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Jdg 15:1 But after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, Samson visited his wife with a young goat. He said, I will go in to my wife into the room. But her father wouldn’t allow him to go in-
As the Spirit came upon Gideon (Jud. 6:34), so it is described as coming upon Samson (Jud. 14:6). It seems that the incident in ch. 15, where Samson visits his wife with a kid and uses this as an excuse to kill many Philistines, was planned by him to reflect Gideon's zeal. The way Gideon brought a kid to Yahweh (Jud. 6:19) may reflect how Samson came with a kid (Jud. 15:1). See on :4.

Jdg 15:2 Her father said, I was certain that you utterly hated her, therefore I gave her to your companion. Isn’t her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead-
Samson really loved that girl (Jud. 14:3,17; 15:1,7,11), even though he also utterly hated her (he must have gone through this process again with Delilah in the time that led up to her final betrayal). This true love for her makes Samson's marriages look more questionable. The turning of love to hatred is what happened when Amnon raped Tamar. The Biblical record is consistently psychologically credible, and true to observed human experience in this area. Unlike the contemporary, uninspired histories and legends of the other nations around Israel.

He seems angry that he had let himself fall too deeply for that Philistine girl (Jud. 14:19), and "utterly hated her". And yet this human anger may also have been mixed with a more righteous anger, in that to give his wife to another was adultery, and it happened that they carried out (perhaps unconsciously?) the punishment for adultery which the law required (Lev 20:14; 21;9). He realized that the Philistines had led him into sin, and he just wanted to destroy the source of his temptation.

Jdg 15:3 Samson said to them, This time I will be blameless of harm to the Philistines-
He burnt those vineyards in a desire to be "blameless from the Philistines" (15:3 AVmg.). The same word is translated unpunished, guiltless, innocent, clean, acquitted; as if he knew he had sinned, but believed that by further fighting of Philistines he could gain his forgiveness. He had to be brought to the shame of Gaza Prison to learn that forgiveness was by absolute faith, not works and hatred of this present world.

Jdg 15:4 Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, tied them tail to tail in pairs and put a firebrand between each pair of tails-
I noted on :1 how Samson was seeking to imitate Gideon, who apparently was his hero. He takes 300 foxes and puts firebrands in their tails. Why 300? Surely this was in conscious imitation of how Gideon took 300 men and put firebrands in their hands, and with them destroyed God's enemies (Jud. 7:16). The connection between the faithful 300 and the foxes could suggest that in Samson's eyes, he didn't even have one faithful Israelite to support him; he had to use animals instead.

Jdg 15:5 When he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing grain of the Philistines and burnt up both the shocks and the standing grain, and also the olive groves-
Samson used the whole situation as an opportunity to burn up the corn and vineyards of the Philistines, in conscious allusion to how the law stipulated that a man who did this to his Israelite neighbour must make retribution (Ex. 22:5). He was emphasizing that these people were not his neighbours, they were not in covenant relationship, and he openly showed that he treated them accordingly. Likewise he took vengeance on the Philistines (Jud. 15:5; 16:28), when the Law taught that Israel were not to take vengeance (same word) on each other (Lev. 19:18), but could do so on their enemies (Num. 31:2; Dt. 32:43 cp. Josh. 10:13). Note, in passing, how he set those foxes up as cherubim, again imitating Gideon's flaming torches- a ball of whirling fire coming in judgment upon the Philistines. The fox was a symbol of apostate Israel in later Scripture (Ez. 13:4); perhaps Samson made the same connection, and wanted to symbolize how through his faith and insight, weak Israel could be turned into the cherubim of God in bringing judgment on the Philistines and deliverance for themselves. The way he used their tails to bring such destruction may have been a reference to Dt. 28:13,44, where apostate Israel, suffering for their sins as they were in Samson's time, are described with the same word: they would be the tail of the nations. He saw that he was the one who could bring salvation and blessing to Israel.

