Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, "Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?" And he said to them, "As they did to me, so have I done to them."
Samson has become a revenge machine. His story is reading like a contemporary action movie. He has become the antihero. His rage burns against the Philistines. The cycle just grows in intensity in this chapter.
At the beginning of the chapter, he decides to reconcile with his estranged wife and father-in-law. He finds that in his absence, his father-in-law has given his wife to the best man at his wedding. He is so enraged that he burns down all the standing grain of the city... going from angry killer to pyromaniac. The Philistines respond by interrogating Samson's in-laws and burning his wife and father-in-law at the stake. Samson's rage burns on when he then evidently goes into the town and by sheer physical strength kills many men.
He then literally goes off to live in a cave and sulk. Brute strength and survivalist skills now mark Samson's lifestyle. He is on the edge... the outlaw who always has something to prove. And now he is making his own people uncomfortable. Three thousand men of Judah come to Samson's cave and demand that he let them hand him over to the Philistine army. He agrees, knowing full well this will be his next opportunity for revenge.
His answer to the Judahites is telling. He is only doing to his enemies what he thinks has been their treatment of him. He is living for retaliation. It is consuming him. But even this rage is being used by God to deliver Israel from oppression. Samson is handed over to a thousand soldier contingent. And he quickly dispatches every one of them with the jawbone of a dead donkey! He must have been quite the fighter!
The end of chapter fifteen finds Samson sulking in the desert, complaining to God and finding God supplying his need supernaturally. God is using this selfish, childish brute for His own sovereign purpose. Even though Samson is always looking for his pound of flesh, the emotional and spiritual toll it takes on him is painful to watch. He is a warning on the dangers of revenge thinking.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13