Judges 15:14, 15: Death by Jawbone

Verse 14:[1] And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the (Judg. 3:10; 14:6) 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 (Heb. were melted[2]) from off his hands.



[Shouting, they met him, הֵרִ֣יעוּ לִקְרָאת֑וֹ[3]] They rejoiced (shouted [Septuagint, Jonathan, Munster, Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius], for joy [Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus]) unto (or on [Junius and Tremellius]) the meeting of him (Montanus), as if with the victory now obtained, and their enemy captured (Malvenda). They shouted in the way to him, that is, shouting, they went in the way to him. Such Ellipses of laden words are found elsewhere. Thus, in Judges 14:5, a lion שֹׁאֵ֖ג לִקְרָאתֽוֹ׃, was roaring in the way to him, that is, roaring, it was coming in the way to him. Thus, in Judges 19:3, וַיִּשְׂמַ֖ח לִקְרָאתֽוֹ׃, he rejoiced in the way to him, that is, rejoicing, he proceeded in the way. Thus among the foreign authors, to act boldly unto battles, in the place of, boldly to rush upon, Æneid 2; and, they slaughter sheep unto the flame, that is, slaughtering, they cast them, Æneid 11 (Boot’s[4] Sacred Observations[5] 1:10:84). [See more things, if you desire, in the author.]


The Philistines shouted against him, for joy and triumph, because they had now their great enemy, as they supposed, in their hands.


[And, just as wood is wont to be consumed at the smell of fire,כַּפִּשְׁתִּים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּעֲר֣וּ בָאֵ֔שׁ] As flax cords that are burned in fire (Pagnine, Montanus, similarly Jonathan, Syriac, Munster), that is, as flax threads (Junius and Tremellius, Arabic). It is a substantive in the place of an adjective; and the means in the place of the thing effected, metonymically (Malvenda out of Junius): which is to say, immediately, without delay, with no effort (Bonfrerius). As fibers of flax (Septuagint); as staves burned with fire (Tigurinus).


His bands loosed; Hebrew, were melted,[6] that is, were dissolved, as things are which are melted in the fire.


Verse 15:[7] And he found a new (Heb. moist[8]) jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and (Judg. 3:31; Lev. 26:8; Josh. 23:10) slew a thousand men therewith.



[A jawbone, לְחִֽי־חֲמ֖וֹר טְרִיָּ֑ה[9]] A jawbone, or mandible, of an ass, moist (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Osiader, Drusius), or, decaying (Tigurinus), or, rotting (Jonathan), or, recent (Syriac, Pagnine, Vatablus, Drusius), that is, of a thing recently dead, and still moist, wet, not yet dry (Vatablus). But what? Is לְחִי/jawbone feminine?[10] Consider whether it could be referred to חֲמוֹר/ass, which is a ἐπίκοινον/common noun, so that it might denote a she-ass recently dead and still moist. Thus, וּמַכָּ֣ה טְרִיָּ֑ה, in Isaiah 1:6, a moist wound.[11] טְרִי signifies this among the Arabs. In the books of Physicians, fluid or discharge that goes forth from a wound in called טְרִי, says Rabbi Salomon (Drusius).


A new jawbone, and therefore more tough and strong.


[He slew with it a thousand men] For asses, as they have large and hard heads, so also jawbones, especially in Syria, where they are larger and stronger than ours. But the power of God was present with him, which also preserved the jawbone in its integrity, so that it, having been dashed against hard bodies by so many strokes, might not be broken; and it gave strength to Samson, so that by it he might kill a thousand men (Lapide). Bones moist and fresh are not as easily broken as those that have been dried. Moreover, it was needful that what God had so solemnly promised, one of you shall pursue a thousand, should be fulfilled (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:15:199).

[1] Hebrew: הוּא־בָ֣א עַד־לֶ֔חִי וּפְלִשְׁתִּ֖ים הֵרִ֣יעוּ לִקְרָאת֑וֹ וַתִּצְלַ֙ח עָלָ֜יו ר֣וּחַ יְהוָ֗ה וַתִּהְיֶ֙ינָה הָעֲבֹתִ֜ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר עַל־זְרוֹעוֹתָ֗יו כַּפִּשְׁתִּים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּעֲר֣וּ בָאֵ֔שׁ וַיִּמַּ֥סּוּ אֱסוּרָ֖יו מֵעַ֥ל יָדָֽיו׃


[2] Hebrew: וַיִּמַּסּוּ.


[3] רוּעַ signifies to raise a shout.


[4] Arnold Boot (1606-1653) was a Dutch physician, who excelled, not only in the practice of medicine, but also in the study of Oriental languages. He defended the integrity of the Hebrew text and vowel points against Louis Cappel.


[5] Animadversiones Sacræ ad Textum Hebraicum Veteris Testamenti.


[6] Hebrew: וַיִּמַּסּוּ.


[7] Hebrew: וַיִּמְצָ֥א לְחִֽי־חֲמ֖וֹר טְרִיָּ֑ה וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָדוֹ֙ וַיִּקָּחֶ֔הָ וַיַּךְ־בָּ֖הּ אֶ֥לֶף אִֽישׁ׃


[8] Hebrew: טְרִיָּה.


[9] טָרִי signifies fresh, related to the verbal root טרה, to be fresh, moist.


[10] טְרִיָּה is a feminine adjective. Interpreters are divided over the gender of לְחִי.


[11] Isaiah 1:6: “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores (וּמַכָּ֣ה טְרִיָּ֑ה): they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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