Samson’s Vengeance on the Philistines (15:1–20)
1–2 After Samson’s anger had subsided, he decided to visit his wife; he took with him a goat as a gift. He was evidently intending to “reclaim” his wife, but her father prevented Samson from seeing her because he had already given her away to Samson’s friend (Judges 14:20).
3–8 Samson’s anger returned, and he decided to get even not just with his wife’s father but with the Philistines in general. Since it was harvest time (verse 1), Samson devised a clever way to burn up the Philistines’ dried wheat—both the harvested wheat and the wheat still standing—as well as their vineyards and olive groves. In this way, Samson destroyed the entire harvest of the Philistines living in that place.
When the Philistines found out that Samson had burned their crops because his wife had been given to another man, they retaliated against the wife and her father by burning them to death. Sadly, Samson’s wife met the very fate she had been trying to avoid when she gave away the answer to Samson’s riddle (Judges 14:15).
The cycle of violence and revenge intensified. Samson said, “I won’t stop until I get my revenge on the Philistines for killing my wife”; and he slaughtered many of them (verses 7–8). Samson had surely forgotten the Lord’s words: It is mine to avenge (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19).
We cannot admire Samson for his behavior; he was acting as brutally and cruelly as the Philistines were. But without his realizing it, Samson was being used by God to inflict punishment on the Philistines. Even in those dark periods when human beings feel engulfed by ever increasing violence, God is there behind the scenes working out His purposes. In the end, even Samson himself realized that it was God who had been giving him these victories (verse 18).
9–13 Now it was the Philistines’ turn to take revenge. They went deeper into the territory of Judah in search of Samson. The men of Judah were alarmed; they had accepted Philistine rule and had been allowed to live in peace. So why were the Philistines now getting ready to attack them?
The Philistines said they had come to seize Samson (verse 10). The men of Judah should have come to Samson’s defense against their common enemy; instead, they gathered a force of three thousand men to turn Samson over to the Philistines. How low the men of Judah had sunk! When they found him, they tied his hands with two new ropes and led him to the Philistines (verse 13).
14–17 Again the Spirit came upon Samson; he broke his ropes and struck down a thousand Philistines with the jaw bone of a donkey67 (verse 15). Any survivors undoubtedly fled. Later that place was named Ramath Lehi (verse 17), which means “jawbone hill.”
18–20 In spite of Samson’s sins and weaknesses, the Lord continued to be with him, meeting his needs and hearing him when he cried out (verses 18–19). After these victories over the Philistines, Samson then went on and led—literally “judged”—Israel for the next twenty years.