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Bible Commentaries
Judges 15

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-20

Judges 15:1-20

I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her.

Wrong-doers naturally seek to justify themselves

This spirit of self-justification, which is generally associated with wrong-doing, appeared very early in the history of our race (Genesis 3:12-13). And the same spirit is commonly found still amongst all ranks and classes of wrong-doers. Frank and full acknowledgment of a wrong is exceedingly rare. In most cases the wrong-doer through self-love aims at making the wrong appear right, or as near to right as one may expect from fallible men; and in this endeavour to exonerate himself he is in great danger of blinding the eye of his conscience and tampering with the sanctities of truth. Hence it behoves us, in the interests of our moral nature, to abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good; and, when we have done wrong through weakness or the stress of temptation, frankly and at once to confess it. The person who does wrong and seeks to justify it, is morally on the down-grade. (Thomas Kirk.)

Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines.

Infliction of wrong is sometimes overruled for the good of the sufferer

In the providence of God this great wrong freed Samson from the meshes of an unworthy alliance, and awoke him to the responsibilities of his position as the divinely-chosen champion of his people. And wrongs, even great and heartrending wrongs, are often permitted by God, sometimes for the purpose of rescuing Satan’s slaves from his servitude, and sometimes for the purpose of rescuing His own people from the enslaving power of some unworthy passion. The injustice which abounds in the world is not an unmixed evil. Tyrants, extortioners, dishonest merchants, and all sorts of wrong-doers to their fellow-men, are used by God for beneficent ends. They often constrain those who groan under the wrongs which they inflict to think of God and the things unseen and eternal, and to enter on a new and a divine life. Great wrongs from men often lead the sufferers to see and repent of the great wrongs which they have done against God. They have often been the means of breaking their moral and spiritual slavery, and bringing them into the liberty wherewith Christ makes His people free. And great wrongs have been the means not only of giving freedom to the slaves of sin and Satan, but also of purifying and ennobling the people of God. The great wrongs of the Babylonian captivity burnt out of the Jewish people the besetting sin of idolatry. The great wrongs which the apostles and the early Church had to endure at the hands of their wicked persecutors were, like the furnace to silver or gold, the means of their moral or spiritual refinement (Romans 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 4:17). We may deplore and abhor the wrongs which are perpetrated in the world and on the Church; but let us also gratefully behold this silver lining in the cloud, which comes from the gracious overruling providence of God. (Thomas Kirk.)

Samson went and caught three hundred foxes.--

Three hundred foxes in the corn

Surely it is not so unheard of and incredible a thing, to have collected such a number of these animals in ancient times, as to destroy the credibility and literality of our story, because it contains this statement about the foxes. Did not Sylla show at one time to the Romans one hundred lions? And Caesar four hundred, and Pompey six hundred? The history of Roman pleasures, according to the books, states that the Emperor Probus let loose into the theatre at one time one thousand wild boars, one thousand does, one thousand ostriches, one thousand stags, and a countless multitude of other wild animals. At another time he exhibited one hundred leopards from Libya, one hundred from Syria, and three hundred bears. When the caviller settles his hypercriticism with Vopiscus’s Life of Probus, and with Roman history generally, we shall then consider whether our story should be rejected as incredible because of its three hundred foxes. It has also been proved by learned men that the Romans had the custom, which they seem to have borrowed from the Phoenicians, who were near neighbours of the Philistines--if they were not Philistines themselves--of letting loose, in the middle of April (the feast of Ceres)--the very time of wheat-harvest in Palestine, but not in Italy--in the circus, a large number of foxes with burning torches to their tails. Is Samson’s the original, or did he adopt a common custom of the country? The story of the celebrated Roman vulpinaria, or feast of the foxes, as told by Ovid and others, bears a remarkable similarity to the history before us, ascribing the origin of this Roman custom to the following circumstance: A lad caught a fox which had stolen many fowls, and having enveloped ‘his body with straw, set it on fire and let it run loose. The fox, hoping to escape from the fire, took to the thick standing corn which was then ready for the sickle; and the wind blowing hard at the time, the flames soon consumed the crop. And from this circumstance ever afterwards a law of the city of Rome required that every fox caught should be burnt alive. This is the substance of the Roman story, which Bochart and others insist took its rise from the burning of the cornfields of the Philistines by Samson’s foxes. The Judaean origin of the custom is certainly the most probable, and in every way the most satisfactory. (W. A. Scott, D. D.)

