Judges 15

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1 And it came to pass after a time, in the days of the wheat-harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid of the goats. And he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber; but her father would not suffer him to go in.

2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou didst utterly hate her; therefore I gave her to thy companion. Is not her younger sister fairer than she? Let her, I pray thee, be thine instead of her.

3 And Samson said to them, This time I am blameless toward the Philistines, though I do them harm.

4 And Samson went and caught three hundred jackals, and took torches, and turned tail to tail, and put a torch in the midst between the two tails.

5 And he set the torches on fire, and let [them] run into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, and the olive gardens.

6 And the Philistines said, Who has done this? And they answered, Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burned her and her father with fire.

7 And Samson said to them, If ye act thus, for a certainty I will avenge myself on you, and then I will cease.

8 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter. And he went down and dwelt in the cleft of the cliff Etam.

9 And the Philistines went up, and encamped in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.

10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they said, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he has done to us.

11 Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cleft of the cliff Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines rule over us? And what is this that thou hast done to us? And he said to them, As they did to me, so have I done to them.

12 And they said to him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may give thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said to them, Swear to me that ye will not fall on me yourselves.

13 And they spoke to him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand; but we certainly shall not put thee to death. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the cliff.

14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him. And the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him, and the cords that were on his arms became as threads of flax that are burned with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.

15 And he found a fresh jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand and took it, and slew with it a thousand men.

16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, a heap, two heaps, With the jawbone of an ass have I slain a thousand men.

17 And it came to pass when he had ended speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramath-Lehi.

18 And he was very thirsty, and called on Jehovah, and said, Thou hast given by the hand of thy servant this great deliverance, and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?

19 And God clave the hallow rock which was in Lehi, and water came out of it. And he drank, and his spirit came again, and he revived. Therefore its name was called En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day.

20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines 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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