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Judges chapter 15

New International Version

1 Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, 'I'm going to my wife's room.' But her father would not let him go in.
2 I was so sure you hated her,' he said, 'that I gave her to your companion. Isn't her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.'
3 Samson said to them, 'This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.' 4 So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, 5 lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.
6 When the Philistines asked, 'Who did this?' they were told, 'Samson, the Timnite's son-in-law, because his wife was given to his companion.' So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. 7 Samson said to them, 'Since you've acted like this, I swear that I won't stop until I get my revenge on you.' 8 He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam.
9 The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi.
10 The people of Judah asked, 'Why have you come to fight us?' 'We have come to take Samson prisoner,' they answered, 'to do to him as he did to us.'
11 Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, 'Don't you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?' He answered, 'I merely did to them what they did to me.'
12 They said to him, 'We've come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.' Samson said, 'Swear to me that you won't kill me yourselves.'
13 Agreed,' they answered. 'We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.' So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. 14 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. 15 Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.
16 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.'
17 When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi.
18 Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD, 'You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?' 19 Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi.
20 Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.
English Standard Version

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.
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.
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.
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.
King James Version

1 But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. 2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her. 3 And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure. 4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. 5 And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives. 6 Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire. 7 And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease. 8 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.
9 Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi. 10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us. 11 Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them. 12 And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves. 13 And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock. 14 And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. 15 And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith. 16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. 17 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi.
18 And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? 19 But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
New American Standard Bible

1 But after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, Samson visited his wife with a young goat, and said, 'I will go in to my wife in her room.' But her father did not let him enter. 2 Her father said, 'I really thought that you hated her intensely; so I gave her to your companion. Is her younger sister not more beautiful than she? Please let her be yours instead.' 3 Samson then said to them, 'This time I will have been blameless regarding the Philistines when I do them harm.' 4 And Samson went and caught three hundred jackals, and took torches, and turned the jackals tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails. 5 When he had set fire to the torches, he released the jackals into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to both the bundled heaps and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and olive groves. 6 Then the Philistines said, 'Who did this?' And some said, 'Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his companion.' So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father to death with fire. 7 Then Samson said to them, 'If this is how you act, I will certainly take revenge on you, and only after that will I stop.' 8 So he struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter; and afterward he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam.
9 Then the Philistines went up and camped in Judah, and spread out in Lehi. 10 So the men of Judah said, 'Why have you come up against us?' And they said, 'We have come up to bind Samson in order to do to him as he did to us.' 11 Then three thousand 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, 'Just as they did to me, so I have done to them.' 12 Then they said to him, 'We have come down to bind you so that we may hand you over to the Philistines.' And Samson said to them, 'Swear to me that you will not kill me.' 13 So they said to him, 'No, but we will bind you tightly and give you into their hands; but we certainly will not kill you.' Then 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 the LORD rushed upon him so that the ropes that were on his arms were like flax that has burned with fire, and his restraints dropped from his hands. 15 Then he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out with his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it.
16 And Samson said, 'With the jawbone of a donkey, Heaps upon heaps, With the jawbone of a donkey I have killed a thousand men.'
17 When he had finished speaking, he threw the jawbone from his hand; and he named that place Ramath-lehi. 18 Then he became very thirsty, and he called to the LORD and said, 'You have handed this great victory over to Your servant, and now am I to die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?' 19 But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it. When he drank, his strength returned and he revived. Therefore he named it En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. 20 So he judged Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.
New Living Translation

