Judges 15

Samson Versus the Philistines

Sometime later, during the wheat harvest,
The wheat harvest took place during the month of May. See O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 37, 88.
Samson took a young goat as a gift and went to visit his bride.
Heb “Samson visited his wife with a young goat.”
He said to her father,
The words “to her father” are supplied in the translation (see the end of the verse).
“I want to have sex with my bride in her bedroom!”
Heb “I will go to my wife in the bedroom.” The Hebrew idiom בּוֹא אֶל (bo el, “to go to”) often has sexual connotations. The cohortative form used by Samson can be translated as indicating resolve (“I want to go”) or request (“let me go”).
But her father would not let him enter.
Her father said, “I really thought
Heb “saying, I said.” The first person form of אָמַר (’amar, “to say”) sometimes indicates self-reflection. The girl’s father uses the infinitive absolute for emphasis.
you absolutely despised
Heb “hating, you hated.” Once again the girl’s father uses the infinitive absolute for emphasis.
her, so I gave her to your best man. Her younger sister is more attractive than she is. Take her instead!”
Heb “Is her younger sister not better than her? Let her [i.e., the younger sister] be yours instead of her [i.e., Samson’s ‘bride’]).”
Samson said to them,
Codex Alexandrinus (A) of the (original) LXX has the singular “to him.”
“This time I am justified in doing the Philistines harm!”
Heb “I am innocent this time from the Philistines when I do with them harm.”
Samson went and captured three hundred jackals
Traditionally, “foxes.”
and got some torches. He tied the jackals in pairs by their tails and then tied a torch to each pair.
Heb “He turned tail to tail and placed one torch between the two tails in the middle.”
He lit the torches
Heb “He set fire to the torches.”
and set the jackals loose in the Philistines’ standing grain. He burned up the grain heaps and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.
The Philistines asked,
Or “said.”
“Who did this?” They were told,
Heb “and they said.” The subject of the plural verb is indefinite.
“Samson, the Timnite’s son-in-law, because the Timnite
Heb “he”; the referent (the Timnite) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
took Samson’s
Heb “his”; the referent (Samson) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
bride and gave her to his best man.” So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father.
The Hebrew text expands the statement with the additional phrase “burned with fire.” The words “with fire” are redundant in English and have been omitted from the translation for stylistic reasons. Some textual witnesses read “burned…her father’s house,” perhaps under the influence of 14:15. On the other hand, the shorter text may have lost this phrase due to haplography.
Samson said to them, “Because you did this,
The Niphal of נָקָם (naqam, “to avenge, to take vengeance”) followed by the preposition ב (bet) has the force “to get revenge against.” See 1 Sam 18:25; Jer 50:15; Ezek 25:12.
I will get revenge against you before I quit fighting.”
Heb “and afterward I will stop.”
He struck them down and defeated them.
Heb “He struck them, calf on thigh, [with] a great slaughter.” The precise meaning of the phrase “calf on thigh” is uncertain.
Then he went down and lived for a time in the cave in the cliff of Etam.

The Philistines went up and invaded
Or “camped in.”
Judah. They arrayed themselves for battle
Or “spread out.” The Niphal of נָטָשׁ (natash) has this same sense in 2 Sam 5:18, 22.
in Lehi.
10 The men of Judah said, “Why are you attacking
Or “come up against.”
us?” The Philistines
Heb “they”; the referent (the Philistines) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
said, “We have come up to take Samson prisoner so we can do to him what he has done to us.”
11 Three thousand men of Judah went down to the cave in the cliff of Etam and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? Why have you done this to us?” He said to them, “I have only done to them what they have done to me.” 12 They said to him, “We have come down to take you prisoner so we can hand you over to the Philistines.” Samson said to them, “Promise me
Or “swear to me.”
you will not kill
Heb “meet [with hostility]”; “harm.” In light of v. 13, “kill” is an appropriate translation.
me.”
13 They said to him, “We promise!
Heb “No,” meaning that they will not harm him.
We will only take you prisoner and hand you over to them. We promise not to kill you.” They tied him up with two brand new ropes and led him up from the cliff.
14 When he arrived in Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they approached him. But the Lord’s spirit empowered
Heb “rushed on.”
him. The ropes around his arms were like flax dissolving in
Heb “burned with.”
fire, and they
Heb “his bonds.”
melted away from his hands.
15 He happened to see
Heb “he found.”
a solid
Heb “fresh,” i.e., not decayed and brittle.
jawbone of a donkey. He grabbed it
Heb “he reached out his hand and took it.”
and struck down
The Hebrew text adds “with it.” This has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.
a thousand men.
16 Samson then said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey
I have left them in heaps;
The precise meaning of the second half of the line (חֲמוֹר חֲמֹרָתָיִם, khamor khamoratayim) is uncertain. The present translation assumes that the phrase means, “a heap, two heaps” and refers to the heaps of corpses littering the battlefield. Other options include: (a) “I have made donkeys of them” (cf. NIV; see C. F. Burney, Judges, 373, for a discussion of this view, which understands a denominative verb from the noun “donkey”); (b) “I have thoroughly skinned them” (see HALOT 330 s.v. IV cj. חמר, which appeals to an Arabic cognate for support); (c) “I have stormed mightily against them,” which assumes the verb חָמַר (khamar, “to ferment; to foam; to boil up”).

with the jawbone of a donkey
I have struck down a thousand men!”
17  When he finished speaking, he threw the jawbone down
Heb “from his hand.”
and named that place Ramath Lehi.
The name Ramath Lehi means “Height of the Jawbone.”


18  He was very thirsty, so he cried out to the Lord and said, “You have given your servant
Heb “you have placed into the hand of your servant.”
this great victory. But now must I die of thirst and fall into hands of the Philistines?”
Heb “the uncircumcised,” which in context refers to the Philistines.
19 So God split open the basin
The word translated “basin” refers to a circular-shaped depression in the land’s surface.
at Lehi and water flowed out from it. When he took a drink, his strength
Heb “spirit.”
was restored and he revived. For this reason he named the spring
Heb “named it”; the referent (the spring) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
En Hakkore.
The name En Hakkore means “Spring of the one who cries out.”
It remains in Lehi to this very day.
20 Samson led
Traditionally, “judged.”
Israel for twenty years during the days of Philistine prominence.
Heb “in the days of the Philistines.”


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