Judges 15:19: The Miracle of the Water from the Jawbone

Verse 19:[1] But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw (or, Lehi[2]), and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, (Gen. 45:27; Is. 40:29) his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof En-hakkore (that is, the well of him that called, or, cried;[3] Ps. 34:6[4]), which is in Lehi unto this day.



[He opened the molar tooth in the jawbone of the ass,וַיִּבְקַ֙ע אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־הַמַּכְתֵּ֣שׁ אֲשֶׁר־בַּלֶּ֗חִי[5]] [They take it variously.] And God broke the mortar that was in the jawbone (Montanus), the reservoir that was in the jawbone (Septuagint). He clave a certain cavity that was in the place Lehi (Junius and Tremellius, Drusius). A hollow, or concave place in which the molar tooth was (Vatablus). He made a fissure and opening, from which water began to run. Hebrew: mortar, from the similarity to that because of the cavity, Judges 16 (Junius, similarly Drusius). To others a מַכְתֵּשׁ is a stone that had the form of a mortar (Rabbi Levi in Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals), or of a molar tooth (Hebrews in Munster). Therefore, it should be translated in this way, God clave a rock by the name of מַכְתֵּשׁ/Maktesh, which is in Lehi. Thus מַכְתֵּשׁ/Maktesh is the name of a place: Zephaniah 1:11, howl, ye inhabitants of הַמַּכְתֵּשׁ/Maktesh, that is, inhabitants of the place thus called after the figure of a mortar; either it was at Jerusalem, as the Chaldean has it, or near Tiberias (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:15:202). The Chaldean translates it, the rock, that is, that was similar to a mortar; that is, a certain concave stone (Vatablus). But I think that the passage has been corrupted in the Chaldean, and in the place of כֵּיפָא, the rock, is to be read ככא (just as it is found in some exemplars, as Kimchi acknowledges), which everywhere signifies a molar tooth. To others these versions are not satisfying. If the text had wanted to say either a rock or a cavity, what had been the need of such an exotic and obscure word, מַכְתֵּשׁ/Maktesh, when others were in readiness (Serarius)? Therefore, others translate it, the molar tooth that was in the jawbone. Thus (besides the Vulgate), Pagnine, similarly Munster, Osiander, and Bochart in his Sacred Catalogue of Animals. It is possible that is signified the opening that a tooth, cast out by the force of the casting forth, had made in the jawbone cast forth (Grotius). A projection of the jawbone (Syriac); the bone of the mandible (Arabic). It is altogether certain that מַכְתֵּשׁ is a mortar, out of Proverbs 27:22;[6] and the Hebrews acknowledge this, from the verb כָּתַשׁ, to grind, to pound (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals). Hence it signifies, either, a vessel in which something is crushed, or, that which pounds and grinds something; and thus any of the molar teeth, which especially cut up and grind food, is able to be called מַכְתֵּשׁ/maktesh (Serarius). In the next place, it is no less certain the small boxes or troughs of the teeth are called ὁλμίσκους, or little mortars. Thus they are called Rufus of Ephesus,[7] who lived under Trajan,[8] Concerning the Names of the Parts of the Human Body 1:8 (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals), and by Vesalius,[9] Anatomy 11:11, just as by the Greeks they are called βόθρια/ sockets, φατνίαι, small basins (Serarius). Thus Rabbi Salomon. מַכְתֵּשׁ/maktesh is the socket in which a tooth is placed, fashioned after the likeness of a mortar. In this thing, therefore, I say that there is a miracle, that from an opened jawbone, instead of viscous fluid of putrid matter and blood, abundant waters poured forth; and this was done by that same power whereby waters burst forth from the rock,[10] and flour increased in the pot, and oil in the bottle of the widow of Zarephath[11] (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 203). Moreover, from this mandible waters burst forth, either, 1. while Samson was holding it in his hand: thus Sulpicius and Chrysostom. But he had already cast it away, verse 17. Or, 2. rather from this while it was lying on the ground, according to Gregory, Glycas,[12] and others (Serarius). But it is possible that Samson had taken that up again, so that he might suck the fluid so ardently desired (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals).


