The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 69
 Samson’s Return [Judges 15.1-15.8]

 

Scripture (KJV) Judges 15.1-8

Samson is denied his wife
1 But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in.
2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her.
3 And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them displeasure.
4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.
5 And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.
6 Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.
7 And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.
8 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.


Introduction

The family into which Samson married suffered a shocking disgrace in the eyes of their whole city when Samson rushed away without consummating the marriage, and since some time had evidently elapsed without Samson's making any appearance in his wife's home, one can readily understand the father-in-law's behavior in giving Samson's wife to the person we might call his "best man." The situation, however, could not have justified such an action. What is Samson’s response? He is furious; he vows revenge, and burns the corn of the Philistines; 3-5. They retaliate by burning Samson's wife and her father; 6. He is still infuriated, and when the Holy Spirit moves him, he slaughters a great many of them; 7, 8.


Commentary

1 But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in.—Judges 15.1 (KJV)
1 Now a short time after, at the time of the grain-cutting, Samson, taking with him a young goat, went to see his wife; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the bride's room. But her father would not let him go in.—Judges 15.1 (BBE)

But it came to pass within a while after…Or "after an unspecified period of time." A review of nine translations doesn’t add any additional information; whether Samson stayed away for a few days or as long as a year.

in the time of wheat harvest,…that is, about the end of our April, or the beginning of our May. This indicates a different season of the year than when the wedding had occurred.

During the wheat harvest, shocks of grain were gathered into heaps, and were left lying on the field or on the threshing-floors. The corn was tall, but not yet ready for harvest. It was the dry season; dry far beyond our experience, and the grain was in a combustible state.  This becomes very important to what follows.

that Samson visited his wife with a kid;…Samson left his wife in anger because she betrayed him, but by this time his anger had subsided, and he "remembered" his wife, as the Targum expresses it, and he no doubt thought that now was the proper time to return to her, and attempt a reconciliation with her; therefore, we may conclude that he had not heard that she had been given to another man. It is customary for a visitor in the East to carry some present with him; in this case, it might not only serve as a token of good manners, but of reconciliation. A common present for that purpose was a kid (a young goat); see [1]Genesis 38:17; [2]Luke 15:29; [3](1 Samuel 16:20). Samson brought a kid with him, because he intended to eat a meal with his wife in her own apartment, which in those days was considered a fashionable activity, and he hoped that by coming together they could again be friends. Actually, he was being very generous, since he was the offended party and the superior individual in the relationship. She was the one who was expected to make the first move for reconciliation. When those that are closely related by birth or marriage have differences, the one who makes the first move to forgive and forget injuries they have received, and are willing to humble themselves and seek reconciliation, should be reckoned the wisest and best.

and he said, I will go with my wife into the chamber;… that is, he said to himself; he kept the purpose for his visit a secret.  His wife was in her [4]Chamber, which was inside her father’s house. {"Samson visited his wife with a kid"}This is an indication of the kind of marriage that was contracted. It was like that of Gideon and his concubine, in which the wife continued to live in her father's house, with the husband paying occasional visits. Myers tells us that the technical name of such a marriage was "a sadiga marriage." The gift of a little goat, which he brought for his wife, seems also to have been the customary price of conjugal visits. It is the same price that Judah agreed to pay Tamar for his "going in unto her," not knowing that she was his daughter-in-law [5](Genesis 38:17). It seems never to have occurred to Samson that he was a bit late with this attempt to consummate his marriage.

We can conclude, from the knowledge that Samson's wife was still living in her father's house that she was only betrothed, and not actually married, to his companion.

but her father would not suffer him to go in;…perhaps he placed himself perhaps between Samson and the door, and attempted to placate him and resolve the situation peaceably. He told Samson that he gave his daughter to another man, and then he refused to allow him to go into his daughter's chamber. Samson, through his superior strength, could easily have pushed him away, and broke down the door, but he did not choose to use such violent methods, and patiently heard what he had to say, and then gave in to his father-in-laws appeal.

___________verse 1 notes____________
[1](Genesis 38:17; BBE) 17 And he said, I will give you a young goat from the flock. And she said, What will you give me as a sign till you send it?
[2](Luke 15:29; KJV) 29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
[3](1 Samuel 16:20; NLT)  20 Jesse responded by sending David to Saul, along with a young goat, a donkey loaded with bread, and a wineskin full of wine.
[4]Chamber: the female apartments or harem. Into her chamber; men and women had separate apartments.
[5](Genesis 38:16, 17; KJV) 16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? 17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?

