Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. After. The same term is used in the original as chap. xiv. 8, which may be rendered “a year after,” as it is not probable that the wife of Samson should be married to another, nor that he should lay aside his resentment much sooner. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Sister. Jacob married two sisters, and such marriages were not uncommon among the eastern nations. (Calmet) — Samson does not accept the offer, as it was now contrary to the law, Leviticus xviii. 18. (Menochius)
Ver. 3. Evils. This is a declaration of war, made by Samson in person, against a whole nation. (Haydock) — He does not wish to engage his countrymen in the quarrel, that they may not be more oppressed. God chose that he should weaken the Philistines by degrees. They had been apprised of the injustice done to Samson, and did not strive to hinder it, so that they all deserved to suffer. (Grotius; Estius; Calmet)
Ver. 4. Foxes. Being judge of the people, he might have many to assist him to catch with nets or otherwise a number of these animals; of which there were great numbers in that country, (Challoner) as we may gather from Canticle of Canticles ii. 15., and Lamentations v. 15. (Menochius) — Hence many places received the name of Sual, Josue xv. 28., and xix. 42. Pompey exhibited 600 lions at Rome, and the Emperor Probus 5000 ostriches, and as many wild boars, &., in the theatre. (Vopisc.; Pliny [Natural History?] viii. 16.; Cornelius a Lapide) — Is it more incredible that Samson should collect 300 foxes? By this means he cleared his country of a pernicious animal, the most proper for carrying flambeaux, and spreading fire far and wide among the fields of the enemy. By tying the foxes together, he hindered them from retiring into their holes, and gave the fire time to take hold of the corn and vineyards. (Calmet) — Ovid mentions a Roman custom of burning foxes in the theatre, with torches tied upon their backs, in the month of April; which some have imagined was in memorial of this transaction. (Serarius, q. 7.)
“Factum abiit, monumenta manent, nam vivere captam
Nunc quoque lex vulpem Carseolana vetat.
Utque luat pænas genus hoc cerealibus ardet,
Quoque modo segetes perdidit, illa perit.” —– Fast. iv.
— Torches. Hebrew and Septuagint, “a torch or firebrand,” (Haydock) made of resinous wood, such as the pine, olive, &c., which easily catch fire, and are extinguished with difficulty. (Calmet) — Quâ fugit incendit vestitos messibus agros—Damnosis vires ignibus aura dabat. (Ovid)
“Where’er he flees, corn-fields in flames appear,
The fanning breeze brings devastation near.”
A hundred and fifty firebrands, in different parts of the country, destroy the farmer’s hopes. (Haydock) — And olive. The conjunction is now wanting in Hebrew and some translate, “the vineyards of olive-trees.” (Kimchi) — But who ever heard of such an expression? It is better therefore to supply and, with the Septuagint (Calmet) as the Protestants also have done. (Haydock) — “The foxes signify the deceitful ensnarers, and chiefly heretics.” (St. Augustine in Psalm viii.) (Du Hamel)
Ver. 6. Father. Thus they met with the fate which the woman had endeavoured to avoid, by an infidelity to her husband. (Salien) — The princes of the Philistines acknowledged the wrong which had been done to Samson, and thus testify their abhorrence of adultery. (Calmet) — Some Hebrew manuscripts confirm the Septuagint, Arabic, and Syriac versions; and instead of “her father with her,” read, “and her father’s house,” (Kennicott) or all his family.
