When David faced the Philistines, he saw them as the enemies of the Lord and sought to honor the name of the Lord in his victory (1Sa17). Samson’s attitude was different.

As Christians, we need to beware of hiding selfish motives under the cloak of religious zeal and calling it “righteous indignation.” Personal vengeance and private gain rather than the glory of the Lord has motivated more than one “crusader” in the church. What some people think is godly zeal may actually be ungodly anger, fed by pride and motivated by selfishness. There is a godly anger that we should experience when we see wickedness prosper and defenseless people hurt (Ep4:26), but there’s a very fine line between righteous indignation and a “religious temper tantrum.”

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:3. Enraged at this answer, Samson said to them (i.e., to her father and those around him), “Now am I blameless before the Philistines, if I do evil to them.” נִקָּה with מִן, to be innocent away from a person, i.e., before him (see Num. 32:22). Samson regarded the treatment which he had received from his father-in-law as but one effect of the disposition of the Philistines generally towards the Israelites, and therefore resolved to avenge the wrong which he had received from one member of the Philistines upon the whole nation, or at all events upon the whole of the city of Timnath. (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail, and put one torch in the middle between two tails.

The “foxes” (v. 4) Samson used may actually have been jackals, a closely related animal that moves in packs and can be more readily caught. Either animal would, however, be difficult to catch in such quantities. The fire spread with incredible speed, and soon the Philistines’ crops were ruined (v. 5). The fire destroyed the sheaves of stacked grain and also the grain ready to be harvested in the fields (Deut 23:25).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:4, 5. He therefore went and caught three hundred shualim, i.e., jackals, animals which resemble foxes and are therefore frequently classed among the foxes even by the common Arabs of the present day (see Niebuhr, Beschr. v. Arab. p. 166). Their European name is derived from the Persian schaghal. These animals, which are still found in great quantities at Joppa, Gaza, and in Galilee, herd together, and may easily be caught (see Rosenmüller, Bibl. Althk. iv. 2, pp. 155ff.). He then took torches, turned tail to tail, i.e., coupled the jackals together by their tails, putting a torch between the two tails, set the torches on fire, and made the animals run into the fields of standing corn belonging to the Philistines. Then he burned “from the shocks of wheat to the standing grain and to the olive gardens,” i.e., the shocks of wheat as well as the standing corn and the olive plantations. כֶּרֶם זַיִת are joined together in the construct state. (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:5 When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves.

WHEN HE HAD SET FIRE TO THE TORCHES, HE RELEASED THE FOXES INTO THE STANDING GRAIN OF THE PHILISTINES:

Under the law (Exod 22:6), burning crops and fields was considered a serious offense; and the Philistines were distressed at this blow to their economy (v. 6)

THUS BURNING UP BOTH THE SHOCKS AND THE STANDING GRAIN, ALONG WITH THE VINEYARDS AND GROVES: Had he tied the firebrands to individual animals, they each would have immediately run to their dens. But by putting two animals together and turning them loose, Samson could be fairly sure that their fear of the fire and their inability to maneuver easily would make them panic. Thus they would run around frantically in the fields and ignite the grain. The fire then would spread into the vineyards and olive groves. It was a costly devastation.

His riddle and his rhyme (15:16) indicate that Samson had a boyish sense of humor, and perhaps this approach to agricultural arson was just another fun time for him. However, we must keep in mind that God was using Samson’s exploits to harass the Philistines and prepare them for the sure defeat that was coming in a few years.

 

Judges 15:6 Then the Philistines said, "Who did this?" And they said, "Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his companion." So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire.

SO THE PHILISTINES CAME UP AND BURNED HER AND HER FATHER WITH FIRE:

How ironic. That is what they said they would do if she did not tell them what the riddle was.

