Judges 15:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 15:16, NIV: Then Samson said, 'With a donkey's jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I have killed a thousand men.'

Judges 15:16, ESV: 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.”

Judges 15:16, KJV: And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.

Judges 15:16, NASB: And Samson said, 'With the jawbone of a donkey, Heaps upon heaps, With the jawbone of a donkey I have killed a thousand men.'

Judges 15:16, NLT: Then Samson said, 'With the jawbone of a donkey, I've piled them in heaps! With the jawbone of a donkey, I've killed a thousand men!'

Judges 15:16, CSB: Then Samson said: With the jawbone of a donkey I have piled them in heaps. With the jawbone of a donkey I have killed a thousand men.

What does Judges 15:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Despite being anointed before birth as a judge of Israel (Judges 13:5), Samson has thus far been motivated by lust (Judges 14:1–3) and revenge (Judges 15:11). His triumphant shout—like the last gasp of an athlete finishing a tremendous feat—makes no mention of the Lord. Later, Samson will suggest that he does, in fact, realize his purpose. For now, he expresses ferocity and pride.

In his latest skirmish, Samson experienced another surge of power through God's Spirit (Judges 15:13–15). Easily breaking his bonds, Samson slaughtered multiple hundreds of Philistine soldiers who'd been sent to kill him. That was accomplished with the jawbone of a donkey—a crude, small club. He's still holding that weapon as he declares these words. One can only imagine the level of carnage this event must have entailed; the words Samson uses here are not only poetic and clever, but they also imply a truly gruesome scene.

Earlier, Samson invented a cryptic phrase about his encounter with a lion (Judges 14:6, 14). That was used as a trick question, until his new Philistine bride betrayed his trust. To that betrayal, as well, Samson responded with a clever turn of phrase (Judges 14:18). His taunting, boasting words lose their poetry when translated from the original Hebrew. The letters which spell out the root word hamor can be interpreted to mean "donkey," or "heap." In some cases, the term refers to armies.

At the very least, Samson is making a pun about using a donkey's jaw to pile up defeated enemies. His words would have sounded like saying "I made donkeys/heaps out of them!" This may also literally describe the aftermath of his attack: enemies who fell so fast they landed on top of each other in piles. Or, that the slain enemies would have to be piled up to be disposed of. A more obscure translation would be a boast that he "slew two armies."