Chapter 15


Samson’s Vengeance on the Philistines

        • After a while, at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, “I’m going to my wife in her room.” But her father wouldn’t allow him to go in saying, “I really thought you utterly hated her, so I gave her to one of your companions. Isn’t her younger sister more beautiful that she is? Please, take her instead.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “Wheat was harvested during the month of Sivan, which corresponds to the modern month of May.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible gives the two points of view for the situation here:

          • On the one hand, “In a cultural context where weddings were patrilocal, his new father-in-law could have interpreted his action as a return home to get the house in order. These periods of separation often lasted several months. Meanwhile, the wife continued to live at home, and the husband would visit her at more or less regular intervals, bringing gifts and enjoying a night of love. According to 15:1, Samson seems to think he can return to his wife at any time.”

          • On the other hand, “At the climax of the wedding festivities, Samson had left his wife in anger (14:19), and her family assumed logically that he had repudiate the marriage and rejected his wife (14:20). The bride’s father’s assessment of the situation is expressed emphatically with the infinitive absolute and finite verb and may be interpreted as ‘you had surely divorced her,’ with no intention of returning to claim her.”

          • On offering her younger sister, the following commentaries give some interpretive options:

          • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers notes, “…if the father had been an honourable man he could not under these circumstances have done less than restore the dowry which Manoah had given for her…The father sought in this way [offering her sister] to repair the wrong he had inflicted, and to offer some equivalent for the dower which he had wrongly appropriated.”

          • Pulpit Commentary says, “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.”

        • Then Samson said to them, “This time I will be blameless, as far as the Philistines are concerned, when I harm them.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “While Samson’s potential father-in-law had the right to give his daughter to someone else, Samson believed his father-in-law wronged him by breaking the contract.”

        • Guzik writes, “God used Samson’s ungodly anger for His purposes. As Psalm 76:10 says, Surely the wrath of man shall praise You. This doesn’t justify Samson’s anger, but it shows the glory and power of God to use all things to His purposes.”

        • So, Samson went and caught 300 foxes. He turned the foxes tail to tail, fastened them together in pairs, and put one torch between each pair of tails. Then he set fire to the torches and released the foxes into the Philistines’ standing grain. He burned up the stacks of sheaves and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible includes this interesting side note on the kind of animal Samson used, “The Hebrew word used here applied to both foxes and jackals. Since the latter were more common in Canaan, and since foxes are solitary animals, Samson was probably dealing with jackals, which live in packs. Jackals are certainly intended in Eze 13:4; La 5:18; Ps 63:10; where the same Hebrew word is used.”

Golden Jackal
        • Then the Philistines asked, “Who did this?” And they answered, “Samson, because his father-in-law from Timnah gave Samson’s wife to his companion.” So the Philistines went and burned her and her father to death. Then Samson said to them, “Because you have acted like this, I won’t rest until I have taken revenge on you.” Samson attacked them ruthlessly with a great slaughter, then went down to stay in the cleft of the rock at Etam.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The chain of revenge was complicated (cp 9:7-21). First, Samson took revenge on the community of Philistines, not his in-laws. Next, the Philistines accepted that Samson was a victim of injustice and took revenge on Samson’s in-laws, which then led Samson to avenge his in-laws by attacking the Philistines. It all triggered a potential war with Israel. God was beginning to rescue Israel through Samson (13:5; cp 1 Sam 7:3).”

        • Then the Philistines went up, camped in Judah, and raided Lehi. And the men of Judah asked, “Why have you come against us?” They replied, “We’ve come to capture Samson and do to him as he did to us.” Then 3,000 men of Judah went to the cleft of rock at Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines rule over us? What have you done to us?” And Samson answered, “I did to them, just as they have done to me.” They replied, “We have come to tie you up so that we can hand you over to the Philistines.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “Lehi is an unknown location. The word means ‘jawbone’ or ‘cheek’ suggesting it gained its name from Samson’s exploits.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Completely missing what might have been a divine opportunity to throw off Philistine oppression, the tribe of Judah showed itself ready to continue living under foreign occupation. We can only wonder what might have happened if the Judeans had been fully committed to the Lord’s covenant, which provided for them to take the land and drive out the inhabitants.”

        • Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you won’t kill me yourselves?” And they replied, “No, we will not kill you. We will tie you securely and hand you over to them.” So, they tied him up with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “The reference in v. 14 to ‘charred flax’…suggests that the ‘new ropes’ were made of flax fibers. Flax fibers are among the strongest and longest natural fibers in use…and they gain in strength when they are wet. In the present instance, the ‘new ropes’ were undoubtedly ropes made of fresh fibers harvested from that year’s crop.”

        • Guzik adds, “It seems that Samson submitted to this. Assuming this was true; it showed great faith on Samson’s part. He was willing to put himself in a difficult position and to trust God to take care of him.”

        • As he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. The Spirit of Yahweh rushed upon him, the ropes that bound his arms became like flax that has caught fire, and they fell from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone from a donkey, picked it up, and killed a thousand men with it.

        • Then Samson said: “With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve piled them in heaps. With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve killed a thousand men.” When he finished speaking, he threw the jawbone away, and the place was called Ramath-lehi.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Like other warrior-heroes (eg, Moses, Deborah, and David), Samson celebrated his victory in poetry, a short couplet that combines colorful speech with word-play. ‘Lehi’ (15:9) and ‘jawbone’ are the same Hebrew word (lekhi), as are ‘heaps’ and ‘donkey’ (Hebrew khamor). ‘piled them in heaps!’ or ‘made donkeys of them.’”

        • Guzik writes, “Samson’s bold declaration of victory has a poetic touch that is difficult to render in translation. One effort goes like this: ‘With the jawbone of an ass I have piled them in a mass!’”

        • On the new name of the place, Guzik adds, “This name essentially means ‘Jawbone Hill.’ It was an obviously appropriate name for this place of Samson’s great victory.”

        • He was very thirsty and he called out to Yahweh saying, “You have given this great deliverance by your servant’s hand, will I die of thirst now and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” So God split the hollow place at Lehi and water came out of it. After Samson drank, he was revived and his strength returned. Therefore, he named the place En-hakkore, and it is still in Lehi to this day.

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “En-hakkore means ‘the spring of him who called.’”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Samson cried out to the Lord, as he feared dying of thirst and falling prey to the defeated pagans (literally uncircumcised ones). Samson twice prayed deep and passionate prayers, once when he feared being attacked, and once when he was attacking others (16:28-30).”

        • Samson judged Israel for 20 years in the days of the Philistines.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “Though this summary formula is repeated in 16:31, its occurrence here indicates that Samson’s period as judge was effectively over (cp 10:2, 3; 12:7). He had done little more than show Israel the potential of rescue; the Philistines still dominated the land.”