Violence breeds violence, and the Philistines weren’t about to stand around doing nothing while their food and fortune went up in flames. They figured out that Samson was behind the burning of their crops, and they knew they had to retaliate. Since they couldn’t hope to overcome Samson, they did the next thing and vented their wrath on his wife and father-in-law. In the long run, her betrayal of Samson didn’t save her life after all (14:15).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:6. The Philistines found out at once, that Samson had done them this injury because his father-in-law, the Timnite, had taken away his wife and given her to his companion. They therefore avenged themselves by burning her and her father,—probably by burning his house down to the ground, with its occupants within it,—an act of barbarity and cruelty which fully justified Samson’s war upon them. (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:7 And Samson said to them, "Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you, but after that I will quit."

Though he intended to “stop” when he got even, neither side quit seeking revenge till Samson and thousands of Philistines were dead. How rapidly the effects of sin and hatred spread! 

Samson's ongoing quest for vengeance is tragic. Rather than viewing his deeds as acts of holy war against Israel's oppressor, he was concerned only for personal vengeance and never understood his role in God's program.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:7. Samson therefore declared to them, “If ye do such things, truly (כִּי) when I have avenged myself upon you, then will I cease,” i.e., I will not cease till I have taken vengeance upon you. (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:8 And he struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter; and he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

AND HE STRUCK THEM RUTHLESSLY WITH A GREAT SLAUGHTER:

That evened the score at 3-all. The Hebrew is literally "leg on thigh" a Hebrew idiom for a complete or total massacre. An expression from wrestling terminology indicating a complete victory. See James' commentary on Samson's revenge-filled, angry actions (Ja1:20).

AND HE WENT DOWN AND LIVED IN THE CLEFT OF THE ROCK OF ETAM: Following the attack, he retreated to a cave in the “rock of Etam.” This is not the Etam mentioned either in [1Ch4:32] (too far away) or [2Ch11:6] (hadn’t been built yet). It was some elevated place in Judah, near Lehi, from which Samson could safely and conveniently watch the enemy.

The same combination of ca'iyph (“cave”) and cela‘ (“rock”) occurs in Isa2:21, which speaks of men fleeing to the hills to escape the terror of the Day of the Lord. 

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:8. “Then he smote them hip and thigh (lit. ‘thigh upon hip;’ עַל as in Gen. 32:12), a great slaughter.” שֹׁוק, thigh, strengthened by עַל־יָרֵךְ, is a second accusative governed by the verb, and added to define the word אֹותָם more minutely, in the sense of “on hip and thigh;” whilst the expression which follows, מַכָּה גְדֹולָה, is added as an adverbial accusative to strengthen the verb וַיַּךְ. Smiting hip and thigh is a proverbial expression for a cruel, unsparing slaughter, like the German “cutting arm and leg in two,” or the Arabic “war in thigh fashion” (see Bertheau in loc.). After smiting the Philistines, Samson went down and dwelt in the cleft of the rock Etam. There is a town of Etam mentioned in 2 Chron. 11:6, between Bethlehem and Tekoah, which was fortified by Rehoboam, and stood in all probability to the south of Jerusalem, upon the mountains of Judah. But this Etam, which Robinson (Pal. ii. 168) supposes to be the village of Urtas, a place still inhabited, though lying in ruins, is not to be thought of here, as the Philistines did not go up to the mountains of Judah (v. 9), as Bertheau imagines, but simply came forward and encamped in Judah. The Etam of this verse is mentioned in 1 Chron. 4:32, along with Ain Rimmon and other Simeonitish towns, and is to be sought for on the border of the Negeb and of the mountains of Judah, in the neighbourhood of Khuweilifeh (see V. de Velde, Mem. p. 311). The expression “he went down” suits this place very well, but not the Etam on the mountains of Judah, to which he would have had to go up, and not down, from Timnath. (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:9 Then the Philistines went up and camped in Judah, and spread out in Lehi.

THEN THE PHILISTINES WENT UP AND CAMPED IN JUDAH, AND SPREAD OUT IN LEHI (jawbone):

The Philistines disarmed the Jews (1Sa13:19-23) and therefore had little fear of a rebellion. Jdg15:9-13 indicates that the Jews were apparently content with their lot and didn’t want Samson to “rock the boat.” It’s frightening how quickly we can get accustomed to bondage and learn to accept the status quo.

