So, Samson gets angry, kills a few Philistines, and then leaves his wife. His wife is given to another man, without him knowing. Then we enter chapter 15, verse 1.
15:1 ¶ 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 a 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.
So, Samson again here is I suppose delivering Israel. Although, it doesn’t say he killed any Philistines. He simply burns their fields during the dry wheat harvest. And he does it in such a creative – even playful – way. Tie foxes tail-to-tail and put a torch between them? Sounds like something that would amuse a little boy. And in the end, it’s Samson’s former wife and her father that are the only Philistines from which Israel is delivered.
Now, Samson escapes from that scene and the angry Philistines pursue him. Verse 9.
9 ¶ Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi. [Which means “jawbone” by the way.] 10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us. 11 Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, [And note the element of childish personal vengeance here that matches the Philistines’ words — ] As they did unto me, so have I done unto them. 12 And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves. 13 And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.
This is really pitiful. The very nation which Samson is supposed to be judging or delivering is now coming to hand him over to the enemy. It’s sort of understandable. Samson really hasn’t been acting much like a judge. He hasn’t been a man that Israel could stand behind and follow. He’s been too consumed with his own lusts. He isn’t too concerned with serving God. He’s more interested in his own will. Sounds a lot like the nation Samson was sent to judge. The people got what they deserved in their “leader”.
So Judah binds Samson their judge and is now handing him over to the enemies. Verse 14.
14 ¶ And when he came unto Lehi [a.k.a. Jawbone], the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. 15 And he found a new jawbone [“Lehi”] of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith. 16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. 17 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi. [Or “Height of the Jawbone”]
Now, that was impressive. Yes, Samson did violate again his Nazirite vow by touching an unclean donkey jawbone. But he killed 1,000 Philistines. He evens sings a little song about it. The phrase “heaps upon heaps” is actually very difficult to translate. Samson literally says, “With the jawbone of the donkey, donkey, donkeys. With the jawbone of the donkey I have slain a thousand men.” And so many translations translate “donkey, donkeys” to “heaps upon heaps” – probably because that’s what would have been laying all around Samson – heaps of bodies. But I do wonder if Samson was just making a little song. You know – we have that song that says “Have you ever seen a lassy, a lassy, a lassy…” and it goes on. In this case, it would be like “With the jawbone of a donkey, donkey, donkeys…”
Well, whatever Samson is saying here, he killed a lot of Philistines. Finally. Well, what happens next? Verse 18.
18 ¶ And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? 19 But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw [“Lehi”], and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore [“The Well of the One Who Cried Out”], which is in Lehi unto this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
It’s interesting that all of a sudden when Samson needs deliverance from the Lord that he starts speaking in spiritual language. He calls the Philistines “uncircumcised” – which describes them physically, but also spiritually. Samson is recognizing that they’re pagans who don’t trust Yahweh. But Samson hasn’t been too concerned about all of that until this point. Now he needs God to do something for him. So he’s going to talk the talk.
And despite that, Samson is demonstrating some faith right here, isn’t he? He’s calling out to Yahweh – the true God. He could have called out to Dagon, the Philistine god. He could have called out to any number of the deities that Israel was worshiping. But he cries out to the God of Israel. He exercises a measure of faith.