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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Judges 15

 

 

Verse 1

15:1. In the time of the wheat harvest — Which was the proper season for what follows. With a kid — As a token of reconciliation. Into the chamber — Into her chamber, which the women had separate from the men’s.


Verse 2

15:2. That thou hadst utterly hated her — Because thou didst desert her: but this was no sufficient cause; for he should have endeavoured to effect a reconciliation, and not have disposed of another man’s wife without his consent. Is not her younger sister fairer than she? — The marrying of a sister while the other was alive was expressly forbidden by the law of Moses: see Leviticus 18:18. And therefore this offer might probably irritate Samson the more.


Verse 3

15:3. Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines — Or rather, blameless from the Philistines, because they have first provoked me by an irreparable injury. It seems probable from this, that the people of the place, in general, had approved of, and perhaps advised, the giving of Samson’s wife to another man. Though I do them a displeasure — Although this may look like an act of private revenge, yet it is plain, Samson acted as a judge (for such he was) and as an avenger of the public injuries which his people had suffered from the Philistines.


Verse 4

15:4. Samson went and caught three hundred foxes — Foxes were extremely numerous in Canaan, and several places received their name from them, as Hazar-shual, or, the gate of the fox, in the tribe of Judah; and Shaalbim, or Shaalabbim, in the tribe of Dan, Joshua 19:42; 1:35. They are accordingly frequently spoken of in Scripture as numerous: see Song of Solomon 2:15; Psalms 63:10. Under this name foxes, likewise, as Bishop Patrick observes, may be comprehended a species of creatures called thoes, and by the Hebrews, ijim, which go together in large herds, so that, as authors of undoubted veracity have asserted, two hundred have been seen in a company. The Hebrew word, שׁעול, shual, a fox, will likewise comprehend other animals of the same size. It must be further observed, that it is not said that Samson caught all these foxes at one time, or by his own hands. There might be a week, or even a month’s time allowed for the accomplishment of his design, in which his servants and friends may be supposed to have assisted him. Again, they were not caught, as some imagine, only by hunting, but in snares and nets, as Bochart has shown in his Hierozoicon, in which he treats of the animals mentioned in the Scriptures: see lib. 3. cap. 13., where, in answer to those who inquire why Samson chose foxes rather than dogs, or some other creatures, that learned man thinks it sufficient to say, that Samson accomplished two ends by this proceeding, both freeing the country from a large number of obnoxious animals, and making them instrumental in executing his revenge on the Philistines. And took firebrands — Made of such matter as would quickly take fire, and keep it for a long time. This he might easily procure. And turned tail to tail, &c. — It was an artful contrivance of Samson to fix the brands to the foxes in pairs, because their efforts to run different ways, or not directly in the same track, would lessen their speed, and keep them longer in the places where they were to do execution. It would also prevent the foxes from running into their holes, and from expatiating further than he intended: for his design was to consume only the corn of the Philistines, and not that of the Israelites, which was secured by this precaution.


Verse 5

15:5. He let them go, &c. — Successively at several times, and in divers places, so that they might not hinder one another, nor all run into the same field; but, being dispersed in all parts, might spread the plague further. But it will be asked, Why did he not employ some of the Israelites to set their corn on fire? The answer is easy: Because he wished to preserve them from the hatred and mischief to which this would have exposed them, and also to mortify the pride of the Philistines by making brute creatures, and particularly foxes, the instruments of bringing this calamity upon them.


Verse 6

15:6. The Philistines came up and burned her — For the mischief which she had occasioned them; thus she brought upon herself that mischief which she studied to avoid. The Philistines had threatened to burn her and her father’s house with fire. To avoid this, she betrayed her husband. And now the very thing she feared comes upon her! And her father — Whom they looked upon as one chief cause of the mischief done, by his giving his daughter, Samson’s wife, to another man. Punishing or revenging by fire seems to have been a usual practice in those days: see 14:15.


Verse 8

15:8. He smote them hip and thigh — This seems to be merely a proverbial expression to denote a desperate attack and total overthrow. And he went down, or, rather, went and dwelt — For it is an idiom of the Hebrew language, to speak of going up, or going down, to a place without having any reference to the situation of it, whether it lay high or low. The place here spoken of, the top of the rock Etam, undoubtedly lay high, being, as Josephus informs us, a strong place in the tribe of Judah, to the summit of which only one man could ascend in front. Here Samson waited to see what steps the Philistines would take. It appears that Samson had no commission from God to raise an army and make open war, like Gideon, Jephthah, and others, for the deliverance of Israel from the yoke of the Philistines; but was only authorized to weaken them and keep them in awe, that their dread of him might cause them to lessen their cruelty.