Lehi probably did not receive the name until after the events described here; the author uses the name in anticipation of those events—a common device in Hebrew narrative. The exact site of Lehi is not known.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:9-17. Samson is delivered up to the Philistines, and smites them with the jaw-bone of an Ass.


Judg. 15:9. The Philistines came (“went up,” denoting the advance of an army: see at Josh. 8:1) to avenge themselves for the defeat they had sustained from Samson; and having encamped in Judah, spread themselves out in Lechi (Lehi). Lechi (לְחִי, in pause לֶחִי, i.e., a jaw), which is probably mentioned again in 2 Sam. 23:11, and, according to v. 17, received the name of Ramath-lechi from Samson himself, cannot be traced with any certainty, as the early church tradition respecting the place is utterly worthless. Van de Velde imagines that it is to be found in the flattened rocky hill el Lechieh, or Lekieh, upon which an ancient fortification has been discovered, in the middle of the road from Tell Khewelfeh to Beersheba, at the south-western approach of the mountains of Judah. (
Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:10 And the men of Judah said, "Why have you come up against us?" And they said, "We have come up to bind Samson in order to do to him as he did to us."

Instead of seeing Samson as their deliverer, the men of Judah considered him a troublemaker. What a contrast with the relationship godly Samuel had with all Israel (cp 1Sa25:1).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:10ff. When the Judaeans learned what was the object of this invasion on the part of the Philistines, three thousand of them went down to the cleft in the rock Etam, to bind Samson and deliver him up to the Philistines. Instead of recognising in Samson a deliverer whom the Lord had raised up for them, and crowding round him that they might smite their oppressors with his help and drive them out of the land, the men of Judah were so degraded, that they cast this reproach at Samson: “Knowest thou not that the Philistines rule over us? Wherefore hast thou done this (the deed described in v. 8)? We have come down to bind thee, and deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines.” Samson replied, “Swear to me that ye will not fall upon me yourselves.” פָּגַע with בְּ, to thrust at a person, fall upon him, including in this case, according to v. 13, the intention of killing. (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam and said to Samson, "Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?" And he said to them, "As they did to me, so I have done to them."

Despite Samson's capacity to defeat the Philistines, the people did not rally around him. On the contrary, they protested his behavior, reminded him that the Philistines were their rulers. When the men of Judah learned that the Philistines wanted only to capture and bind Samson, they offered to help. Apparently they were content to be subjugated to the Philistines which is consistent with the introduction where we see no reference to Israel crying to the Lord for deliverance. A nation is in a sad state indeed when the citizens cooperate with the enemy and hand over their own God-appointed leader! This is the only time during Samson’s judgeship that the Jews mustered an army, and it was for the purpose of capturing one of their own men!

 

Judges 15:12 And they said to him, "We have come down to bind you so that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines." And Samson said to them, "Swear to me that you will not kill me."

Their actions seem to demonstrate that the Israelites had accepted the domination of the Philistines and lived in constant fear of being overrun and destroyed by this dreaded enemy. Clearly the Israelites did not want to fight the Philistines but perferred a policy of "peaceful coexistence" and were greatly agitated by Samson's disturbing the peace.

AND SAMSON SAID TO THEM, "SWEAR TO ME THAT YOU WILL NOT KILL (Lit.= fall upon me yourselves) ME:

Samson realized that, if he didn’t give himself up to the enemy, the Philistine army would bring untold suffering to the land; so he willingly surrendered. If he defended himself, he would have had to fight his own people. If he escaped, which he could easily have done, he would have left 3,000 men of Judah easy prey for the Philistine army. There was something heroic about Samson’s decision, but the men of Judah missed it.

