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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Judges 15

 

 

Verses 1-8

EXPOSTION

15:1

Within a while—the same expression as that in 14:8, rendered "after a time," and in 11:4, rendered "in process of time." In the time of wheat harvest—about the month of May. The harvest, as appears from 11:5, had begun, some corn being already cut, and in shocks; the rest still standing, and, being ready to be cut, of course extremely dry and inflammable. With a kid, as a present, intended no doubt to make peace (Genesis 38:17). His anger ( 14:19) had now passed away, and his love for his wife had returned. He was little prepared to find her married again to his friend.

15:2

Is not her younger sister, etc. Samson's father-in.law might well have thought that Samson had forsaken his wife, and would never forgive her treachery. Possibly too he was a covetous man, and glad to get a second dower. Anyhow, his answer was conciliatory; but Samson was not in a mood to accept excuses, or be softened by conciliation.

15:3

I shall be more blameless than the Philistines. The phrase rather means, I shall be blameless (or guiltless) before the Philistines, i.e. in relation to the Philistines,—they will have nothing to lay to my charge; my revenge will be a just one,—as in Numbers 32:22 : Then shall ye be guiltless before the Lord, and be. fore Israel. He means that so grievous an injury as he had received in having his wife taken from him and given to a Philistine will justify any requitals on his part.

15:4

Foxes. The word here rendered fox (shu'al, in Persian shagal, which is etymologically the same word as jackal) includes the jackal, which is as common in Palestine as the fox. Here, and in Psalms 63:10, the gregarious jackals, the canis aureus, are undoubtedly meant. Caught. The Hebrew word means especially caught in nets or snares. See Amos 3:5 (have taken nothing at all); Psalms 35:8 (let his net catch himself); Jeremiah 18:22; Isaiah 8:14 (taken), etc. And it is in this sense that the A.V. uses the word caught. A clever sportsman, as no doubt Samson was, would have no difficulty whatever in netting or snaring 300 jackals, which always move in packs, and would be attracted by the vineyards of Thimnathah, for which their partiality is well known (see 14:5, note). The writer of the additional article Fox in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' states that he had tried the experiment of throwing grapes to the foxes, jackals, and wolves in the Zoological Gardens. The wolves would not touch them, the others ate them with avidity. Took firebrands, etc. Many cavils have been directed against the truth of this account, but without the slightest reason. The terrified animals, with the burning torches and the blazing straw behind them, would necessarily run forwards. Samson would, of course, start the couples at numerous different points, and no doubt have a number of Hebrews to assist him. To the present day the corn-fields in that part of the Shephelah extend continuously for twenty or thirty miles.

15:5

The shocks and the standing corn. See 15:1, note. With the vineyards and olives. The Hebrew text has the orchards of olive trees—the word cherem, usually translated vineyard, meaning also any orchard; but the Septuagint in both codices supplies and, as does the A. Y which gives the more probable sense, vineyards and olives. It is unlikely that the vineyards should not be mentioned, in a district abounding in them.

15:6

And the Philistines … burnt her and her father with fire. See 14:15. It appears from Genesis 38:24; Le Genesis 20:14; Genesis 21:9; Joshua 7:15, Joshua 7:25, that burning with fire was a judicial punishment among the Hebrews. Possibly the Philistines, in their fear of Samson, and perhaps also from a rude sense of justice, inflicted this punishment upon the Thimnathite and her father as the real authors of the destruction of their corn-fields, by giving Samson so unheard-of provocation. Note the fact of the identical fate overtaking Samson's wife which she had sought to escape by base treachery (cf. John 11:48 with what actually happened).

15:7

And Samson said, etc. There are two ways of understanding Samson's speech: one, with the A.V as meaning to say that though the Philistines had taken his part, and repudiated all fellowship in the shameful deed of the Thimnathite and her father, yet he would have his full revenge upon them; the other, translating the particle in its more common sense of if, makes him say, "If this is the way you treat me, be sure I will not cease till I have had my full revenge." This is perhaps on the whole the most probable meaning. It still leaves it uncertain whether the Philistines meant to do Samson justice, or to do him an additional injury, by putting his wife and her father to death.

