Shofetim Chapter 15

Sefer Shofetim Chapter 15

Shimshon returns to visit his Phillistine wife only to find that she has been given away to another man in his absence. His father-in-law offers his younger daughter as a substitute but Shimshon declines. Instead, he uses the injustice as a pretext for inflicting more harm on the Pelishtim. He catches three hundred foxes and lights one hundred and fifty torches; he ties the foxes in pairs with torches between their tails and releases them into the grain fields and olive groves of the Pelishtim where they cause extensive damage.

When the Phillistine community discovers the reason for Shimshon’s actions – the infidelity of his wife, abetted by her father – they burn the two perpetrators in fire as a punishment and perhaps also to assuage the rage of Shimshon. However, rather than find favor with the measures taken on his behalf, Shimshon “switches sides” in the conflict, now holding the Pelishtim accountable for killing rather than merely chastising his wife. This time, he slaughters an untold number of Pelishtim as revenge.

Shimshon goes into hiding for a while and he is approached by the people of Judah who ask him to turn himself in to the Pelishtim for their sake. He agrees to allow them to deliver him to the Pelishtim while bound by ropes; however, when the Pelishtim approach him, he easily casts the restraints aside and proceeds to kill a thousand Pelishtim with the jawbone of a donkey. After his mighty feat, Shimshon is thirsty and cries out to Hashem for water; Hashem miraculously causes water to flow from a nearby rock to satisfy his need and restore his energy.

This chapter highlights the vigilante nature of Shimshon’s activities against the Pelishtim. Not only does he fail to develop any following, his controversial behavior is seen as troublesome and potentially dangerous by his fellow Jews. Nonetheless, Shimshon ignores his lack of popularity and low approval rating and continues to fulfill the mission Hashem has given him – namely, to interfere with and obstruct the dominion of the Pelishtim in the land of Israel as much as possible.