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 2001 James Melough


Judges Chapter 15

The setting for this study is Judges chapter 15, the first eight verses of which describe Samson’s slaughter of many Philistines following his burning of their corn.

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

Lehi means cheek: jawbone, and inasmuch as it was the place where Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, it points to the great victory won by Christ at Calvary.

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 spiritual dominion of apostasy and the political dominion of Caesar at the time of Christ’s first advent.

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.”

As the next verse reveals, Samson wasn’t bound by those cords.  He could have broken them any time he wished; and in this we see declared the truth that the Lord’s submission both to the Jews and to the Romans was voluntary, as He Himself declared, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” Mt 26:53-54; and again to Pilate, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above,” Jn 19:11

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 seeming 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 meed 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 typological 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 of redemption 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!

A further discussion of Samson as a type of Christ will be available next week, God willing.

For a detailed discussion of Samson as a type of Christ, please consult Judges chapters 13-16, also available on this Web site.


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