Judges 15

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1 Now a short time after, at the time of the grain-cutting, Samson, taking with him a young goat, went to see his wife; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the bride's room. But her father would not let him go in.

2 And her father said, It seemed to me that you had only hate for her; so I gave her to your friend: but is not her younger sister fairer than she? so please take her in place of the other.

3 Then Samson said to them, This time I will give payment in full to the Philistines, for I am going to do them great evil.

4 So Samson went and got three hundred foxes and some sticks of fire-wood; and he put the foxes tail to tail with a stick between every two tails;

5 Then firing the sticks, he let the foxes loose among the uncut grain of the Philistines, and all the corded stems as well as the living grain and the vine-gardens and the olives went up in flames.

6 Then the Philistines said, Who has done this? And they said, Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his friend. So the Philistines came up and had her and her father's house burned.

7 And Samson said to them, If you go on like this, truly I will take my full payment from you; and that will be the end of it.

8 And he made an attack on them, driving them in uncontrolled flight, and causing great destruction; then he went away to his safe place in the crack of the rock at Etam.

9 Then the Philistines went and put up their tents in Judah, all round Lehi.

10 And the men of Judah said, Why have you come up against us? And they said, We have come up to take Samson, and to do to him as he has done to us.

11 Then three thousand of the men of Judah went down to the crack of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, Is it not clear to you that the Philistines are our rulers? What is this you have done to us? And he said to them, I only did to them as they did to me.

12 Then they said to him, We have come down to take you and give you up into the hands of the Philistines. And Samson said to them, give me your oath that you will not make an attack on me yourselves.

13 And they said, No; we will take you and give you up into their hands, but truly we will not put you to death. So knotting two new cords round him they took him up from the rock.

14 And when he came to Lehi, the Philistines came out, meeting him with loud cries; then the spirit of the Lord came rushing on him, and the cords on his arms became like grass which has been burned with fire, and the bands came falling off his hands.

15 And taking up the mouth-bone of an ass newly dead, which he saw by chance on the earth, he put to death a thousand men with it.

16 And Samson said, With a red ass's mouth-bone I have made them red with blood, with a red ass's mouth-bone I have sent destruction on a thousand men.

17 And having said these words, he let the mouth-bone go out of his hand; so that place was named Ramath-lehi.

18 After this, he was in great need of water, and crying out to the Lord, he said, You have given this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and now need of water will be my death; and I will be given into the hands of this people who are without circumcision.

19 Then God made a crack in the hollow rock in Lehi and water came out of it; and after drinking, his spirit came back to him and he was strong again; so that place was named En-hakkore; it is in Lehi to this day.

20 And he was judge of Israel in the days of the Philistines for twenty years.


Exploring the Meaning of Judges 15      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 15: Samson defeats the Philistines.

At the beginning of this chapter, we learn that the one who gave Samson’s wife to another man was his father-in-law, who thought that Samson truly hated her. He then offered Samson her younger sister instead, saying, “Is she not better? Take her.”

Samson, enraged, took three-hundred foxes and tied them tail-to-tail in pairs, with a lit torch between them. He then released them in the Philistines’ standing grain, vineyards and olive groves to burn up their crops, as revenge for the loss of his wife. In retaliation, the Philistines went and burned her and her father. In a final act of vengeance, Samson killed very many of the Philistines, then went to dwell in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

The Philistines went to Judah, stating their intent to arrest Samson, and the men of Judah passed on the message to him. Samson made the Judeans promise not to kill him themselves, but only to bind him with two new ropes before giving him to the Philistines as a prisoner.

When the Philistines came, Samson broke apart the ropes, and killed a thousand of them with the jawbone of a donkey. Then he threw the jawbone away, and complained to the Lord that he was thirsty. The Lord answered his cry for help by splitting the ground where the jawbone fell, so that Samson could drink the water that flowed from it.

The final verse of this chapter tells us that Samson judged Israel twenty years.

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Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman speaks to the appealing, or even enticing, nature of ‘faith alone’ spirituality, represented by the Philistines. We must stay on our guard, to ensure that we are not caught up in thinking that faith alone will save us. The father offers Samson his wife’s younger sister, saying she is even better, but Samson had already learned to be wary by that point.

The foxes, tied together with their tails lit on fire, vividly describes the twisted and destructive nature of faith alone, and the way it consumes our potential to lead a fruitful life. The Word often depicts the state of a nation or religion through a story illustrating its true nature (True Christian Religion 130)

The cycle of revenge between Samson and the Philistines represents our personal struggles during temptation and our wish to regenerate. Our whole effort during regeneration is to resist sins that might lure us in, and to maintain our intention to live the Word (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Providence 83[6]). The men of Judah who bind Samson represent our love for the Lord and for everything of the Lord, although this seems contradictory on a surface level. In this case, being ‘bound up’ means to be bound in our commitment to the Lord, so that we are restrained from doing evil (see Swedenborg’s work, Heaven and Hell 577[4]).

Samson stands for the power of the Word acting in our lives to assert what is true, to protect what must be upheld, and to defend against evils. He uses the jawbone of a donkey because a jawbone allows us to eat food (spiritually, nourishment from the Word), and also to proclaim the Lord’s truths. This gives us the power to expose and reject the belief that spirituality consists of faith alone (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 9049[6]).

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