1 Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat as a present to his wife. He said, 'I'm going into my wife's room to sleep with her,' but her father wouldn't let him in.
2 'I truly thought you must hate her,' her father explained, 'so I gave her in marriage to your best man. But look, her younger sister is even more beautiful than she is. Marry her instead.'
3 Samson said, 'This time I cannot be blamed for everything I am going to do to you Philistines.' 4 Then he went out and caught 300 foxes. He tied their tails together in pairs, and he fastened a torch to each pair of tails. 5 Then he lit the torches and let the foxes run through the grain fields of the Philistines. He burned all their grain to the ground, including the sheaves and the uncut grain. He also destroyed their vineyards and olive groves.
6 'Who did this?' the Philistines demanded. 'Samson,' was the reply, 'because his father-in-law from Timnah gave Samson's wife to be married to his best man.' So the Philistines went and got the woman and her father and burned them to death.
7 'Because you did this,' Samson vowed, 'I won't rest until I take my revenge on you!' 8 So he attacked the Philistines with great fury and killed many of them. Then he went to live in a cave in the rock of Etam.
9 The Philistines retaliated by setting up camp in Judah and spreading out near the town of Lehi.
10 The men of Judah asked the Philistines, 'Why are you attacking us?' The Philistines replied, 'We've come to capture Samson. We've come to pay him back for what he did to us.'
11 So 3,000 men of Judah went down to get Samson at the cave in the rock of Etam. They said to Samson, 'Don't you realize the Philistines rule over us? What are you doing to us?' But Samson replied, 'I only did to them what they did to me.'
12 But the men of Judah told him, 'We have come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.' 'All right,' Samson said. 'But promise that you won't kill me yourselves.'
13 'We will only tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines,' they replied. 'We won't kill you.' So they tied him up with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.
14 As Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting in triumph. But the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists. 15 Then he found the jawbone of a recently killed donkey. He picked it up and killed 1,000 Philistines with it.
16 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!'
17 When he finished his boasting, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was named Jawbone Hill.
18 Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the LORD, 'You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?' 19 So God caused water to gush out of a hollow in the ground at Lehi, and Samson was revived as he drank. Then he named that place 'The Spring of the One Who Cried Out,' and it is still in Lehi to this day.
20 Samson judged Israel for twenty years during the period when the Philistines dominated the land.
Christian Standard Bible

1 Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat as a gift and visited his wife. "I want to go to my wife in her room," he said. But her father would not let him enter.
2 "I was sure you hated her," her father said, "so I gave her to one of the men who accompanied you. Isn't her younger sister more beautiful than she is? Why not take her instead? "
3 Samson said to them, "This time I will be blameless when I harm the Philistines." 4 So he went out and caught three hundred foxes. He took torches, turned the foxes tail-to-tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5 Then he ignited the torches and released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned the piles of grain and the standing grain as well as the vineyards and olive groves.
6 Then the Philistines asked, "Who did this? "They were told, "It was Samson, the Timnite's son-in-law, because he took Samson's wife and gave her to his companion." So the Philistines went to her and her father and burned them to death.
7 Then Samson told them, "Because you did this, I swear that I won't rest until I have taken vengeance on you." 8 He tore them limb from limb and then went down and stayed in the cave at the rock of Etam.
9 The Philistines went up, camped in Judah, and raided Lehi.
10 So the men of Judah said, "Why have you attacked us? "They replied, "We have come to tie Samson up and pay him back for what he did to us."
11 Then three thousand men of Judah went to the cave at the rock of Etam, and they asked Samson, "Don't you realize that the Philistines rule us? What have you done to us? ""I have done to them what they did to me," he answered.
12 They said to him, "We've come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines."Then Samson told them, "Swear to me that you yourselves won't kill me."
13 "No," they said, "we won't kill you, but we will tie you up securely and hand you over to them." So they tied him up with two new ropes and led him away from the rock.
14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came to meet him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on him, and the ropes that were on his arms and wrists became like burnt flax and fell off. 15 He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand, took it, and killed a thousand men with it.
16 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.
17 When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone and named that place Jawbone Hill. 18 He became very thirsty and called out to the Lord, "You have accomplished this great victory through your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised? " 19 So God split a hollow place in the ground at Lehi, and water came out of it. After Samson drank, his strength returned, and he revived. That is why he named it Hakkore Spring, which is still in Lehi today. 20 And he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

What does Judges chapter 15 mean?

