Judges 15



1 And it was, after some days, 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 grant him to go·​·in.

2 And her father said, Saying I said that hating thou didst hate her; and I gave her to thy companion. Is not her younger sister better than she? Let her be thine instead of her.

3 And Samson said unto them, This time shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, when I do evil unto them.

4 And Samson went and captured three hundred foxes, and took torches, and he faced them tail to tail, and set one torch between two tails in the midst.

5 And he set the torches on fire, and sent them off into the standing·​·grain of the Philistines, and burnt from shock even·​·to standing·​·grain and to the vineyards of olives.

6 And the Philistines said, Who has done this? And they said, 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.

7 And Samson said unto them, Since you have done this, surely I will be avenged of you, and after·​·that I will stop.

8 And he smote them hip upon thigh with a great smiting; and he went·​·down and dwelt in the crag of the rock Etam.

9 And the Philistines went·​·up and encamped in Judah, and were extended in Lechi.

10 And the men of Judah said, Why are you 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 And three thousand men from Judah went·​·down to the crag of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? And what is this that thou doest to us? And he said to them, As they did to me, so have I done to them.

12 And they said unto him, To bind thee have we come·​·down, to give thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said to them, Promise to me that you will not fall·​·upon me yourselves.

13 And they said to him, saying, No, for binding we will bind thee, and give thee into their hand; but putting·​·to·​·death we will not put· thee ·to·​·death. And they bound him with two new ropes and brought· him ·up from the rock.

14 He came even·​·to Lehi, and the Philistines shouted to meet him; and the spirit of Jehovah came·​·mightily on him, and the ropes which were on his arms were as flax which is burnt with fire, and his bonds were melted from on his hands.

15 And he found the fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put·​·forth his hand and took it, and smote with it a thousand men.

16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of a donkey, a heap, two heaps; with the jawbone of a donkey have I smitten a thousand men.

17 And it was, when he had completed speaking that he cast the jawbone from his hand, and called the place Ramath-lehi*.

18 And he thirsted exceedingly, and called to Jehovah and said, Thou hast given this great salvation into the hand of thy servant; and now shall· I ·die of thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?

19 And God split·​·open the hollow place that is in the jawbone, and water came·​·out from it, and he drank, and his spirit returned to him, and he lived; wherefore he called the name thereof, En-hakkoreh, 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.


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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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.