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existing usages in the East, that Samson made his feast at the house of some acquaintance, or in one hired for the occasion, as his own home was distant; while, at the same time, the woman entertained her female friends and relatives at her father's house. The different sexes never feasted together on these or any other occasions, and the bride and bridegroom did not even give their respective entertainments in the same house, unless under very peculiar circumstances. In reading this narrative, we must not forget that Samson was a stranger at Timnath.
11. “ Thirty companions."—We differ from those who think it was a regular custom for the bride's friends to provide the bridegroom with a number of companions or bridesmen. We are continually mistaking when we take peculiar cases as indications of general usage. "It seems more probable that Samson being a stranger in the place, the bride's friends undertook to provide him with a suitable number of guests or companions to give proper importance to his wedding Feasting thirty persons for a week must have been a very costly affair: but it is quite oriental. In the East, sums that would make a little furtune--and not always a little one--are often spent on such occasions: and every one so much desires to distinguish himself by the richness and profusion of the wedding entertainment, that the manner in which the expense is to be borne is often a subject of warm discussion and previous arrangement between the friends of the bride and those of the bridegroom. The object of the latter is, chiefly, to induce the former to give up a part of the price” of the girl, towards the expenses of this occasion ; and to some extent they generally succeed.
12. “I will nou put forth a riddle unto you."— It was a very ancient custom among different nations- as the Phænicians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and others-to relieve their entertainments, by proposing difficult and obscure questions, to the solution of which a reward was annexed usually equivalent to the forfeiture which inability incurred. This was a favourite amusement and exercise of ingenuity among most people in those times, when the very limited extent of knowledge and general information afforded few topics of interesting conversation or discussion. Devices of this sort were particularly necessary for amusement and pastime in a festival of seven days' duration, like the present. We need not remind the reader that the tales of ancient and modern times, Oriental and European, abound in instances in which the interest of the story turns upon some great advantage or exemption from calamity depending upon the successful interpretation of a riddle. This was also, and is still in the East, a favourite, but certainly a very mistaken, method of testing the abilities of a person of reputed wisdom or learning. Thus the queen of Sheba came to prove Solomon with hard questions (1 Kings x. 1). The Arabs, Persians and Turks have ancient and modern books, of great reputation among themselves, containing riddles, or rules by which riddles may be interpreted or inanufactured.
13. “ Thirty sheels and thirty change of garments.”—Instead of "sheets” the marginal reading of “ shirts” is unquestionably to be preferred. That is to say, he offered thirty dresses, which probably consisted only of a shirt and upper garment. Indeed, as it is probable that only one garment, of woollen, was worn at this time by the common people, the shirt may be taken to denote that the dresses were such as persons of consideration usually wore. (See the note on Deut. xxix. 5.)
18. “ If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle."—We do not understand this to mean more than what we already know, namely, that the Philistines could not have obtained the solution of Samsou's riddle, but with the assistance of his wife.
19. “ Ashkelon,” otherwise called Askelon or Ascalon, was, as we have before seen, the chief and denominating city of one of the five principalities of the Philistines. It was taken, with the others, by Judah (chap. i. 18), but thai tribe did not long retain it. It was situated on the Mediterranean coast, between Gaza on the south and Ashdod on the north. It is distant about twelve miles from the former town, and, as well as can be ascertained, about twice that distance S.S. W. from Timnath. Why Samson went so far it is not easy to determine, unless it were that his aggression might be committed in another, and perhaps more adverse, principality than that in which the previous transactions had taken place. In the time of Herodotus the place was famous for a temple, which, he says, was the most ancient of those consecrated to the Heavenly Venus, and which had been plundered by the Scythians, B.c. 630. This Heavenly Venus was no doubt the same as “ Astarte,”-the “ Ashtaroth," and the “queen of heaven” (i.e., the moon) of the Bible. After passing through the hands of the powers which were successively dominant in this region, Ascalon became the seat of a bishopric in the early ages of Christianity ; and, in the time of the Crusades, the degree of importance which it still retained, and the strength of its position, caused its possession to be warmly contested between the Christians and Saracens ; and it was the last of the maritime towns which were taken by the former (a.u. 548, a.v. 1153). In the history of the Crusades it is chiefly famous for a battle fought in its plains in 1099, when Godfrey of Bouilloa defeated the Saracens; and another in 1192, when the sultan Saladin was defeated, with great slaughter of his army, by our Richard the First. Since the expulsion of the Christians, it has ceased to be a place of any importance. Sandys, early in the seventeenth century, describes it then as “ a place of no note ; more than that the Turke doth keepe there a garrison.” It is now of still less note, being an entirely deserted ruin-"a scene of desolation," says Jolliffe, the most extensive and complete I ever witnessed, except at Nicopolis "--verifying the divine predictions delivered when Ascalon was in its glory, “ Askelon shall not be inhabited.” Zech. ix. 5); and, “ Ashkelon shall be a desolation.”.... “ And the sea-coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks” (Zeph. ii. 4, 6); and this is the literal truth at present with respect to the Philistine coast in general, and in particular of `Ashkelon and its vicinity. (See · Richardson,' vol. ii. p. 204.)