He later teased Delilah to tie him with seven “withs”, the Hebrew word implying made from a vine. He just would mess with the forbidden. The way he burnt up those vineyards in 15:5 may have been as a result of realizing that the answer lay in total devotion and rooting out of temptation, rather than wandering around in them as he did in Jud. 14; cutting out the eye that offends. See on :3. 

Jdg 15:6 Then the Philistines said, Who has done this? They said, Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because his wife was given to his companion. The Philistines came up and burnt her and her father with fire-
The seven day marriage feast, associated with a deceitful father in law offering the sister of the desired bride in marriage- this is all the same as Jacob experienced (Gen. 29:27), right down to the fact that the younger sister was fairer (Jud. 15:2 cp. Gen. 29:16,17). Samson should have learnt from the evident similarities with Jacob; but like Jacob, he still trusted his own strength.  See on Jud. 13:18.

Jdg 15:7 Samson said to them, If you behave like this, surely I will be avenged on you-
Saul followed Samson's weak side when at this same time he demanded to be avenged of his enemies (1 Sam. 14:24); yet this wasn't Samson at his best (Jud. 15:7; 16:28). On one hand, Samson uses this murder of his wife and father in law as a pretext for killing more Philistines. But yet we also sense that he had loved the girl, and wanted vengeance as any Hebrew man would have wanted for the murder of his wife.

Jdg 15:8 He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them, then he went and lived in the cave in the rock of Etam-
He smote the Philistines "hip and thigh" (AV) with a great slaughter, alluding to the sacrifices (s.w. "shoulder" Ex. 29:22; Lev. 9:21; 1 Sam. 9:24; Ez. 24:4- nearly all usages of this word in Samson's Bible referred to the "shoulder" of the sacrifices), as if he was offering them as a sacrifice to Yahweh. Hip on thigh" is apparently a better rendering, implying hand to hand combat. This would serve to emphasize his contact with the dead bodies, as he hurled them to the ground one by one. And yet the Spirit of Yahweh came upon him to enable this- a breach of the letter of the Nazarite law.

But then he "went down (again- see on Jud. 14:1) and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam. You don't go down if you are going up to the top of a rock. But perhaps spiritually he 'went down', to dwell in isolation from the people he was supposed to be judging / leading, in the rocks. Dwelling in the rocks is associated with a bad conscience in Is. 2:21 and 57:5. Yet for all this, God counted him as having judged Israel 20 years at this stage (15:20); even though there was this evident break when he simply ran away from his people.

Jdg 15:9 Then the Philistines went up, and encamped in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi-
Samson's victory at Lehi may have inspired Shammah to slay the Philistines at the same place, years later (2 Sam. 23:11; AV "into a troop" is Heb. "Lehi"). And yet Samson's victory with a donkey jawbone would have been inspired by Shamgar's victory with an ox goad (Jud. 3:31). This is how the body of Christ should function; one spiritual victory inspiring another. 

Jdg 15:10 The men of Judah said, Why have you come up against us? They said, We have come up to take Samson prisoner, to do to him as he has done to us-
He says that he had killed Philistines because "I merely did to them what they did to me" (Jud. 15:11 NIV). There was no mention of the fact that he was seeking occasion against God's enemies (even though he was speaking to Hebrews). He passed off his actions as pure revenge- which on one level, was all they were. The Philistines had earlier said that they wanted to take Samson "to do to him as he did to us" (Jud. 15:10). And Samson replies in the same primitive way: that he only did to them what they did to him. It seems that Samson spoke to them on their level. And yet when the Philistines came upon Samson, roaring against him like the lion in Jud. 14:5, God's Spirit once again came upon him in confirmation of his faith. And yet his motives were hopelessly mixed. He was partly the angry young man, the jilted lover, wishing to express his native anger- and yet doing so by claiming that he was serving God. And indeed he was- but with mixed motives. We see this kind of thing in ourselves, and in many who claim to serve God.