15:8

He smote them hip and thigh, etc. A proverbial expression, the origin of which is uncertain; it means, he smote them with a great and complete slaughter. It is reasonable to suppose that he had gathered a few Hebrews round him to help him. He went down, etc. This shows that Etam must have been situated lower than Tinmath, and seems to preclude its identification with Urtas, in the hill country of Judah, between Bethlehem and Tekoah, which apparently represents the Etam of 2 Chronicles 11:6. But there is another Etam in the tribe of Simeon (1 Chronicles 4:32), which may possibly be the Etam of our text. In the top of the rock. Rather, the cleft or fissure of the rock—some narrow and inaccessible ravine. The site has not been identified.

HOMILETICS

15:1-8

The progress of the feud.

In tracing the steps of any quarrel which has gone on to the bitter end, we can usually see that there were moments when reconciliation was very near, but was hindered by the hasty action of one party, and that after such failure the enmity becomes more fierce and bitter than ever. Thus in the quarrel between Samson and the Philistines. After the first burst of anger at his rwie s treachery, Samson's impatient nature had cooled down, his love for his wife had revived, and he returned to her house with a present intended as a peace offering, hoeing no doubt to find her penitent and to receive a warm welcome from her. Had it been so, his breach with the Philistines might have been healed, and his whole future career would have been changed. But this was prevented by the intemperate haste of Samson's father-in-law. Instead of waiting to see whether Samson's just anger would subside, and keeping the door of reconciliation open, he gave Samson's wife to his friend. When Samson returned in a spirit of generous forgiveness, he found the false woman on whom he threw away his love already wedded to another, and the door closed against him. His fury knew no bounds. Everything Philistine was hateful in his eyes. The former wrong was lost in the glare of the far greater wrong which succeeded it. The Philistines were made to pay dearly for the insult and injury they had done him. And then, as so often happens in embittered resentments, even the attempt to pacify him only added fuel to the flame. His wife's adultery had been a cruel blow; the punishment of that adultery by a horrible death was a still deadlier one. The burning of corn-fields had been a sufficient revenge for the one; the slaughter of the Philistines was the only expiation for the other. And so the quarrel went on from bad to worse; the enmity became more deadly, the strife more embittered. It went on through bloodshed and captivity, till Samson and his enemies perished together under the ruins of the temple of Dagon. If quarrels are to be healed, there must be patience on both sides. Neither side must credit the other with an unappeasable hatred or with an inextinguishable wrath. Hasty insults and hasty overtures of peace must alike be avoided. Time must be given for resentment to cool and for the sting of the wrong to be forgotten. Otherwise things will grow from bad to worse; the petty insult or annoyance will be succeeded by the mortal wrong, and the melancholy spectacle will follow of two human beings, who ought to love one another as children of the same heavenly Father, using all their powers and opportunities to wound each other's feelings, and to inflict injuries upon one another. But the only real remedy for enmities is to be found in the true spirit of Christian love: "Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." In the presence of the cross enmities and hatreds are crucified. The bitterest offence given and wrong suffered will only provoke the prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR

15:1-3

Atonements of the unrighteous.

A great wrong had been done. An act of warfare against the country of Samson's wife is punished by domestic treachery and wrong. For fear of the Philistines, Samson's wife is given to another. The fear of Samson takes the place of the fear which inspired the unrighteousness. Suggested atonement does not allay the wrath of the wronged, but magnanimously be turns his wrong into an occasion of renewed hostility to the Philistines. A national calamity thus springs from a private offence.

I. GREAT WRONGS ARE COMMITTED UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF FEAR.

II. THE ATONEMENTS AND EXCUSES OF THE UNRIGHTEOUS BUT ENHANCE THEIR GUILT.

III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF EVIL ACTIONS CANNOT BE FORESEEN OR ADEQUATELY WARDED OFF BY THE OFFENDER (vide 15:6).

