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(MT versing)
Samson Burns Philistine Crops Samson Defeats the Philistines Samson
Samson Burns the Philistines' Harvest
15:1-8 15:1-8 15:1-8 15:1 15:1-5
Samson Defeats the Philistines The Donkey's Jawbone
15:9-13 15:9-13 15:9-13 15:9-10a 15:9
15:10b-11a 15:10-13
15:18-20 15:18-20 15:18-19

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


1But after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, Samson visited his wife with a young goat, and said, "I will go in to my wife in her room." But her father did not let him enter. 2Her father said, "I really thought that you hated her intensely; so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please let her be yours instead." 3Samson then said to them, "This time I shall be blameless in regard to the Philistines when I do them harm." 4Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails. 5When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves. 6Then the Philistines said, "Who did this?" And they said, "Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his companion." So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. 7Samson said to them, "Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you, but after that I will quit." 8He struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter; and he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

15:1 "in the time of wheat harvest" This would be May or June.


▣ "visited his wife" Samson believed he was still married. Apparently the marriage arrangement was for his Philistine wife to reside with her parents and he would visit from time to time.

▣ "with a young goat" This would be for a celebratory dinner.

15:2 This verse has two intensified grammatical forms (i.e., two INFINITIVE ABSOLUTES with a PERFECT VERB from the same root).

  1. "I really thought" (lit. "say") ‒ BDB 55, KB 65
  2. "hated her intensely" ‒ BDB 971, KB 1338

▣ "I gave her to your companion" This would have been one of the thirty Philistine wedding friends (cf. Jdgs. 14:10-11). See notes at Jdgs. 14:20.

▣ "Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she" Either the father was trying to correct an unfortunate mistake or he was trying to keep the dowry. Notice the motive is still on outward beauty (i.e., Jdgs. 14:3, 7).

15:3 Obviously there had been some blowback from his slaughter of thirty men from Ashkelon (i.e., Jdgs. 14:19). Apparently this push-back came from both the Judeans and the Philistines.

The VERB (BDB 667, KB 720, Niphal PERFECT) can refer to

  1. free from punishment (often expressed in the negative) ‒ Exod. 21:19; Num. 5:28; 1 Sam. 26:9; Pro. 6:29; 11:21; 16:5; 17:5; 19:5, 9; 28:20; Jer. 25:29; 49:12
  2. free from quiet ‒ Num. 5:31; Ps. 19:14; Jer. 2:39

15:4 "foxes" This same Hebrew word (BDB 1043) can refer to "jackals." Foxes were an idiom for "problems" (i.e., "harvest problems," cf. Song of Songs 2:15).

15:5 "the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves" The "shocks" (BDB 155 I) refers to the stacks of cut grain or sheaves (unwrapped, i.e., it was the wheat harvest, Jdgs. 15:1), while "standing grain" (BDB 879) refers to

  1. uncut grain
  2. not yet ripe grain

This was a disaster for an agricultural community, not only because of the loss of that year's food and seed crop, but also this meant permanently, because fire damage to the vines and trees had taken so long to bring into cultivation.

15:6 "burned her and her father with fire" What irony (cf. Jdgs. 14:15)! The Philistines did this to appease Samson but it made him madder (cf. Jdgs. 15:7)! The LXX adds "burned her father's house," which the Peshitta understands as "burned her father's family."

15:8 "struck them relentlessly" This is literally "hip and thigh." It must have been a Semitic proverb. The thigh muscle is the strongest in the human body and is often used as a symbol of strength.

▣ "lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam" The MacMillan Bible Atlas places this site south of Bethlehem on the main road, close to the foothills of Judah (maps #119, 140).

It was a well protected cleft on a well known rock. The Philistines could not easily surprise him there.

