Judges 16:31: Samson's Interment

[circa 1120 BC] Verse 31:[1] Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and (Judg. 13:25) buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.



[His brethren coming down] That is, his Kinsmen (Drusius). Rather, his brethren properly so called, since they are distinguished from the rest of the family. And so the parents of Samson after Samson received other children; just as Hannah, 1 Samuel 1; 2, was made fruitful for more offspring (Bonfrerius). Their piety toward dead Samson was eminent, who after such a slaughter intrepidly asked his body from the Philistines (Serarius). Question: But how either did they dare to ask this, or did the Philistines will to grant it? Why did they not cast that body aside unburied, mangled in a thousand ways? Responses: It was considered barbarous in many nations, to rage against the dead, or to prohibit them burial (Bonfrerius). See Stobæus[2] in his Sermons 124; Ælian’s Various History Fab. Semestr. 2:1, Not even an enemy refuses burial; Tacitus in his Annals 1. 2. Why would they determine anything grievous against the innocent friends of the guilty? 3. In the common grief of all the Philistines place was not to be given to cruelty (Serarius). By that slaughter the affairs of the Philistines were impaired above measure, so that it was not agreeable at that time to think of vengeance against, or domination over, the Israelites; but they were thinking that it was enough for them, if they might retain their own in peace, with the Israelites attempting nothing against them. 4. God rendered them soft and easy (Bonfrerius).



His brethren; either, first, Largely so called, his kinsmen. Or, secondly, Strictly so called; Samson’s parents having had other children after him; as it was usual with God when he gave an extraordinary and unexpected power of procreating a child, to continue that strength for the generation or conception of more children, as in the case of Abraham, Genesis 25:1, 2; and Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:21. They adventured to bury him; partly, because the most barbarous nations allowed burial even to their enemies, and would permit this ofttimes to be done by their friends; partly, because Samson had taken the blame of this action wholly to himself, for which his innocent relations could not upon any pretence be punished; and principally, because they were under such grief, and perplexity, and consternation for the common calamity, that they had neither heart nor leisure to revenge themselves of the Israelites, but for their own sakes were willing not to disquiet or offend them; at least, till they were in a better posture to resist them.


[And he judged Israel] That is, he bore the office of Judge. Thus Josephus, the Rabbis, and all others both of the ancients and of the more modern, except Masius, who on Joshua 24[3] denies this without any probable reason (Bonfrerius). The difficulty of the Chronology in the years of Samson persuaded Masius of this (Serarius). But the Scripture makes use of the same language of judging of which it also made use in the case of the others; therefore, why would that word be transferred here unto another signification, especially since a number of years is also especially ascribed here, which was done only to this end, that the chronology through the years of the Judges might be suitably ordered. Objection: We do not read that he discharged this office, or was esteemed as such by the Israelites. Responses: 1. Concerning many others no such thing is related, who nevertheless are considered Judges, because they are said to have judged Israel. 2. Hence it is concluded rightly indeed that the Principate of Samson was somewhat diverse from the others: God willed that he should attend to his magistracy in an unusual and more hidden way, lest ill will for the deeds of Samson should recoil upon the people; but what was the principle function of the Judges, to save the people, that he furnished abundantly (Bonfrerius).


[Twenty years] The same thing is said in the preceding chapter. Why is it repeated here? Responses: 1. For the confirmation of the same, as it is the custom of the Scripture, Genesis 5:32 compared with Genesis 6:10 (Bonfrerius). 2. Because in chapter 15 these years were not yet completed, but here they are completed (Tostatus). 3. In the former place he is said to have judged Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines, that is, with their yoke not yet cast off; which restriction is not retained in this place; for thereafter he judged them absolutely for twenty years, since by Samson their tyranny had been shaken (certain interpreters in Serarius). That, in the days of the Philistines, is not repeated, because it was not at all necessary, and because, since it was the end of those twenty years, that servitude was no longer. 4. Others maintain that this was said, because he, while living, subdued the Philistines for twenty years, but he, in his death, terrified them for as many years; as Zacuto[4] explains the meaning of the Jerusalem Talmud (Serarius). Some hence gather that Samson judged, etc., for forty years (Rabbis in Serarius). That that is false (Bonfrerius). Moreover, Samson was an illustrious type of Christ. 1. The birth of Samson was announced beforehand, and indeed to a mother more than to a father: So also Christ. 2. Samson was a little Sun:[5] Christ is the Sun of righteousness.[6] 3. Samson was a Nazarite, Savior, and Judge, and announced beforehand as such: So also Christ. 4. The bride of Samson was a Philistine and foreigner: So Christ sought a bride hostile to God, and from nations generally unbelieving. 5. Samson carried off the gates of Gaza: So Christ the gates of hell. 6. Samson was delivered to the Philistines, and afflicted by them with shame, etc. Christ suffered the same from the Jews. Neither in Samson was there wanting a type of the crucifixion itself; for Samson, being about to die, stretching out his arms to both columns, represents it. The seven locks of Samson are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which adorn Christ and the Church. To others they are the seven Sacraments (Bonfrerius). [Concerning these things see more in Bonfrerius and Serarius.]


He judged Israel twenty years: this was said before, Judges 15:20, and is here repeated, partly to confirm the relation of it, and partly to explain it; and to show when these twenty years ended, even at his death, as is here noted.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֵּרְד֙וּ אֶחָ֜יו וְכָל־בֵּ֣ית אָבִיהוּ֮ וַיִּשְׂא֣וּ אֹתוֹ֒ וַֽיַּעֲל֣וּ׀ וַיִּקְבְּר֣וּ אוֹת֗וֹ בֵּ֤ין צָרְעָה֙ וּבֵ֣ין אֶשְׁתָּאֹ֔ל בְּקֶ֖בֶר מָנ֣וֹחַ אָבִ֑יו וְה֛וּא שָׁפַ֥ט אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָֽה׃


[2] Joannes Stobæus was a late-fifth century compiler of Greek antiquities.


[3] Andrew Masius (1516-1573) was among the most learned Roman Catholic scholars of his age, and in no field is that more evident than in the field of Oriental languages, having received training in Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac. He also served as Counselor to William, Duke of Cleves. He wrote a major commentary upon Joshua, Joshuæ Imperatoris Historia Illustrata atque Explicata.


[4] Abraham Zacuto, a fifteenth century Spanish Jew, is remembered for his achievements in astronomy/astrology, mathematics, and history. His Juchasin is a history of the Jewish people from the Creation to 1500 AD.


[5] That is, שֶֹמֶשׁ/sun with the diminuative ending (וֹן-).


[6] Malachi 4:2.

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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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