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A Character Study Of Samson

Samson At Lehi (Judges 15:9 - 20)

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CHAPTER 15 Jun. 14 
Samson Takes Revenge
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. 2Her 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. 3Samson said to them, This time I will be blameless of harm to the Philistines. 4Samson 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. 5When 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. 6Then the Philistines said, Who has done this? They said, Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because his his wife was given her to his companion. The Philistines came up and burnt her and her father with fire. 7Samson said to them, If you behave like this, surely I will be avenged on you. 8He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them, then he went and lived in the cave in the rock of Etam. 9Then the Philistines went up, and encamped in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi. 10The 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. 11Then 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? What is this that you have done to us? He said to them, As they did to me, so have I done to them. 12They 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. 13They 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. 14When 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. 15He found a fresh jawbone of an ass and struck down a thousand men with it. 16Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps on heaps; with the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men. 17When he had finished speaking he threw away the jawbone, and that place was called Ramath Lehi. 18He 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? 19But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi and water came out of it. When he had drunk, his spirit came again and he revived, therefore its name was called En Hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. 20He judged Israel in the days of the Philistines for twenty years.


15:2 He seems angry that he had let himself fall too deeply for that Philistine girl (14:19), and "utterly hated her" (15:2). He transferred his anger with himself onto someone close to him; and we must beware we deal with our guilt and sin by repentance, rather than transferring it onto another and harshly punishing them for our own sin. Yet Samson really loved that girl (14:3,17; 15:1,7,11), even though he also hated her (15:2; 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.
15:3 He burnt those vineyards in a desire to be "blameless in regard to the Philistines". 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, nor by transferring our sin and deserving of judgment onto others.
15:4 As the Spirit came upon Gideon (6:34), so it is described as coming upon Samson (14:6). It seems that when Samson visits his wife with a kid and uses this as an excuse to kill many Philistines, this was planned by him to reflect Gideon's zeal. The way Gideon brought a kid to Yahweh (6:19) may reflect how Samson came with a kid (15:1). He then 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 (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. As Gideon "went down" to destroy God's enemies (7:9), so Samson justified his 'going down' to the Philistines to take their women, as well as to destroy their warriors (14:1,5,7,10). As Gideon was somehow 'separate from his brethren' in his zeal, so was Samson. And yet Samson seems to have copied just the externalities of Gideon; not the real spirit. And therefore as Gideon foolishly multiplied women to himself in the spiritual weakness of his middle age, so perhaps Samson saw justification for his attitude. 'If heroic Gideon could indulge the flesh in this area, I surely can'. He fell into our common trap: to compare ourselves amongst ourselves, to measure ourselves against human standards as we find them among the contemporary brotherhood (2 Cor. 10:12). See on 13:15.
15:5 Burning up the corn and vineyards of the Philistines was 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 (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).
15:11 As they did to me, so have I done to them- 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, causing famine as a result, was what they had done to him emotionally. Yet it is curious how he loved the Philistines and yet hated them; was humble and yet had too high an opinion of himself. We see the same contradictions of human nature within ourselves. The Philistines had earlier said that they wanted to take Samson "to do to him as he did to us” (: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. It seems his zeal for God was also very humanly motivated.
15:12 It should be noted that his strength was not somehow magically associated with his hair; his strength went from him because Yahweh departed from him (16:19,20). 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.
15:14 When he was strolling in the Timnah vineyards, a lion had come across him (14:5). It was only after it roared against him that the Spirit came upon him and enabled him to kill it. He had to take the first nervous steps towards that lion in faith, and then the Spirit came upon him and confirmed his actions. The fact he didn't tell his parents what he had done may not only indicate his humility, but also suggests he was not naturally a strong man. To say he had just killed a lion would seem ridiculous (14:6). 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 NT. The Spirit came upon the apostles and they were filled up with is, 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.
15:16 Samson slaying Philistines with a jawbone suggests Shamgar slaying Philistines with an ox goad (15:15 cp. 3:31). See on 13:15. Samson grabbed a jaw-bone and exalted that with that he had slain a thousand men at Lehi. This was a conscious allusion to Josh. 23:10 (and Lev. 26:8), that one faithful man would chase a thousand. 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 fulfil the prophecy. 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: a left handed man (3:21); an ox goad (3:31); a woman (4:4); a nail (4:21); a piece of a millstone (9:53); a pitcher and trumpet (7:20).
15:19 Samson dying of thirst crying desperately for water recalls Hagar's experience (15:19 cp. Gen. 21:19). See 13:15.