For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

15:1.  “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.”

This chapter seems to carry us to the Tribulation period, for the “while after” can scarcely portray anything except the Church age which has intervened between the offer of the kingdom to Israel in the thirty-eight years between Pentecost and the withdrawal of that offer in A.D.70 which brought the dissolution of Israel’s autonomy.

Its being the time of wheat harvest seems to confirm this interpretation, for the wheat harvest concluded Israel’s harvest time.  But harvest always speaks of judgment, and the Tribulation era will be the time of Israel’s final judgment when the believing remnant will be separated from the apostate mass of the nation prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom.

Since a kid of the goats was frequently used for the Sin Offering, Samson’s coming with a kid portrays Christ’s coming again to Israel in the Tribulation with the equivalent of the kid, that is the offer of Himself as their Savior Messiah, they being required to receive Him by faith in order to enter the millennial kingdom. 

As noted in our study of chapter fourteen, this Timnathite woman portrays those who might have become the believing remnant two thousand years ago, but who, as a nation, refused to believe, and instead turned back to their apostate state, that fact being portrayed in her having become the wife of a Philistine. 

Satan uses men as his agents, and in the days when the Lord was on earth, Caiaphas the high priest was the head of the apostate system which then ruled Israel religiously; and since then the popes have been his agents ruling over apostate Christendom.  In the first half of the Tribulation era his agent will be the man who will head up the great ecumenical travesty which will then be ruling the world religiously, and it seems that Samson’s father-in-law is the type of that man.   His refusal to give his daughter to Samson portrays the opposition of Satan in the Tribulation, not only to Israel’s salvation, but to that of every man.  In every age he does everything in his power to keep men and women from trusting in Christ.  This is not to imply that he has absolute power to prevent a man’s conversion.  Far from it.  He has power to persuade, but salvation is a free will choice, and ultimately it is the man himself who must decide to accept or reject Christ.

15:2.  “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.”

Her having been given to a Philistine portrays the giving over of Israel to apostasy. The younger sister (the second-born) may represent believers, for as noted already, the firstborn, who is always rejected, represents the old nature, so that the father’s reference to the greater beauty of the younger daughter is the symbolic announcement of the superior spiritual beauty of the new nature of which the second-born in Scripture is the type.  Satan can offer “the younger daughter” because he knows he has no power to keep her from trusting Christ.  God foreknows those who will believe, and it may be that Satan also knows them.  God’s foreknowledge, incidentally, is not to be confused with predestination, as it is written, “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son” Ro 8:29.  Every believer is predestinated to be conformed to Christ’s image, but no one is predestinated to become a believer.  Each man must make that choice for himself.

There is, however, no further mention of this younger daughter, for the simple reason that in this portion of Scripture the divine spotlight is being focused, not on the believing remnant, but on God’s dealings with the apostate mass of the nation in the Tribulation era.

15:3.  “And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.”

This is literally the announcement that Samson would consider himself blameless when he avenged the wrong done to him by the Philistines, first in coercing his betrothed bride into discovering the answer to the riddle, and then for this second injury of their having given her to another man.

Christ will likewise be blameless when He executes judgment against the great “Philistine,” i.e., apostate church in the Tribulation, for it too has rendered Him equivalent evil treatment.  It has rejected the truth, and reduced the Gospel to a mere intellectual assent to a set of moral principles, and thus kept Israel from accepting Him as her Savior Messiah when He presented Himself to her two thousand years ago, and that will continue its evil work in the Tribulation by giving to “another man,” the Beast,” those whom He desires to have for His own.  He will indeed be blameless when He executes judgment.

15:4.  “And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes (jackals), and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.”

Since the focus is upon the tails of these foxes or jackals (unclean animals), we are being shown the part false prophets will play in the delusion of apostate Israel and an equally unbelieving world, in the Tribulation, for in Isa 9:15 it is written “The prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.”  There will be preeminently the false prophet (Re 16:13; 19:20; 20:10), and with him a horde of the same evil character, as foretold by the Lord Himself, “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.... For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Mt 24:11,24).