Samson believes he is still married to his Philistine bride. Scripture doesn't clearly state if the marriage had been consummated before the end of the seven-day wedding feast. However, Samson left that celebration in a rage after his bride betrayed the secret of his unfair riddle (Judges 14:14–19). His former father-in-law believed Samson was not coming back. To protect her interests, the woman was married to one of the thirty companions who threatened to kill her if she did not give them Samson's secret (Judges 14:20).

What happens in this chapter helps illustrate the danger of seeking revenge. Ultimately, no one ever "gets even" or "settles the score," as implied by those English expressions. Instead, vengeance leads to a vicious cycle of escalation. What starts with Samson's foiled attempt to cheat others climaxes in a scene of incredible carnage.

When Samson arrives at his father-in-law's home in Timnah, he is not allowed access to the woman he thought was his bride. His father-in-law explains why, but offers Samson his younger daughter, claiming she is even more beautiful. Samson believes he is the victim in this situation. His remark suggests that he knows his actions at the wedding (Judges 14:12) and afterwards (Judges 14:19) were wrong. What he is about to do, however, he thinks is justified (Judges 15:1–3).

The Hebrew word su'āl is subject to interpretation like any other animal name. It's commonly rendered as "fox," but many scholars believe it refers to a "jackal." Jackals common to Samson's area were pack animals about the size of a small dog or coyote. As scavengers who live in burrows near human settlements, they would make an ideal weapon for Samson's plot. He captures hundreds of these and sets them loose in Philistine grain fields, tied in pairs on either side of a burning torch. He also ensures that harvested wheat and olive groves are ignited. This would devastate the resources of an entire region (Judges 15:4–5).

The Philistines retaliate by killing Samson's former bride and her father (Judges 14:15). Why, exactly, they did so is unclear. They might have thought this would appease Samson. Or they were simply looking for a brutal response. Samson sees this as an attack on himself, so he seeks even more vengeance. That revenge isn't described in detail. The Hebrew words imply it was vicious and overwhelming. Most likely, it involved more death and destruction. He then runs to hide at notable landmark called "the cleft of the rock at Etam" (Judges 15:6–8).

With Samson established as a major threat, the Philistines gather an army and prepare to attack the people of Judah near where Samson is hiding. When asked why, the Philistines say they have come to capture Samson and avenge his attacks. The men of Judah agree to turn Samson over to avoid being attacked by the Philistines. They find Samson, who agrees to be tied up and surrendered so long as the Israelites don't attack him (Judges 15:9–13).

As Samson is brought to the enemy army, the Philistines start to cheer and shout. Samson is suddenly overcome with the power of God's Spirit. He rips the ropes from his arms as if they were burned threads. He tears the jawbone from the carcass of a donkey, giving him a crude club about the size and shape of a hatchet. With this, Samson utterly annihilates the enemy forces. Depending on how the Hebrew terms are translated, he either kills a tally of a thousand men, or at least an entire company of several hundred (Judges 15:14–15).

When the bedlam is over, Samson tosses the jawbone aside and shouts out a fierce, prideful, poetic celebration of his victory. This includes a play on words in Hebrew, as the terms for "donkey" and "heap" are identical. The spot of this slaughter becomes known as "Jawbone Hill," with the Hebrew name Ramath-lehi (Judges 15:16–17).

Samson was empowered by God's Spirit but is neither invincible nor immortal. The intensity of the battle would have left him exhausted, battered, and dehydrated. In fact, Samson is now so thirsty he thinks he might die. For the first time, he is recorded praying—but what he says is more an accusation and a demand than a humble request. The Lord graciously provides water, however, and Samson is revived (Judges 15:18–19).

There's more to Samson's story. Most of his life is not described in any detail. His purpose was to begin breaking Israel free from the Philistines (Judges 13:5). He will not accomplish that freedom, but those who come after him will (1 Samuel 7:11–14) The Bible notes that he served in his unique role for twenty years (Judges 15:20).