Judges 15

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1 And a while after, when the days of the wheat harvest were at hand, Samson came, meaning to visit his wife, and he brought her a kid of the flock. And when he would have gone into her chamber as usual, her father would not suffer him, saying:

2 I thought thou hadst hated her, and therefore I gave her to thy friend: but she hath a sister, who is younger and fairer than she, take her to wife instead of her.

3 And Samson answered him: From this day I shall be blameless in what I do against the Philistines: for I will do you evils.

4 And he went and caught three hundred foxes, and coupled them tail to tail, and fastened torches between the tails.

5 And setting them on fire he let the foxes go, that they might run about hither and thither. And they presently went into the standing corn of the Philistines. Which being set on fire, both the corn that was already carried together, and that which was yet standing, was all burnt, insomuch, that the flame consumed also the vineyards and the oliveyards.

6 Then the Philistines said: Who hath done this thing? And it was answered: Samson the son in law of the Thamnathite, because he took away his wife, and gave her to another, hath done these things. And the Philistines went up and burnt both the woman and her father.

7 But Samson said to them: Although you have done this, yet will I be revenged of you, and then I will be quiet.

8 And he made a great slaughter of them, so that in astonishment they laid the calf of the leg upon the thigh. And going down he dwelt in a cavern of the rock Etam.

9 Then the Philistines going up into the land of Juda, camped in the place which afterwards was called Lechi, that is, the Jawbone, where their army was spread.

10 And the men of the tribe of Juda said to them: Why are you come up against us? They answered: We are come to bind Samson, and to pay him for what he hath done against us.

11 Wherefore three thousand men of Juda, went down to the cave of the rock Etam, and said to Samson: Knowest thou not that the Philistines rule over us? Why wouldst thou do thus? 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 to bind thee and to deliver thee into the hands of the Philistines. And Samson said to them: Swear to me, and promise me, that you will not kill me.

13 They said: We will not kill thee: but we will deliver thee up bound. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him from the rock Etam.

14 Now when he was come to the place of the Jawbone, and the Philistines shouting went to meet him, the spirit of the Lord came strongly upon him: and as the flax is wont to be consumed at the approach of fire, so the bands with which he was bound were broken and loosed.

15 And finding a jawbone, even the jawbone of an ass which lay there, catching it up, be slew therewith a thousand men.

16 And he said: With the jawbone of an ass, with the jaw of the colt of asses I have destroyed them, and have slain a thousand men.

17 And when he had ended these words singing, he threw the jawbone out of his hand, and called the name of that place Ramathlechi, which is interpreted the lifting up of the jawbone.

18 Arid being very thirsty, he cried to the Lord, and said: Thou hast given this very great deliverance and victory into the hand of thy servant: and behold I die for thirst, and shall fall into the hands of the uncircumcised.

19 Then the Lord opened a great tooth in the jaw of the ass, and waters issued out of it. And when he had drank them he refreshed his spirit, and recovered his strength. Therefore the name of that place was called, The Spring of him that invoked from the jawbone, until this present 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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