Judges 15

CHAPTER XV

Samson, going to visit his wife, finds her bestowed on another,

1, 2.

He is incensed, vows revenge, and burns the corn of the

Philistines, 3-5.

They burn Samson's wife and her father, 6.

He is still incensed, makes a great slaughter among them, 7, 8.

The Philistines gather together against Israel, and to appease

them the men of Judah bind Samson, and deliver him into their

hands, 9-13.

The Spirit of the Lord comes upon him; he breaks his bonds,

finds the jaw-bone of an ass, and therewith kills a thousand

men, 14-16.

He is sorely fatigued; and, being thirsty, God miraculously

produces water from an opening of the ground in Lehi, and he

is refreshed, 17-19.

He judges Israel in the time of the Philistines twenty years,

20.

NOTES ON CHAP. XV

Verse 1. Visited his wife with a kid] On her betraying him, he

had, no doubt, left her in great disgust. After some time his

affection appears to have returned; and, taking a kid, or perhaps

a fawn, as a present, he goes to make reconciliation, and finds

her given to his brideman; probably, the person to whom she

betrayed his riddle.

Verse 2. Thou hadst utterly hated her] As he was conscious she

had given him great cause so to do.

Her younger sister] The father appears to have been perfectly

sincere in this offer.

Verse 4. Went and caught three hundred foxes] There has been

much controversy concerning the meaning of the term

shualim, some supposing it to mean foxes or jackals, and

others handfuls or sheaves of corn. Much of the force of the

objections against the common version will be diminished by the

following considerations:-

1. Foxes, or jackals, are common and gregarious in that country.

2. It is not hinted that Samson collected them alone; he might

have employed several hands in this work.

3. It is not said he collected them all in one day; he might

have employed several days, as well as many persons, to furnish

him with these means of vengeance.

4. In other countries, where ferocious beasts were less

numerous, great multitudes have been exhibited at once. Sylla, in

a public show to the Roman citizens, exhibited one hundred lions;

Caesar, four hundred, and Pompey, nearly six hundred. The

Emperor Probus let loose in the theatre, at one time, one thousand

ostriches, one thousand stags, one thousand wild boars, one

thousand does, and a countless multitude of other wild animals; at

another time he exhibited one hundred leopards from Libya, one

hundred from Syria, and three hundred bears.-See Flavius Vopiscus

in the Life of Probus, cap. xix., beginning with Dedit Romanis

etiam voluptates, &c.

That foxes, or the creature called shual, abounded in Judea, is

evident from their frequent mention in Scripture, and from several

places bearing their name. 1. It appears they were so numerous

that even their cubs ruined the vineyards; see Canticles:

So 2:15:

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil our vines.

Jeremiah complains that the foxes had occupied the mountains of

Judea, La 5:18. They are mentioned as making incursions into

enclosures, &c., Ne 4:3. Ezekiel compares the numerous false

prophets to these animals, Eze 13:4. In Jos 15:28 we find a

place called Hazar Shual, "the court of the foxes:" and in

Jos 19:42 a place called

Shaal-abbin, "the foxes;" no doubt from the number of those

animals in that district. And mention is made of the land of

Shual, or of the fox, 1Sa 13:17.

The creature called shual is represented by travellers and

naturalists who have been in Judea as an animal between a wolf and

a fox. Hasselquist, who was on the spot, and saw many of them,

calls it the little Eastern fox. They are frequent in the East,

and often destroy infirm persons and children.

Dr. Kennicott, however, objects to the common interpretation;

