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Samson is denied his wife: he burneth the Philistines' corn; he is bound by the men of Judah, and delivered to the Philistines: he breaketh his bands, and killeth one thousand of the Philistines with the jaw-bone of an ass; the Lord giveth water to quench his thirst.
Before Christ 1155.
Judges 15:4. And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes— Samson was moved to take a wife from the Philistines, in order to find occasion against them: such occasions are seldom long wanting where marriages of this kind are contracted between persons of different countries, different religions, or different interests. Samson had sufficient cause for that resentment which he executed, as we read in this and the following verses. 1. Some have thought it difficult to believe, that Samson could get together so great a number of foxes; but it should be remembered, First, That these creatures were, and at this time are extremely numerous in Judea; insomuch that several places had their names from them; see Joshua 15:28; Joshua 19:42. 1Sa 13:17 and they are spoken of very commonly in Scripture as thus numerous. See Song of Solomon 2:15.Psalms 63:10-11; Psalms 63:10-11. Secondly, Under the name of foxes may be comprehended creatures nearly resembling that animal, called thocs, which go together in herds, so that two hundred have been seen in company together. Thirdly, It will not appear so incredible, that Samson should collect so many foxes, when we recollect from the Roman history, that Sylla produced at the shews which he gave the Roman people, one hundred lions, Caesar four hundred, Pompey near six hundred, and others innumerable different animals. Fourthly, If the sacred historian had said that Samson caught these three hundred foxes in one day, or one night, the difficulty might be greater; but, possibly, he might employ a month or more in the accomplishment of this design, and have been assisted in it by his servants, neighbours, and friends. These animals were caught in nets, and on account of their length of tail were most proper for his purpose. 2. These observations seem sufficiently to justify the present version; we must not, however, omit to mention, that another has been offered, though we apprehend it will not stand the test of critical inquiry. It is proposed to render the words, now translated three hundred foxes, by three hundred sheaves of corn; to support which, it is to be observed, that instead of shualim in the Hebrew, we should read schealim, which properly signifies sheaves: and that זנב zanab, which we translate tail, signifying the end, or utmost part of any thing, we may, according to this version, suppose that Samson set fire to three hundred standing shocks of corn, by laying two sheaves between each shock to make a communication, and by putting fire to those intermediate sheaves. See Mr. Chais on the passage, where the reader will find a refutation of this criticism.
Judges 15:6. And the Philistines came up and burnt her and her father with fire— Thus they fulfilled their menace uttered in the former chapter, and the faithless wife gained no advantage by her treachery. But who can help remarking, on a circumstance like this, the savage barbarity of those times?
Judges 15:8. And he smote them hip and thigh— Houbigant renders this, and he contended with them, and slew them with a great slaughter; observing, that the idea is taken from the action of wrestlers. It seems to be a merely proverbial expression, signifying a total overthrow. The French render it, il les battit entierement, he beat them entirely; Isaiah 9:14. Etam was a strong place in the tribe of Judah, to the top of which there was a passage only capable of admitting a single man at a time. Instead of went down, and dwelt, it may be read, went, and dwelt.
Judges 15:15. A new jaw-bone of an ass— Of an ass that had not been long dead, properly rendered moist in the margin of our Bibles; not so brittle as one that was dry, and had long lain in the air and the sun. No doubt, this event must be ascribed to the providence of God, who thus fulfilled the promise he had made to the Israelites, that no one should be able to stand before them, and that one man of them should chase a thousand; Leviticus 26:8. Bochart. Hieroz. pars 1: lib. 2: cap. 15 and a dissertation upon the jaw-bone of the ass, by J. Jac. Seiferheld, in the Nov. Thesaur. Philolog. tom. 1:
Judges 15:16. Samson said, with the jaw-bone of an ass, &c.— Samson, upon this victory, composed a triumphant song, or ode, of which this verse appears to have been the chorus or burden. Houbigant renders it,
With the jaw-bone of an ass have I dispersed them; With the jaw-bone of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
REFLECTIONS.—Unable any longer to bear such treatment, the Philistines gathered their armies, not to fight with Israel, but to oblige them to give up their enemy Samson. Hereupon,
1. The men of Judah, understanding the reason of their invasion, instead of setting Samson at their head to fight for their liberty, basely resolve to make a sacrifice of him to his enemies, preferring ignominious servitude before a generous struggle for their country. Instead of honouring him for his courage, they blame him for his rashness, and desire him peaceably to submit to their bonds. Samson might well expostulate with them, that what he had done was for their good, and a just correction for the wrongs he had received; but knowing that this was from God, that he might have a new occasion to destroy them, he peaceably submits to be bound; and, having first engaged his brethren to do him no harm, consents to be delivered into the hands of the Philistines. Note; We have here, in Samson, a lively figure of the Lord Jesus. A band of armed men surround him in the garden; he is betrayed, and forsaken by his own disciples; though able to destroy at a stroke those who came to bind him, yet, quietly submissive, he is led as a lamb to the slaughter.
