Last time in Chapter 14, we looked at the first part of Samson’s story after becoming an adult. We exploded the myth that his marriage to a Philistine was somehow sinful. We saw how God intended to use the marriage to seek an occasion against the Philistines. We also saw some questionable behavior of him taking honey from the carcass of a dead lion. That would be questionable enough even if he weren’t a Nazarite. We also explored the possibility that he could not pay for his own wedding party, which may have been why he posed the riddle in order to get the Philistines to pay up rather than himself. However, the Philistines threatened Samson’s wife, she spilled the beans, and so his plan backfired. However, he killed thirty Philistines in another city and took their apparel for payment, and so the Philistines didn’t get off scot-free either. Samson then went back home in a huff.
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.
Samson’s wife was living with her father. He brought a kid with him. This all indicates he likely did not pay a dowry, and therefore she was more like a concubine than what we traditionally think of as a wife. Israel, being an oppressed people, was likely being robbed of any material possession worth anything, and undoubtedly Samson would have been affected by this as well.
However, Samson obviously didn’t know his wife was given to another. Specifically, she was given “to thy companion”, which may have been something like a best man. At very least, he would have been one of the thirty in the wedding party. At this news, Samson feels that anything he now does to them will be justified.
Samson catches three hundred “foxes”. There are various reasons some question whether or not they were foxes. It appears that the word can also mean jackal. In either event, it would have taken some time to capture 300 of them. He tied the animals together, set firebrands between their tails so they would pull against each other and set them loose in the wheat fields, vineyards and olive groves. Tying them together would have ensured the maximum damage.
The Philistines inquire as to who had done this, and somehow they figure out it is Samson. However, they go to his father-in-law’s house, and they burn him and Samson’s wife to death.
As you may recall, this is what they threatened Samson’s wife with when they couldn’t figure out the riddle. The difference is that now she is no longer under Samson’s protection. Samson is a type of Christ. Rather than trusting in his protection, though, she allowed her fear to overtake her. In the end, she ended up getting exactly what she feared.
This makes Samson even more angry, and he vows his revenge “to them” just before “he smote them” (v 8). Undoubtedly, the circumstances point to “them” being the same as the members of the wedding party.
Samson then goes on top of a hill in Etam in Judah. The Philistines camp in Lehi (which means “jaw”) to capture Samson. Understandably, the men of Judah are concerned and ask why they are there, and the Philistines tell them “to bind Samson” and to exact their revenge.
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, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.
This is an interesting look into their mindset. They are asking about what Samson has done to them, rather than blaming the Philistines. They ask him if he didn’t know the Philistines ruled over them. The reality is, that they got into this mess because they didn’t obey the God Who ruled over them. In addition, Samson was a judge, and therefore he was the legal physical ruler over them.
“As they did unto me, so have I done unto them” is another pointer that Samson was judge. This is the “Lex Talionis”, or “eye for an eye” principle.
So, they tell Samson they are going to bind him and turn him over to the Philistines. Samson makes them swear they themselves will not harm him. Obviously, Samson isn’t so much afraid of the Jews as he doesn’t want to harm them. He is their defender, after all, even though they don’t acknowledge it.
Of course, this foreshadows another Defender Whom wasn’t recognized. Samson is being turned over to the Philistines, while Christ was turned over to the Romans.
After Samson was turned over, the Spirit of God comes upon him, he breaks the ropes that bind him, he picks up a jawbone of a donkey, and he slaughters the Philistines with it.
Apparently, Samson had somewhat of a gift for poetry as well. There are different variations, but the NIV puts v 16 like this:
“With a donkey’s jawbone
I have made donkeys of them.
With a donkey’s jawbone
I have killed a thousand men.”
So, Samson called the place “Uplifting of the Jawbone” or perhaps “Jawbone Hill”.
Samson was deadly thirsty. He cries out to God in a desperate plea. It didn’t make sense for God to deliver him in such a mighty manner only now to collapse of thirst and thus be vulnerable to the enemy. This is not a lack of faith on Samson’s part. Many men in the Bible are granted their requests by first acknowledging what God has done for them and pointing out the consistency of their request.
So, a spring comes up in a place “that was in the jaw”, that is in Lehi. Samson is refreshed and called that place “Caller’s Spring”.
At the end of the chapter, we see the annotation that Samson was judge for 20 years during the time of the Philistine rule. We see a similar annotation at the end of the next chapter. This wasn’t 40 years, but rather 20 years total.
Go on to Chapter 16 here.