Ascalon was accounted the most impregnable town on the Philistine coast. It is seated on a hill, which presents an abrupt, wave-beaten face to the sea, but slopes gently landward, where a ridge of rock winds round the town in a semi-circular direction, terminating at each extremity in the sea. On this rock the walls were built, the foundations of which remain all the way round, and although generally ruined, maintain in some few places the original elevation, which was considerable. They are of great thickness, and flanked with towers at different distances. It is remarkable that the ground falls within the walls, as it does on the outside ; the town was therefore situated in a hollow, so that no part of its buildings could be seen from without the walls. The interior is full of ruins of domestic habitations, of Christian churches in the Gothic style, with some traces of more ancient remains. Of the latter the principal ruin is situated about the centre of the town, and appears to have been a temple; in which a few columns of grey granite, and one of red, with an unusually large proportion of felspar, and some small portion of the walls, are all that now remains, It is possible that this structure may have been the successor of that old temple for which the place was anciently famous. Ascalon was the native place of Herod the Great, who considerably improved it, and built there a celebrated palace, some traces of which might still possibly be discovered. Ascalon was never of much importance as a sea-port, the coast being sandy and difficult of access. There is no bay or shelter for shipping; but a small harbour, at a short distance to the northward, serves now, as it probably did formerly, to receive the small crast that trade along the coast. 20. “ His companion, whom he had used as his friend.”—This friend was probably what is called in the New Testament “the friend of the bridegroom.” This person (called the parranymph) was a trusted friend, who was charged with a peculiarly delicate and confidential otrice. He devoted himselt, for a time, almost entirely to the affairs of the bridegroom ; before the day of marriage, he was usually the medium of communication between the bridegroom and the bride ; during the marriage festivity, he was in constant attendance, dving his best to promote the hilarity of the entertainment, and rejoicing in the happiness of his friend. Nor did his duties terminate with the completion of the marriage, but he was considered the patron and confidential friend of both parties, and was usually called in to compose any differences which might arise between them. Samson's friend must, as his paranymph, have peculiar facilities in forming an acquaintance with the woman, and of gaining her favourable notice; and the treachery of one whom he had so largely trusted, must have been peculiarly distressing to Samson. Milton, also, entertains the view that the paranymph is here intended
“ The Timnan bride
Ilad not so soon preferr'd
9 ( Then the Philistines went up, and .
pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in 1 Samson is denied his wife. 3. He burneth the
Lehi. Philistines' corn with foxes and firebrands. 6 His wife and her father are burnt by the Philistines.
10 And the men of Judah said, Why are 7 Samson smiteth them hip and thigh. 9 He is ye come up against us? And they answered, bound by the men of Judah, and delivered to the To bind Samson are we come up, to do to Philistines. 14 He killeth them with a jaubone.
him as he hath done to us. 18 God maketh the fountain En-hakkore for him in Lehi.