 

2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her.—Judges 15.2 (KJV)
2 And her father said, It seemed to me that you had only hate for her; so I gave her to your friend: but is not her younger sister fairer than she? so please take her in place of the other.—Judges 15.2 (BBE)

And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her…with such a callous hatred, that there was no hope of any reconciliation. This allegation was a mere sham, a flimsy excuse to justify his refusal to allow Samson admittance to his daughter’s apartment. The proposal he made of a marriage with her younger sister was also an insult to Samson, and one which was unlawful for an Israelite to accept [6](Leviticus 18:18).

Why did Samson's father-in-law think that Samson hated his wife? Perhaps this was just an excuse to defend why he did what he did; or perhaps Samson's Philistine wife had poisoned her father's opinion of Samson [7](Judges 14:16). He may have reasoned, “Because thou didst desert her,” but this was not a sufficient cause; for he should have tried for a reconciliation, and not have disposed of another man's wife without his consent. He obviously was conscious of the fact that she had given him a good reason to hate her. And, that’s how it looked to those who were aware that Samson left in anger, without consummating the marriage, and stayed away for a long time. But, the truth, as I see it, is this: The bad opinion he held of Samson came from measuring that Nazarite by the common bad temper of the Philistines. He couldn’t be more wrong than to suspect that, because he was justly angry with his wife, he utterly hated her; and, since he had not returned to his father’s house for awhile, he had abandoned her forever. Yet this is all he had to say to excuse him for barring Samson from his house.

therefore I gave her to thy companion;…he said this to spare his daughter, and soften Samson’s resentment, saying that it was not his daughter's fault, but his; that he is the one that disposed of her; not by giving her in marriage to just anybody, but to a companion of Samson's. Samson had probably not heard of this before and may have gone into a rage. The fear of Samson probably influenced what he said next, since he knew him to be a man of daring and strength. His father had paid the dowry for the older sister; her father therefore offers her younger sister in her place.

is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her;… He makes an attempt to pacify Samson by offering him his other daughter, and because she is younger and better looking, he thought Samson might accept her as compensation for the wrong done to him. Such incestuous marriages were common with the old Canaanites, and it seems still continue; but the law of God condemned the practice, and did not allowed an Israelite to be party to such an arrangement, which Samson knew full well, and therefore he did not listened to the proposal; see [6](Leviticus 18.18). Here we see the confusion that comes to families that were not governed by the fear and law of God; marrying a daughter this week to one and next week to another, giving a man one daughter first and then another. Samson refused his proposal, because he knew better than to take her sister as his wife.

Samson's father-in-law learned, as had Samson's parents, that "nobody, but nobody, would be allowed to help Samson get a wife"!

___________verse 2 notes____________
[6](Leviticus 18:18; NLT) 18 “While your wife is living, do not marry her sister and have sexual relations with her, for they would be rivals. A wife to her sister—Thou shalt not marry two sisters at the same time, as Jacob did Rachel and Leah; but there is nothing in this law that rendered it illegal to marry a sister-in-law when her sister was dead; therefore the text says, Thou shalt not take her in her life time, to vex her, alluding probably to the case of the jealousies and vexations which subsisted between Leah and Rachel, and by which the family peace was so often disturbed. Some think that the text may be so understood as also to forbid polygamy.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[7](Judges 14:16; KJV) 16 And Samson's wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee?

 

3 And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.—Judges 15.3 (KJV)
3 Then Samson said to them, This time I will give payment in full to the Philistines, for I am going to do them great evil.—Judges 15.3 (BBE)

And Samson said concerning them…What Samson says now is meant for his wife's father, and her other relatives, and the citizens of Timnath. He said what follows, either within his mind, or he said it to them openly and publicly, so all of them could hear it.

now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure;… This was Samson's blunt rejection of the offer of her younger sister, and it was also the statement of his intention to take vengeance on all the Philistines. Neither Samson nor the Philistines knew anything about a "Golden Rule." The father-in-law had avoided what he considered a disgrace to his family, but he had failed to take into account the kind of man Samson was. He had a just cause for revenge, and he would certainly take advantage of it, and they could not reasonably blame him for it, since they had given him such a provocation as to give his wife in marriage to another man. The father-in-law's offer of the younger sister was an admission of the injustice done to Samson, and he is enraged by it.