IV. PRIVATE WRONG MAY BE PUNISHED BY NATIONAL DISASTER.—M.

15:1-5

God's servant set free by the providences of life.

The entanglements into which Samson fell were brought upon himself. God by painful circumstances destroys these. Samson then felt that he was at liberty to carry on war against the enemies of his country.

I. GOD'S SERVANTS ARE FREQUENTLY HAMPERED BY THEIR OWN IMPRUDENCES AND FOLLIES.

II. THE PURPOSE OF THE DISCIPLINE OF LIFE IS TO REMOVE THESE ENTANGLEMENTS AND TURN THEM INTO A STRONGER INCENTIVE TOWARDS HIS SERVICE. Entanglement and re-entanglement, deliverance beyond deliverance, is the history of Samson's career.—M.

15:4, 15:5

Foxes arid firebrands.

This circumstance has become classic. It vividly illustrates—

I. THE INGENUITY OF INSPIRED VENGEANCE.

II. LITTLE CAUSES OF MISCHIEF AND GREAT CONSEQUENCES.

III. THE MISCHIEF GOD'S ENEMIES ENTAIL UPON THEMSELVES. It is unexpected, overwhelming, and vital. The year's produce, upon which the life of the people depended, was swept away at a single stroke. No one knows how to punish the rebel against his kingdom as God himself does.—M.

15:6-8

Those who have occasioned evil punished for those who caused it.

Of this policy amongst individuals and nations the world is full.

I. WICKED MEN ARE OFTEN WISER THAN THEIR ACTIONS WOULD INDICATE. It was well to inquire, "Who hath done this?" but when the agent was discovered, they were too afraid of him to punish him, so they wreaked their vengeance upon those who could not defend themselves. Greater care is shown by men in removing occasions of evil than in curing the source of it.

II. HUMAN INJUSTICE MAY UNCONSCIOUSLY EFFECT THE ENDS OF DIVINE JUSTICE. The father-in-law and wife of Samson deserved punishment, but hardly from those through dread of whom they had done Samson wrong.

III. BY ACTING AS THEY DID THE PHILISTINES ONLY BROUGHT UPON THEMSELVES GREATER DISASTERS.

IV. ONE WRONG LEADS TO ANOTHER.—M.

15:8-16

Requiting evil for good, and good for evil.

It was truly unhandsome conduct on the part of the men of Judah. They had received aid and service from Samson, and their enemies had been put to shame; and now, when they are threatened with consequences for harbouring him from their foes, they are ready to betray him.

I. THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED THE GREATEST BENEFITS OFTEN BETRAY THEIR BENEFACTORS. Wallace was betrayed by a Scotchman; Christ by Judas, and rejected by the Jews. This arises partly from failure to comprehend the work done by great men; partly from ignoble nature, that fails to attain the level of heroic action.

II. A MAGNANIMOUS MIND WILL RATHER SURFER EVIL THAN BE THE OCCASION OF IT TO OTHERS.

III. MEN INJURE THEMSELVES WHEN THEY EVADE DUTY IN COMPROMISE. These 3000 men of Judah might have driven the Philistines before them, and delivered their land, had they been inspired by a heroic spirit. They afterwards discover that the work is done in spite of them which might have been done by them, and thus lose the credit and blessing that might have been theirs. Samson is thus completely detached from the nation he was raised up to deliver. So Christ stalls alone as the Saviour of the world.

IV. GOD MAY OVERRULE MEN'S MISDOINGS TO THEIR ULTIMATE ADVANTAGE. Grace can extract a blessing even from sin. But atonement has been made, and the spirit purged from its mean and unholy disposition. The crucifixion of Christ, the work of men, is the means of the salvation of men.