Jdg 15:11 Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, Don’t you know that the Philistines are rulers over us?-
This was tacit recognition of the depth of their apostacy. They seemed to have no regret that they were fulfilling the many earlier prophecies that they would be dominated by their enemies if they were disobedient to Yahweh. The fact that Israel were dominated throughout Samson's life by the Philistines is proof enough that they were apostate at this time (Jud. 13:1 cp. Jud. 15:20; 16:31).  

What is this that you have done to us?-
Zorah, Samson's home town, was originally Judah's inheritance (Josh. 15:33-36), but they spurned it, and passed it to Dan (Josh. 19:41), who also weren't interested; for they migrated to the north and too over the land belonging to the less warlike Sidonians (Jud. 18:2,7-10). Their selfishness is reflected by the way they chide with him: "What is this that you have done unto us?".

He said to them, As they did to me, so have I done to them-
See on Jud. 13:5. If we ask 'What exactly did they do to him? What did they kill and burn of his?', the answer must be 'His wife'. He perhaps felt that she was worth hundreds of them, and the burning of their livelihood, leaving famine in it's wake, was what they had done to him emotionally. Yet it is curious how he loved the Philistines and yet hated them.

Jdg 15:12 They said to him, We have come down to tie you up so that we can deliver you into the hand of the Philistines. Samson said to them, Swear to me that you will not kill me yourselves-
He had to beg his own people not to try to kill him themselves (even whilst he had long hair), because he knew that the strength he had was only for certain specific purposes- i.e., to deliver God's people from the Philistines (15:12).
15:12 bind. The way they came to bind Samson has suggestions of Legion (Lk. 8:29); perhaps they considered him to be mentally ill, and attributed his strength to fits? Or worse, did they consider the work of the Spirit of God to deliver them to be that of demons? If so, Samson was typifying the Lord's later experience (Mt. 12:24-27). The way Jesus spoke of himself in this context as the stronger than the strong man (cp. Samson) encourages this view. And yet the strong man who was bound, i.e. the devil, can also be seen as a reference to Samson. Again, we are left with a difficult question: Was Samson telling them the truth when he said that his motive at Lehi was purely personal revenge? Or were they so unspiritual that he spoke to them on their level, even though at other times he pleaded with them to quit their idolatry (Jud. 2:16-19)? Or were his motives simply hopelessly mixed? Within him was a burning desire to do God's work; he was the one faithful Israelite who could chase 1,000; and yet in the company of his unspiritual brethren, he let his human side come out, and wrapped up his zeal for the Lord in human terms- even though there was some truth in how he expressed it. This kind of thing can so easily happen in our Christian experience; we bring out the worst in each other.

Jdg 15:13 They said, No, we will tie you up and deliver you into their hand, but we will not kill you. They bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock-
The way they tie him up and he begs them not to kill him (15:12,13) hardly sounds like Samson judging Israel (:20). And yet this was his desire, and this is what God imputed to him, in the same way as he was a Nazarite to God (i.e. in God's eyes?) all his life (Jud. 13:7)- although he broke his Nazariteship by contact with dead bodies (Jud. 14:19; 15:15 cp. Num. 6:6) and probably by drinking wine at his wedding (Jud. 14:10 " feast" = 'drinking', Heb.). This was not only imputed righteousness, but God counting the essential intentions of a weak willed man to him as if he had actually achieved what he fain would do.  

Jdg 15:14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him, and the Spirit of Yahweh came mightily on him. The ropes that were on his arms became as charred flax, and his ropes dropped off his hands-
The Spirit likewise came upon him to kill the Philistines in Lehi (15:14). It wasn't a permanent strength. This is in harmony with the way in which the Spirit was used in the New Testament. The Spirit came upon the apostles and they were filled up with it, as it were, and then drained of it once the work was done; and had to be filled with it again when the next eventuality arose. The shouting of the Philistines recalled the roaring of the lion against Samson (Jud. 14:5). As in our lives, one experience prepares us for the next one, which occurs on a far greater scale than the first one.