Here is how Barnes explained this new situation: "When the Philistines, earlier, had injured Samson (in the matter of the riddle), he was in covenant with the Timnathites through his marriage and the laws of hospitality, for which reason he went down to Ashkelon to take his revenge, but now that the Philistines themselves had broken this bond, he was free to take his revenge on the spot."

Even though Samson is angry with his wife's father, the real root of the problem was the bad choices Samson made in love and marriage. He had no business allowing himself to fall in love with an ungodly, pagan woman. No wonder Proverbs 4:23 says Keep (literally, guard or protect) your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. If we don't guard our hearts, we can end up in trouble. God will use Samson's ungodly anger for His purposes; as Psalm 76:10 says, Surely the wrath of man shall praise You. This doesn't justify Samson's anger, but it shows the glory and power of God to use all things to His purposes

The revenge Samson took upon the Philistines for this abuse is laid out in what follows. If all he wanted was to champion his own cause he would have challenged his rival, and would have punished him and his father-in-law only. But he looks upon himself as a public person, and considered the affront was done to the whole nation of Israel, because they probably treated him with disrespect because he was of that nation; they were in fact pleased with themselves to put such an abuse upon an Israelite. Samson understood their motives, and therefore he resolves to do harm to the Philistines. No doubt, the treatment which he had met with when he was among them would justify his actions against them: Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines. He had made an effort to be reconciled to his wife, but, she made it unworkable, now they could not blame him if he showed his just resentment. Note, When differences arise we ought to do all we can to resolve them, and then, whatever the consequences may be, good or bad, we shall be blameless

 


4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.—Judges 15.4 (KJV)
4 So Samson went and got three hundred foxes and some sticks of fire-wood; and he put the foxes tail to tail with a stick between every two tails;—Judges 15.4 (BBE)

And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes…We should not think this is farfetched or hard to believe, since Canaan and Palestine abounded with foxes; that's why several places there had within their names the word “Shual,” which signifies a fox; [8](Joshua 15:28), [9](1 Samuel 13:17). The creature called shual is described by travelers and naturalists who have been in Judea, as an animal that looked like something between a wolf and a fox. Hasselquist, who was actually there, and saw many of them, calls it the little Eastern fox. They are numerous in the East and were known to attack and kill frail persons and children. A traveler in those parts says that foxes swarm there, and that there are very great numbers of them in the hedges, and ruins of buildings: and these creatures were very harmful to vines, and so we may logically believe there was a great number of foxes in the vicinity of Timnath, because of the vineyards that grew there; [10](Judges 14:5) [11](Song of Solomon 2:15). What's more, there is no reason to suppose that Samson captured all these himself, he might have paid others to catch them for him. Moreover, he may not have taken them all at the same time; it might have taken him many days and weeks to accumulate the number that suited his purpose, and they had to be caged until he was ready to move to the next stage of his plan.

There was a animal in those parts very much like a fox, called Thoes, which, as Bellonius says, were very numerous about the regions of Caesarea and Palestina, and may live two hundred in a company, or more; and so making use of proper means, which Samson was not unacquainted with, great numbers might be taken together; but, above all, it may be observed, that as this was under the direction of the divine Providence, God could easily cause such a large number of creatures to be gathered together, and taken, similar to how he ordered all the living creatures, as if by instinct, to come into the ark that Noah built.

