Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Samson desireth to visit his wife; is denied her; wherefore he tieth firebrands to three hundred foxes’ tails, and sets the corn on fire, Judges 15:1-5; for which they burn his wife and her father, Judges 15:6. Samson’s revenge, Judges 15:7,8. The Philistines pitch in Judah, and demand Samson: the men of Judah bind and deliver him, Judges 15:9-13. He breaketh his bands, and slayeth one thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, Judges 15:14-17. He is athirst; prays; obtains water out of it, Judges 15:18-20.
In the time of wheat harvest; which circumstance is noted as the proper season for the following exploit.
Into the chamber; into her proper chamber, which women had distinct and separate from the men’s.
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.I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her, because thou didst desert her in great wrath: but this was not sufficient cause; for he should have endeavoured a reconciliation, or waited for it; and not have disposed of another man’s wife without his consent; which is not only against the law of God, but of nature also.
And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.Because they have first provoked me by an irreparable injury. But although this may look like an act of private revenge, yet it is plain enough that Samson acted as a judge, (for so he was,) and as an avenger of the public injuries and oppressions of his people; as plainly appears from hence, that Samson designed this very thing before he had received any personal injury, Judges 14:4.
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.There were great numbers of foxes in Canaan, as appears from Nehemiah 4:3 Psalm 63:10 Song of Solomon 2:15 Lamentations 5:18 Ezekiel 13:4. So that divers places there have their names from the foxes which abounded there; as Joshua 15:28 19:42 1 Samuel 13:17. Add to this, that some learned men conceive that the Hebrew name schual is more general, and contains not only the foxes, but another sort of creature very like to them, called thoes, whereof there were so many, there, that sometimes two hundred of them have been met together in one company, its some who have lived in those parts have left upon record. But infidels are much scandalized at this history, and pretend it incredible that Samson should catch so many foxes together; so nice and delicate is the faith of these men in things concerning God and Scripture, that can devour things ten times more difficult and absurd, concerning the production of the world, and of men, &c. But there is no cause of wonder here, for any man that is tolerably wise; for it is not said that Samson caught them all, either at one time, or by his own hands; for being so eminent a person, and the judge of Israel, he might require assistance of as many persons as he pleased, and all his people would readily assist him; nor can it at all perplex any man’s reason or faith, if it be allowed that the God who made the world, and by his singular providence watched over Israel, and intended them deliverance at this time, could easily dispose things so that they might be taken. He chose to do this exploit, not by his brethren, whom he would preserve from the envy, and hatred, and mischief which that might have occasioned to them, but by brute creatures, thereby to add scorn and contempt to their calamity, and particularly by foxes; partly, because they were fittest for the purpose, being creatures very fearful of fire; and having such tails as the firebrands might most conveniently be tied to; and not going directly forward, trot crookedly and involvedly, whereby the fire was likely to be dispersed in more places.
Fire-brands; made of such matter as would quickly take fire, and keep it for a long time; which was easy to procure.
Between two tails, that the foxes might not make too much haste, nor run into their holes, but one of them might delay and stop another in his course, and so continue longer in the places where they were to do execution.
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.He let them go, to wit, successively at several times, and in divers places, with great care and discretion, so as they might not hinder one another, nor all run into the same field; but being dispersed in all parts, might spread the plague further; and withal might be kept at a distance from the fields and vineyards of the Israelites. It is not worthy of our inquiry what became of these foxes afterward, whether they were burnt by the firebrands, or run into holes, or were taken and killed by the Philistines. The truth of this history is notably attested by a custom of the Romans, which it is very probable they had from the Phoenicians, upon this occasion; for every year they had a solemnity in April, the very time of Canaan’s wheat harvest, wherein foxes were let loose with burning torches fastened to their backsides, &c.
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.Partly for her adultery, which divers heathens punished with death; and partly for that mischief which she had occasioned to them; thus she brought upon herself that mischief which she studied to avoid, Judges 14:15, as wicked persons oft do, Proverbs 10:24.
And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.Whereby it appears, that it was not his private injuries, but the public, which he did revenge.
And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.Hip and thigh; upon their hips and thighs, peradventure not designing to kill them, but to make them incapable of military employment, or of doing hurt to the Israelites. Or, He smote them with his leg upon their thigh, i.e. without any other weapon but his leg and foot he kicked them, and made them lame and useless for war.
