The Word Made Fresh
1Later that year at harvest time Samson took a young kid and went to visit his wife. But when he told his father-in-law that he was going to her, his father-in-law stopped him, 2saying, “I thought for certain that you had cast her off, so I gave her in marriage to your best man. But look, isn’t her younger sister even prettier? You can have her instead.”
3Samson said, “Now when I take revenge on the Philistines, no one can blame me.” 4He captured three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail and tied a torch between each pair. 5He lit the torches and sent the foxes into the Philistines’ grain fields and burned up the standing grain and the fire spread into the vineyards and olive trees.
6The Philistines asked around to find out who had done it, and they were told, “It was Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite who gave Samson’s wife to the best man at their wedding.” The Philistines then set fire to the woman and her father.
7Samson said to them, “If this is how you’re going to act, I swear I will pay you back.” 8He slaughtered them right and left, then hid himself in a cleft in the rock at Etam.
9The Philistines amassed and camped in Judah and raided Lehi. 10The men of Judah asked why they had been attacked. The Philistines replied, “We have come to take Samson and pay him back for what he did to us.”
11Then three thousand men of Judah went to Etam and found Samson. They said, “Don’t you realize the Philistines are our rulers? What have you done to us?”
Samson replied, “I paid them back for what they did to me.”
12They said, “We have come to tie you up and turn you over to them.”
“Promise me that you won’t attack me,” Samson replied.
13“No, no,” they said. “We’ll just tie you up and give you to them. We won’t kill you.” Then they tied him with two new ropes and took him back with them.
14When they came to Lehi the Philistines, cheering victoriously, came after him, and the Spirit of the LORD entered Samson, and he broke his ropes as easily as burned flax. 15Then he grabbed a jawbone among the remains of a donkey, and with it he killed a thousand men.
16Then Samson said, “I have made a pile of them with a donkey’s jawbone, and with that jawbone I have killed a thousand.” 17He tossed the jawbone away, and that place became known as Jawbone Hill. 18He was very thirsty then and called on the LORD. “You have given your servant this great victory,” he said, “Are you going to let me die of thirst and be captured by those uncircumcised Philistines?” So, God brought water out of a hollow in Lehi. When Samson drank his fill, he was revived and his life renewed. Since then that place has been known as the Spring of Hakkore, and it is still there to this day.
20Samson was Israel’s judge for twenty years while the Philistines ruled.
1-8: Hot-headed Samson cools down and decides to forgive his wife. But when he takes her a gift he discovers that she has been given to another man. He reacts predictably — with violence, that is. He sets the local Philistine fields on fire, not to mention three hundred foxes! For this act of vengeance his wife and father-in-law are burned to death (thus carrying out their earlier threat), setting off another round of rage on Samson’s part. He kills a number of them, then retreats to a wilderness refuge.
9-13: The Philistines respond with characteristic bullying, and 3000 Israelites go to persuade Samson to give himself up. They bind him with ropes.
14-17: When the Philistines attempt to take custody of him, he breaks the ropes and attacks them, killing a thousand, we’re told. That event explains the place name Ramath-Lehi: “Jawbone Hill.”
18-20: Samson cries out for water after his single-handed defeat of the Philistines, and in a sequence that reminds us of the Exodus stories, God provides water. Another place name is explained, this time En-Hakkore, “Spring of the Calling One.”
At this point, with two major exploits against the Philistines, Samson is accorded the status of a judge among his people, and we are told that he judges Israel for twenty years. But there are years that pass “in the days of the Philistines.” The Israelites are not yet free from their oppressors.