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Judges 15.12
G Campbell Morgan


We are come down to bind thee.—Judges 15.12

What a contemptible action is recorded here on the part of the men of Judah. Three thousand of them went down to bind Samson, in order to hand him over to the Philistines. Their words revealed their meanness of spirit. They said: "Knowest thou not that- the Philistines are rulers over us?" What terrible abject­ness was this on the part of the people who had been made a nation having God as their one and only Ruler! So low had they sunk at this time that they were willing to bind, and hand over, the one man who Was a menace to their enemies. There is no situation more tragic than that in which the people of God, in cringing fear of their enemies, are prepared to sacrifice a man who alone among them has the courage and the ability to oppose those enemies. And yet the. same kind of thing has often been done in the long process of the enterprise of faith.. As we see Samson, the Spirit of Jehovah again coming upon him mightily, breaking the bonds, and then with terrific onslaught, armed only with the jawbone of an ass, slaying a thousand of their number, we are conscious of what he might have been and done, had he been wholly yielded to that "Spirit of Jehovah," instead of governed so largely by the fires of his own passion. No force employed against him, whether that of the direct hostility of his enemies, or that of the treachery of his kinsmen, Could have over-come him. In him was powerfully illustrated the truth of Shakespeare's words:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible

 

Judges 15:13 So they said to him, "No, but we will bind you fast and give you into their hands; yet surely we will not kill you." Then they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:13. When they promised him this, he let them bind him with two new cords and lead him up (into the camp of the Philistines) out of the rock (i.e., the cleft of the rock). (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands.

The Philistines’ battle cry was a sign that they sensed victory over their hated foe (v. 14). Israel was later to raise a shout as they pursued the Philistines staggered by Goliath’s death (1Sa17:52). Shouting provided a psychological advantage over the enemy (cf. 1Sa4:5). In this instance the shouting only served to arouse Samson.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:14. But when he came to Lechi, and the Philistines shouted with joy as they came to meet him, the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him, “and the cords on his arms became like two that had been burnt with fire, and his fetters melted from his hands.” The description rises up to a poetical parallelism, to depict the triumph which Samson celebrated over the Philistines in the power of the Spirit of Jehovah. (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it.

Again (as most likely in 15:8) the men of Judah had a chance to follow up this victory and throw off Philistine domination, but they remained strangely inactive. Cf. the exploits of Shamgar, who struck down 600 Philistines with an oxgoad (3:31), but Samson's slaughter lacked the commentary appended to Shamgar's feat -- "he also saved Israel."

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:15. As 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 (v. 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 חֲמֹור = חֹמֶר is chosen on account of the resemblance to חֲמֹור, and is found again at 1 Sam. 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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Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:16 Then Samson said, "With the jawbone of a donkey, Heaps upon heaps, With the jawbone of a donkey I have killed a thousand men."

To commemorate the triumph, Samson composed another short poem. Like the couplet in [14:18], this poem uses repetition. It is difficult to interpret.

Samson had a way with words. At his wedding feast, he devised a clever riddle (14:14); and after this great victory, he wrote a poem. It’s based on the similarity between the sounds of the Hebrew words hamor (“donkey”) and homer (“heap”). James Moffatt renders it: “With the jawbone of an ass I have piled them in a mass. With the jawbone of an ass I have assailed assailants.”

 

Judges 15:17 And it came about when he had finished speaking, that he threw the jawbone from his hand; and he named that place Ramath-lehi.
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:17. When he had given utterance to his saying, he threw the jaw-bone away, and called the place Ramath-lechi, i.e., the jaw-bone height. This seems to indicate that the name Lechi in v. 9 is used proleptically, and that the place first received its name from this deed of Samson. (Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:18 Then he became very thirsty, and he called to the LORD and said, "Thou hast given this great deliverance by the hand of Thy servant, and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?"

Samson's victory celebration didn’t last very long, for God reminded him that he was only a man and had to have water to stay alive. So often in Scripture, testing follows triumph. No sooner had the Israelites crossed the Red Sea than they became thirsty (Ex15:22-27) and hungry (Ex16). Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel was followed by his humiliating flight to Mount Horeb (1Ki18,19). If triumphs aren’t balanced with trials, there’s a danger that we’ll become proud and self-confident.