Ver. 7. Of you. He intimates that they should answer for the injustice which they ought to have prevented, or punished sooner. (Haydock) — Hebrew, “If you had done like this,” and slain the father and daughter, I should be quiet. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 8. Thigh. Striking this part is often mentioned as a mark of consternation, Jeremias xxxi. 19. (Menochius) — Hebrew, “and he smote them thigh and leg, with a great slaughter.” (Haydock) — Vatable supposes this means an entire destruction. Chaldean, “he smote both horse and foot.” He rendered them incapable of fleeing, or of making resistance, Nahum ii. 5. (Calmet) — Cavern. Hebrew sahiph, signifies, “the top, branch, &c. The rock might be covered with wood, (Calmet) and was situated in the confines of the tribes of Simeon, Juda, and Dan, 1 Paralipomenon iv. 32. (Menochius)
Ver. 9. Spread. Hebrew, “encamped in Juda, and spread themselves in Lechi.” (Haydock)
Ver. 12. Kill me, in a treacherous manner. He was not afraid of them. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Cords. Hebrew habothim, Septuagint Kalodiois, denote strong ropes or cables. (Menochius) — Etam is not in Hebrew or the Septuagint. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Bone. Hebrew, “Lechi,” as it was called after the slaughter made by Samson, ver. 15. It is about 20 miles to the east of Ascalon. (Calmet) — Approach: literally, “the smell.” This expression is often used to denote burning. (Septuagint; Chap xvi. 9.; Daniel iii. 94.)
Ver. 15. There. The Septuagint, Josephus, and the Vulgate agree, reading Hebrew truth, instead of the present teriya, “fresh,” or raw, which seems an useless remark in this place. (Calmet) — Asses are very large in Palestine. (Menochius)
Ver. 16. Asses. He insists on this particular, as such an unusual weapon rendering his victory more astonishing, and he would not leave any room for doubt. Hebrew is variously translated, “with the jaw-bone of an ass, I have made a heap, yea two heaps; with the jaw-bone of an ass, I have defeated a thousand men.” (Syriac, &c.) Castalion and Bonfrere defend the Vulgate. The Septuagint have, “with the jaw-bone of an ass I have entirely taken them off, (Haydock; defending them) with,” &c. They have explained chamorathayim, as the first person of émor, rubefecit, or Chaldean destruxit, “I have covered them with blood;” and indeed to understand it of “two she asses,” is impossible. (Calmet) — This verse formed the chorus of Samson’s song. (Haydock) — He did not take the glory to himself, as Josephus ([Antiquities?] v. 10,) would insinuate, but attributed the victory to God, ver. 18. (Salien, in the year before Christ 1172.) This miracle of strength can no more be accounted for by reason, than many others. (Worthington)
Ver. 17. Which is, &c. This is added by the Vulgate being the interpretation of the Septuagint Lnairesis; (Calmet) though it also signify, “the slaughter.” (St. Ambrose, ep. 19.) (Haydock) — The Syriac and Arabic have read domoth, “the blood,” instead of ramath Lechi, “the lifting up;” or as others would have it, “the throwing down of the jaw-bone.” (Calmet) — Samson had snatched it form the ground, slew the thousand Philistines, and left it as a monument of his victory. (Haydock)
Ver. 18. Thirsty. St. Ambrose (ep. 19 or 70) follows Josephus, (Menochius) in supposing that the arrogance of Samson, in attributing the victory to his own strength, was thus punished. But others are more favourable to the hero, (Calmet) and suppose that his thirst was occasioned by the extraordinary fatigue. He sufficiently testifies that he had received all from God, (Menochius) and he is immediately favoured with another miracle. (Haydock) — God is able to grant victory by the most feeble instruments, and he is never wanting when his presence is requisite. (St. Augustine, Doct. iv. 15.) (Tirinus)
Ver. 19. Then. Hebrew, “And God clave the Mactesh (Haydock; hollow place, great tooth;” or the name of a rock, as Josephus and others understand it, perhaps on account of its resemblance with a tooth) which was at Lechi; and….he called it the fountain of him who cries out, (Calmet; En-hakkore, Protestants) which is in Lechi, until this day.” The translating of some proper names has given occasion to various difficulties. See 2 Kings vi. 3., and 1 Paralipomenon iv. 22. (Haydock) — Sophonias (i. 11,) mentions a place called (Mactesh, or) Machtes, in Hebrew, which seems to have been built where the fountain of Samson was. (Calmet) — It is a greater miracle to draw water out of a dry bone, than out of the earth or stones. But all things are possible to God. (Worthington)
Ver. 20. Years. Salien gathers from this remark being made here, that the Philistines still asserted their dominion over Israel, but with greater moderation than they had done before: and both nations acknowledged the judicial authority of Samson, who had now been giving them such proofs of his valour for two years, soon after he performed the feat at Gaza, in the year before Christ 1169, being on some business. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Samson is denied his wife: He burns the corn of the Philistines, and kills many of them.
1 And *a while after, when the days of the wheat harvest were at hand, Samson came, meaning to visit his wife, and he brought her a kid of the flock. And when he would have gone into her chamber, as usual, her father would not suffer him, saying:
2 I thought thou hadst hated her, and therefore I gave her to thy friend: but she hath a sister, who is younger and fairer than she, take her to wife instead of her.
3 And Samson answered him: From this day I shall be blameless in what I do against the Philistines: for I will do you evils.
4 And he went and caught three hundred foxes, and coupled them tail to tail, and fastened torches between the tails:
5 And setting them on fire he let the foxes go, that they might run about hither and thither. And they presently went into the standing corn of the Philistines. Which being set on fire, both the corn that was already carried together, and that which was yet standing, was all burnt, insomuch that the flame consumed also the vineyards and the olive-yards.
6 Then the Philistines said: Who hath done this thing? And it was answered: Samson, the son-in-law of the Thamnathite, because he took away his wife, and gave her to another, hath done these things. And the Philistines went up and burnt both the woman and her father.
7 But Samson said to them: Although you have done this, yet will I be revenged of you, and then I will be quiet.
8 And he made a great slaughter of them, so that in astonishment they laid the calf of the leg upon the thigh. And going down he dwelt in a cavern of the rock Etam.
9 Then the Philistines going up into the land of Juda, camped in the place which afterwards was called Lechi, that is, the Jaw-bone, where their army was spread abroad.
10 And the men of the tribe of Juda said to them: Why are you come up against us? They answered: We are come to bind Samson, and to pay him for what he hath done against us.
11 Wherefore three thousand men of Juda went down to the cave of the rock Etam, and said to Samson: Knowest thou not that the Philistines rule over us? Why wouldst thou do thus? And he said to them: As they did to me, so have I done to them.
12 And they said to him: We are come to bind thee, and to deliver thee into the hands of the Philistines. And Samson said to them: Swear to me, and promise me that you will not kill me.
13 They said: We will not kill thee: but we will deliver thee up bound. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him from the rock Etam.
14 Now when he was come to the place of the Jaw-bone, and the Philistines shouting went to meet him, the Spirit of the Lord came strongly upon him: and as the flax is wont to be consumed at the approach of fire, so the bands with which he was bound were broken and loosed.
15 And finding a jaw-bone, even the jaw-bone of an ass, which lay there, catching it up, he slew therewith a thousand men.
16 And he said: With the jaw-bone of an ass, with the jaw of the colt of asses, I have destroyed them, and have slain a thousand men.
17 And when he had ended these words, singing, he threw the jaw-bone out of his hand, and called the name of that place Ramathlechi, which is interpreted the lifting up of the jaw-bone.
18 And being very thirsty, he cried to the Lord, and said: Thou hast given this very great deliverance and victory into the hand of thy servant: and behold I die for thirst, and shall fall into the hands of the uncircumcised.
19 Then the Lord opened a great tooth in the jaw of the ass, and waters issued out of it. And when he had drank them, he refreshed his spirit, and recovered his strength. Therefore the name of that place was called, The Spring of him that invoked from the jaw-bone, until this present day.
20 And he judged Israel, in the days of the Philistines, twenty years.*
1: Year of the World 2868, Year before Christ 1136.
20: Judges xvi. 31.