11 Then three thousand men of Judah
*went to the top of the rock Etam, and said But it came to pass within a while after, in to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Phi. the time of wheat harvest, that Samson vi- | listines are rulers over us? what is this that sited his wife with a kid ; and he said, I will thou hast done unto us? And he said unto go in to my wife into the chamber. But her them, As they did unto me, so have I done father would not suffer him to go in.
unto them. 2 And her father said, I verily thought 12 And they said unto him, We are come that thou hadst utterly hated her; there down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee fore I gave her to thy companion : is not her into the hand of the Philistines. And Samyounger sister fairer than she? 'take her, I son said unto them, Swear unto me,
ye pray thee, instead of her.
will not fall upon me yourselves. 3 | And Samson said concerning them, 13 And they spake unto him, saying, Now shall I be more blameless than the No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver Philistines, though I do them a displeasure. thee into their hand: but surely we will not 4 And Samson went and caught three kill thee.
kill thee. And they bound him with two hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and new cords, and brought him up from the turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in rock. the midst between two tails.
14 | And when he came unto Lehi, the 5 And when he had set the brands on Philistines shouted against him: and the fire, he let them go into the standing corn Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, of the Philistines, and burnt up both the and the cords that were upon his beshocks, and also the standing corn, with the came as flax that was burnt with fire, and vineyards and olives.
his bands 'loosed from off his hands. 6' Then the Philistines said, Who hath 15 And he found a 'new jawbone of an done this? And they answered, Samson, ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and the son in law of the Timnite, because he slew a thousand men therewith. had taken his wife, and given her to his 16 And Samson said, With the jawbone companion. And the Philistines came up, of an ass, "heaps upon heaps, with the jaw and burnt her and her father with fire. of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
7 And Samson said unto them, Though 17 And it came to pass, when he had ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of made an end of speaking, that he cast away you, and after that I will cease.
the jawbone out of his hand, and called that 8 And he smote them hip and thigh with place ®Ramath-lehi. a great slaughter: and he went down and 18 1 And he was sore athirst, and called dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.
on the Lord, and said, Thou hast given 2 Or, Now shall I be blameless from the Philistines, though, &c. 7 Heb, an heap, two heaps. 8 That is, the listing up of the jawbone, or casting away of the jawbone.
1 Heb. let her be thine. heb, were melted, 6 Heb. moist.
* Or, torches.
4 Heb, went down.
this great deliverance into the hand of thy again, and he revived: wherefore he called servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and the name thereof En-hakkore, which is in fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? Lehi unto this day.
19 But God clave an hollow place that 20 And he judged Israel in the days of was in 'the jaw, and there came water there.
the Philistines twenty years. out; and when he had drunk, his spirit came
9 Or, Lehi. 10 That is, the well of him that called, or cried
Verse 4. “ Foxes.”—The Syow, shual, of the Hebrew, rendered fox” in our version, is now generally agreed to be in most cases, the jackal (canis amens). This animal is well enough depictured as something between the wolf and the, fox, whence some naturalists are disposed to describe it as “the wolf-fox.” It is about the size of the former animal. The upper part of the body is of a dirty yellow: a darker mark runs upon the back and sides; and the under parts are white. The jackals associate together like the wolves, and form large packs, sometimes, in Palestine, of about two or three hundred ; differing, in this respect, from the fox, which is not gregarious. In such packs they prowl at night in search of prey, which chiefly consists of carrion, to obtain which they approach to the towns and villages, and sometimes enter and prowl about the streets, when they can gain admittance. In some towns, large numbers remain concealed during the day, in holes and corners, which they leave at night to scour the streets in search of food. It is often necessary to secure the graves of the recently dead with great care, to prevent the corpse from being disinterred and devoured by these animals. The howlings of these packs of jackals are frightful, and give great alarm to travellers ; hence they are also called in Hebrew "X, ayim, “howlers," improperly rendered "wild beasts of the islands,” in Isa. xii. 22 ; xxxiv. 14; Jer. ii. 39. They do not molest man, unless when they can do so at great disadvantage, as when he lies asleep, or disabled by wounds or sickness. The jackals, like the foxes, live in holes which they form in the ground: they are particularly fond of establishing themselves in ruined towns, not only because they there find numerous secure retreats, ready made, or completed with ease, but because the same facilities attract to such places other animals, on some of which they prey. From this circumstance, the prophets, in describing the future desolation of a city, say it shall become the habitation of jackals, a prediction verified by the actual condition of the towns to which their prophecies apply. Thus, the ruins of Ascalon, which we noticed in the last chapter, afford habitation to great numbers of these animals.
