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Judges 15:3: Samson's Vengeance

Verse 3:[1] And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though (or, Now shall I be blameless from the Philistines, though,[2] etc.) I do them a displeasure.

[To whom Samson replied, וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לָהֶם֙] And he said to them (Septuagint, Montanus, similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Syriac). He said these things to her father, and that publicly and in the presence of others (Serarius). Others: to him (Pagnine). Others: concerning them (Junius, Piscator, English, Dutch), namely, the Philistines (Piscator).

[Fault shall not be found in me, נִקֵּ֥יתִי הַפַּ֖עַם מִפְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים] I shall be blameless in this interchange (or, after this [certain interpreters in Vatablus]) from, or concerning, the Philistines (Jonathan, Dutch), or, in the presence of the Philistines (Tigurinus, Munster), that is, I shall be free of blame after this, even if I destroy the Philistines, because I have been injured by them (Vatablus).

[For I am going to bring evils upon them (similarly Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic), כִּֽי־עֹשֶׂ֥ה אֲנִ֛י עִמָּ֖ם רָעָֽה׃] Because I am doing (or, when I will have done [Pagnine, Dutch]) to them an evil thing (Septuagint, Montanus); when I inflict upon them evil (Castalio), that is, without fault I am able to recompense them with evils (Vatablus). Against yourselves charge the slaughters about to be inflicted by me, not against me. For I did not inflict injury upon you, but ye upon me (Lapide). See Judges 15:11; 16:28. In Thucydides,[3] the Platæans[4] said, τὸν ἐπιόντα πολέμιον ὅσιον εἶναι ἀμύνεσθαι, that is, it is lawful to repulse an enemy invading us.[5] Civilis[6] in Tacitus, Having been sought for punishment, by the right of nations I demand vengeance.[7] See Concerning the Law of War and Peace 2:20:8. But, because the just measure was exceeded, that civil right then also, lest disputes arise for whatever cause, was prohibited. Which sort also is indeed a right granted to the Hebrews by God, but surpassing the manner of human laws, by which right no one is prohibited from avenging himself on foreigners; one is not prohibited from avenging himself on fellow citizens, except in lesser and daily matters.[8] The rationale of the speech sanctioned through the Cross is different; in which, just as the solemn promise of eternal matters was revealed, so also a contempt of perishable things, because of which vengeance arises, is discovered. Many incorrectly confound these things, doing less harm, if they attribute to the Hebrew law more than enough; but more harm, if from those times they extend the indulgence of God to our times. The Heroes in Homer and in other Greeks, as the Scholiasts note, were given to love, given to wrath: Other Heroes have been given to us by the light of the Gospel, concerning which I will say with aged Terence, Now this day brings a different life, demands different manners[9] (Grotius). [Others think otherwise. But there will be a more opportune place to discuss this doctrine, if the Divine benignity deigns to extend our labors to Matthew 5.] The reader is to be warned not to think of Samson as a private individual. For to no private person is it lawful in this manner to avenge his own injuries. But Samson had already been constituted a Magistrate by God (Martyr). Samson could appear to avenge his private injuries, yet he actually had regard more to public vengeance (Estius). Through the appearance of avenging private injuries he was actually avenging the injuries of his people (Bonfrerius out of Lapide). Now, he did this, instead of declaring open war on the Philistines, 1. Because he was sufficiently aware that thus God willed (Bonfrerius). He was not sensing himself to be moved to this by God, nay more, he knew only that God had foretold of him, he shall begin to deliver Israel:[10] And so he acted as if by secret channels (Estius). 2. With public injuries passed over in silence, he objects his private injuries to them, so that the Philistines might not turn their wrath and arms against the whole people, but against himself alone. For he was provoking all to a duel, as it were. Which was a deed of heroic fortitude, equally also of prudence, and of charity towards his compatriots and fellow citizens, to keep them free from the vengeance of the Philistines (Lapide, similarly Bonfrerius, Estius).

Now shall I be more blameless, etc.: Because they have first provoked me by an irreparable injury. But although this may look like an act of private revenge, yet it is plain enough that Samson acted as a judge, (for so he was,) and as an avenger of the public injuries and oppressions of his people; as plainly appears from hence, that Samson designed this very thing before he had received any personal injury, Judges 14:4.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לָהֶם֙ שִׁמְשׁ֔וֹן נִקֵּ֥יתִי הַפַּ֖עַם מִפְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים כִּֽי־עֹשֶׂ֥ה אֲנִ֛י עִמָּ֖ם רָעָֽה׃

[2] Hebrew: נִקֵּ֥יתִי הַפַּ֖עַם מִפְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים כִּֽי.

[3] Thucydides (c. 460-c. 400 BC) was a Greek historian, author of the History of the Peloponnesian War.

[4] Platæa was an ancient Greek city in south-western Boeotia. It was the site of the repulse of the second Persian invasion (479 BC). Platæa was destroyed by Thebes and Sparta in the Peloponnesian War (427 BC), but rebuilt in 386 BC.

[5] Peloponnesian War 3.

[6] The Batavians had provided men, service, and support to the Roman army in Gaul; but in 69 AD, Gaius Julius Civilis led a Batavian rebellion against Rome. The rising in Gaul, although initially successful, was ultimately brought back into submission by Vespasian, and Civilis disappears from the pages of history.

[7] Histories 4:32. This is part of Civilis apology for ongoing rebellion.

[8] See, for example, Exodus 22:2, 3.

[9] Andria 1:2.

[10] Judges 13:5.

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1 Comment

Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Jan 03, 2019

Matthew Henry: 'The revenge Samson took upon the Philistines for this abuse. Had he designed herein only to plead his own cause he would have challenged his rival, and would have chastised him and his father-in-law only. But he looks upon himself as a public person, and the affront as done to the whole nation of Israel, for probably they put this slight upon him because he was of that nation, and pleased themselves with it, that they had put such an abuse upon an Israelite; and therefore he resolves to do the Philistines a displeasure, and does not doubt but this treatment which he had met with among them would justify him in it (Judges 15:3): Now shall …

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