Since two is the number of witness or testimony, the tying of the jackals in pairs seems to confirm that they represent false prophets, and their carrying firebrands between their tails is the symbolic revelation of the evil nature of their activity.  It will bring ruin to the world.

15:5. “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 (heaps of sheaves), and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.”

Corn is one of the Biblical symbols of the Word as spiritual food, while wine speaks of its capacity to afford joy; and olive oil represents the Holy Spirit apart from Whose illumination it can’t be understood,  so that the burning of the corn, vineyards and olive groves, is the symbolic announcement that in the Tribulation, God will use the false prophets to do to the “Philistines” (apostate Israel and an equally unbelieving world) the spiritual equivalent of what Samson did to the Philistines in his day.  As we read in 2 Th 2:11-12, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”  As the Philistine’s literal food was destroyed, so will the apostates in the Tribulation experience the same destruction of that, which believed, would have been food for new spiritual life.  The evil teaching of the false prophets will so corrupt the Word as to make it useless to all except believers and those foreknown by God as they who will become believers.

Further instruction is to be found in the state of the things destroyed.  The corn was still standing (uncut), or gathered into heaps of sheaves, and the grapes and olives were still on the vines and trees.  The corn hadn’t been ground into meal so that it could be eaten.  In the present context the standing corn represents the written Word unused, while the shocks portray the parts of it which unbelieving man has adapted to accommodate his religion, etc. 

Since wine portrays the Word as that which cheers man’s heart, the ungathered grapes declare in symbol that the Tribulation age apostates, in common with unbelievers in every age, will know nothing of that attribute of the Scriptures.  And so also with the olives.  They hadn’t been gathered and pressed to extract the oil.  The Tribulation age apostates will know nothing of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment.

Apart from the spiritual application, the literal fact remains that Samson’s destruction of the corn, etc., would bring famine and poverty to the Philistines, reminding us that the same miseries will afflict the whole Tribulation age earth.

15:6.  “Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this?  And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnathite, 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.”

This appears to portray the Beast’s expropriation of the false church at the midpoint of the Tribulation, when he, having arrogated her wealth and power, will become supreme religiously as well as politically, for we must remember that his destruction of the harlot church doesn’t end the existence of the apostate system: it will continue under the Beast, and will be destroyed only when Christ returns to judge the nations, and establish His millennial kingdom.

15:7.  “And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged on you, and after that I will cease.”

This declares that the false religious system under the Beast will be just as abhorrent to Christ as it was when it existed as a separate entity in the form of the harlot church.  Christ will not “cease” until He has destroyed the whole evil system at the end of the Tribulation.

15:8.  “And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.”

Though the slaughter was great, not all of them were destroyed.  This may portray the phenomenal loss of life by the judgments of God during the final half of the Tribulation era. 

Etam means their ravening, so that Samson’s dwelling there may portray the Lord in heaven “ravening” the rebellious nations in the Tribulation.

15:9.  “Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.”

This continues to portray the evil activity of a largely apostate world in the Tribulation, with the emphasis on the persecution that will be directed against Israel during that era, that persecution being portrayed in the Philistines’ invasion of Judah.

Lehi means cheek: jawbone, and inasmuch as it was the place where Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, it may be pointing forward to the coming battle of Armageddon which will result in the crushing of all rebellion when Christ returns in power and glory to establish His millennial kingdom.  There are, however, more comeplling reasons for believing that it points back to Calvary, which raises the question, Why should there be included in that which so clearly relates to the Tribulation era, the inclusion of what relates to Calvary?  The answer is that those of the Tribulation age earth, like those of every age, must learn that the great victory won at Calvary is the basis of all God’s victories.  Apart from that one, the others would not be possible.  

15:10.  “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.”

This points back to the evil activity of the powers of darkness against Christ two thousand years ago, for he who sent these Philistines against Israel  was Satan, the same malignant spirit who impelled Israel’s hatred of Christ.

15:11.  “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.”

This demonstrates the completeness of the Philistine domination of Judah at that time, as it does also the extent to which Israel lay under the dominion of apostasy two thousand years ago, and as she will lie again in the Tribulation.

