Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Ch. Jdg 15:1-8. Samson’s revenge
1. in the time of wheat harvest] From mid-May to mid-June in this region. The harvest is mentioned to prepare the scene for Jdg 15:5. Country weddings generally take place in March (Wetzstein, l.c.); a couple of months may have passed since the furious ending of the marriage feast.
a kid] Apparently a customary present on these occasions; Genesis 38:17. The custom may have been based on the heathen idea that the goat was sacred to the goddess of love (Ashtôreth); cf. Deuteronomy 7:13 Hebr.
into the chamber] The women’s quarters. The woman is still in her father’s house, though she is married (Jdg 14:20).
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.
And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.3. unto them] Cf. Jdg 15:7. The family and friends were no doubt discussing the situation with oriental excitement.
shall I be blameless in regard of] i.e. I am resolved to have my revenge on the Philistines, and no one will be able to blame me for it (cf. Numbers 32:22, 2 Samuel 3:28); Samson’s words express a resolve in a tone of exultation. When I do should be for I am going to do.
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.4. three hundred foxes] The fox is a solitary animal, and to catch 300 would be impossible for any one but Samson. It seems a pity to lessen the marvel in the interests of prosaic probability by translating jackals, animals which roam in packs, though the word can mean this, Psalm 63:10, Nehemiah 4:3 RVm. etc. The grotesque trick was thoroughly relished by the story-tellers. Curious parallels to it are quoted from different quarters. Among the heathen Arabs in time of drought cattle, with lighted torches tied to their tails, were driven to the mountains in the hope of bringing down rain (Wellhausen, Reste Arab. Heidentums2, 167). At Rome foxes, treated in the same way, were let loose into the Circus during the Cerealia (April 12–19), the intention being to represent symbolically, and by substitute, the fires which were so often fatal to the ripe corn in the heat of the Dog-days. Ovid gives a rationalistic explanation of the custom in Fasti iv. 679–712 (see Preller, Römische Mythologie3, ii. 43 f.). Possibly a symbolic rite of this kind may have been practised, as an exorcism, among the Canaanites or even the Israelites in the Danite district, and Samson associated with it in popular story. If such was the case, Samson was made to play the part which properly belonged to the Sun-god.
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.5. oliveyards] lit. vineyard of oliveyard, which cannot be right; read vineyard and oliveyard, with LXX, Vulgate; cf. Jdg 14:5.
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.6. her father] Read with many Hebr. mss., LXX. cod. A, Peshitto etc. her father’s house, i.e. family, as in the threat Jdg 14:15.
And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.
And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.8. hip and thigh] lit. leg upon thigh, so that the limbs of the slain fall one upon another: such seems to be the force of the prep, upon, cf. Amos 3:15 ‘the winter house upon the summer house,’ i.e. so that the one falls upon the other, and Genesis 32:11, Hosea 10:14. At any rate it is a proverbial expression for with a great slaughter.
the rock of Etam] The Etam between Beth-lehem and Tekoa, 2 Chronicles 11:6, is too high up and too far away. Schick, who finds the scenes of Samson’s exploits in the neighbourhood of ‘Artuf a little S.E. of Zorah, identifies Etam with ‘Araḳ Isma ‘în, near Marmita, remarkable for a perpendicular rock with a cave which can only be reached by going down to it (ZDPV. x. 143 ff.). Perhaps this was almost within the Danite territory; Jdg 15:9 ff. imply that the rock of Etam was in Judah.
Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.9. spread themselves in Lehi] Better, made a raid against Lehi; 2 Samuel 5:18; 2 Samuel 5:22. The situation of Lehi is unknown; it must have been nearer to the Philistines than Etam, and in the neighbourhood of the other places already mentioned. The name = jawbone (LXX Jdg 15:14 Siagôn) was no doubt suggested by the formation of a prominent rock; cf. Ass’s Jaw (Ὄνου γνάθος), the name of a peninsula W. of Cape Malea in the Peloponnese (Strabo, p. 363), and the Arabic place-name Camel’s Jaw (laḥy gamal, quot. by Wellhausen).
10f. The Philistines have no quarrel with any one but Samson, and the Judaeans exhibit no resentment against their alien rulers. This shews that Samson’s attacks upon the Philistines were of a purely local and private nature, and that the Israelites in this part of the country had not yet acquired any sense of national feeling or of a common cause.