The Philistines . . . burnt her and her father.--

The fate of Samson’s wife an illustration of retributive justice

Samson’s wife in trying to avoid Scylla fell into Charybdis. She betrayed her husband, because she feared her brethren would burn her and her father’s house with fire, and yet by their hands she was burned with fire and her father also. It is still the rule of Providence, that as men measure to others so it shall be measured to them again. It should be eternally before our minds that true principle is the only expediency. All history, both sacred and profane, shows that the evil that men do in trying to escape by continuing to sin--by doing wrong to correct a wrong--always meets them sooner or later in their flight. Sin added to sin only enhances guilt. Those that hasten to be rich, by resorting to dishonest means, and have accumulated property by fraud, do not generally long enjoy it. They seldom retain their gains, and if they do, how can they enjoy them haunted with a guilty conscience? It is a singular and significant providence that so many of the inventors of means for taking the life of their fellow-men should have perished by their own inventions, Gunpowder was the death of its inventor; Phalaris was destroyed by his own “brazen bull” The regent Morton who first introduced the “Maiden,” a Scottish instrument of decapitation, like the inventor of the guillotine, perished by his own instrument. Danton and Robespierre conspired the death of Vergniaud and of his republican covertures, the noble Girondists, and then Robespierre lived only long enough to see the death of Danton before perishing himself by the same guillotine. (W. A. Scott, D. D.)

The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him.--

How we may burst the bonds of sin

The descent of the Spirit of the Lord upon us is the grand power by which we may burst asunder the strongest cords of sinful habit with which we may be bound. These cords, with which men freely bind themselves, increase in strength as they advance in years. By an inexorable law of our moral nature, sinful habits become the more binding the more they are indulged. The drunkard of two years’ standing is more enslaved by the love of drink than the drunkard of one year’s standing, and less them the drunkard of five or ten. And the same is true of every evil habit. The longer men continue in sin, they strengthen the chains of their own enslavement. Men may be able, in their own strength of will, to free themselves from this and the other evil habit; the drunkard may become sober, the licentious chaste, the dishonest upright, and so on. There can be no doubt that many, by their unaided exertions, have reformed themselves, and become respectable and useful members of society. But even with regard to such moral reformation it is sometimes--may I not say frequently?--true, that men of themselves are unable to secure it. There are many drunkards, e.g., who seem to lack the power of bursting the fetters with which the love of drink has bound and enslaved them. And what seems to be true of some in reference to particular vices is true of all in reference to the spirit of insubordination to the Divine will. All men are naturally rebellious; and this insubordination grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength. But what is impossible to man in his own strength, in reference both to this spirit of rebellion and particular vices, is possible to man in the strength of the Spirit of God. Any man, the most enslaved, the most powerfully bound with the cords and fetters of sin and vice, may obtain his spiritual freedom. What he needs is that the Spirit of the Lord come mightily upon him, as He did upon Samson, and any man who sincerely prays for this wondrous endowment shall obtain it. This is the grand hope which Jesus Christ has brought to our race. (Thomas Kirk.)