Jdg 15:15 He found a fresh jawbone of an ass and struck down a thousand men with it-
Samson slaying Philistines with a jawbone suggests Shamgar slaying Philistines with an ox goad (15:15 cp. 3:31).
15:15 Samson grabbed a jaw-bone and exalted that with that he had slain a thousand men at Lehi. The word for "jawbone", Lehi, means literally 'that which is soft'. God was teaching him that His strength was only perfected in weakness. His words are a conscious allusion to Josh. 23:10 (and Lev. 26:8): "One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, He it is that fights for you". It could be that he counted the bodies, or counted each man he slew, consciously trying to get up to 1,000 in order to fulfill the prophecy. Although !a thousand" may refer to a military unit rather than a literal number. Samson doesn't say that he alone killed the thousand men; he did it with the jaw-bone (coming from a Hebrew root meaning 'soft', 'weak'). This jaw bone is one of the seven weak things which are mentioned in Judges as being the tools of God's salvation: left handed man (Jud. 3:21); an ox goad (Jud. 3:31); a woman (Jud. 4:4); a nail (Jud. 4:21); a piece of a millstone (Jud. 9:53); a pitcher and trumpet (Jud. 7:20). God's people are likened to an ass frequently (Gen. 49:11,14; Is. 1:3; Jer. 2:24; Hos. 8:9; Lk. 13:15; 14:5). The first two references would have been known to Samson at Lehi; and he may have reflected that the fact the firstborn of an ass must be redeemed by a lamb was prophetic of how Messiah would save all His otherwise condemned people (Ex. 13:13; 34:20). Could it not be that despite their cruel betrayal of him and utter faithlessness, dear Samson felt he was living out a kind of acted parable of what was possible for Israel: that through his zeal, and in his hands, the weak people of God could achieve the great victory over thousands which Moses and Joshua had earlier foretold? In this he was a superb type of the Lord.

Jdg 15:16 Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps on heaps; with the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men-
Samson's victory song at Lehi smacks of personal vengeance, showing how mixed were his motives. There is little suggestion of the humble servant merely doing God's will:
"With a donkey's jaw-bone
I have made donkeys of them.
With a donkey's jaw-bone
I have killed a thousand men"
(15:16 NIV).

Lev. 26:3-8 had promised dramatic success against their enemies on the basis of obedience to the Law. The fact Samson had this power was therefore proof that he really was reckoned by God as zealously obedient to the Law; and yet he was like this in the midst of a sadly apostate Israel. This character study of Samson takes this view of his strength. This is in itself no mean achievement: to rise to a level of spirituality much higher than that achieved by the surrounding brotherhood. 

Joshua's final exhortation to Israel contains a passage which reads as some kind of prophecy of Samson. It is proof enough that Samson is to be read as a symbol of Israel: "Be therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses... that you come not among these nations, these that remain among you (true in Samson's time)... but cleave unto the Lord your man has been able to stand before you (this was Samson)... one man of you shall chase a thousand (cp. Jud. 15:16): for the Lord your God, He it is that fights for you (this was exactly true of Samson in Jud. 15:18)... take good heed unto yourselves... else if you go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and make marriages with them (as Samson did), and go in unto them, and they to you (cp. Jud. 15:1; 16:1, where Samson went in to the Philistine women): know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you (cp. Jud. 16:20); but they shall be snares and traps unto you (Delilah!)... and thorns in your eyes, until you perish" (Josh. 23:6-13). This passage would associate Samson's God-given strength and victory over the Philistines with his obedience to God's word. It was not that Samson was just an arbitrary tool in God's hand. Frequently the things Samson says and does are full of allusion to various passages in the Law, and also earlier incidents recorded in Judges which would have been known to him probably as the oral word of God.