We began by saying, “We should not think this is farfetched or hard to believe;” but there has been a good deal of controversy concerning the meaning of the term shualim; some suppose it to mean foxes or jackals, and others handfuls or sheaves of corn. Much of the force of the objections against the common version, foxes or jackals, will be reduced by the following considerations:
1. Foxes, or jackals, are common in that country, especially around Joppa and Gaza.
2. It is not hinted that Samson collected them alone; he might have employed several hired hands in this work.
3. It is not said he collected them all in one day; he might have taken several days, and used many persons, to furnish him with his means of vengeance; since he was such an eminent person, and the judge of Israel, he could require the assistance of as many persons as he pleased. And, will you agree with me that the God who made the world, and watched over Israel, and fully intended to deliver them at this time, could easily arrange things so that 300 foxes might be taken. He chose to punish the Philistine nation by means of foxes, instead of using his people. He would shield his brethren, and protect them from the hatred and harm which might have come to them, but He would employ brute creatures, to add ridicule to their tragedy. He would use foxes; partly, because they were suited to the purpose, since they were very fearful of fire; and having the type of tail that the fire-brands could be conveniently tied to; and since they would not go directly forward, but would run crookedly, causing the fire to be dispersed in more places.
4. In other countries, where ferocious beasts were less numerous, great multitudes have been exhibited at once. Sylla, in a public show to the Roman citizens, exhibited one hundred lions; Caesar, four hundred, and Pompey, nearly six hundred. The Emperor Probus let loose in the theatre, at one time, one thousand ostriches, one thousand stags, one thousand wild boars, one thousand does, and a countless multitude of other wild animals; at another time he exhibited one hundred leopards from Libya, one hundred from Syria, and three hundred bears.-See Flavius Vopiscus in the Life of Probus, cap. xix., beginning with Dedit Romanis etiam voluptates.

It is evident from their frequent mention in Scripture, and from several places bearing their name, that foxes, or the creature called shual, abounded in Judea. It appears they were so numerous that even their cubs ruined the vineyards; see [11]Song of Solomon 2:15: Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil our vines. Jeremiah complains that the foxes had occupied the mountains of Judea; [12]Lamentations 5:18.

They are mentioned as making incursions into enclosures, [13]Nehemiah 4:3. Ezekiel compares the numerous false prophets to these animals, [14]Ezekiel 13:4. In [15]Joshua 15:28, we find a place called Hazar Shual, "the court of the foxes:" and in [16]Joshua 19:42a, a place called Shaal-abbin, "the foxes;" no doubt from the number of those animals in that district. And mention is made of the land of Shual, or of the fox, [9]1 Samuel 13:17.

Another criticism regarding the "foxes" is that foxes do not run in packs, so Samson could NOT have allegedly caught as many as three hundred of them! To begin with, Keil explained that, "The Hebrew word here is [~shu`alim], which means `jackals,' an animal that resembles foxes and is classed among the foxes even by Arabs of the present day, and jackals are known to run in large packs, sometimes up to 200." "In the Egyptian dialect, the classical name of the fox is given exclusively as jackal." Whichever animal it was, a man like Samson would have caught three hundred of them, exactly as the text says. Besides that, Samson could easily have employed willing fellow-Israelites to help him with the whole project; or Samson might have caught many of them together in nets. 

Dr. Kennicott and others have a different take on the interpretation of these verses. Their position is that for shüâlim, "foxes," we should read shöâlim, "handfuls," or sheaves of corn. But, the word lachad, rendered caught, never signifies simply to get or take but always to catch, seize, or take by physical attack or strategy. Though there are those who sanctioned this version, yet all the other versions are on the other side of the issue. If we accept this version, it will be difficult to prove that the word shöâl means a sheaf, a handful of corn, an ear of corn, or straw. It occurs three times in Scriptures ([17]1 Kings 20:10, [18]Isaiah 40:12, [19]Ezekiel 13:9): where it evidently means as much as can be contained in the hollow of the hand; but when handfuls of grain in the shock, or sheaves are intended, very different words are used. See [20]Ruth 2.15, 16.

and he took fire brands;…or rather torches, made of oily and resinous matter, which were not easily extinguished, would quickly take fire, and keep burning for a long time, and was easy to procure: they burn slowly, retaining the fire, and blaze fiercely when blown by the wind.

and turned tail to tail;…he took two foxes, and tied their tails together with a cord, giving them room enough to run about, as such creatures do, not forward, but in a crooked, elastic manner.

and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails:…a torch seems to have been fastened to the cord with which the tails were tied; he did not put a firebrand or torch to the tail of every single fox, which then would have made its way to its own den, but between two, which could not enter into one hole, and would pull different ways, and stop each other, and so do greater damage to the fields and vineyards into which they went. Once again there is controversy at this point, and though I support the popular version, which I have just elaborated, I will briefly describe the other versions.
1. Dr. Kennicott thinks it is more reasonable, if each creature had a firebrand attached to its tail. Ovid relates a very curious custom at Rome of letting loose foxes with lighted torches fastened to their tails in the circus at the Cerealia, in commemoration of the damage once done to the standing grain by a fox which a poor farmer had wrapped in hay and straw and set on fire, and by it running away, set the grain-fields on fire. This custom, which may have had a Phoenician origin, is an interesting twist to the narrative.
2. There is a version in which Samson took three hundred handfuls or sheaves of corn, and one hundred and fifty firebrands; that he turned the sheaves end to end, and put a firebrand between the two ends; and then, setting the brands on fire, sent the fire into the standing corn of the Philistines.

