JUDGES CHAPTER 14
1 Samson desireth a wife of the Philistines. 5 In his journey he killeth a lion. 8 In a second journey he findeth honey in the carcase. 10 Samson’s marriage feast. 12 His riddle by his wife is made known. 19 He spoileth thirty Philistines. 20 His wife is married to another.
Verse 1 Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman.
Went down. The elevation of Zorah is 1,170 feet. (356.7 meters) whereas that of Timnath is only 800 feet (243.9 meters) (5, 7, 10). Conversely, “went up” is used for the return journey (see 2 and 19).
Timnath. Probably Tell el–Baṭâshi, southwest of Zorah. The city was assigned to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:43 compare Joshua 15:10). It was then under the control of the godless Philistines.
A woman. The word we might expect here is “maiden” or “damsel” (see Gen. 24:14, 16) instead of “woman.”
The latter term may indicate that Samson’s new acquaintance may have been a widow or divorcee, although young (PP 562), or else the expression is used to show contempt for her (see Judges 16:4).
Many of the incidents in the life of Samson centered about his relations with women. Though strong physically, he was weak in moral power and self-control.
Early contact with idolaters had broken down the citadel of his soul.
Philistines. The Hebrews had been forbidden to intermarry with the native inhabitants of the land (Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:3, 4).
Verse 2 So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.”
Told his father. As was proper, Samson consulted his parents about his desire for marriage. However, this may have been prompted more by the fact that it was the custom for parents to arrange the details of marriage than by his respect for their wishes.
Verse 3 Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”
Is there no woman? Samson’s parents objected to his proposal and urged that he take a wife from among the Hebrews rather than from the pagan Philistines.
Such a marriage must have been especially repugnant to Manoah and his wife because they knew Samson had been called to do a special work for God.
It is the duty of God-fearing parents to seek to deter their children from entering into marriage with those of a different faith.
It is their responsibility to lay down religious principles while their children are yet young that will lead them to make the proper choice later.
Get her for me. In the Hebrew the word “her” is emphatic. Samson brushes aside the objections of his parents. He will brook no interference with his inclinations. He refused both parental and divine counsel.
It is unfortunate that so many youth do not feel obligated to weigh carefully the counsels of their parents when planning marriage.
On the other hand, parents may be in danger of being too peremptory (dogmatic)in their denials. God pleads with men to follow the way of right, but He does not prevent a contrary choice.
In the same way a limit is placed upon the rights of parents to control the wills of their children after their children have reached the age of accountability.
She pleaseth me well. Literally, “she is right in my eyes.” His infatuation blinded him to her unsuitability for becoming a life companion and partner for one who was to be a leader in Israel. A wise, God-fearing person will recognize that there are other important criteria to be considered, such as basic attitudes, religious convictions, ideals.
Verse 4 But his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord—that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
Of the Lord. Even in this unfortunate marriage God was overruling the course of events for the furtherance of His own designs. He makes even the weakness and poor judgment of men to redound to His praise.
An occasion. Literally, “a meeting,” that is, perhaps an opportunity to provoke hostilities. It may be that Samson had neglected to take up his life assignment when the proper time came, and some event was needed to stir him to activity. God used the incidents connected with the marriage as the “occasion.”
Verse 5 So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah. Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him.
His father. Evidently Samson’s parents had submitted to the insistent will of their son, and though painfully aware of the fateful consequences of such a marriage, accompanied him to Timnath to make the proper marriage arrangements.
A young lion. kephir indicates a young lion in full prime. There is a word, gur, which designates a lion whelp, not yet full grown.
Lions were once common in the deserts south of Judah and in the Jordan valley, but have disappeared since the time of the Crusades.
Verse 6 And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.
The Spirit dispenses various gifts and skills (Ex. 31:2–5; 1 Cor. 12). Samson’s special gift revealed itself in his superhuman strength.
Torn apart. By his supernatural strength Samson destroyed the animal barehanded, perhaps by dashing it against the ground or tearing its hind legs apart as ancient Babylonian pictures depict their mythical hero Enkidu as doing.
David (1 Sam. 17:34–37) and Benaiah (2 Sam. 23:20) later performed similar feats of prowess.
The point is on the ease with which Samson accomplished the feat, not on the manner.
Nothing in his hand. Samson was not on a hunt, and hence unarmed. Besides, the Philistines followed a policy of forcing the Hebrews to go about unarmed by prohibiting any Hebrew from operating as a smith (1 Sam. 13:19–22).
Did not tell his father. This reticence may show that at this time, at least, he was free from all boastfulness.
Verse 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.
He went down. No mention is made of the participation of his parents in the arrangements. Some have thought that although they had started with Samson, they probably refused to go through with their part of the affair.
Verse 8 After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion.
After some time. Nothing in the record indicates how long a time elapsed between the visit of the previous verse and this trip to consummate the marriage. A betrothal might last a year.
In the carcase. By nature bees avoid all decomposition and putrefaction. Evidently jackals and vultures had stripped the flesh from the bones and the heat had dried them out.
Only the mere skeleton remained. In the cavity formed by the ribs a swarm of bees had built a nest. Herodotus tells how the skull of an enemy, which the people of Amathus had fastened over their city gate, served as a hive for bees.
Verse 9 He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.
In his hands. It was the honeycombs that Samson carried in his hands, eating as he went (see 1 Sam. 14:29).
No doubt this was a violation of Samson’s Nazirite vow, for the fact that the honey was taken from a skeleton would render it unclean, and unclean food was forbidden (13:7).
To his father. The parents evidently had consented to go to the wedding, although their presence is not mentioned there. Samson had turned aside momentarily to see the lion.
Verse 10 So his father went down to the woman. And Samson gave a feast there, for young men used to do so.