Jdg 15:17 When he had finished speaking he threw away the jawbone, and that place was called Ramath Lehi-
And yet it was out of that jawbone which he discarded that water came to save his life (:19). He had used and then as it were cast away his first wife and best man, considering that the end [defeating the Philistines] justified the means. He is perhaps being shown that his attitude was wrong. The value and meaning of the human person, even if they are Philistines, is such that nobody should ever just be used and discarded.

Jdg 15:18 He was very thirsty and called on Yahweh and said, You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; now shall I die for thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised-
His request for water in that dry place was abundantly answered- in the same way as Yahweh had responded to exactly the same request from a faithless Israel in the desert (Ex. 17:1-7; Num. 20:2-13). And the way he names the well after the miraculous provision of water, and the way presumably the opened well remained (15:19), has links with pseudo-Israelite Hagar (Gen. 16:19 21:19). And yet even in these similarities, it must be noted that there was a certain spiritual culture in Samson's prayer. He didn't make a direct, crude demand for water. He placed his situation before God, and left it to Him to respond as He knew best. This is a feature of many spiritual prayers: not to crudely, directly ask for the obvious; but to simply inform the Almighty of the situation, in faith.

Samson at Lehi saw them as unclean asses; and yet he loved their women. And yet in the midst of this almost arrogance, he cries: "I thirst", and so exhibits something of the spirit of Christ in His final hour of agony and ultimate conquest on the cross (Jn. 19:28). Samson  despised the uncircumcised Philistines, as he had been brought up to (Jud. 14:3). He knew they hated him and yet he loved them and yet he hated them- all this shows the complexity of human nature, and describes our attitude to the world and the things of the flesh. And yet the only real answer is to cut off the flesh; to gouge out the eye that offends; not to comfortably go along with the fact that we have such a love: hate relationship with the flesh. For we cannot serve two masters; we can only ultimately love one. The Lord we serve is in many ways a demanding Lord.  
Samson dying of thirst crying desperately for water recalls Hagar's experience (15:19 cp. Gen. 21:19).

Jdg 15:19 But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi and water came out of it-
This is the language of God's provision for Israel in the wilderness. The word translated "Lehi" is that for jaw bone (s AV), as if the water came out of the discarded jaw bone.

When he had drunk, his spirit came again and he revived, therefore its name was called En Hakkore-
We note how place names were altered or given to commemorate what had happened. The way that so many paganic place names survived in ancient Israel is a reflection therefore of how little effort they made to eradicate pagan influence- for they were mostly idolaters themselves.

Which is in Lehi to this day-
I would consider the book of Joshua to have largely been written by Joshua, under Divine inspiration, although edited [again under Divine inspiration] for the exiles. And the book of Judges likewise. For the exiles too were set to reestablish God's Kingdom in the land and to inherit it again as the Israelites first did. The phrase "to this day" occurs several times in Joshua / Judges, and appears to have different points of historical reference (Josh. 4:9; 5:9; 6:25; 7:26; 8:28,29; 9:27; 10:27; 13:13; 14:14; 15:63; 16:10; 22:3; 23:8,9; Jud. 1:26; 6:24; 10:4; 15:19; 18:12). I would explain this by saying that the book was edited a number of times and the remains of those edits remain in the text. For God's word is living and made relevant by Him to every generation.

Jdg 15:20 He judged Israel in the days of the Philistines for twenty years-
God's intention was that Samson was to deliver Israel from the Philistines; but somehow he never rose up to it, and only 'began' to do it (Jud. 13:5). They remained under the Philistines, even during his ministry. And he was hardly accepted as Israel's judge / saviour, for they tied him up and handed him over to the Philistines. He made a few sporadic attempts in red hot personal zeal, confirmed by God, to deliver Israel. But he never rose up to the potential level that God had prepared for him in prospect. And yet for all this, he was accepted in the final analysis as a man of faith.