Fortunately, we have God’s word that we can rest in: and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. He put two foxes or jackals together, tail by tail, and fastened tightly a fire match between them. At nightfall he lighted the firebrand and sent each pair successively down from the hills, into the "Shefala," or plain of Philistia, lying on the borders of Dan and Judah, a rich and extensive corn district. The pain caused by the fire would make the animals toss about wildly, kindling one great inferno. But no one could render assistance to his neighbor: the devastation was so wide spread that the panic would be very great.


____________verse 4 notes______________
[8](Joshua 15:28; KJV) 28 And Hazarshual, and Beersheba, and Bizjothjah,
[9](1 Samuel 13:17; KJV) 17 And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned unto the
[10](Judges 14:5; KJV) 5 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Tiway that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual: mnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him.
[11](Song of Solomon 2:15; KJV) 15 Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
[12](Lamentations 5:18; KJV) 18 Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it. The foxes walk upon it—Foxes are very numerous in Palestine. It was usual among the Hebrews to consider all desolated land to be the resort of wild beasts; which is, in fact, the case everywhere when the inhabitants are removed from a country.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[13](Nehemiah 4:3; KJV) 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. if a fox go up -- The foxes were mentioned because they were known to infest in great numbers the ruined and desolate places in the mount and city of Zion.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
[14](Ezekiel 13:4; KJV) 4 O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts—The cunning of the fox in obtaining his prey has been long proverbial. These false prophets are represented as the foxes who, having got their prey by great subtlety, run to the desert to hide both themselves and it. So the false prophets, when the event did not answer to their prediction, got out of the way, that they might not be overwhelmed with the reproaches and indignation of the people.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[15](Joshua 15:28; BBE) 28 And Hazar-shual, and Beer-sheba, and Biziothiah;
[16](Joshua 19:42a; KJV) And Shaalabbin,… Shaalabbin—The foxes. Of this city the Amorites kept constant possession. See Judges 1:35.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[17](1 Kings 20:10; KJV) 10 And Benhadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me. If the dust of Samaria shall suffice—this is variously understood. Jonathan translates thus: "If the dust of Shomeron shall be sufficient for the soles of the feet of the people that shall accompany me;" i.e., I shall bring such an army that there will scarcely be room for them to stand in Samaria and its vicinity.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[18](Isaiah 40:12; KJV) 12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
[19](Ezekiel 13:9; KJV) 9 And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD. They shall not be in the assembly of my people—they shall not be reputed members of my Church. They shall not be reckoned in the genealogy of true Israelites that return from captivity; and they shall never have a possession in the land; they shall be exhereditated and expatriated. They shall all perish in the siege, by the sword, the famine, and the pestilence.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[20](Ruth 2.15, 16; KJV) 15 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: 16 And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not. Let her glean even among the sheaves—this was a privilege; for no person should glean till the sheaves were all bound, and the shocks set up.—Adam Clarke's Commentary

 

5 And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives —Judges 15.5 (KJV)
5 Then firing the sticks, he let the foxes loose among the uncut grain of the Philistines, and all the corded stems as well as the living grain and the vine-gardens and the olives went up in flames.—Judges 15.5 (BBE)