9–20. Local traditions
Provoked by Samson’s violence, the Philistines made a raid upon Lehi in Judah for the purpose of capturing their enemy. The name of the place was suggestive, and tradition attached to it the story of S.’s feat with the ‘fresh jawbone (lěḥî) of an ass.’ Popular etymology explained Ramath-lehi, ‘the height of Lehi’ (from rûm), as the place where S. ‘threw away’ (râmâh) the jawbone; a hollow basin in the hill side, which held the water of the ‘Partridge Spring’ (‘ên haḳḳôrç’), became the spring which God granted when S. ‘called’ (ḳârâ’) for help in his exhaustion. It is noteworthy that the exploit of Shammah, one of David’s heroes, also took place at Lehi, 2 Samuel 23:11 (reading unto Lehi for into a troop); cf. also the story of Shamgar, Jdg 3:31.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And when he came unto Lehi, 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.14. See on Jdg 14:19.
And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.15. a thousand men] The numbers of course belong to the extraordinary character of the story. Moore notes that, according to Moslem tradition, the first blood in the cause of Islam was drawn with a similar weapon, the jawbone of a camel.
And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.16. heaps upon heaps] See marg., and cf. Exodus 8:14 [Hebrews 10, lit. heaps, heaps]. But a verb is wanted to complete the parallelism with clause b; and, simply pronouncing the words differently, we may render heaping I have heaped them, i. e. I have heaped them high. The verb ḥamar was chosen for its similarity to ḥamôr = ‘ass.’ The Verss. give a verb, LXX, Vulgate delevi, Peshitto ‘I have heaped heaps of them.’
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.17. was called] The text here and in Jdg 15:19 is to be preferred to the marg.
Ramath-lehi] i.e. the height of Lehi, cf. Ramath-mizpeh Joshua 13:26, Ramoth-gilead etc. Popular etymology, however, gave it the sense, casting away of the jawbone.
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?18. Samson becomes religious when he is in straits; cf. Jdg 16:28.
great deliverance] Cf. 1 Samuel 19:5, 2 Samuel 23:10; 2 Samuel 23:12.
But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.19. the hollow place that is in Lehi] the Mortar which is in L., i.e. a mortar-shaped basin in the hill side. The word comes from a root meaning, not ‘to be hollow,’ but to pound (cf. in Aram. NSI., p. 171, and the Palmyrene pr. n. Maktash = ‘the pounder’); so maktçsh = ‘pounding place,’ i.e. mortar, Proverbs 27:22, Zephaniah 1:11 (the name of a quarter in Jerusalem). The old interpretation, represented by the marg., went wrong by translating Lehi instead of taking it as a pr. n.; maktçsh was then understood to mean a hollow place in the jaw, or the hole of a tooth, through which the spring rose, as many Fathers and Rabbis imagine (see Ber. Rab § 98, Rashi, Ḳimḥi etc.). Some of the Greek versions render the word by ὅλμος, which can mean both a mortar and the hollow of a double tooth; Symmachus likewise translates the grinder (τὴν μύλην); and thus arose another way of understanding the word, viz. the molar tooth, so Vulgate The LXX transl. as RV. ‘the hole which is in Siagon.’
his spirit … revived] Cf. Genesis 45:27.
The spring, which was pointed out in the writer’s day, and therefore could not have had anything to do with a jawbone, was known as En-hakkore, i.e. the Spring of the Partridge (lit. the crier, 1 Samuel 26:20, Jeremiah 17:11); playing on the word, the story-tellers connected it with Samson’s cry to God in his thirst.
And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.20. The Dtc. editor’s formula, usually at the close of a judge’s history, comes curiously here before the end; perhaps because the editor felt that the end was not a suitable place for a statement of this kind. The words now standing in Jdg 16:31 b are merely a briefer repetition of the present verse, and may have been added by some later hand. The alternative is to suppose that the Dtc. editor closed the story of Samson here, and left out ch. 16 as contributing nothing to his purpose; ch. 16 was afterwards restored to its place, with the concluding formula (so Budde, Moore, Nowack). See Introduction § 2 C.
twenty years] out of the forty, Jdg 13:1. In the Rabbinic schools it was proposed to correct the reading here to forty, Talm. Jer. Sota Jdg 1:8.