Verse 11-12

15:11-12. What hast thou done unto us? — Thou hast by these actions punished, not them only, but us, who are sure to smart for it. We are come down to bind thee — Why not rather to fight under thy banner? Because sin dispirits men, nay, infatuates them, and hides from their eyes the things that belong to their peace. That we may deliver thee to the Philistines — This shows how dastardly the tribe of Judah was grown, and how much they stood in fear of the Philistines, that they should so readily give up a person of such extraordinary strength and courage, and who was so capable of annoying their enemies. But they seem not to have considered him as a judge or deliverer appointed for them by God, but as a mere private man, who acted of his own will, and who had rashly stirred up the anger of the Philistines, with whom they were afraid to contend: and Samson, to make them easy, and that no damage might come upon them, consented that they should deliver him bound to the Philistines; knowing that his strength would be sufficient to break whatever cords they should bind him with. Swear unto me — Not that he feared them, or could not as easily have conquered them as he did the host of the Philistines: but because he would be free from all temptation of doing them harm, though it were in his own defence.


Verse 13

15:13. And they bound him — Thus was he a type of Christ, who yielded himself to be bound, yea, and led as a lamb to the slaughter. Never were men so infatuated as these men of Judah, except those who thus treated our blessed Saviour. Up from the rock — That is, from the cave in the rock, in which he had secured himself, out of which he was first brought up, and then carried down from the rock to the plain.


Verse 14

15:14. The Philistines shouted against him — Because they had now, as they supposed, their enemy in their hands. The cords became as flax, &c. — As easily broken by him. His bands loosed from off his hands — Hebrew, were melted; that is, were dissolved as things which are melted in the fire. “This,” says Henry, “typified the resurrection of Christ, by the power of the Spirit of holiness. In this he loosed the bands of death, it being impossible he should be holden of them. And thus he triumphed over the power of darkness, which had shouted against him.”


Verse 15

15:15. He found a new jaw-bone of an ass — New, and therefore more tough and strong; and slew a thousand men therewith — Some, to account partly for this wonderful achievement, have observed that these Philistines were, probably, unarmed, and that they were struck with a great panic, thinking that the three thousand men of Judah would aid Samson. But doubtless it is chiefly to be ascribed to the power and providence of God, who thus fulfilled his promise to his people, that one of them should chase a thousand, and that no one should be able to stand before them, Leviticus 26:8; Joshua 23:10.


Verse 16

15:16. Heaps upon heaps, &c. — Hebrew, a heap, two heaps. As much as to say, I have not only slain enow to make one heap, but two or more. I have slain a thousand men — What could be too hard for him to do, on whom the Spirit of the Lord came mightily? This seems like a short hymn or song of triumph, which Samson uttered after he had routed the Philistines. It is strange that the men of Judah did not now, at least, come to his assistance. But he was to be a type of him who trod the wine-press alone.


Verse 17-18

15:17-18. He called that place Ramath-lehi — That is, The lifting up, or, casting away of the jaw-bone. He gave it this name in order to perpetuate the memory of this action. And he was sore athirst — A natural effect of the great labour he had used. And perhaps there was the hand of God therein, to chastise him for not making mention of God in his song, and to keep him from being proud of his strength. One would have thought that the men of Judah would have met him with bread and wine; but they so little regarded him that he is fainting for want of a draught of water! Thus are the greatest slights often put upon those that do the greatest services! Shall I die — Wilt thou not finish what thou hast begun? Wilt thou undo what thou hast done?


Verse 19

15:19. God clave a hollow place in the jaw — Or rather, a cavity that was in Lehi, as he had just named the place, 15:17, and as the same word is rendered in the latter part of this verse. “It is very evident,” says Dr. Dodd, “from what follows, that our translation” (namely, in the former part of the verse) “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, therefore, of the margin, which is followed by Dr. Waterland, is far the best. Houbigant observes, very properly, that the word rendered hollow place ( מכתשׁ, miktesh,) 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 drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived; therefore Samson called the 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 called to this day the fountain of the jaw; an observation which abundantly confirms the interpretation we have given.” He called the name thereof En-hakkore; that is, the fountain of him that cried for thirst; or, that called on God for deliverance; or, the fountain that was given in answer to prayer. Which is in Lehi — So that our translators take Lehi here to be the name of a place.


Verse 20

15:20. He judged Israel — That is, he pleaded their cause, and avenged them against the Philistines. In the days of the Philistines — That is, while the Philistines had the power and dominion, from which he was not able fully to deliver, but only to begin to deliver them. From this place it is manifest that, in the computation of the times of the judges, the years of servitude or oppression are not to be separated from the years of the judges, but are comprehended within them; which proposition is of great importance for clearing this difficult part of Scripture chronology.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 15:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/judges-15.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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