And when he had set the brands on fire…Here we have the beginning of Samson taking his revenge for the embarrassment and hurt done to him by his wife, father-in-law, and the citizens of Timnath, by setting their corn-fields on fire, which would weaken and impoverish the country. The method he used to do it was very strange. He sent 150 couples of foxes, tied tail to tail, into the corn-fields; every couple had a stick of fire between their tails, which terrified them. They ran into the corn for shelter, and set it on fire; consequently the fire would break out in many places at the same time, and therefore, it could not be contained or put out, especially if this was done, as it probable was, in the night. He might have had help from his countrymen men, but perhaps he could not find enough Israelites that had the courage to do it. He could do it, but only in one place at a time, which would not affect his purpose. We never find Samson, in any of his exploits, making use of any person whatsoever, either servant or soldier, therefore, in this project, he chose to make use of foxes as his incendiaries. These Philistines had injured Samson by their subtlety and meanness, and now Samson returns the injury by subtle foxes and mischievous fire-brands. By the small size and weakness of the animals he employed, he intended to show contempt for the enemies he fought against. This tactic is often alluded to, to show how the church's antagonists, that have different interests and goals than the church as a whole attempt to undermine the church’s mission. They may go along with the church’s plans in most things, but they choose to act contrary in other things; yet they have often united in a fire-brand, some cursed project or other, to waste the assets of the church of God, and particularly to kindle the fire of division within it.

The foxes, conditioned as related above; and foxes being naturally frightened by fire, and especially as close to them as at their tails, would run into the first place they could for shelter.

he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines;…Samson let them go one after another, at different times, and in a variety of places, so that they might not obstruct one another, or all run into the same field. But, since they are made to go into all parts of the fields and vineyards, the plague of fire would spread farther and faster. Besides, it is reasonable to suppose that Samson did not let them go all at once, but released some here, and some there, in order to do the greatest damage. And we can assume that Samson did all he could to keep the fire away from the fields and vineyards of the Israelites.

and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives;…During the time of harvest, in some places the corn was standing, and in other places it was cut down, and put into shocks or heaps; and these foxes would naturally run there to protect themselves, and so they would set fire to the shocks and heaps, and they would make their way into the vineyards and olive groves, seeking shelter, but setting them on fire instead. By one means or another they destroyed the corn, the vines, and olives of the Philistines living in those parts.

Verse 1 identifies the time of the year as “in the time of wheat harvest” "The wheat-fields of that section of Palestine extended continuously for thirty miles," and the fire that ensued was similar to those devastating fires seen occasionally in California, where hundreds of homes and everything else are destroyed. Here in South Carolina we remember the devastation left by Sherman’s march to the sea. It is not mentioned here, but what else was destroyed by the fire; people, domestic and wild animals, barns and homes, etc? It was a tragedy for the Philistine nation. And God was righteous in doing it: the corn, and the wine, and the oil, which they had prepared for Dagon, to be a meat-offering to him, were, in that season, at least, made a burnt-offering to God's justice.

The memory of this great event was kept up, or a custom was borrowed from it, as some Bible scholars have observed, in the Vulpinaria of the Romans, mentioned by Ovid, and others, which bore a great resemblance to this event, and which was observed at the same time of the year, about the middle of April, or early May. This agrees exactly with the time of the wheat harvest in Palestine; when in the Circus they used to send out foxes with burning torches fixed to their backs. This event of Samson's doesn’t seem any more strange or incredible than the great number of creatures brought into the Circus at Rome, to be seen together. Sylla first introduced one hundred lions, after him Pompey the Great three hundred, and Julius Caesar, when he was dictator, four hundred, as Pliny discloses. Probus made the amphitheatre a woods full of trees, and then he sent in 1000 ostriches, a like number of harts, does, boars, and other creatures; and at another time one hundred lions, one hundred lionesses, one hundred leopards, and three hundred bears; Heliogabalus got together 1000 weasels, 10,000 mice, 10,000 weight of spiders and flies.

 


6 Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.—Judges 15.6 (KJV)
6 Then the Philistines said, Who has done this? And they said, Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his friend. So the Philistines came up and had her and her father's house burned.—Judges 15.6 (BBE)

Then the Philistines said, who hath done this?...They asked one another, who they thought could be the person behind such damage.

and they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite (Or, the citizen of Timnath.);…For some it was mere supposition; and others confidently declared that Samson was the culprit, because they heard Samson say, “This time I will give payment in full to the Philistines, for I am going to do them great evil.”—Judges 15.3 (BBE). Next, they allow that he had a very good reason for what he did.

because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion….which is what provoked him to employ 300 foxes to burn their crops and vineyards. Perhaps the very same persons that were pleased when Samson lost his bet with his thirty Philistine companions, and when his wife was given to his best-man were now angry and wanted to punish the Timnite, because they blamed him for the property they lost to the fire. No doubt, it would take years to restore their property, especially the vineyards.