A feast. Literally, “a drinking,” or “occasion for drinking.” The term was used for feasts because drinking was one of the main attractions.
This drinking feast was to last for seven days (12). As a Nazirite, Samson was forbidden to use strong drink.
However, he had taken one step in uniting with the world, and, as is usual, it was easier for him to take another. It seems that in all matters except his unshorn hair he treated lightly his Nazirite vows.
Verse 11 And it happened, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.
When they saw him. The reason why this clause is added is somewhat obscure. It probably means “when they saw what a powerful person he was.” Some of the Greek translations read “because they feared him.” The two readings would be very similar in the Hebrew.
Thirty companions. Ostensibly, these companions were to serve as wedding attendants, but probably they were really there for defense, for the Philistines knew of Hebrew hostility toward the oppression.
Usually the groom provided himself with attendants, but in this case Samson was in a strange city, marrying under the disapprobation of his own people; so the Philistines provided him with wedding attendants.
There were sufficient attendants, they believed, so that if the powerful Hebrew groom should try to make trouble, they could subdue him. On the other hand, the 30 companions may have been provided as a bodyguard for the marriage festival.
Verse 12 Then Samson said to them, “Let me pose a riddle to you. If you can correctly solve and explain it to me within the seven days of the feast, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing.
A riddle. The use of riddles at feasts is an ancient and favorite amusement. Often large sums were offered for their solution. It always added to the gaiety and interest of the occasion.
Thirty. Obviously, because there were 30 attendants (v. 11).
Linen garments. Believed to be large rectangular pieces of fine linen, which might be worn as an outer garment during the day or as a sleeping wrap for the night. Reference is made to these garments in Prov. 31:24 and Isa. 3:23. Others take them to be undergarments.
Changes of clothing. These were festal garments, or clothes for dress (see Gen. 45:22).
Verse 13 But if you cannot explain it to me, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing.” And they said to him, “Pose your riddle, that we may hear it.”
Give me. Samson’s offer was fair enough. Should he lose, he would have to provide 30 sets of garments. Should they lose, they would have to provide only one each.
Verse 14 So he said to them: “Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet.” Now for three days they could not explain the riddle.
The riddle was put in Hebrew poetic form. So was the retort Samson gave (v. 18).
Verse 15 But it came to pass on the seventh day that they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband, that he may explain the riddle to us, or else we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us in order to take what is ours? Is that not so?”
We will burn you. The Philistines were brutal and treacherous even to their own people. Rather than lose a wager, they forced the woman with threats to aid them. It was no idle threat, for later they actually burned her and her father (see ch. 15:6).
Verse 16 Then Samson’s wife wept on him, and said, “You only hate me! You do not love me! You have posed a riddle to the sons of my people, but you have not explained it to me.” And he said to her, “Look, I have not explained it to my father or my mother; so should I explain it to you?”
Wept on him. Samson’s riddle had the effect of making the wedding feast not a season of rejoicing, but of distress. The weeping, fretting bride and sullen guests should have served as a warning to Samson that Philistine marriages brought distress and sadness in their train.
Samson replies that he had not even told his parents and that his unwillingness to disclose the riddle to her, whom he had known but a short time, was no proof of lack of love.
Verse 17,18 Now she had wept on him the seven days while their feast lasted. And it happened on the seventh day that he told her, because she pressed him so much. Then she explained the riddle to the sons of her people. So the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down: “What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” And he said to them: “If you had not plowed with my heifer, You would not have solved my riddle!”
Before the sun went down. To heighten their triumph, the Philistines waited until the last moment before they revealed the secret that they had forced from him through his wife. Their answer, like the riddle, is in poetic form.
Plowed. Samson quickly perceived his wife’s treachery, and showed that he did so by quoting the poetic proverb of plowing with another person’s heifer.
They had not used their own wit to find the answer to his riddle, but had learned the secret from one close to and belonging to him. The statement is an assertion that if they had acted fairly he would have won the wager.
Verse 19 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men, took their apparel, and gave the changes of clothing to those who had explained the riddle. So his anger was aroused, and he went back up to his father’s house.
The Spirit of the Lord. The Lord sought to stir up Samson, so that he would lay hold of the work to which, from his birth, he had been called.
Ashkelon. This city was about 23 mi. (36.8 km.) away, a journey of 7 or 8 hours.
Slew thirty men. Perhaps he surprised them at a festival of some sort during the night hours, and thus was able to procure from their corpses the festal garments necessary to pay his wager.
His anger was kindled. He was angry, both at the Philistines and at his wife, who had proved her treachery to him during their marriage feast. For this reason he would not stay with her, but returned to his father’s house.
Verse 20 And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man.
To his companion. He was probably the main one of the 30 attendants, the one who stood next to him, the one called “the friend of the bridegroom” in John 3:29.
To her treason the woman added infidelity. She may not have had any love for Samson in the first place.
Such were the results of a course in direct violation of the express commands of God.
If Samson had profited by his experience and had permitted the emptiness and disappointment of sin to drive him to seek a higher way, God might yet have accepted him and permitted him to lead Israel in full triumph against the Philistines.
However, God continued to work through Samson to the extent that Samson permitted himself to be used.
The experience of Samson indicates that God does not immediately forsake His servants when they fall into sin. He may continue to bless their efforts, even though they are living in conscious disregard of some specific requirement of God.
Inasmuch as no one is without fault, God would be unable to use human instrumentalities in His work, if He could bless only the efforts of the sinless.
Since this is true, no one should interpret the blessings of heaven as proof that God approves of all his deeds.
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
1–20 PP 562-564
1–3 PP 562
5, 6, 19 PP 564
10–20 PP 563