Judges 15

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1 But it happened after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a young goat; and he said, "I will go in to my wife into the room." But her father wouldn't allow him to go in.

2 Her father said, "I most certainly thought that you had utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to your companion. Isn't her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her, instead."

3 Samson said to them, "This time I will be blameless in regard of the Philistines, when I harm them."

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

5 When he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks and the standing grain, and also the olive groves.

6 Then the Philistines said, "Who has done this?" They said, "Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife, and given her to his companion." The Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.

7 Samson said to them, "If you behave like this, surely I will be avenged of you, and after that I will cease."

8 He struck them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

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

10 The men of Judah said, "Why have you come up against us?" They said, "We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he has done to us."

11 Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, "Don't you know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?" He said to them, "As they did to me, so have I done to them."

12 They said to him, "We have come down to bind you, that we may deliver you into the hand of the Philistines." Samson said to them, "Swear to me that you will not fall on me yourselves."

13 They spoke to him, saying, "No; but we will bind you fast, and deliver you into their hand; but surely we will not kill you." They bound him with two new ropes, and brought him up from the rock.

14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him: and the Spirit of Yahweh came mightily on him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands dropped from off his hands.

15 He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put forth his hand, and took it, and struck a thousand men therewith.

16 Samson said, "With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps on heaps; with the jawbone of a donkey I have struck a thousand men."

17 It happened, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand; and that place was called Ramath Lehi.

18 He was very thirsty, and called on Yahweh, and said, "You have given this great deliverance by the hand of your servant; and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?"

19 But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi, and water came out of it. When he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: therefore its name was called En Hakkore, which is in Lehi, to this day.

20 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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