and the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire;...The people that did this were those whose fields, vineyards, and oliveyards, had been destroyed by the foxes with their firebrands. They lived in the adjacent towns, and from there they came up to Timnath to take their revenge, and in hope of pacifying Samson’s anger. The tragic fate which Samson's wife had sought to avoid (see [21]Judges 14.15) by her sordid treachery against her husband happened to her anyway, reminding us of a similar thing in the N.T. The chief priests of Israel said of Christ, "If we let him alone, all men will believe on him; and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation" (John 11:48), whereupon Caiaphas said, (and I paraphrase his words), "You idiots, don't you know what to do? We shall kill him, for it is better for one man to die than for the nation to perish." Of course, it was that very deed that resulted in the wicked priests' loss of their place, and the Romans took away their nation also!

It is not exactly clear what the purpose of the Philistines was in burning to death Samson's wife and her family. To us, it seems fairly unlikely that they were taking Samson's side and murdering their own as retaliation for their wicked treatment of Samson. It seems rather, that they simply BLAMED the Timnathite family for being the original cause of the burning of the grain fields, and treated them accordingly; and they were certainly afraid to attack Samson personally. In any case, Samson did not appreciate what they did, and proceeded to slaughter a great number of them (see verse 8). His immediate withdrawal to the cleft in the rock of Elam indicates that he probably thought the incident was concluded (see verse 8). He had promised "to cease" when his revenge was complete. However, feuds never "cease" when one side has completed its revenge. They go on and on, as we shall see. We have here the bitter story of retaliation - of trying to avenge wrongs done to us ourselves. Retaliation is a never ending story, and in the end, no one wins. Believers must be able to say, "Retaliation belongs to God. I'll let Him settle the score." Just think of all the wars, all the disasters, all the deep-seated hatred and pain that has been born from the instinct to retaliate. But Jesus told us not to retaliate an eye for an eye, but to take control of the situation by giving even more than we receive[22](Matthew 5:38-42). When we do this, we are acting like God, who did not retaliate against man for his sin and rebellion, but instead He gave His only Son to die for man.

The Philistines retaliate by killing Samson's wife and family; but, we shall see that God was using all this for His purposes, but because of Samson's disobedience, it all happened at great personal cost to Samson. Those that deal treacherously shall be dealt with treacherously; and the Lord is known by these judgments which he executes, especially when, as here, he makes use of his people's enemies as instruments for obtaining revenge against their enemies. When a barbarous Philistine sets fire to a treacherous Philistine, the righteous may rejoice to see the vengeance, [23]Psalms 58:10, 11. Thus shall the wrath of man praise God, Psalms 76:10. The Philistines had threatened Samson's wife, that, if she would not get the riddle out of him, they would burn her and her father's house with fire, [21]Judges 14:15; and then she, to save herself and oblige her countrymen, betrayed her husband; and what came of it? The very thing that she feared, and sought by sin to avoid, came upon her; she and her father's house were burnt with fire, and her countrymen, whom she sought to oblige by the wrong she did to her husband, brought this evil upon her. Burning was the punishment for adultery and similar crimes among the Jews; [24]Genesis 38:24; [25]Leviticus 20:14; [26]Leviticus 21:9. Samson's wife brought upon herself the very punishment which she sought to escape by betraying her husband, [21]Judges 14:15. The harm we seek to escape, by any unlawful practices, we often pull upon our own heads. He that will thus save his life shall lose it.


_____________verse 6 notes_________________
[21](Judges 14.15; NLT) 15 On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband to explain the riddle for us, or we will burn down your father’s house with you in it…
[22](Matthew 5:38-42; KJV) 38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
[23](Psalms 58:10-11; KJV) 10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. 11 So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.
[24](Genesis 38:24; ESV) 24 About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.”
[25](Leviticus 20:14; NLT) 14 “If a man marries both a woman and her mother, he has committed a wicked act. The man and both women must be burned to death to wipe out such wickedness from among you.
[26](Leviticus 21:9; NLT) 9 “If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she also defiles her father’s holiness, and she must be burned to death.