The jawbone of an ass.--

The rudest weapon not to be despised in God’s service

When God has work for you to do, a conquest for you to make, a deliverance of others for you to effect, He will not leave you without a weapon; it may not always be a very promising one, but still a weapon. Samson might, no doubt, have slain more with a sword if he had had one; and so it is well that in all you do for God you provide yourself with as likely weapons as you can possibly get. But sometimes you find yourself, like Samson, in circumstances where you must act quickly, and where you cannot provide yourself with what you might think the best weapon, but must take the first that comes to hand. You are, e.g., suddenly prompted by your conscience to say a word of rebuke to some profane or wicked person, or a word of warning to some one who is, as you know, casting off even ordinary restraints, and giving way to evil passions; but you feel your want of wisdom and fluency; you know you can never say a thing as it ought to be said--you wish you could, you wish you were well enough equipped for this, which you feel to be really a desirable duty. Now in such circumstances it is more than half the battle to attempt the duty with such weapon as we have, in the faith that God will help us. A rude weapon, wielded by a vigorous arm, and by one confident in God, did more than the fine swords of these men of Judah, who had no spirit in them; and in very much of the good that we are all called upon to do to one another in this world it is the spirit in which we do it that tells far more than the outward thing we do. And it is a good thing to be reduced to reliance, not on the weapon you use, but on the Spirit who uses you. Samson found it so, and gave a name to that period of his history where he learned this; and so does every one look back gratefully to the time when he distinctly became aware that efficiency in duty depends on God’s taking us and using us as His weapons. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)

Samson’s weapon

Samson fought the battle single-handed against three thousand men. It is a feature of God’s heroes in all ages that they fight whether they are in the minority or the majority. God has wrought His greatest works through single champions.

Samson fought without the usual weapons of warfare. The Philistines were armed, but he had no sword. Well, now, what did Sampson do? A man that is raised by God for special work has keen eyes, as a rule. He sees what there is about him and to what use everything can be put. This moist bone had all its natural strength in it. Samson laid hold of that. He knew what he was about, and what he could do with that weapon, and he turned it to terrible uses.

Samson won the victory with a poor weapon. He was not one of those who excused himself for bad work by complaining about the tool he used. I have known some little boys at school, over whose copy books I have looked. When I have said, “Oh, here is a blot,” they have replied, “Yes, but the ink bottle was too full.” And so in many other instances I have noticed that bad writers blame the pens, and bad workers blame the instruments they have had to work with. If you see a bad carpenter, the plane is always wrong. On the other hand, if you see a good workman, he never blames his tools, but makes the best of them. (D. Davies.)

Shall I die for thirst?--

The fainting hero

My drift is the comforting of God’s saints, especially in coming to the table of their Lord.

You have already experienced great deliverances. Happy is it for you that you have not had the slaying of a thousand men, but there are “heaps upon heaps” of another sort upon which you may look with quite as much satisfaction as Samson, and perhaps with less mingled emotions than his, when he gazed on the slaughtered Philistines.

1. See there the great heaps of your sins, all of them giants, and any one of them sufficient to drag you down to the lowest hell. But they are all slain; there is not a single sin that speaks a word against you.

2. Think, too, of the heaps of your doubts and fears. Do you not remember when you thought God would never have mercy upon you? “Heaps upon heaps” of fears have we had; bigger heaps than our sins, but there they lie--troops of doubters. There are their bones and their skulls, as Bunyan pictured them outside the town of Mansoul; but they are all dead, God having wrought for us a deliverance from them.

3. Another set of foes that God has slain includes our temptations. Some of us have been tempted from every quarter of the world, from every corner of the compass. There has not been a bush behind which an enemy has not lurked, no inch of the road to Canaan which has not been overgrown with thorns. But look back upon them. Your temptations, where are they? Your soul has escaped like a bird out of the snare of the fowler.

