This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.
Chapter fifteen takes place “sometime later,” but it does not state how long. It must have been long enough that the woman’s father thought Samson was not coming back, which is why he married her to another man. When Samson did return and discovered that his marriage had ended, he was furious (Judges 15:1-8). Evidently, Samson may have had some remorse or second thoughts about killing those first men, but that was gone this time. Whatever he planned to do, he felt completely justified in doing it. The entire region would suffer his revenge. Catching 150 pairs of jackals, he tied torches to their tails and set them loose in the Philistine wheat harvest, totally destroying that year’s crop. He also burned their “vineyards and olive groves.” He intended to starve them. When the Philistines discovered who had done this, they followed through with their initial threat to kill his wife and her family, meaning that nothing she did to protect herself accomplished anything. Acting in revenge again, Samson killed the men who had killed his wife, then he lived in a cave. He honestly thought that he was done fighting.
When the men of Judah discovered that Samson was living in their territory, they voluntarily acted to turn him over to the Philistines in order to save themselves from harm (Judges 15:9-13). There is a sad irony in the fact that the Israelites would rather have gotten rid of God’s deliverer than face further potential backlash from their enemies. Approaching Samson they told him their plan. Surprisingly, Samson agreed to be handed over as long as the Jews did not kill him themselves; they promised they would not. When the Philistines saw him, they shouted and rushed to seize him, but God’s Spirit empowered him again (Judges 15:14-17). He snapped the ropes binding him, grabbed a fresh jawbone of a dead donkey (violating his vow again), and killed 1,000 of them, throwing them into a pile. Proving himself a wordsmith again, he taunted their death by naming the place “Jawbone Hill.”
Finally, we see the first instance of Samson’s recognition of God (Judges 15:18-20). The battle had left him parched, and he begged God for water, which he provided miraculously. An important note is that Samson had come to recognize that God was empowering him for these battles, and he openly acknowledged that here.