If Samson had only heeded this warning and asked God not only for water but for guidance! “Lead us not into temptation” would have been the perfect prayer for that hour. How quick we are to cry out for help for the body when perhaps our greatest needs are in the inner person. It’s when we’re weak that we’re strong (2 Cor. 12:10); and when we’re totally dependent on the Lord, we’re the safest.

Samson’s weariness after the battle may be compared with the fatigue of Eleazer (2 Sam 23:10) or especially that of Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), who had won a signal triumph over the prophets of Baal only to feel near death shortly after. Samson acknowledged that God was responsible for his victory, but, like Elijah, Samson was physically and emotionally drained following the conflict (v. 18).

All it took was thirst to remind Samson of his weakness and his total dependence on God. Had he prayed as earnestly for character as he did for physical help, he would have been a better man and a more successful judge. Like the prodigal son, he prayed, “Give me!” but he never did pray, “Make me!” (Lu15:12, 19).

In his devotional Morning and Evening Spurgeon remarks that...

Samson was thirsty and ready to die. The difficulty was totally different from any which the hero had met before. Merely to get thirst assuaged is nothing like so great a matter as to be delivered from a thousand Philistines! but when the thirst was upon him, Samson felt that little present difficulty more weighty than the great past difficulty out of which he had so specially been delivered. It is very usual for God’s people, when they have enjoyed a great deliverance, to find a little trouble too much for them. Samson slays a thousand Philistines, and piles them up in heaps, and then faints for a little water! Jacob wrestles with God at Peniel, and overcomes Omnipotence itself, and then goes “halting on his thigh!” Strange that there must be a shrinking of the sinew whenever we win the day. As if the Lord must teach us our littleness, our nothingness, in order to keep us within bounds. Samson boasted right loudly when he said, “I have slain a thousand men.” His boastful throat soon grew hoarse with thirst, and he betook himself to prayer. God has many ways of humbling his people. Dear child of God, if after great mercy you are laid very low, your case is not an unusual one. When David had mounted the throne of Israel, he said, “I am this day weak, though anointed king.” You must expect to feel weakest when you are enjoying your greatest triumph. If God has wrought for you great deliverances in the past, your present difficulty is only like Samson’s thirst, and the Lord will not let you faint, nor suffer the daughter of the uncircumcised to triumph over you. The road of sorrow is the road to heaven, but there are wells of refreshing water all along the route. So, tried brother, cheer your heart with Samson’s words, and rest assured that God will deliver you ere long.

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Judges 15:18 F B Meyer Our Daily Homily - And now shall I die for thirst?

It had been a great victory. With the jawbone of an ass Samson had smitten a thousand men. But he knew where to attribute the glory. It was not he, but the Spirit of the Lord which had come mightily upon him. This is distinctly recognized when he called unto God, and said, “Thou hast given this great deliverance by my hand.” It was because he had been expending his strength for God, had been, so to speak, burnt up by the Divine fire, that he was able to claim God’s interposition for his thirst.

This is the great law of prayer. We have no right to count on God in the agony of a crisis, unless we have been walking in fellowship with Him previously, or are exhausted in fighting his battles. There is nothing that we may not claim of Him when we are living in the current of his life, or when we are exhausted in his service. “Thou hast given this great deliverance by the hand of thy servant; and now shall I die for thirst?”