But the common fox is also of frequent occurrence in Palestine; and it appears that the Hebrews included both it and the jackal under the name of shual, although the latter was sometimes specially distinguished as "the aym." It must therefore, in most cases, be left to the bearing of the context to determine, when the jackal and the fox are respectively denoted, by the name (shual) common to both. That the jackal is the animal indicated in the text now before us, we may infer from the number of the animals taken by Samson, which must have been easier with creatures which sometimes prowl in large packs than with a solitary and very wily animal like the fox. This consideration obviates the cavils which have been made to the largeness of the number ; and we are also to consider that the text does not oblige us to suppose that the three hundred were caught all at once, or even all by Samson himself. In the Bible, a person is continually described as doing what he had directed to be done, and, no doubt, such a person as Samson could easily procure whatever assistance he required.
• Tail to tail.”—This was doubtless to prevent them from making too rapid a retreat to their holes, or, indeed, from going to their holes at all. They were probably not so tied that they should pull in different directions, but that they might run deviously and slowly, side by side, bearing the brand between them. The only difficulty is in understanding what sort of firebrand was employed, and in what manner it was conveyed by the jackals. The facility with which
during the droughts of summer, the produce of the ground may be set on fire, has been already explained in the note to Exod. xxii. 6.
That the ancients had an idea of such conflagrations being produced by animals, and particularly by foxes, is very evident. It is alluded to more than once, proverbially, by the Greek poets, as a thing well known. Thus, Lycophron makes Cassandra represent Ulysses as a cunning and mischievous man–the “ man for many wiles renowned” of Homer-and styles him, very properly, hau Tougis, a fox with a firebrand at his tail. And, what is still more to the purpose, the Romans, who, at their feast in honour of Ceres, the patron goddess of grain, offered in sacrifice animals injurious to corn-fields, introduced into the Circus on this occasion foxes with firebrands so fastened to them as to burn them, in retaliation, as Ovid seems to explain it, of the injuries done to the corn by foxes so furnished. In Leland's .Collectanea,' there is an engraving representing a Roman brick, found twenty-eight feet below a pavement in London, about the year 1675, on which is exhibited, in basso-relievo, the figure of a man driving into a field of corn two foxes with a fire fastened to their tails. Richardson, in his • Dissertation on the Eastern Nations,' speaking of the great Festival of Fire, celebrated by the ancient Persians on the shortest night of the year, says: “Among other ceremonies common on this occasion, there was one, which, whether it originated in superstition or caprice, seems to have been singularly cruel. The kings and great men used to set fire to large bunches of dry combustibles, fastened around wild beasts and birds, which being let loose, the air and earth appeared one great illumination ; and as these terrified creatures naturally fled to the woods for shelter, it is easy to conceive that conflagrations, which would often happen, must have been peculiarly destructive."
6."Burnt her and her father with fire.”—The threat which had before frightened Samson's bride into treachery to her husband is now executed in consequence of the results which that treachery produced. This is remarkable. The act was no doubt a tumultuary proceeding of the persons whose produce had been injured or destroyed by the fire which Samson kindled. It is not easy to say what was the precise motive of this act. What Samson says in the next veise, “ Though ye have done this,” &c., seems to sanction the opinion that they intended, by this deed, to propitiate Samson, and prevent further aggression ; but that the hero did not, for all this, think that he had sufficiently availed himself of the occasion for avenging the cause of oppressed Israel (see chap. xiv. 4) which the conduct of the Philistines towards himself had given. We are to recollect that Samson was, from his birth, the appointed avenger of Israel ; and that, finding that his people were become contented slaves—more fearful of offending the Philistines than of asserting their independence, he was obliged to act individually, in transient and desultory attacks, which, in order not to commit his nation against their own will, he wished to be considered as acts of large revenge and retaliation for his own personal wrongs. Hence it is that the retaliatory measures of the Philistines are never directed against the nation, but against Samson personally, which shows that they considered him as acting on his own account; whereas, in fact, he was merely taking occasion from his private wrongs to avenge the wrongs of his people, for which purpose, as he knew well, he had been raised up, and gifted with the extraordinary personal prowess which he possessed.
