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Bible Commentaries
Judges 15

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-8

Samson’s revenge on the Timnites 15:1-8

Wheat harvest took place in late May or early June in this part of Palestine. [Note: Cundall and Morris, p. 168.] Samson’s anger had cooled, and he decided to return to Timnah and arrange for the completion of his marriage. Instead of flowers or candy he took a young goat as a gift for his fiancée. The woman’s father, however, claimed that he was sure Samson so thoroughly hated his daughter because of her betrayal that he would never want to marry her. Whether this was the real reason he gave her to another man is not clear. He may have simply wanted to avoid losing face. In any case Samson believed treachery had motivated his act. He must have realized that his treatment of the 30 Philistines in Ashkelon (Judges 14:19) was blameworthy since he announced that what he was about to do would be blameless (Judges 15:4). He was about to embark on holy war.

"Samson regarded the treatment he had received from his father-in-law as but one effect of the disposition of the Philistines generally toward the Israelites, and therefore resolved to revenge 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 Timnah." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 413.]

"His words indicate that he felt completely justified in such vindictive action." [Note: Cundall and Morris, p. 168.]

The word translated "foxes" (Judges 15:4) probably refers to jackals. Foxes are solitary animals, but jackals run in packs and are relatively easy to capture.

"The burning of standing corn was a common method of retaliation or revenge in the ancient world and its effect in an agricultural community was very serious." [Note: Ibid., p. 169. Cf. 2 Samuel 14:29-32.]

"Samson is a man with a higher calling than any other deliverer in the book, but he spends his whole life ’doing his own thing.’" [Note: Block, Judges . . ., p. 441.]

The fate that Samson’s "wife" sought to avoid by betraying him overtook her after all (cf. Judges 14:15). The Philistines presumably burned the house down with the woman and her parents inside (Judges 15:6). The Philistines’ act of revenge on his "wife" simply added more fuel to the desire for revenge that was already burning within Samson (Judges 15:7). Evidently he loved the Timnite woman. He proceeded to avenge her death by killing many more of the Philistines (Judges 15:8). Then he took refuge in a cave nearby.

Verses 1-20

3. Samson’s vengeance on the Philistines ch. 15

Samson’s weaknesses dominate chapter 14, but his strengths shine forth in chapter 15.

Verses 9-13

Samson’s treatment by the Judahites 15:9-13

The Philistines pursued Samson into the territory of Judah that they controlled (Judges 15:9; cf. Judges 14:4). The exact location of Lehi is still uncertain.

We gain a glimpse into the spiritual condition in Judah at this time from how the 3,000 Judahites (more probable than 3 units of people) responded to their Philistine oppressors. The men of Judah were no threat to the Philistines, but Samson was. The men of Judah did not respond to Samson as a judge whom God had raised up to deliver them from the Philistines. Instead of supporting him, they meekly bowed before their oppressors and took the Philistines’ side against Samson (Judges 15:11-13). They rebuked Samson for jeopardizing their safety by attacking the Philistines. They were content to live under the Philistines’ heel. They regarded Samson’s action as something he was doing against them rather than as an act of aggression against the enemies of God’s people. The Judahites were compromisers who preferred slavery to freedom. Their attitude toward Samson may have been hostile in part because he was from their neighboring tribe, not one of them.

"It is a sad fact of Christian experience that if you are a Christian committed to growing and maturing in Jesus Christ, you will often be hindered the most by other Christians who have become accustomed and accommodated to an anemic, wishy-washy spiritual life." [Note: Inrig, p. 237.]

During his whole ministry Samson never had an army or even several Israelites behind him. He fought the Lord’s battles alone. The Judahites were doing their enemies’ work for them by binding Samson and handing him over to them (Judges 15:12). They swore not to kill their judge themselves, but they bound him and handed him over to the Philistines so they could kill him (Judges 15:13).

"The tribe that had formerly waded into battle after battle (Judges 1:1-20) has become a collection of spineless wimps (Judges 15:13)." [Note: Davis, p. 182.]

Samson’s patience and grace with his fellow Israelites are astounding. He must have realized what they were doing, but he also apparently believed that, when delivered over to the enemy, he could overcome them. If his courage, as his fellow Israelites brought him bound before hoards of Philistines and handed him over to them, arose from trust in God, his faith was remarkable. This would have been one of the high points of Samson’s spiritual career. Alternatively Samson’s confidence may have rested in himself, particularly in his strength. If that was so, this incident was a low point for him spiritually. I prefer the second explanation since it seems more consistent with Samson’s character.

Verses 14-20

Samson’s victory at Ramath-lehi 15:14-20

Note again that the Spirit of God gave Samson his supernatural strength (Judges 15:14). He slew 1,000 of the enemy (or one unit) on this occasion (Judges 15:15). The unlikely instrument Samson used, a dead donkey’s dentures, proved more than adequate for this slaughter (cf. Judges 3:31).

The Hebrew words translated "donkey" and "heaps" constitute wordplay. Samson loved riddles and rhymes. Moffatt’s translation rendered the first part of Samson’s poem, "With the jawbone of an ass, I have piled them in a mass." Samson named the place where he defeated these Philistines "Jawbone Hill." This hill may have been the mound Samson had built with the corpses of the Philistines.

Samson’s prayer, his first in the story, reveals that he knew he was participating in holy war as God’s deliverer (Judges 15:18). He gave God the credit for his victory. The word translated "thou" or "you" is in the emphatic position in the Hebrew text. He cried out to the Lord for water after his strenuous fight. God amazingly and graciously provided water for His rebellious servant in a very unusual way, and Samson’s strength revived (Judges 15:19; cf. Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11). Samson named that place "Supplicant’s Spring."

The summary statement that concludes the record of Samson’s victories thus far (Judges 15:20) separates his story into two parts. The writer recorded Samson’s acts that gradually increased in severity and significance against the Philistines first. Samson continued to serve as Israel’s judge for 20 years. Then the writer gave us the chain of events that followed in which Samson brought his own destruction on himself (ch. 16).

Chapter 15 contrasts Samson’s radical commitment with Judah’s wretched compromise. Samson’s actions and motives were not always the best, but he carried out God’s will. He treated the compromisers among whom he lived graciously since they were God’s people. However, he alone did what God had called him to do when he defeated the Philistines. Today many Christians compromise with the world as the Judahites did. Samson’s example encourages us to radical obedience even if we have to stand for God alone.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Judges 15". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/judges-15.html. 2012.
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