Judges Chapter 15 - Samson Takes Vengeance on the Philistines
Judges Chapter 15 – Samson Takes Vengeance on the Philistines
Samson was enraged that his Philistine companions obtained the answer to his riddle from his wife and was furious that his wife was given to another.
Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, “I’m going to my wife’s room.” But her father would not let him go in. Judges 15:1
Samson’s anger had been kindled against his wife for her treachery and unfaithfulness to him by revealing the answer to his riddle, and against his companions for their deceit. Therefore Samson had left his wife and returned to his father’s house. After some time, Samson’s anger subsided and went to visit his wife. He took a young goat with him, which would have been considered a delicacy, to share a meal with his wife as a sign that he wanted to reconcile with her.
Her father would not allow Samson to enter her room. Samson could have easily overpowered his father-in-law, but showed him respect and did not force the issue.
“I was so sure you hated her,” he said, “that I gave her to your companion. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.” Judges 15:2
It was the father’s decision to betroth his daughter to another man and collect a second dowry. She had not yet married Samson’s companion, otherwise she would not still been living in her father's house. If his wife’s father was honest, he should have restored the dowry which Manoah had given for her.
The father offered his younger daughter to Samson in an effort to appease him and justify the wrong he committed.
Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves. Judges 15:3-5
It was springtime and the wheat crop was beginning to be harvested. Samson’s actions resulted in the destruction of the Philistines’ wheat fields, olive groves, and vineyards. To burn these items, all of which were staples in the Ancient Near East, would mean an economic disaster for the Philistine people. Also, the Philistines were trying to regain economic and military power after a devastating war with Egypt. The burning of these crops would have dealt a major blow to their overseas trade agreements.
When the Philistines asked, “Who did this?” they were told, “Samson, the Timnite’s son-in-law, because his wife was given to his companion.” So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. Judges 15:6
The Philistines threatened Samson's wife that they would burn her and her father's house. She, to save herself and oblige her countrymen, betrayed her husband; and the very thing that she feared, and by sin sought to avoid, came upon her. Ironically, she, and her father's house were burnt with fire by her countrymen, whom she thought to oblige by the wrong she did to her husband.
Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam. Judges 15:7-8
Samson having slain many of the Philistines, went and dwelt in a cave of the rock of Etam which was located in the tribal territory of Judah.
The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi. The people of Judah asked, “Why have you come to fight us?”
“We have come to take Samson prisoner,” they answered, “to do to him as he did to us.” Judges 15:9-10
The Philistines were determined to take Samson captive. They were willing to declare war on Judah if Judah insisted on protecting Samson.
Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”
He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.” Judges 15:11
Obviously the power and exploits of Samson were so well known that it took three thousand men from Judah to muster up the courage to confront Samson. They presented their grievances to Samson in an attempt to convince him that it was unwise to provoke the Philistines. Didn’t Samson realize that their rulers had the power to oppress them even further, to increase their tribute, and even to put them to death?
Why had he rebelled against their masters? His reply was simple. He had only done to them what they had done to him. They had burnt his wife and her father to death, and in return he had slain many of them.
They said to him, “We’ve come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”
Samson said, “Swear to me that you won’t kill me yourselves.”
“Agreed,” they answered. “We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. Judges 15:12-13
Samson could have resisted, but instead he submitted himself to his fellow Israelites. He understood that they did not have hostile intentions towards him, but were compelled to do what the Philistines demanded of them.
Though they were 3000 of them, Samson did not fear them. If they attempted to take away his life, he could have defended himself. But he chose not to shed the blood of any of his own countrymen. Instead, he consented to be bound by them so that he would be delivered into the hands of their enemies. In this instance, Samson was a type of Christ. Jesus was betrayed by his people the Jews, and delivered by them into the hands of the Romans. Although Samson could have delivered himself by his great strength, he did not. He allowed himself to be taken and bound and given into the hands of his enemies, that his own people might go free.
As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Judges 15:14
The Philistines ran out to meet Samson. They were shouting with joy when they saw him bound, believing that he was subdued and powerless against them. The Spirit of the LORD came so powerfully upon Samson that his bindings melted away.
Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.
Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.”
When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi. Judges 15:15-17
The donkey’s jawbone was not dry and brittle but probably had some flesh and blood still on it. Samson disregarded the rule of ceremonial cleanness, which as a Nazarite, forbid him to touch a carcass of an unclean animal.
Samson took the jawbone of a donkey as a weapon and attained a mighty victory. But this miraculous feat was of God, and not of man. This victory was not attained by the weapon, or by the arm of flesh, but it was accomplished by the Spirit of God which guided the weapon and empowered the arm.
After Samson’s great victory, the place of the battle was called, “Ramath Lehi” which means the “Elevation of Lehi,” or the “The High Place of the Jawbone”.
Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Judges 15:18-19
Samson’s carnal character is once again evidenced by the way he addressed the LORD. Samson had demanded that his parents get him a Philistine wife, he killed thirty Philistine men because he was cheated and lost a bet, he disregarded his Nazarite vows, and now he sarcastically cries out to God, “Must I die of thirst…?”
God in His mercy and to fulfill His plan to use Samson to deliver His people from the Philistines, does not upbraid Samson but immediately responds to his request by opening up a spring of water. The place was then called, “En Hakkore” which means, “The fountain of him that cried for thirst” or can be understood as, “The fountain or well which was given in answer to my prayer.”
Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines. Judges 15:20
Twenty years he judged Israel, during which the Philistines, though not utterly subdued, seem not to have oppressed the Israelites as before so that they had respite from their oppression, if not perfect freedom.