Samson: Revenge Comes Back to Bite (Judges 15:1-8)

Be-StrongDo you live by the motto,  “I don’t get mad, I get even!”  The passion to get even seemed to govern Samson’s life. His motto was, “As they did unto me, so have I done unto them” (15:11). I realize that as the defender of Israel, Samson’s calling was to defeat the enemy; but you long to see him fighting “the. battles of the Lord” and not just his own private wars. When David faced the Philistines, he saw them as the enemies of the Lord and sought to honor the name of the Lord in his victory (1 Sam. 17). Samson’s attitude was different.

As Christ followers, we need to beware of hiding selfish motives under the cloak of religious zeal and calling it “righteous indignation.” Personal vengeance and private gain rather than the glory of the Lord has motivated more than one “crusader” in the church. What some people think is godly zeal may actually be ungodly anger, fed by pride and motivated by selfishness. There is a godly anger that we should experience when we see wickedness prosper and defenseless people hurt (Eph. 4:26), but there’s a very fine line between righteous indignation and a “religious temper tantrum.”

Samson sought revenge for:

 His ruined marriage (vv. 1-5). Although he had never consummated the marriage, Samson thought he was legally married to the woman of Timnah. Therefore, he took a gift and went to visit her in her father’s house. How shocked he was to learn that not only was he not married, but also the woman he loved was now married to his best-man! Samson had paid the legal “bride price” for his wife, and now he had neither the money nor the wife.

Samson was angry, and even the offer of a younger and prettier bride didn’t appease him. If anybody should have been punished, it was his father-in-law. He was the real culprit. After all, he took the money and gave the bride away— to the wrong man! But Samson decided to take out his anger on the Philistines by burning up the grain in their fields.

The word translated “foxes” also means “jackals,” and that’s probably the animal that Samson used. Foxes are solitary creatures, but jackals prowl in large packs. Because of this, it would have been much easier for Samson to capture 300 jackals; and no doubt he enlisted the help of others. Had he tied the firebrands to individual animals, they each would have immediately run to their dens. But by putting two animals together and turning them loose, Samson could be fairly sure that their fear of the fire and their inability to maneuver easily would make them panic. Thus they would run around frantically in the fields and ignite the grain. The fire then would spread into the vineyards and olive groves. It was a costly devastation.

Why he chose to destroy the Philistine’s crops in such a strange manner isn’t clear to us. If others were helping him, Samson could attack several fields at the same time; and the Philistines, unable to see the animals on the ground, would be alarmed and confused, wondering what was causing the fires. The jackals would undoubtedly make a racket, especially if caught in the rushing flame or overwhelmed by the smoke. His riddle and his rhyme (15:16) indicate that Samson had a boyish sense of humor, and perhaps this approach to agricultural arson was just another fun time for him. However, we must keep in mind that God was using Samson’s exploits to harass the Philistines and prepare them for the sure defeat that was coming in a few years.

Samson also sought revenge for:

His wife’s death (vv. 6-8). Violence breeds violence, and the Philistines weren’t about to stand around doing nothing while their food and fortune went up in flames. They figured out that Samson was behind the burning of their crops, and they knew they had to retaliate. Since they couldn’t hope to overcome Samson, they did the next thing and vented their wrath on his wife and father-in-law. In the long run, her betrayal of Samson didn’t save her life after all (14:15).

Samson’s response? “Since you’ve acted like this, I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you” (15:7, NIV). We don’t know how many Philistines he killed or what weapons he used, but it was “a great slaughter.” Following the attack, he retreated to a cave in the “rock of Etam,” some elevated place in Judah, near Lehi, from which Samson could safely and conveniently watch the enemy.

* Life Application:   Samson’s reply in Jdg 15:11 tells the story of this chapter: “I merely did to them what they did to me.” Revenge is an uncontrollable monster. Each act of retaliation brings another. It is a boomerang that cannot be thrown without cost to the thrower. The revenge cycle can be halted only by forgiveness.

We can be strong with God’s help.



Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament

Life Application Bible Notes



About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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2 Responses to Samson: Revenge Comes Back to Bite (Judges 15:1-8)

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