V. EXTERNAL BONDS CANNOT EFFECTUALLY BIND THE SERVANT OF GOD.

"Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage."

Persecutions tend to further the influence of truth. God breaks the bands with which men confine his servants and his word.—M.

HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY

15:4, 15:5

Ingenuity and originality.

I. INGENUITY IS OFTEN AS EFFECTIVE AS STRENGTH. Samson is not merely the hero of brute force; he shows wit, intelligence, inventiveness. We constantly see how effective these faculties are in business, in war, in politics. The Christian needs the wisdom of the serpent (Matthew 10:16). In many of our Christian enterprises the requisite for greater success is not more money, more workers, nor even more zeal, but wiser methods. Samson's ingenuity was wholly on the side of destruction. Would that the soldiers of Christ's army of salvation showed as much intelligence and wisdom ill conducting the campaigns of the Church militant for the saving of men as the soldiers of the armies of ambitious monarchs display in their warfare, which brings little else than death and misery! Ingenuity is quickened by interest. If we had a more practical sense of the end of the Christian battle with the evil of the world, more earnest desire to effect real results, more heart in the whole work, we should be more wise and thoughtful. It is the half-hearted who are dull and sleepy soldiers of Christ.

II. ORIGINALITY OF METHOD IS OFTEN ONE GROUND OF SUCCESS. Samson showed great originality; consequently his enemies were not provided against the novel attack he made upon their land and its produce. Mere novelty is little recommendation. But we are all too much wedded to old habits of life. Novel methods in the work of the Church are sometimes advisable,


Verses 9-20

EXPOSITION

15:9

Went up, i.e. from their own country in the Shephelah to the hill country of Judah. As Samson had avenged his wrongs on the whole Philistine people, so they now came up to Judah to take vengeance for Samson's injuries. In Lehi, or, rather, hal-Lehi, the Lehi, the place afterwards so called, as related in 15:17 and 15:20 (see 7:25, note). Lehi has been identified by some with Tell-el-Lekhiyeh, four miles above Beer-sheba; and by others with Beit-Likiyeh, in the Wady Suleiman, two miles below the upper Beth-heron, and so within easy distance of Timnath and other places mentioned in the history of Samson. But no certainty can at present be arrived at.

15:11

Men of Judah. It is rather three thousand men went down from Judah, showing that the rock Etam was below. The top. It should be the cleft, as in 15:8. Knowest thou not, etc. The language of these cowardly men shows how completely the Philistine yoke was fastened upon the necks of Judah. The history gives no account of the Philistine conquest; except the brief allusion in 10:6, 10:7; but Samson's story brings to light the existence of it. The abject state to which they were reduced is shown By their complaint of Samson, What is this that thou hast done unto us?" instead of hailing him as a deliverer. As they did unto me, etc. It is instructive to read Samson's defence of himself in the very words used by the Philistines in 10:10. "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." There is no end to rendering "evil for evil."

15:12, 15:13

We are come down to bind thee. There is something very base in this deliberate agreement with their Philistine masters to deliver up Samson bound into their hands. But it is not very unlike the spirit in which the Hebrews looked upon Moses when he first began to work to rescue them from their Egyptian bondage (Exodus 2:14; Acts 7:25-28). Samson's forbearance towards his own countrymen is commendable. Brought him up—from the deep ravine or cleft in which he was hid. His place of concealment was probably unknown to the Philistines, or may be they had quite a superstitious fear of Samson from their experience of his prowess.

15:14

When he came, i.e. as soon as he was come to Lehi, where the Philistine camp was ( 15:9). Shouted against him. Rather, shouted as they ran out to meet him. It expresses concisely the double action of their all going out to meet him, and shouting with joy when they saw him bound and, as they thought, in their power.

