SAMSON BATTLES THE PHILISTINES
15:1-8 Samson Defeats the Philistines
15:1 After some days, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife with a young goat. And he said, “I will go in to my wife in the chamber.” But her father would not allow him to go in. 2 And her father said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her, so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.” 3 And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be innocent in regard to the Philistines, when I do them harm.” 4 So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5 And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards. 6 Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion.” And the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. 7 And Samson said to them, “If this is what you do, I swear I will be avenged on you, and after that I will quit.” 8 And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow, and he went down and stayed in the cleft of the rock of Etam.
Samson did not give up on his wife. Although he left her when the wedding feast went sour, after she told the Philistines the answer to his riddle and he killed 30 people. So, he went to visit her, evidently hoping for a conjugal visit. He took a goat as a present. Ironically, that is what Judah gave Tamar as payment for sex, when he met her on the road to Timnah, where Samson’s wife lived.
However, his father in law had given her to his best man, figuring that Samson would not be back after the last incident. He offered the next sister in line as a wife instead, but Samson was angry and set about to get revenge.
Since it was harvest time, the fields were very dry, and Samson managed to burn them, the grain that had already been harvested and the olive trees. It was a devastating loss for the Philistines. They would have been better to have lost the 30 sets of clothes.
The revenge continued as the Philistines burned Samson’s wife and father in law to death. This is ironic, as they had threatened to do this to her to get he to betray Samson with the riddle. She did betray him, but she ends up burned to death anyway. Then, Samson retaliated by striking them down. Then he left to hide in Etam. This cleft in the rock might have been a natural fortress. That would indicate he expected a counter attack by the Philistines.
15:9-13 The Arrest of Samson
9 Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah and made a raid on Lehi. 10 And 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 did to us.” 11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” 12 And they said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not attack me yourselves.” 13 They said to him, “No; we will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.
The Philistines did in fact attack in Judah. When the Judahites asked the reason for the attack, they were told the Philistines came to capture Samson. Since the Philistines were the superior power, the Judahites did not want a battle. So, instead, they went to capture Samson. They had great respect for his strength, evidenced by their taking 3,000 men to capture him.
Samson agreed to extradition, getting a commitment that the Judahites would only bind him and deliver him, not kill him.
So, the Judahites arrested their judge and leader and turned him over to a foreign people who were oppressing them, so they would not suffer any for being indentified with him. Later, the Judahites would arrest and turn over their savior and judge to the Romans, who were oppressing them, because they deemed it better for one man to die for the nation, than for all to suffer.
15:14-17 The Spirit of the Lord Comes
14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16 And Samson said,
“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”
17 As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi (“the hill of the jawbone”).
Again the Spirit of the Lord came on Samson, giving him supernatural strength. Again, that strength was used to battle the Philistines, and Samson killed 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. The Israelites were so impressed they named the hill after the jawbone. It was a fulfillment of the word of the Lord in Joshua 23:10 that one man of Israel would put to flight a thousand men of the enemy when they fought in the power of the Lord.
15:18-20 Water From the Lord
18 And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the Lord and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore;  it is at Lehi to this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
After this great battle, Samson actually called on the Lord. He gave God credit for the victory, calling it his salvation, but complained of thirst. The Lord brought forth water from the earth or the rock there. In Exodus 17:1-7, God brought water from a rock for the complaining Israelites. Sometimes God has mercy on us even when we are complaining.
Samson went on to judge Israel for 20 years. He did not get in the generation, or 40 years, of many of the judges. Interestingly, in most of the stories, the telling of the length of their tenure is the last word of the judge, but not here. Here there is an epilogue, telling of his downfall.