Clave an hollow place, that is, by cleaving a place, made it hollow; an expression like that Isaiah 47:2, grind meal, that is, grind corn into meal; and that Psalm 74:15, thou didst cleave the fountain, that is, cleave the rock so as to make a fountain in it. In the jaw; in the jawbone which he had used, which God could easily effect, either by causing the jawbone to send forth water, as the rock formerly did, the miracle being in effect the same, though in a differing subject, causing a spring to break forth in Lehi: or, in that Lehi mentioned before, verse 14; for Lehi is both the name of a place, and signifies a jawbone.


[And he received strength] Hebrew: and he lived,[13] that is, he, namely, Samson, revived; or his vital spirit, which because of thirst had departed, as it were, now returned (Drusius). Thus, in Genesis 45:27, and the spirit of Jacob lived,[14] that is, he was restored to his vigor (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 203).


[Therefore the name of that was called, The Fountain of the one invoking from the jawbone, unto the present day[15]] The from the jawbone refer to the fountain not to the one invoking, as it is evident from the Hebrew (Lapide).


[עֵ֤ין הַקּוֹרֵא֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּלֶּ֔חִי] The Fountain of the one invoking, or imploring (understanding, Divine help [Vatablus]) from the jawbone (Munster), or, which is in Lehi (Tigurinus, Septuagint). The Fountain that was given upon the prayer of Samson (Jonathan). Therefore he called the name of that fountain, The Fountain of the one invoking, which is in Lehi the place (Junius and Tremellius). שְׁמָהּ, the name of it, with the feminine suffix is not referred to מַכְתֵּשׁ/mortar, nor to מַיִם/waters, nor to מָקוֹם/place (which is wont often to be supplied), for these are all masculine; but to עֵין/fountain, which is commonly feminine. Now, the liquid flowing from the jawbone is only called a fountain analogically and καταχρηστικῶς/ catachrestically/improperly, like, a fountain of tears, Jeremiah 9:1, of blood, Leviticus 20:18; Mark 5:29 (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 204). Moreover, Jerome and Glycas, Annals 2, write that this fountains endured to their times, which are hardly five hundred years before our age (Serarius). Question: How is this true? Response 1: From this Piscator gathers that the מַכְתֵּשׁ/mortar is not rightly taken of a molar tooth; for the jawbone because of the miracle would not have remained there, but would have been taken by whomever came upon it (Piscator). Response 2: It is able to be doubted, 1. whether the fountain remained in the jawbone, or in the place named after that: 2. whether the waters flowed from the jawbone alone, and, with that afterwards removed, from the earth; or rather, while it was lying there, the waters flowed from that ground, but through the molar toot (Serarius). I think that these waters erupted from the earth, yet in such a way that they flowed down through an aperture of the jawbone lying on the ground and of a tooth (as through a channel. Thus there was no necessity either that the fountain be dried, if the jawbone was taken away, or that the fountain follow the jawbone, if it happen that the latter was not in contact with the spring of waters (Bonfrerius). Response 3: Bochart denies that this fountain endured. This fountain flowed for that time: for, after Samson allayed his thirst, why would the miracle have continued, and useless water exude from the jawbone in a place probably uninhabited? For God is wont to exhibit miracles, only as long as it is necessary, Joshua 5:12; 1 Kings 17:14. Now, the words, which is in Lehi, are to be translated, which [that is, the fountain] was in the jawbone. For it is not בְלֶחִי, in Lehi,[16] as in verse 14, עַד־לֶחִי, unto Lehi; but בַּלֶּחִי, in the place of בְּהַלֶּחִי,[17] in the jawbone. Then, the words, which is in Lehi, are to be divided from these words, unto this day, as the Zaqeph parvum (֔) above בַּלֶּ֔חִי, in Lehi, indicates.[18] Whence we interpret it thus, its name was called, עֵ֤ין הַקּוֹרֵא֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּלֶּ֔חִי, En-hakkore asher bellechi (that is, the Fountain of the invoking, which was in the jawbone), unto this day; so that the sense is not, that the fountain endures to this day, but that it is thus called unto this day, namely, by those that remember this miracle; just as Nimrod, long since dead, was called a mighty hunter before the Lord:[19] For in both instances are asserted what things are in the mouth of the vulgar, so that confidence in the matter conducted might be built up with arguments accommodated to our capacity (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:15:205).