and gives reasons, some of which are far from being destitute of

weight. "The three hundred foxes," says he, "caught by Samson,

have been so frequently the subject of banter and ridicule, that

we should consider whether the words may not admit a more rational

interpretation: for, besides the improbability arising here from

the number of these foxes, the use made of them is also very

strange. If these animals were tied tail to tail, they would

probably pull contrary ways, and consequently stand still; whereas

a firebrand tied to the tail of each fox singly would have been

far more likely to answer the purpose here intended. To obviate

these difficulties it has been well remarked, that the word

shualim, here translated foxes, signifies also handfuls,

Eze 13:19,

handfuls of barley; if we leave out that one letter vau, which

has been inserted or omitted elsewhere, almost at pleasure. No

less than seven Hebrew MSS. want that letter here, and read

shealim. Admitting this version, we see that Samson took three

hundred handfuls or sheaves of corn, and one hundred and fifty

firebrands; that he turned the sheaves end to end, and put a

firebrand between the two ends in the midst; and then, setting the

brands on fire, sent the fire into the standing corn of the

Philistines. The same word is now used twice in one chapter,

(Eze 13:4, 19;) in the former verse signifying

foxes, in the latter handfuls: and in 1Ki 20:10, where we

render it handfuls, it is αλωπεξι, foxes, in the Greek

version."-Remarks on Select Passages.

The reasoning of Dr. Kennicott in the first part of this

criticism has already been answered; other parts shall be

considered below. Though there are seven MSS., which agree in the

reading contended for by Dr. Kennicott, yet all the versions are

on the other side. I see no improbability in the common version.

Turned tail to tail] Had he put a firebrand to each, which Dr.

Kennicott thinks more reasonable, the creature, naturally

terrified at fire, would have instantly taken to cover, and thus

the design of Samson would have been frustrated. But, tying two of

them together by their tails, they would frequently thwart each

other in running, pull hither and thither, and thus make the

greater devastation. Had he tied them all together, the confusion

would have been so great that no execution could have been done.

Verse 6. Burnt her and her father] This was probably done to

appease Samson: as they saw he had been unjustly treated both by

his wife and her father; therefore they destroyed them both, that

they might cause his wrath to cease from them. And this indeed

seems intimated in the following verse: And Samson said-Though ye

have done this, yet will I be avenged of you; that is, I am not

yet satisfied: ye have done me great wrongs, I must have

proportionate redress; then I shall rest satisfied.

Verse 8. He smote them hip and thigh] This also is variously

understood; but the general meaning seems plain; he appears to

have had no kind of defensive weapon, therefore he was obliged to

grapple with them, and, according to the custom of wrestlers, trip

up their feet, and then bruise them to death. Some translate heaps

upon heaps; others, he smote horsemen and footmen; others, he

wounded them from their legs to their thighs, &c., &c. See the

different versions. Some think in their running away from him he

kicked them down, and then trod them to death: thus his leg or

thigh was against their hip; hence the expression.

The top of the rock Etam.] It is very likely that this is the

same place as that mentioned 1Ch 4:32; it was in the tribe of

Simeon, and on the borders of Dan, and probably a fortified place.

Verse 10. To bind Samson are we come up] It seems they did not

wish to come to an open rupture with the Israelites, provided they

would deliver up him who was the cause of their disasters.

Verse 11. Three thousand men of Judah went] It appears evidently

from this that Samson was strongly posted, and they thought that

no less than three thousand men were necessary to reduce him.

Verse 12. That ye will not fall upon me yourselves.] He could

not bear the thought of contending with and slaying his own

countrymen; for there is no doubt that he could have as easily

rescued himself from their hands as from those of the Philistines.

Verse 13. They bound him with two new cords] Probably his hands

with one and his legs with the other.

Verse 14. When he came unto Lehi] This was the name of the place

to which they brought him, either to put him to death, or keep him

in perpetual confinement.

Shouted against him] His capture was a matter of public

rejoicing.

Verse 15. He found a new jaw-bone of an ass] I rather think that

the word teriyah, which we translate new, and the margin

moist, should be understood as signifying the tabia or putrid

state of the ass from which this jawbone was taken. He found there

a dead ass in a state of putrefaction; on which account he could

the more easily separate the jaw from its integuments; this was a

circumstance proper to be recorded by the historian, and a mark of

the providence of God. But were we to understand it of a fresh

jaw-bone, very lately separated from the head of an ass, the

circumstance does not seem worthy of being recorded.

With the jaw-bore of an ass, heaps upon heaps] I cannot see the

propriety of this rendering of the Hebrew words

bilchi hachamor, chemor chamorathayim; I believe they

should be translated thus:-

"With the jaw-bone of this ass,

an ass (the foal) of two asses;

"With the jaw-bone of this ass

I have slain a thousand men."

This appears to have been a triumphal song on the occasion; and

the words are variously rendered both by the versions, and by

expositors.