With a great slaughter, Heb. with a great stroke; for so it was, even to them whom it did not kill.
He dwelt in the top of the rock Etam; partly because there he could better defend himself from his enemies; and partly because he would not involve his brethren in the same danger with himself, but, like a worthy magistrate, would secure them even with his own greater hazard.
Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.The rock Etam was
in Judah: see 1 Chronicles 4:32 2 Chronicles 11:5,6.
Spread themselves, as coming in great numbers with a powerful host.
Lehi; a place so called by anticipation, Judges 15:17.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.What is this that thou hast done unto us? thou hast by these actions punished not them, as thou intendest; but us, who being under their dominion, are sure to smart for it.
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.Not that he feared them, or could not as easily have conquered them, as he did the whole host of the Philistines; but because he would be free from all obligation or temptation of doing them any harm, though it were in his own just and necessary defence.
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.i.e. from the cave or hole in the rock, in which he had secured himself, out of which he was first brought up, and then carried down from the rock to the plain.
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.The Philistines shouted against him, for joy and triumph, because they had now their great enemy, as they supposed, in their hands.
His bands loosed, Heb. were melted, i.e. were dissolved, as things are which are melted in the fire.
And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.A new jawbone, and therefore more tough and strong.
And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.This, though it might seem difficult, yet is not at all impossible or incredible; especially seeing the learned affirm of the asses of Syria, that they were larger and stronger than ours, and so consequently were their bones. And withal, it must be acknowledged that there was something extraordinary and miraculous in this, as there was unquestionably in Samson’s strength, and so all the difficulty vanisheth.
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.And by contraction, Lehi, Judges 15:14, it being usual so to contract proper names; as Salem is put for Jerusalem, Psalm 76:2; Sheba for Beer-sheba, Joshua 19:2; and many other.
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?He was sore athirst, so as he was ready to faint and die with thirst; which was partly natural, from his excessive toil and heat; partly sent by God, that by the experience of his own impotency he might be forced to ascribe the victory to God only, and not to himself.
Now shall I die for thirst? Wilt thou not finish what thou hast begun? Wilt thou undo what thou hast done?
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.Clave an hollow place, i.e. by cleaving a place, made it hollow; an expression like that Isaiah 47:2, grind meal, i.e. grind corn into meal; and that Psalm 74:15, thou didst cleave the fountain, i.e. cleave the rock so as to make a fountain in it.
In the jaw; in the jawbone which he had used, which God could easily effect, either by causing the jawbone to send forth water, as the rock formerly did, the miracle being in effect the same, though in a differing subject, causing a spring to break forth in Lehi: or, in that Lehi mentioned before, Judges 15:14; for Lehi is both the name of a place, and signifies a jawbone. En-hakkore, i.e. the fountain of him that cried for thirst; or, that called upon God for deliverance; i.e. the fountain or well which was given in answer to my prayer.
Which is in Lehi unto this day. According to this translation, Lehi is the name of a place, and not a jawbone, because it seems improbable that a jawbone should continue there so long, which every traveller might take away, and would be forward enough to carry a fountain with them in those hot countries; although it is not incredible that passengers would generally forbear to meddle with or remove so great a monument of God’s power and goodness; or that the same God who made it instrumental to so great a wonder, should add one circumstance more, to wit, fix it in the earth, as a testimony to posterity of the truth of this glorious work. But these words may be otherwise rendered thus, which fountain was in that jawbone; and for the following words, unto this day, they may not be joined with the words next and immediately foregoing, as if the fountain was there to this day; but with the former words, he called, &c., and so the sense may be this, that it was so called unto this day; and the place may be thus read, he called the name thereof, or, the name thereof was called, (such active verbs being frequently put passively and impersonally,) The well or fountain of him that called or cried (which was in Lehi) unto this day.
And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.i.e. He pleaded their cause, and avenged them against the Philistines.
In the days of the Philistines, i.e. whilst the Philistines had the power and dominion, from which he was not fully to deliver, but only to begin to deliver them, as it was foretold, Judges 13:5. From this place it is manifest, that in the computation of the times of the judges, the years of servitude or oppression are not to be separated from the years of the judges, and added to them, but are comprehended within them; which proposition is of great importance for clearing this difficult part of Scripture chronology, and for justifying that account of times given 1 Kings 6:1.