2. With joy the Philistines behold their captive approaching, and shout aloud, as now triumphant over their destroyer: but how momentary is the triumph of the wicked! Instantly a sudden impulse of Divine power comes upon him; like flax his captive bands are burst asunder: no better weapon is at hand than the jaw-bone of an ass's carcase: this he seizes, flies on his amazed foes, and turns the shouts of joy into shrieks of horror: for soon, with resistless fury, he mows down their ranks, and heaps the slain on the slain. A thousand fell on the spot. Note; (1.) When God will work, the most despicable instruments in his hand shall be effectual. (2.) Though tied and bound with the chains of our sins, the spirit of the Lord can loose these captive bonds, and set us free. (3.) Unequal as the contest is, between one poor believer and all the hosts of hell and earth without, and corruption within, yet Divine Grace can make him more than conqueror. (4.) When his rejoicing enemies were most secure, and under the seal and stone had thus bound up the dead body of our crucified Lord, then, like Samson, he broke the bands of death, awaked as a giant refreshed with wine, confounded his foes, and led captivity captive.
3. Samson celebrates his victory, not out of vanity, but to the glory of God, who, with so unfit a weapon, had enabled him to make so great a slaughter. The same Hebrew word חמור chamor, signifying an ass and a heap, in the original, affords an elegant paronomasia, not to be accurately expressed in a translation. Then, having finished his song of praises, he casts away the useless jaw, and, in memory of this single event, calls the place Ramoth-Lehi, The lifting up of the jaw-bone.
Note; (1.) God must have the glory of his own work. (2.) Songs of praise are as honourable to him, as reviving to our own souls.
Judges 15:19. But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw— It is very evident, from what follows in this verse, that our translation is erroneous; since, if God had caused water to come from the jaw only for the present satisfying of Samson's necessities, it is reasonable to suppose, that Samson would have given it the name of a well or fountain, or that the sacred historian would have told us, that it remained in Lehi unto this day. The rendering in the margins of our Bibles, therefore, is by far the best. Houbigant observes, very properly, that the word rendered hollow place, מכתשׁ maktesh, signifies a rock; and he renders the verse thus: Then God clave the rock which was in Lehi, and there came water from thence; which when he had drank, his spirit came again, and he revived; wherefore Samson called that fountain, the fountain of the implorer; which fountain is in Lehi unto this day. Modern travellers inform us, that in the suburbs of Eleutheropolis, (in all probability the ancient Lehi,) the fountain which flowed upon this occasion is still remaining, and is called to this day the fountain of the jaw; an observation which abundantly confirms the interpretation that we have given. See Scheuchzer on the place.
REFLECTIONS.—The withholding of the most common necessaries of life, little as we are apt to value them, would be more fatal than the sword. The want of a draught of water brought Samson nearer to the grave than all the host of the Philistines.
1. We see him here ready to die with thirst; no water is nigh; and he is so parched and weak, as to be unable to seek farther. In this distress he calls upon God, who alone could relieve him. In his prayer he pleads God's past mercies as an argument for present help, and urges the dishonour which would be cast on God, if now he should be given into the hands of the uncircumcised, after such an instance of divine interposition. Note; (1.) Jesus on the cross cried thus, I thirst. (2.) In time of distress, prayer is our best resource. (3.) Past mercies should encourage us to wait upon God, and no plea so prevalent as his own glory.
2. God heard and answered him, permitting the distress only to exercise his faith, keep his spirit humble, and magnify his own power and grace. God clave the rock, and a stream of fresh water sprang up; whereupon his fainting spirit revived, and his departing life returned. Note; (1.) Every day we have to praise God for a new life given us. (2.) Without the constant supply of living streams from the fountain of grace, our souls must quickly faint and die.
3. Twenty years he judged Israel, during which the Philistines, though not utterly subdued, seem not to have oppressed them as before, checked by the terror of his arm; so that they had respite from the yoke, if not perfect freedom, Note; (1.) It is a mercy to have our afflictions alleviated. (2.) If we improve the beginning of our mercies, we may expect that they will be continued and perfected.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 15". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26