Verse 17. Ramath-lehi.] The lifting up or casting away of the

jaw-bone. Lehi was the name of the place before, Ramath was now

added to it here; he lifted up the jaw-bone against his enemies,

and slew them.

Verse 18. I die for thirst] The natural consequence of the

excessive fatigue he had gone through in this encounter.

Verse 19. God clave a hollow place that was in the jaw]

asher ballechi, that was in Lehi; that is, there was a hollow

place in this Lehi, and God caused a fountain to spring up in it.

Because the place was hollow it was capable of containing the

water that rose up in it, and thus of becoming a well.

En-hakkore] The well of the implorer; this name he gave to the

spot where the water rose, in order to perpetuate the bounty of

God in affording him this miraculous supply.

Which is in Lehi unto this day.] Consequently not IN the

jaw-bone of the ass, a most unfortunate rendering.

Verse 20. He judged Israel-twenty years.] In the margin it is

said, He seems to have judged southwest Israel during twenty years

of their servitude of the Philistines, Jud 13:1. Instead of

esrim shanah, twenty years, the Jerusalem Talmud has

arbaim shanah, forty years; but this reading is not

acknowledged by any MS. or version. According to Calmet, the

twenty years of the judicature of Samson began the eighteenth year

of the subjection of Israel to the Philistines; and these twenty

years are included in the judicature of the high priest Eli.

THE burning of the Philistines' corn by the means of foxes and

firebrands is a very remarkable circumstance; and there is a story

told by Ovid, in the 4th book of his Fasti, that bears a striking

similitude to this; and is supposed by some learned men to allude

to Samson and his foxes. The poet is at a loss to account for this

custom, but brings in an old man of Carseoli, with what must have

appeared to himself a very unsatisfactory solution. The passage

begins as follows:-

Tertia post Hyadas cum luxerit orta, remotas,

Carcere partitos Circus habebit equos

Cur igitur missae vinctis ardentia taedis

Terga ferant vulpes, causa docenda mihi?

Vid. OVID, Fastor. lib. iv., ver. 679.

The substance of the whole account, which is too long to be

transcribed, is this: It was a custom in Rome, celebrated in the

month of April to let loose a number of foxes in the circus, with

lighted flambeaux on their backs; and the Roman people took

pleasure in seeing these animals run about till roasted to death

by the flames with which they were enveloped. The poet wishes to

know what the origin of this custom was, and is thus informed by

an old man of the city of Carseoli: "A frolicksome young lad,

about ten years of age, found, near a thicket, a fox that had

stolen away many fowls from the neighbouring roosts. Having

enveloped his body with hay and straw, he set it on fire, and let

the fox loose. The animal, in order to avoid the flames, took to

the standing corn which was then ready for the sickle; and the

wind, driving the flames with double violence, the crops were

everywhere consumed. Though this transaction is long since gone

by, the commemoration of it still remains; for, by a law of this

city, every fox that is taken is burnt to death. Thus the nation

awards to the foxes the punishment of being burnt alive, for the

destruction of the ripe corn formerly occasioned by one of these

animals."

Both Serrarius and Bochart reject this origin of the custom

given by Ovid; and insist that the custom took its rise from the

burning of the Philistines' corn by Samson's foxes. The origin

ascribed to the custom by the Carseolian they consider as too

frivolous and unimportant to be commemorated by a national

festival. The time of the observation does not accord with the

time of harvest about Rome and in Italy, but it perfectly accords

with the time of harvest in Palestine, which was at least as early

as April. Nor does the circumstance of the fox wrapped in hay and

let loose, the hay being set on fire, bear any proper resemblance

to the foxes let loose in the circus with burning brands on their

backs.

These learned men therefore conclude that it is much more

natural to suppose that the Romans derived the custom from Judea,

where probably the burning of the Philistines' corn might, for

some time, have been annually commemorated.

The whole account is certainly very singular, and has not a very

satisfactory solution in the old man's tale, as related by the

Roman poet.

All public institutions have had their origin in facts; and if,

through the lapse of time or loss of records, the original facts

be lost, we may legitimately look for them in cases where there is

so near a resemblance as in that above.

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