God’s springs burst out in unlikely spots. He is never at a loss. If there is no natural spring, He can create one. If all around the mighty rocks reflect the sultry heat, and our spirit seems on the point of exhaustion, then in the wilderness He will cause streams to break out. Be of good courage, fainting warrior! The God who made thee, and has used thee, knows thy frame, and what thou needest before thou askest. Hereafter the place shall be known as “the spring of him that called!” He can cause the refreshing stream to pour forth from the flinty rock; He can turn the bitter water sweet for thee to drink thereof; He quenches thy soul-thirst with the water of life.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 15:18-20. The pursuit of the Philistines, however, and the conflict with them, had exhausted Samson, so that he was very thirsty, and feared that he might die from exhaustion; for it was about the time of the wheat-harvest (v. 1), and therefore hot summer weather. Then he called to the Lord, “Thou hast through (בְּיַד) “Thy servant given this great deliverance; and now I shall die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised!” From this prayer we may see that Samson was fully conscious that he was fighting for the cause of the Lord. And the Lord helped him out of this trouble. God split the hollow place at Lechi, so that water came out of it, as at Horeb and Kadesh (Ex. 17:6, and Num. 20:8, 11). The word מַכְתֵּשׁ, which is used in Prov. 27:22 to signify a mortar, is explained by rabbinical expositors as denoting the socket of the teeth, or the hollow place in which the teeth are fixed, like the Greek ὁλμίσκος, mortariolum, according to Pollux, Onom. ii. c. 4, § 21. Accordingly many have understood the statement made here, as meaning that God caused a fountain to flow miraculously out of the socket of a tooth in the jaw-bone which Samson had thrown away, and thus provided for his thirst. This view is the one upon which Luther’s rendering, “God split a tooth in the jaw, so that water came out,” is founded, and is has been voluminously defended by Bochart (Hieroz. l. ii. c. 15). But the expression אֲשֶׁר בַּלֶּחִי, “the maktesh which is at Lechi,” is opposed to this view, since the tooth-socket in the jaw-bone of the ass would be simply called מַכְתֶּשׁ הַלְּחִי or מַכְתֵּשׁ בַּלֶּחִי; and so is also the remark that this fountain was still in existence in the historian’s own time. And the article proves nothing to the contrary, as many proper names are written with it (see Ewald, § 277, c.). Consequently we must follow Josephus (Ant. v. 8), who takes הַמַּכְתֵּשׁ as the name given to the opening of the rock, which was cleft by God to let water flow out. “If a rocky precipice bore the name of jaw-bone (lechi) on account of its shape, it was a natural consequence of this figurative epithet, that the name tooth-hollow should be given to a hole or gap in the rock” (Studer). Moreover, the same name, Maktesh, occurs again in Zeph. 1:11, where it is applied to a locality in or near Jerusalem. The hollow place was split by Elohim, although it was to Jehovah that Samson had prayed, to indicate that the miracle was wrought by God as the Creator and Lord of nature. Samson drank, and his spirit returned, so that he revived again. Hence the fountain received the name of En-hakkore, “the crier’s well which is at Lechi,” unto this day. According to the accents, the last clause does not belong to בַּלֶּחִי (in Lechi), but to קָרָא וגו׳ (he called, etc.). It received the name given to it unto this day. This implies, of course, that the spring itself was in existence when our book was composed.—In v. 20 the account of the judicial labours of Samson are brought to a close, with the remark that Samson judged Israel in the days of the Philistines, i.e., during their rule, for twenty years. What more is recorded of him in Judg. 16 relates to his fall and ruin; and although even in this he avenged himself upon the Philistines, he procured no further deliverance for Israel. It is impossible to draw any critical conclusions from the position in which this remark occurs, as to a plurality of sources for the history of Samson.
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Judges 15 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary-enter p413)

 

Judges 15:19 But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it. When he drank, his strength returned and he revived. Therefore, he named it En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day.
 

BUT GOD SPLIT THE HOLLOW PLACE THAT IS IN LEHI SO THAT WATER CAME OUT OF IT:

God provided for Samson as he had for Israel in the desert. [Ex17:1-7] (Massah and Meribah); [Nu 20:2-13] (Meribah).

WHEN HE DRANK, HIS STRENGTH RETURNED AND HE REVIVED THEREFORE, HE NAMED IT EN-HAKKORE ("Caller’s Spring") WHICH IS IN LEHI TO THIS DAY:

The spring was thereafter called “Caller’s Spring” because of God’s wonderful answer to prayer.

Ah, if the story had just ended there it would be a story of triumph, because Samson learned at this point that God was adequate to meet any need he had, that the Spirit of God could be to him a well of water springing up to eternal life, satisfying every desire giving him the capacity to slay the Philistines right and left. After he learned this principle, he judged Israel for twenty years, and these were days of prosperity and peace, and the Philistines were held at bay.