4. So, let me say, in the next place, has it been with most of your sorrows. Like Job’s messengers, evil tidings have followed one another, and you have been brought very low. But, in Christ Jesus, you have been delivered. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”

Yet fresh troubles will assail you, and excite your alarm. Thus Samson was thirsty. This was a new kind of want to him. He was so thirsty that he was near to die. The difficulty was totally different from any that Samson had met before. Now I think there may be some of you who have been forgiven, saved, delivered, and yet you do not feel happy. God has done great things for you, whereof you are glad, yet you cannot rejoice; the song of your thanksgiving is hushed. Let me say two or three words to you. It is very usual for God’s people, when they have had some great deliverance, to have some little trouble that is too much for them. Look at Jacob; he wrestles with God at Peniel, and overcomes Omnipotence itself, and yet he goes “halting on his thigh!” Strange, is it not, that there must be a touching of the sinew whenever you and I win the day? It seems as if God must teach us our littleness, our nothingness, in order to keep us within bounds.

If you are now feeling any present trouble pressing so sorely that it takes away from you all power to rejoice in your deliverance, remember that you are still secure. God will as certainly bring you out of this present little trouble as He has brought you out of all the great troubles in the past.

1. He will do this because if He does not do it your enemy will rejoice over you. If you perish, the honour of Christ will be tarnished, and the laughter of hell will be excited. What! a Child of God forsaken of his Father! God will never permit the power of darkness to triumph over the power of light.

2. That is one reason for confidence, but another reason is to be found in the fact that God has already delivered you. I asked you just now to walk over the battlefield of your life, and observe the heaps of slaughtered sins, and fears, and cares, and troubles. Do you think He would have done all that He has done for you if He had intended to leave you? The God who has so graciously delivered you hitherto has not changed; He is still the same as He ever was. Bethink you if He does not do so He will lose all that He has done. When I see a potter making a vessel, if he is using some delicate clay upon which he has spent much preliminary labour to bring it to its proper fineness, and if I see him again and again moulding the vessel--if I see, moreover, that the pattern is coming out--if I know that he has put it in the oven, and that the colours are beginning to display themselves--I bethink me were it common delf ware I could understand his breaking up what he had done, because it would be worth but little; but since it is a piece of rich and rare porcelain upon which months of labour had been spared , I could not understand his saying, “I will not go on with it,” because he would lose so much that he has already spent. Look at some of those rich vessels by Bernard de Palissy, which are worth their weight in gold, and you can hardly imagine Bernard stopping when he had almost finished, and saying, “I have been six months over this, but I shall never take the pains to complete it.” Now, God has spent the blood of His own dear Son to save you; He has spent the power of the Holy Spirit to make you what He would have you be, and He will never stay His mighty hand till His work is done. “Hath He said, and shall He not do it? Hath He begun, and shall He not complete?” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Samson’s prayer

There are two facts in the prayer which Samson recognises and pleads with God.

1. One is that he is the Lord’s servant he describes himself as “Thy servant.” Samson, in all his hostile acts against the Philistines, evidently regarded himself as doing the work for which God raised him up.

2. The other is, that his recent glorious victory, which was a wonderful deliverance not only to Samson but to his country, was due to God: “Thou hast given this great deliverance.” And after stating these two facts, he uses them as a plea for the relief of his present distresses: “And now shall I die for thirst . . . ?” Surely God cannot allow such a disgraceful end to happen to His own servant, for whom He had wrought such a wonderful deliverance! (Thomas Kirk.)

He revived.--

Spiritual renewal in answer to prayer

In this incident we may see an illustration of the principle on which God has acted towards His people in all ages. His promise is, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” The strength for to-day, like the manna of old, is only sufficient for the necessities of to-day; and if we would be equal to the duties of the morrow, or to any emergency that may arise, we must get fresh strength from the Lord. Without spiritual renewal, after exhausting labour or conflict, we shall become faint and ready to perish; so it is always with the mightiest spiritual warriors; but if we cry unto the Lord in our times of faintness, He will hear us, as He did Samson, and He will open up for us, not in the hollow of some desert place outside, but in the depths of our own parched souls, a spring whose pure living waters will gladden and revive our languid hearts. (Thomas Kirk.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Judges 15". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/judges-15.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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