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Bible Commentaries
Judges 15

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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.

In the time of wheat harvest - i:e., about the end of our April, or the beginning of our May. The shocks of grain were then gathered into heaps, and lying on the field, or on the threshing-floors. It was the dry season-dry far beyond our experience-and the grain was in a most combustible state.

Samson visited his wife with a kid. It is usual for a visitor in the East to carry some present. In this case it might be not only as a token of civility, but of reconciliation; and a kid was esteemed a great delicacy (cf. Genesis 38:16-17; Luke 15:29).

He said - i:e., to himself. It was his secret purpose.

Into the chamber - the female apartments, or harem.

Verse 2

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.

I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her. This allegation was a mere sham-a flimsy pretext to excuse his refusal of admittance. The proposal he made of a marriage with her younger sister was but an insult to Samson, and one which it was unlawful for an Israelite to accept (Leviticus 18:18).

Verse 3

And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.

Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines. This nefarious conduct provoked the hero's just indignation, and he resolved to take signal vengeance.

Verse 4

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.

Went and caught three hundred foxes - rather [ shuw`aaliym (H7776)], jackals-an animal between a wolf and a fox (Canis aureus), which, unlike our fox, a solitary creature, are gregarious, prowl in large packs or herds, and abound in the mountains of Palestine. The collection of so great a number would require both time and assistance. They were probably snared into traps, or caught in pitfalls; and as these creatures are exceedingly numerous about Gaza and the southern parts of Philistia (Hasselquist: cf. Joshua 19:3; 1 Samuel 13:17), Samson could have had no difficulty, with the aid of servants, in procuring the number here specified.

Took firebrands - torches or matches, which would burn slowly, retaining the fire, and blaze fiercely when blown by the wind. He put two jackals together, tail by tail, and fastened tightly a fire-match between them. But the uniting cord was probably of considerable length, so that, the animals being gregarious they might run in couples, and though tied, be little, if at all, impeded in their movements. At nightfall he lighted the firebrand, and sent each pair successively down from the hills into the 'Shephelah,' or plain of Philistia, lying on the borders of Dan and Judah-a rich and extensive grain district. The pain caused by the fire would make the animals toss about to a wide extent, kindling one great conflagration; but no one could render assistance to his neighbour, the devastation was so general, the panic would be so great, 'There is reason to think,' says Burder ('Oriental Customs,' in loco) 'that there was nothing new or uncommon in this operation, as it was the most obvious, for the end proposed, that the wit of man could devise. We accordingly find that Ovid alludes to the practice, and mentions that foxes and firebrands were every year exhibited at Rome, and killed in the circus. For it was the custom in many places to sacrifice, by way of retaliation, animals which did particular injury to the fruits of the earth. In consequence of this they introduced these foxes, which had been employed for that purpose with firebrands. He then mentions an instance of much injury by a fox accoutred with a firebrand.'

This incident has been so frequently made the subject of infidel raillery, that several writers have endeavoured to explain it away. One commentator maintains that the agents employed by Samson were not four-footed animals, but the Shualim, or men of Shual, a district on the borders of Philistia. Kennicott, on the support of seven MSS., holds that the proper reading should be, not Shualim, but Sholim, handfuls of sheaves; and that what Samson did was to place the shocks of grain two by two endways, so that the fire, aided by a smart breeze, was no sooner sent in among the dry grain, than it quickly consumed it. But it is objected to this translation that Sholim, which occurs only three times in the Scriptures, means strictly a handful, and cannot, but by a very forced construction, signify sheaves. On every view, the commonly received opinion is the most probable (Jamieson's edition of Paxton's 'Illustrations of Scripture Natural History,' p. 361).

Verse 5

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

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.

Who hath done this? The author of this outrage, and the cause that provoked such an extraordinary retaliation, soon became known; and the sufferers, enraged by the destruction of their crops, rushing with tumultuous fury to the house of Samson's wife, "burnt her and her father with fire." This was a remarkable retribution. To avoid this menace she had betrayed her husband, and by that unprincipled conduct eventually exposed herself to the horrid doom which, at the sacrifice of conjugal fidelity, she had sought to escape.

Verse 7

And Samson said unto them Though ye have done this yet will I be avenged of you and after that I will And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.

Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you. By that act the farmers had been the instruments in avenging his private and personal wrongs. But as a judge, divinely appointed to deliver Israel, his work of retribution was not yet accomplished.

Verse 8

And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.

Smote them hip and thigh - a proverbial expression for a merciless slaughter.

Went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam - rather, went down and dwelt [ bic`iyp (H5585)] in a cleft; i:e., a cave or cavern of the 'cliff' Etam.

Verse 9

Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.

Then the Philistines went up - to the high land of Judah.

And spread themselves in Lehi - a district on the border of the Philistine territory, now el-Lekieh, abounding with limestone cliffs, the sides of which are perforated with caves. The object of the Philistines in this expedition was to apprehend Samson, in revenge for the great slaughter he had committed on their people. With a view of freeing his own countrymen from all danger from the infuriated Philistines he allowed himself to be bound and surrendered a fettered prisoner into their power. Exulting with joy at the near prospect of riddance from so formidable an enemy, they went to meet him. But by a sudden illapse of the Spirit he exerted his superhuman strength, and finding a new (or moist) jawbone of an ass, he laid hold of it, and, with no other weapon, killed one thousand men at a place which he called Ramath-lehi - i:e., the hill of the jawbone, a chain of steep, craggy rocks. The origin of the name is traced by the sacred historian not to the rugged character of the hill, but to Samson's throwing away of the jawbone [as if written, not as in the Hebrew text (Judges 15:17), Raamat-Lechiy (H7437), but Rªmat-Lehiy, from raamah, to throw (Gesenius, sub voce)].

Verses 10-15

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.

With the Jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps. The inadequacy of the weapon plainly shows this to have been a miraculous feat, 'a case of supernatural strength;' just as the gift of prophecy is a case of supernatural knowledge (Chalmers).

Verses 17-18

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 19

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.

An hollow place ... in the jaw - in Lehi, taking the word as a proper noun, marking the place.

His spirit came again. His strength, exhausted by the violent and long-continued exertion, was recruited by the refreshing draught from the spring; and it was called En-hakkore, the 'supplication well,' a name which records the piety of this heroic champion.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Judges 15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/judges-15.html. 1871-8.
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