Since three is the number of resurrection, these three thousand serve to remind us that in the Tribulation, Israel will have been “resurrected” from the national death that ended Jewish autonomy in A.D.70.  The fact that that resurrection occurred in 1948 when her autonomy was restored, is the warning that Christ’s return, and the outpouring of the terrible Tribulation judgments, must be very near.

Had the men of Judah been willing to take sides with Samson, they could have been freed from the Philistine domination, but their obvious preference for that thraldom points to the fact that in the Tribulation, the unbelieving mass of the nation will similarly prefer the rule of the beast to that of Christ, as their fathers of two thousand years ago  preferred the dominion of Caesar to that of Christ.

And as it was in the past so will it be again: the unbelieving mass, preferring the rule of the beast to that of Christ, will receive his mark, and worship his image, and thus again seal their doom.

15:12.  “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.”

Judah’s binding of Samson, and their delivering him to the Philistines is an unmistakable picture of the Jews’ delivering Christ into the hand of the Romans; and in that context we read the spiritual significance of Samson’s having the assurance that the men of Judah would not themselves kill him.  The type was fulfilled when the Jews delivered Christ to Pilate, leaving the Romans to carry out the actual execution.

15:13.  “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.”

The type of the “two new cords” is more difficult to translate, but one thought which can’t be ignored is that they may represent the two charges brought against Christ: the one, that He was a blasphemer claiming to be God, and the other, that He was setting Himself up as a king in opposition to Caesar.  The one “justified” His condemnation by the Jews; the other, His condemnation by Rome.

But another thought also suggests itself.  Two other “cords” bound the Lord: one, His love for the Father, and the other, His love for sinful men.  He would willingly die for the glory of the One, and the salvation of the other.

15:14.  “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.”

Lehi means cheek: jawbone, and few will have difficulty in seeing that the mighty victory won there by Samson is but a miniature of the greater victory won by Christ at Calvary.

In the presence of all those Philistines, Samson, unbound, may have appeared no more formidable than when he was bound, and so with Christ.  In spite of all the miracles He had performed during the three and a half years of His public ministry, Jews and Romans alike had no fear of Christ that day when they led Him out to Calvary and crucified Him.  But it was with Him, delivered to their will, as it was with Samson when delivered to the will of the Philistines.  The hour of His greatest weakness proved to be the hour of His greatest victory.

15:15.  “And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.”

The victory was accomplished by a means unheard of: with Samson, it was the jawbone of an ass; with Christ, it was His submission to death.  It is significant that Lehi means cheek or jawbone, for in connection with Christ’s great victory at Calvary the cheek is also mentioned in Scripture: “they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek” (Mic 5:1), “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isa 50:6); and Job, who is also a type of Christ, said, “The gaped upon me with their mouth: they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully” (Job 16:10).

To smite one on the cheek was to express contemptuous hatred.  It was by His submission to being “smitten on the cheek” that Christ slew the enemy at Calvary, and won His greatest victory.  Samson’s slaughter of the thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, pictures that victory in which Christ, by submission, conquered.  As expressed by the poet,

In weakness and defeat, He won the mead and crown;

Trod all His foes beneath His feet,

By being trodden down.

There is, however, a further significance to it’s being the jawbone of an ass, for the ass was an unclean animal.  Is God perhaps reminding us that Calvary’s mighty victory was accomplished because Christ was willing to become “unclean,” so that we might be made clean?  “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Co 5:21).  As Samson, a Nazarite, contracted defilement by touching the bone of the dead ass, so did the Lord become sin when He voluntarily took our guilty place at Calvary.  But as it was by his willingness to be defiled that Samson defeated the enemy, so was it with Christ.  By His willingness to take our sins upon Him and die for them, we have been saved, and the enemy defeated.

Since the jaw is clearly associated with speech, we may be meant to see also here in symbol the fact that the Lord Who is the living Word, assumed humanity, and in perfect submission to the written Word, died in order to fulfil it, and thus make atonement for sin.

A further significance attaching to that jawbone is that it was still moist, for that is the literal meaning of the word “new.”  In other words, it was that of an ass that had just died and hadn’t yet begun to decay.  The body of Christ saw no corruption, as it is written, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Ps 16:10).  See also Ac 2:31.