En-hakkore, that is, the fountain of him that cried for thirst; or, that called upon God for deliverance; that is, the fountain or well which was given in answer to my prayer. Which is in Lehi unto this day. According to this translation, Lehi is the name of a place, and not a jawbone, because it seems improbable that a jawbone should continue there so long, which every traveller might take away, and would be forward enough to carry a fountain with them in those hot countries; although it is not incredible that passengers would generally forbear to meddle with or remove so great a monument of God’s power and goodness; or that the same God who made it instrumental to so great a wonder, should add one circumstance more, to wit, fix it in the earth, as a testimony to posterity of the truth of this glorious work. But these words may be otherwise rendered thus, which fountain was in that jawbone; and for the following words, unto this day, they may not be joined with the words next and immediately foregoing, as if the fountain was there to this day; but with the former words, he called, etc., and so the sense may be this, that it was so called unto this day; and the place may be thus read, he called the name thereof, or, the name thereof was called, (such active verbs being frequently put passively and impersonally,) The well or fountain of him that called or cried (which was in Lehi) unto this day.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּבְקַ֙ע אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־הַמַּכְתֵּ֣שׁ אֲשֶׁר־בַּלֶּ֗חִי וַיֵּצְא֙וּ מִמֶּ֤נּוּ מַ֙יִם֙ וַיֵּ֔שְׁתְּ וַתָּ֥שָׁב רוּח֖וֹ וַיֶּ֑חִי עַל־כֵּ֣ן׀ קָרָ֣א שְׁמָ֗הּ עֵ֤ין הַקּוֹרֵא֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּלֶּ֔חִי עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃


[2] Hebrew: בַּלֶּחִי.


[3] Hebrew: עֵ֤ין הַקּוֹרֵא֙.


[4] Psalm 34:6: “This poor man cried (קָרָא/kara), and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”


[5] מַכְתֵּשׁ is related to the verb כָּתַשׁ, to pound.


[6] Proverbs 27:22: “Though thou shouldest bray (תִּכְתּוֹשׁ) a fool in a mortar (בַּמַּכְתֵּשׁ) among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.”


[7] Rufus of Ephesus (c. 70-c. 110) was a Greek physician and medical writer.


[8] Trajan was Emperor of Rome from 98 to 117.


[9] Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) was a Flemish anatomist and physician. His anatomy, De Humani Corporis Fabrica, was of such quality and so influential that he is sometimes referred to as the father of modern anatomy.


[10] See Exodus 17:1-6; Numbers 20:1-13; Deuteronomy 8:15; Nehemiah 9:15; Psalm 114:8.


[11] 1 Kings 17:9-16.


[12] Michael Glycas was a twelfth poet, theologian, and historian, who served as imperial secretary under Manuel I Komnenos (Emperor from 1143 to 1180). He was involved in a conspiracy against the emperor, and imprisoned and blinded. His most important work was his Annals, chronicling the history of the world from the creation to his day.


[13] Hebrew: וַיֶּחִי.


[14] Genesis 45:27: “And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived (וַתְּחִ֕י ר֖וּחַ יַעֲקֹ֥ב אֲבִיהֶֽם׃)…”


[15] Hebrew: עֵין הַקּוֹרֵא֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּלֶּ֔חִי עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃.


[16] Note the absence of the Dagesh (ּ) in the ל, which would otherwise indicate the presence of the definite article.


[17] Note the inclusion of the definite article.


[18] The Zaqeph parvum (֔) is a fairly strong disjunctive accent.


[19] Genesis 10:9.

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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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