8. " The rock Etam.”—We know nothing about the position of this rocky hill, farther than we may gather from the context. Josephus says it was in the tribe of Judah, that is, within its western frontier; and this statement is confirmed by what follows in the text, as well as by the fact that Rehoboam, king of Judah, fortified Etam, a town which was no doubt on or near this rock. The summits and hollows of rocks have, since Samson's time, in all ages,
furnished retreats to the heroes of the country. We shall find other instances in the sacred history.
17. “ Ramath-lehi;" “ the hill of the jawbone,” which Dr. Boothroyd gives as the interpretation of this proper name, is preferable to that which is given as a marginal reading.
19. “God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout.”—Lehi, the name which Samson gave to the place, is " jawbone” in Hebrew. " From a fondness for multiplying miracles, it would seem," says Dr. Hales, “ several of the ancient versions, followed by the English translation, understand Lehi here to denote the jawbone of the ass, rather than the place so called ; at variance with the sequel. The marginal reading, Lehi, is correct."
All modern commentators concur in this. Indeed, the propriety of this correction is evident from the context; for if we have “jawbone” here, we ought to retain it in the concluding clause of this verse; and instead of saying, "which is in Lehi unto this day,” say, "which is in the jawbone unto this day.”
20. “ He judged Israel.”—The marginal observation is no doubt correct.
3 And Samson lay till midnight, and 1 Samson at Gaza escapeth, and carrieth away the
arose at midnight, and took the doors of gates of the city., 4 Delilah, corrupted by the the gate of the city, and the two posts, and Philistines, enticeth Samson. 6 Thrice she is de- went away with them, "bar and all
, and put ceived. 15 At last she overcometh him. 21 The
them upon his shoulders, and carried them up Philistines take him, and put out his eyes. 22 His strength renewing, he pulleth down the house
to the top of an hill that is before Hebron. upon the Philistines, and dieth.
4 | And it came to pass afterward, that
he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there whose name was Delilah. lan harlot, and went in unto her.
5 And the lords of the Philistines came 2 And it was told the Gazites, saying, up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, Samson is come hither. And they com- and see wherein his great strength lieth, passed him in, and laid wait for him all and by what means we may prevail against night in the gate of the city, and were him, that we may bind him to Rafflict him: *quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, and we will give thee every one of us eleven when it is day, we shall kill him.
hundred pieces of silver.
* Heb. silent.
3 Heb, with the bar,
1 Heb. a woman an harlot.
4 Or, by the brook.
* Or, humble.
6 ( And Delilah said to Samson, Tell | fast with new ropes that never were occume, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength pied, then shall I be weak, and be as anlieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound other man. to afflict thee.
12 Delilah therefore took new ropes, ard 7 And Samson said unto her, if they bound him therewith, and said unto him, bind me with seven green withs that were The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And never dried, then shall I be weak, and be there were liers in wait abiding in the chamas Sanother man.
ber. And he brake them from off his arms 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought like a thread. up to her seven green
withs which had not 13 And Delilah said unto Samson, Hibeen dried, and she bound him with them. therto thou hast mocked me, and told me
9 Now there were men lying in wait, abidlies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be ing with her in the chamber. And she said bound. And he said unto her, If thou unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, weavest the seven locks of my head with the Samson. And he brake the withs, as a web. thread of tow is broken when it 'toucheth 14 And she fastened it with the pin, and the fire. So his strength was not known.
said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, 10 And Delilah said unto Samson, Be- Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, hold, thou hast mocked me, and told me and went away with the pin of the beam, lies : now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith and with the web. thou mightest be bound.
15 | And she said unto him, How canst 11 And he said unto her, If they bind me thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is
7 Heb. moit.
9 Hleb, smelleth.
6 Or, new cords.
10 Heb, wherewith scork hath not been done.