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

This is the OT typical anticipation of the words that concluded Christ’s great battle at Calvary, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30).  The slaughter of the thousand Philistines speaks of the victory of Christ over Satan, sin, and death.

15:17.  “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 the place Ramath-Lehi jawbone height.”  

Samson’s casting away the jawbone is the symbolic announcement that when Christ said “It is finished,” He ceased to be what He had been willing to be made, and which must have revolted His holy soul, i.e., sin.  He will never again have to undergo that terrible experience.  When He comes again, it will be as declared in He 9:27-28, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”  It speaks also of the fact that having assumed humanity in order to die, the human body of flesh and blood was now set aside, for with the great work completed, it was no longer needed.

Calvary, the scene of His greatest humiliation, became the true Ramath-lehi: the scene of His greatest exaltation, for it was from that cross where He had hung crowned with thorns, that He has returned to heaven, where He now sits exalted at the Father’s right hand, the writer of Hebrews reminding us that now “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor” (He 2:9).

15:18.  “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?”

No one will forget that at the end of His great victory the Lord also thirsted, as we read in Jn 19:28 “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst”   Clearly Samson’s thirst points to Christ’s.

15:19.  “But God clave a 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 En-hakkore fount of the caller, which is in Lehi unto this day.”

The water didn’t come out of the jawbone itself, but rather out of a rock cleft by God at the place, which because of the victory won there by means of the jawbone, came to be known as “the jawbone.”

That cleft rock, of course, is a type of Christ smitten at Calvary, and becoming thereby the source of the water of life to all who trust Him as Savior.  We must note, however, that Samson was the first to drink from that cleft rock, and the spiritual message is easily read.  This points to the satisfaction which the Lord Himself enjoys as a result of that mighty victory won at Calvary, as it is written in Isa 53:11 “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.”

Its being said of Samson that “when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived” makes it clear that his revival is a figure of the Lord’s resurrection.

Its being said that it is in Lehi “unto this day” points to the eternal efficacy of the work so perfectly completed when He said, “It is finished.”  And its being called En-hakkore fount of the caller reminds us that Calvary is the true En-hakkore, for as a result of the Lord’s mighty victory won there, the fountain of living water has been opened for all men, as it is written, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Ro 10:13).  Very different from the repentant call that brings salvation to sinners, was the call from the lips of Christ when He hung on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” Mt 27:46.  On that occasion there was no response!

15:20.  “And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.”

As has been noted in earlier studies, the two names, Jacob and Israel, given Isaac’s secondborn son, are associated with what is of the flesh, and what is of the spirit respectively.  It is significant therefore that Samson is said to have judged or ruled, not Jacob, but Israel.  The truth being declared is that the Lord Jesus Christ rules today only in the hearts of “Israel,” i.e., true believers.  Nor should we miss the significance of its being said that his twenty year rule over Israel was “in the days of the Philistines,” who represent apostasy. The great travesty which calls itself the true church is apostate.  It is generally recognized that during those twenty years, the Philistines still exercised dominion over Israel, just as the great apostate “church” rules Christendom today, true believers, the true “Israel,” the small believing remnant in the midst of the apostate mass, alone acknowledging the lordship of Christ.

The factors of twenty are 2 x 10 and 4 x 5, so that the lesson of the twenty is that as two is the Biblical number of witness; and ten, of God as Governor, we are to be the witness to the truth that God does rule our lives, our obedience being the evidence of that fact.  Four, however, is the number of earthly testing; and five, of responsibility, so that the lesson of the second set of factors is that here in this earthly scene of testing, we are responsible to demonstrate the same truth, the distinction between the two sets of factors being that the first relates more to our verbal confession; the second, more to our actual obedience.

Samson’s rule ended after twenty years, and the corresponding part of Christ’s rule will also end.  But unlike that of Samson’s over Israel, the Lord’s rule over us will continue eternally, not here amid earthly testing, but in heaven, where the measure of our obedience on earth, will be reflected in the degree of our own eternal glory.  That knowledge out to impel a greater measure of obedience.

[Judges 16]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough