Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.CHAPTER 15 The Conflict with the Philistines: Bound Yet Free
1. The damage done to the Philistines (Judges 15:1-8)
2. Bound by his own brethren (Judges 15:9-13)
3. The deed with the jawbone (Judges 15:14-17)
4. His prayer and the answer (Judges 15:18-20)
He discovered next the true character of the Philistines. His wife has been given to another. Nothing came of his alliance with the Philistines but trouble and unpleasantness for himself. Was it of the Lord when he took the 300 foxes (literally, jackals; it would have been hard work to catch 300 foxes, for they go alone, but jackals go in packs) and the firebrands to destroy the corn, the vineyards and olive-groves? We find that there is no record that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him for this work. He acted out of revenge, because they had given his wife to another, whom as an Israelite with the Nazarite vow upon himself, he should never have taken. It was anger and not a judgment commanded by the Lord. And touching the jackal, an unclean beast, he had defiled himself. How often God’s people act in the same way in an undignified manner, biting and devouring each other and like Samson destroying corn, vineyards and olives, the types of spiritual blessings. Whenever an unchristlike spirit manifests itself among the children of God, the spirit of malice, envy and vain-glory, the people of God are robbed of their joy and peace. The Philistines paid him in the same coin. They burnt his wife and her father. Then he slew the Philistines with a great slaughter and dwelt in the rock Etam (literally, the cleft of the rock). It was a safe place for him against “their ravening,” the meaning of Etam. And we too have our safe place in the cleft of the rock. His own brethren bind him out of fear for the Philistines, but in the Spirit of the Lord he bursts now the new cords and with the jawbone of an ass he slew a thousand men. It is now faith which acts. It was a feeble thing he used; boasting was excluded. Nor was it his own physical strength which accomplished the deed, but the Spirit of the Lord, who had come upon him. The jawbone having done its work is cast away.
“He will not keep it. It might become a snare to him: Israel might go a whoring after it as after Gideon’s ephod. It has served his purpose, now let it go--after all it is nothing more than the poor jawbone of a dead ass! Oh, that we could learn something from this! It is such a day to exalt the poor, foolish instruments that God, in His goodness, may use. Do not we everywhere hear what a wonderful man is such a man! What marvellous power in the gospel! What beauty of exposition! What magnetism! What a smart man is he! Yes, indeed, just as well might Samson say, ‘What a powerful jawbone! What a wonderful jawbone! What a magnetic jawbone!’ No, no, put the poor jawbone where it belongs, lest it detract from the glory of Him to whom all glory alone is due.” (F.C. Jennings, Notes on judges.)
Then after the victory he thirsts and God cleaves a place in Lehi. “God clave the hollow that was in Lehi” and water flows forth to refresh him. A beautiful picture of Him who was smitten that the refreshing waters of life may flow forth.