And so it will be in our own life if we discover the principle that God is adequate, that he is slaying the Philistines in our life, that he has dealt with the lion in our life. He is adequate for every desire, every drive, no matter how strong or deep-seated it may be. And there will be peace and prosperity and victory over the enemy.

But unfortunately, although there was a period of time during which Samson reigned, he later fell back into the old sin. We can chart the progress of his decline in chap16:

 

Judges 15:20 So he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

SO HE JUDGED ISRAEL TWENTY YEARS IN THE DAYS OF THE PHILISTINES:

Samson judged Israel 20 years, but he brought her no rest. This verse marks a turning point in the account of his life. The first stage in the account (Jud14:1; 15) began with Samson seeing a woman and ends with his calling upon the Lord's provision (15:19). The second stage (16:1) begins with Samson seeing a harlot and ends with his calling upon the Lord's power before his death (16:28). Note there are 3 references to the Spirit in Jud14; 15 (14:6, 19; 15:14), but none in Jud16.

Samson, unlike other judges who gave their generations rest from their enemies, never threw off the enemy yoke. During his rule the Philistines continued to dominate Israel.

F B Meyer...

 

JUDGES 15
"THE JAWBONE OF AN ASS"


In the roll-call of God's heroes, Samson is spoken of as a man of faith (Heb. 11:32). It is so strange to find him classed with David, and Moses, and Enoch, for as we look upon the deeds recited in this chapter, they seem to us altogether so stormy, and boisterous, and savage. We find it hard to think of him as being inspired by the same holy purpose as filled the hearts of the saints, and that the hand of faith was indeed there beneath the plated armor of the warrior. Truly, "God fulfils Himself in many ways:' And yet it is comforting that God's children are clad in a very different guise, speak many dialects, and are not expected to live higher than according to the light they have.


Samson was a genial, good-natured, happy soul; full of joke and mirth (Judges 16:25); willing enough to forgive and forget; and so he made new advances to the woman who had so basely betrayed his confidence, but he found that she had become the wife of another (Judges 15:1, 2).


Judges 15:3-8 His acts of vengeance were terrible. -- The destruction of the standing crops and the vineyards, with the "great slaughter" (Judges 15:8) of the Philistines proved that Samson was moved by anger in a very high degree. But there is a sense in which we may emulate Samson, who, when he had completed his act of vengeance, went down and dwelt in the cleft of the rock. There we are secure from the attempts of faithless friends and the assaults of bitter foes.


Judges 15:9-17 Judah's treachery was mean in the extreme. It shows to how low a pitch of servility those will come who yield meanly to a foreign despot's yoke. The men of Judah treated Samson, as in after years they treated Christ, whom they bound and delivered to the Gentiles. But as Samson could not be restrained by the ropes, so did the bands of death fall off the limbs of Christ, when raised from the dead on the third day in the might of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:24).


If any should read these words who have been bound by strong ropes and rendered powerless to do God's work as aforetime, let them trust and not be afraid, for there is that in the mighty descent of the Holy Spirit which shall set them free.


The Philistines had not allowed any weapon to remain in the possession of the Israelites (1Sa 13:19, 20, 21, 22), so that Samson was dependent upon the jaw-bone of an ass to avenge himself upon his enemies; but in the hand of God a little thing is sufficient to accomplish a great result. Often the "weak things" confound "the things that are mighty," and "the things that are not" bring to nought "the things that are"


Judges 15:18-20 A lesson of dependence. -- Samson gloried too much in his own strength. It was in the moment of exultation that this great thirst came, from which his right arm could not save him. He was driven to plead that he might be delivered for God's glory, lest the uncircumcised should rejoice. So when flushed with success, we are often reminded that it is not ours, but God's good gift. Many a well of comfort opened to us might be called En-hakkore "the fount of him that cried" (Ps. 34:6).(F. B. Meyer. CHOICE NOTES ON JOSHUA THROUGH 2 KINGS)

 


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