15:15

A most vivid and stirring description! The Spirit of the Lord ( 14:19), with that suddenness which marks his extraordinary movements (1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16; Acts 2:2; Acts 8:39, etc.), came upon Samson, and mightily strengthened him in his outer man. The strong new cords snapped asunder in an instant, and before the Philistines could recover from their terror at seeing their great enemy free, he had snatched up the heavy jawbone of an ass recently dead, and with it smote the flying Philistines till a thousand of them had fallen under his blows.

15:16

And Samson said, etc. The exploit gave birth to one of Sam son's punning, enigmatical, sayings: "With the jawbone of the ass, one heap, two heads of slain." Hamor, an ass, means also an heap. If one were to imitate the passage in English, supposing that the jaw of a sheep had been the implement, it might run something like this—By the jaw of a sheep they fell heap upon heap. A Latin imitation is, Maxilla cervi, acervum acervos (Bochart). He adds, as if in explanation, With the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. So the women sang, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands (1 Samuel 18:7), And a Latin song is quoted, in which Aurelian is made to say after the Sarmatic war—"Mille Sarmatas, mille Frances, Semel et semel occidimus, Mille Persas quaerimus" (Bp. Patrick on 15:1-20.).

15:17

Made an end of speaking, i.e. of reciting the song about the heaps of slain. It is singular that the word rendered speaking might also be rendered destroying, as in 2 Chronicles 22:10. Called that place Ramath-lechi, i.e. the height of Lechi, or of the jawbone, or, rather, the throwing away of the jawbone. He commemorated the exact spot where the slaughter ceased and the weapon Was thrown away by giving it the name of Ramath-Lechi, or, as it was called for shortness, Lechi (or hal-Lechi).

15:18

He was sore athirst. The incredible exertions which he had made in pursuing and slaying the Philistines put him in danger of his life from thirst. He thought he should die, and be found and abused by his uncircumcised foes. His only resource was prayer to God, who had helped him hitherto, We may note by the way that the more God gives, the more he encourages us to ask.

15:19

But (or, and) God clave, etc. Cf. Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:8, Numbers 20:11. The A.V. has quite misconceived the statement in the text, as if God had cloven a hollow place in the jawbone, and brought out the water thence; whereas the statement is quite clear that God clave the hollow place which is in Lehi (hal-Lehi, Numbers 20:9, note), and that a spring of water came out, to which Samson gave the name En-hakkorch, the spring of him that called upon God, which name continued till the time of the writer. The spring apparently continued till the time of St. Jerome, and of other later writers, in the seventh, twelfth, and fourteenth centuries; but Robinson was unable to identify it with any certainty ('B.R.,' 2:64). The word translated the (not a) hollow place (ham-maktesh) means a mortar; also the cavity in the jaw from which the molar teeth grow. The hollow ground from which the spring rose, with which Samson quenched his thirst, from its shape and from the connection with hal-Lechi (the jawbone) was called hammaktech. In Zephaniah 1:11 it is also a proper name, apparently of some spot near Jerusalem. The name thereof, i.e. of the fountain, with which thereof, which is in the feminine gender, agrees. Which is in Lehi unto this day. This punctuation does not agree with the Hebrew accents, which put a strong stop after Lehi. The Hebrew accents rather convey the sense that the name En-kakkoreh continued to be the name of the well unto the day of the writer.

15:20

And he judged Israel, etc. See 16:1-31 :81. It looks as if it had been the intention to close the history of Samson with these Words, but that 16:1-31. was subsequently added, possibly from other sources. Compare the close of 20:1-48 and 21:1-25. of the Gospel of St. John. A possible explanation, however, of this verse being placed here is that it results from the statement in verse 19, that Samson's spirit came again, and he revived, or came to life again, after being on the very point of death; and, adds the writer, he judged Israel after this for twenty years.

HOMILETICS

15:9-20

Man without God, and man with God.