9Then the Philistines went up and camped in Judah, and spread out in Lehi. 10The men of Judah said, "Why have you come up against us?" And they said, "We have come up to bind Samson in order to do to him as he did to us." 11Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam and said to Samson, "Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?" And he said to them, "As they did to me, so I have done to them." 12They said to him, "We have come down to bind you so that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines." And Samson said to them, "Swear to me that you will not kill me." 13So they said to him, "No, but we will bind you fast and give you into their hands; yet surely we will not kill you." Then they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

15:9 "the Philistines went up and camped in Judah" This shows this had become an international incident (i.e., Jdgs. 15:5). Samson's actions were serious and a retaliatory strike was undertaken by the Philistines.

▣ "Lehi" This verse clearly shows the fear of the Judeans. The name means "jawbone" (BDB 534 II, cf. Jdgs. 15:15).

The location of this place name is uncertain. Scholars suggest it was on the Philistine ‒ Judah border in the lowlands (cf. ABA, pp. 274-275. It is not even listed in the index of the MacMillan Bible Atlas.

It apparently gets its name from the revenge attack by Samson with the jawbone of a donkey.

15:11 This was "the" problem that God, through Samson, wanted to highlight (cf. Jdgs. 14:4).

15:12 "Swear to me that you will not kill me" Samson was not afraid but he did not want to hurt his own countrymen in self-defense. He was afraid of his own power (i.e., the coming of the Spirit).

15:13 This verse, like Jdgs. 15:2, has two intensified grammatical forms (i.e., INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB of the same root).

  1. "bind you fast" ‒ BDB 63, KB 75
  2. "for surely we will not kill you" ‒ BDB 559, KB 562

These Judeans made a strong promise. You can sense their fear, not only of the Philistines (Jdgs. 15:11) but also of Samson (i.e., "bound him with two new ropes).

14When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands. 15He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it. 16Then Samson said,
 "With the jawbone of a donkey,
 Heaps upon heaps,
 With the jawbone of a donkey
 I have killed a thousand men."
17When he had finished speaking, he threw the jawbone from his hand; and he named that place Ramath-lehi. 18Then he became very thirsty, and he called to the Lord and said, "You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant, and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?" 19But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it. When he drank, his strength returned and he revived. Therefore he named it En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. 20So he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

15:14 The new ropes of the Judeans are now

  1. burnt flax
  2. dropped (NASB), but literally "melted"


15:15 "a fresh jawbone" It was not an old, dried out jawbone. The ADJECTIVE "fresh" (BDB 382) is used only here. These skeletal parts were used as plows and sickles, therefore, there were many of them. This, like Jdgs. 14:8, would have made him ceremonially unclean. See note at Jdgs. 15:9.

▣ "killed a thousand" This was a round number.


15:16 This is a word play poem.

  1. "With the jawbone of an ass, I piled them in mass," Moffatt
  2. "With the red ass's jawbone, I have reddened them bright red," Barney

15:18-19 This account is much like Elijah's in 1 Kings 19. Samson's faith is seen here more clearly than other places! Notice, though, Samson gives no glory to God for the victory in Jdgs. 15:16, but here he does. Samson's perspective is changing but it is still worldly (i.e., Judges 16).

15:19 Places often receive their names from events that occurred there.

▣ "strength" This is the Hebrew ruah (BDB 924). There is an obvious word play between

  1. Samson's spirit
  2. YHWH's Spirit, Jdgs. 15:14


15:20 "he judges Israel twenty years" We have only a small amount of Samson's life recorded. This verse seems to mark the conclusion of the Samson account, but notice Jdgs. 16:31, where it is repeated. Judges 16 may be a later edition by the author.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why did Samson bring a goat?
  2. Why did the father think Samson "hated" his daughter?
  3. Who is "your companion"?
  4. How does Jdgs. 15:10-11 describe the mental state of the Judeans?
  5. Why did Samson want the Judeans to swear they would not kill him?
  6. How does Jdgs. 15:18 reveal Samson's faith?
  7. Is Jdgs. 15:19 a supernatural event or a local legend? Why?

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