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Bible Commentaries
Judges 15

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-8

Judges - Chapter 15

Vengeance on the Philistines, vs. 1-8

Eventually the anger of Samson over the betrayal concerning his riddle subsided, and he decided to return to Timnah and take his Philistine wife. To make her feel better toward him he carried a baby goat as a present for her. It was the time for wheat harvest, which is noted because that is a very important factor in the succeeding events. Samson did not know that his wife had been married to his best man, her father being sure Samson wanted no more of her.

When Samson arrived at the Philistine father-in-law’s house he started to enter his wife’s room and was prevented by her father. Only then did Samson know that she was no longer his, and immediately his wrath was aroused. His father in law’s suggestion that he take her younger sister, whom he said was fairer, was ignored by Samson. The idea of some casual Bible readers that this younger sister was Delilah is certainly wrong.

Samson was angry again and determined to get vengeance against the Philistines. He justified himself in doing so by the loss of his wife. His capture of the three hundred foxes and the use to which he put them was certainly a stupendous feat, and must have been possible through the miraculous strength the Lord gave him. The text indicates that the whole performance was singlehanded. All the Philistines’ wheat was destroyed, that already shocked as well as what remained standing unharvested. It is well to note for some reader at this point, that the old English word "corn" as used here simply meant "grain," and doubtless meant the wheat. The Philistines’ vineyards and olive groves were also severely damaged.

When it was found that this was the work of Samson. because his father-in-law had given his wife to another, the suffering Philistines did a mean and cruel thing. They carried out the threat they had made at Samson’s wedding feast and burned the father-in-law’s house down killing him, Samson’s former wife, and probably all of the family. But Samson did not let this go unavenged. The Scriptures say he "smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter." This expression simply means it was a severe slaughter. Samson went to dwell in a rocky area called Etam (hawk-land, literally), in the borderland of the tribe of Judah.

Verses 9-13

Samson Betrayed, vs. 9-13

Samson’s judgeship had reached a critical period. A crisis had arisen by Samson’s challenge of the Philistines. Though Samson seems not to have issued the trumpet blast to call the Israelites to war, it does seem that he probably thought by going into Judah, the strongest of the tribes, and the. one suffering most from the Philistine oppression, he could secure aid. If so, he was most bitterly disappointed. It is hard to imagine a more cowardly act than that the men of Judah perpetrated on Samson, who was attempting to deliver them from their enemies, ,and was in fact the very one the Lord had raised up for the purpose.

The Judahites did come to Samson, three thousand strong, and ample number for the Lord to give them victory. Where were the Shamgars? or the Deborahs, the Ehuds, or the Gideons? The Philistines invade Judah in force looking for Samson, and cowards in wholesale numbers hurry to betray their hero and judge. How shameful are their words! "What have you done to us? Don’t you know the Philistines are our rulers? We have come to bind you and give you up to them. Samson replied that what he had done was in vengeance for what they had done to him. He agreed to submit to their binding, but he did not trust the sorry bunch of cowards not to do him in themselves. He wisely made them swear that they would not kill him. So they bound him fast with two new cords and carried him to the Philistines. There is indication in this that Samson’s strength was not a constant thing, it coming only on occasions when the Lord gave it to him, (cf. 1 Timothy 1:12). He seems to have been bound helplessly by the Judahites.

Verses 14-20

Incident with the Jawbone, vs. 14-20

The Judahites were ’ready to give Samson up, but the Lord had yet much for him to do. When the Philistines saw the three thousand Judahites coming into their camp and the hated Samson bound helpless in their midst they were overjoyed. Their gleeful shouting must have strongly stirred the torrid emotions of Samson, and the Spirit of the Lord came on him again, imparting miraculous strength to him. Flexing his muscles the new ropes with which Samson was bound fell from him like binding twine which has been burned. Looking around for a weapon Samson’s eye fell on the still green jawbone of a recently dead ass. It was still heavy and afforded a good grip for a club. Wielding it right and left, front and rear Samson’s strength enabled him to destroy a thousand of the Philistines. He sang a little song about his feat. Curiosity makes one wonder what the men from Judah were doing during this time. In the days of Barak and Gideon they would have rallied to the fray, but there is no evidence that they moved themselves to help him at all.

When the battle was over Samson was suddenly exhausted. He threw away the jawbone, and the place of the battle took its name Ramath-lehi, meaning "lifting up the jawbone", from the incident. Perhaps the Lord let Samson become so tired and extremely thirsty to remind him of the source of his strength, and to bring him to call on the Lord, (Psalms 39:7). Samson did pray to the Lord, acknowledging that the Lord had given him this great deliverance, but it seemed only that he should die of thirst and yet fall into the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines. So the Lord opened a spring in a hollow place in Lehi (the translation "jaw" leaves the wrong impression, that the water flowed out of the jawbone), and the spring was still there when the writer of Judges was inspired to put down the record. The spring received the name, En­hakkore, meaning "spring of the crier."

Though Samson could not deliver the Israelites from the Philistines he did become their acknowledged judge. He was God’s man over them for twenty years, all during the time of the Philistine oppression. Israel must never have repented and prayed to the Lord for deliverance.

Note these lessons from chapter 15; 1) there can be no compatibility between the Lord’s people and the unsaved; 2) the saved often have to stand alone and are even betrayed by those who should be their brethren; 3) yet, the Lord abides with the faithful and gives them victory in spite of what others may do to His people.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Judges 15". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/judges-15.html. 1985.
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