These 3000 men of Judah of whom we read in 15:11 present us with a pitiable view of man's spirit crushed by misfortune, when it is not upheld by trust in Almighty God. These men of Judah were among those who did evil in the sight of the Lord, and were In consequence delivered into the hand of the Philistines. But this chastisement, instead of leading them to repent of their sin and folly in forsaking God and putting their trust in false gods, only led to a kind of sullen despair. They said in their hearts," There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go" (Jeremiah 2:25). Utterly unmindful of their high privileges and vocation as the people of God, they acquiesce in their own degradation: "The Philistines are rulers over us," They had rather not be disturbed. Let us alone, they said. Let us be as we are, fallen, sunken, degraded. All good within them was blunted and quenched. Self-respect was gone; love of country was gone; aspiration after all that is good and high was gone; courage, honour, enterprise, love of freedom, pride in their own matchless institutions, remembrance of a glorious past, hope for a glorious future, all was crushed within them because they had no trust in God. The elevating, ennobling, sustaining feeling that they were God's chosen people, and that the unchanging love and power of God were on their side to sustain them in every virtuous effort, and give effect to every good and holy desire, was extinct within them. Their calamities and injuries, not being mixed with confidence in God, and prayer to him for deliverance, had only trodden out their manhood. It was the sorrow of the world working death. Now such a state of mind as this is a very common effect of unsanctified misfortunes. Sorrows, brought on perhaps by misconduct, which do not send men to God in penitence and prayer only harden and depress. They produce sullenness, and they destroy the spring of hope. Men sink on to a lower platform even in regard to their fellow-men. They are not humbled, only lowered. They take a lower, darker view of human life and human responsibilities. Virtue, truth, love of neighbours, kindness, generosity, and the charities of life burn very low and dim within them, if they are not Wholly extinct. A cold, hard selfishness, and even that not an aspiring selfishness, wraps itself around the centre of their being. Every appeal to the higher qualities of human nature is resented or scoffed at. "Leave me alone," is the silent language of their attitude towards humanity. "Trouble me not," is their answer to every call upon them for virtuous effort. And as to the still higher and nobler calls of religion, every invitation to rise toward God, to act in the spirit of his holy word, to follow the leading of his Holy Spirit, to walk in the steps of the Lord Jesus Christ, is received with a cynical sneer; and even those who, in better days, seemed to be actuated by religious hopes and feelings, under the pressure of such unsanctified cares and sorrows fall into a thoroughly low region both of religion and of morals. Now contrast with those men of Judah the feelings and the conduct of Samson. Conscious of Divine aid, and of having unfailing strength in God, his courage never drooped in the darkest days of the Philistine oppression. Conscious of his own high calling, and of the election of Israel to be the people of God, he could not brook the notion of being ruled over by the uncircumcised, nor did he lose the hope of some great deliverance. He was ready for the service of God and of his country. And even the feeling that he stood alone did not quench his spirit. He did not lose sight of hope, because he did not lose sight of God. The weight of the great national calamity, in which he also was involved, did not utterly depress and crush him, because he believed in the mighty hand of God, which could lift up that weight in a moment, whenever it seemed good to him to do so. And so all the natural resources of his mind were kept alive and ready for action, as well as his great supernatural strength, whenever the opportunity should arise. And Samson's supernatural strength is only a type to us of that invincible spiritual strength which they have who are the faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me," is the truth embodied in Samson's exploits. In the Christian's steady, unwearied, resistance to evil, in his patient continuance in well doing, in the quiet, hopeful endurance of sufferings and afflictions, in the undaunted spirit which quails under no dangers, and faints under no adversities, and in the faith which eventually triumphs over all the powers of the world, we have the spiritual counterpart of Samson's great bodily strength. The brave, hopeful struggle of such, ending in victory, is in striking contrast with the desperate succumbing to evil of which we have spoken. And we may see it on a large scale in the Church herself. Often has the Church of God seemed weak and helpless before the powers of darkness, even while she had in herself the secret of an invincible strength. Often would her professed friends bind her in the fetters of worldly compliances, and hand her over to be shaped according to the fashion of this world, lest she should overthrow the accustomed sway, and break down the traditionary rules. But as often has the Spirit of the Lord come mightily upon her, and she has awakened as a giant refreshed with wine, and gone forth with irresistible might. The most trivial instruments have been in her hands weapons of supernatural power; her fiercest foes have sunk before her victorious progress; God has raised up refreshments to her in her hours of need; when she called upon God for help she was helped; and many a monument of God's saving grace and he]ping hand has deserved to be inscribed as En-hakkoreh—the supply granted to the cry of faithful prayer. O Lord, let thy Spirit come upon us now, in this our day of trial; hear thy Church's prayer, and let her cry come unto thee!

HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR

15:14-16

Imperfect means made effectual by Divine inspiration.

It was but the jawbone of an ass, yet it slew as many as might have fallen in a battle.

I. IN THE CONFLICTS OF TRUTH IT IS OF CHIEF CONSEQUENCE THAT WE BE ON THE SIDE OF TRUTH, AND ANIMATED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD.

II. THROUGH GOD'S BLESSING THE GRANDEST RESULTS HAVE BEEN PRODUCED BY THE RUDEST AND SIMPLEST MEANS. The preaching of the gospel by unlettered fishermen. "The solitary monk that shook the world" with the disused weapon in God's armoury. The "simple gospel" and the evils of our age.

III. NOTWITHSTANDING OUTWARD ADVANTAGES, THE ENEMIES OF GOD ARE CERTAIN IN THE END TO BE DISCOMFITED.

IV. THE ABSOLUTENESS AND SPLENDOUR OF SPIRITUAL ACHIEVEMENTS. Pentecost; missionary triumphs; the song of Moses and of the Lamb.—M.

15:17-19

The self-refreshment of Divine service.

After his great exploit Samson was exhausted and athirst. The zeal for the glory of Jehovah is upon him, and he cannot brook the tarnishing of his glorious victory by a base surrender to the Philistines. He immediately calls upon God, and is answered in the very scene of his warfare.

I. IN MOMENTS OF GREATEST EXALTATION AND POWER THE SAINT IS REMINDED OF HIS WEAKNESS AND DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. Paul and the "thorn in the flesh." The great deed and heroic uplifting of soul accompanying it are a Divine gift—a treasure in an earthen vessel. "By the grace of God I am what I am."

II. THE TRUE SAINT WILL FRANKLY ACKNOWLEDGE THIS, AND BETAKE HIMSELF TO PRAYER FOR DIVINE HELP. The faith that made Samson irresistible in battle now makes him prevail with God. A sense of spiritual fitness forbids the notion that God will suffer such an anti-climax. The victories that spring from acknowledged weakness are more glorious than those which proceed upon our fancied independence and self-sufficiency. "When I am weak, then am I strong."

III. THE CONDITIONS OF AN EFFECTUAL PRAYER.

1. Sincerity and faith. God had helped him already; be is convinced, therefore, that he will still help.

2. Because of wants and. hardships necessitated by Divine service. He is immediately answered, and in the very scene of it. No earthly hand is suffered to help.

3. Zeal for the glory of God. The idea of neutralising his triumph by yielding through physical distress is obnoxious to him. He asks God to preserve the splendour of the exploit which brought such glory to his name.—M.

HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY

15:15

The jawbone of an ass.

I. IT WAS A NOVEL WEAPON. Samson again shows his inventiveness and originality (see 15:4). To succeed in sudden emergencies we must have presence of mind to choose and act rapidly and freshly. The slave of routine is helpless in every critical moment of life.

II. IT WAS THE MOST CONVENIENT WEAPON AVAILABLE. If Samson could have laid his hand on a sword he would not have picked up the bone. It would be foolish, rash, and presumptuous to reject the better means in order to make a display of strength or originality in the use of inferior means. But when the only thing available is a comparatively poor expedient, it is better to use this than nothing. While we are waiting for the perfect weapons to be forged the opportunity for victory passes. Thus inferior men and inferior methods must often be used for want of better ones. It is wrong for us to refuse to do any work for Christ because we have not the best possible natural powers or cultivation. It is better to serve as we are than not at all.