 

7 And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.—Judges 14.7 (KJV)
7 And Samson said to them, If you go on like this, truly I will take my full payment from you; and that will be the end of it.—Judges 15.7 (BBE)

And Samson said unto them…After they had burnt his wife and her father in their house, by which they thought to appease him, seeing that they were afraid of him.

though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you;…not for burning his wife and father-in-law; but, his logic is, that though they had done this, in order to curry favor with him, yet he should not stop on this account, but be avenged on them, not for injuries done to him, but for injuries done to Israel, and their oppression of Israel.

By their cruel actions against his wife and father-in-law they had been the instruments in avenging the wrongs he had suffered. But as a judge, divinely appointed to deliver Israel, his work of retribution was not yet accomplished.

and after that I will cease;…when he had taken full vengeance on them, and not before: “ye have done me great wrongs; therefore, I must have proportionate reparation; then I will rest satisfied, but only then. I will not cease until I have taken vengeance upon you.”

 

8 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.—Judges 15.8 (KJV)
8 And he made an attack on them, driving them in uncontrolled flight, and causing great destruction; then he went away to his safe place in the crack of the rock at Etam.—Judges 15.8 (BBE)

And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter…Either he struck them on their hips and thighs with his hands (for it does not appear he had a weapon of any kind), so that they were badly bruised, and maimed, and made lame. They could no longer act offensively or defensively, and multitudes died from his blows and bruises: or he struck them on their thighs with his legs, and kicked them about as he pleased. Many of them never got over the beating he dished out, and they died or were crippled for the rest of their lives. The Targum is, “he smote them horse and foot;” He destroyed both their cavalry and infantry; but it does not appear that they came against him in a hostile manner, much less in the manner of a regular army.
He smote them hip and thigh is an unfamiliar expression for a cruel, unsparing slaughter. It seems to be a phrase, used to express a desperate attack, carried out with the utmost speed and confusion: and perhaps they all fled before him. So he smote them in the hinder (hind) parts. Samson was a one-man army against the Philistines. There are several opposing opinions, about this slaughter, held by men well schooled in scripture.
1. It appears he did not have a defensive weapon, therefore he was obliged to grapple with them and, according to the custom of wrestlers, he tripped up their feet, and then beat them to death.
2. He wounded them from their legs to their thighs. Some think they attempted to run away from him; but he was able to catch them, and then he kicked them down, and stomped them to death: thus his leg or thigh was against their hip.
3. Some think he only lamed them, and disabled them so they were not fit for service; similar to the way horses are ham-strung.

He smote them hip and thigh seems to be a phrase used to express a desperate attack; he killed them in a rush or routed them horse and foot. He struck them with his hip upon their thigh, that is, with the strength he had, not in his arms and hands, but in his hips and thighs, for he kicked and punched them, until he horrified them; He trod them in his anger, and trampled them in his fury, Isaiah 63:3.

Notice that Samson’s actions were personal. This has nothing to do with Samson’s commission from God to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines. He is just avenging himself. His actions had nothing to do with delivering Israel. His revenge was personal.

and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam…Josephus says, that Samson having slain many in the fields of the Philistines, went and dwelt at Etam, a strong rock in the tribe of Judah; and which agrees with [27](2 Chronicles 11:6), where mention is made of the city Etam, along with Bethlehem and Tekoah, cities in that tribe, which had its name either from this rock, or the rock from that tribe. The Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions read, “In a cave of the rock of Etam;” and the Syriac and Arabic versions, “in Sahaph”, which is on the rock of Etam, as if Sahaph was the name of a city there. Samson went there, not through fear, or for safety, but to wait for another opportunity to once again avenge the injuries done to Israel by the Philistines.

The rock Etam was probably located near the town of Elam in Judah, about two miles southwest of Bethlehem." The reference seems to be to a cave. Moore stated that, "The rock of Elam is an almost vertical cliff, with a large cave, very difficult, and even dangerous, to gain access." No doubt Samson thought that he had concluded the feud, and so he retired to this location, but the threat of war changed the situation.
Samson remained at this natural fortress in the top of the rock Etam, where he waited to see whether the Philistines would be restrained by the damage he had done to their economy and the drubbing he inflicted on their fighting men.


_______verse 8 notes_________
[27](2 Chronicles 11:6; KJV) 6 He built even Bethlehem, and Etam, and Tekoa,

 

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