III. IT WAS A SIMPLE WEAPON. Many would have despaired with such a prospect as Samson's. But difficulty is the inspiration of genius. In spiritual warfare God sometimes blesses the poorest means when faith and zeal are making the best use of them. God's strength is thus most perfect in our weakness, because then we most reed it, are most likely to seek it trustfully, and will be most inclined to use it obediently.

IV. IT WAS A RIDICULOUS WEAPON. The hero would seem to be humiliated as he condescended to use such a weapon. But he was great enough to despise ridicule. It is weak and wrong to decline to use the only available means of rendering God good service because we fear they are undignified. True dignity is found not in pedantry and pomp, but in simple, brave independence. Great needs conquer foolish vanity. When the Philistines are on us we are in no mood to ask or to care whether our conduct will excite the laughter of the idle. If Christians realised more fully the awful depth of the world's sin and misery, they would be less sensitive to the trivial ridicule with which men may regard their work. How many promising lives have been poisoned by the narcotic of a false respectability!

V. IT WAS A SUCCESSFUL WEAPON. This is the one matter of consequence. Success refutes all objections. Ridicule is now turned into admiration, The very simplicity and folly of the means increases the glory of the result. So the great question in the Christian warfare against evil is that this is effective. If so, all the world's foolish criticism will be drowned in the triumph of victory.—A.

15:18, 15:19

Distress after triumph.

I. ONE GREAT DELIVERANCE IS NO SECURITY AGAINST ALL FUTURE TROUBLE. Samson is surprised and vexed that a new trouble should fall upon him after his great victory. There is a danger lest we should rest contented with past triumphs. The Christian warfare can only end with the final victory over death. Till then we are in the enemy's land, and must expect that one battle will only be succeeded by another. Though we may have a season of calm, an oasis in the desert, a quiet resting-place, "this is not our rest." Let us beware of the confident self-elation which often follows the conquest of a temptation; it may be an introduction to a new and more dangerous one.

II. SLIGHT EVILS MAY PROVE MORE DANGEROUS THAN GREAT ONES. Samson feels it humiliating to be in danger of dying of thirst after his victory over a much more imposing enemy; but he had means to meet the greater foe, and none with which to face the smaller one. Evils are injurious not so much in proportion to their simple magnitude as in proportion to our susceptibility to them. The force of a particular temptation depends on a man's special disposition and peculiarity of character, not simply on its inherent alarming or alluring qualities. It should humble us to learn that after escaping the greatest dangers by the help of God we may succumb to very small dangers if left to ourselves.

III. SEASONS OF TRIUMPH ARE OFTEN FOLLOWED BY SEASONS OF DEPRESSION. Samson is despondent and querulous after his victory. So was Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). No doubt this common experience is partly the result of nervous reaction. Excitable people oscillate between the extremes of ecstasy and despair. It has also moral grounds. We grow over-confident, we expect too much, we forget that life cannot always be pitched in the heroic mood. The career of the loftiest souls is not one unbroken epic; even this has its seamy side, its stale and unprofitable moments. There is a Divine purpose of discipline in this painful experience to keep us humble and in trustful submission.

IV. GOD HELPS US IN OUR DEPRESSION AS WELL AS IN OUR ELATION. God came to the rescue of Samson. Though he murmured, God had compassion on him. God understands our weakness, and, understanding, pities it. He does not treat his servants as heroes, but as children (Psalms 103:13). The depression of feeling which destroys our consciousness of assurance does not destroy God's grace. It is important to observe that the faith which is the condition of God's help is not our confidence in our own salvation, but the simple trusting of ourselves to God's care, so that when we least expect his help this may come upon us and surprise us, if only we thus cast ourselves upon his mercy.—A.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Judges 15:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/judges-15.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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