|Go to verse:|
|01 |02 |03 |04 |05 |06 |07 |08 |09 |10 |11 |12 |13 |14 |15 |16 |17 |18 |19 |20 |
Go to Bible: Judges 14
“And Samson went.” The original text had no chapter or verse breaks, and this sentence follows immediately after the line that God was stirring Samson, impelling him, troubling him (see commentary on Judg. 13:25). If Samson wanted a wife, why would he go to the Philistines to find one? The answer is that it was due to the stirring of the Lord inside him, and this fits with Judges 14:4. The phrase “went down” is geographically accurate, because Timnah is downhill from where Samson lived.
“down to Timnah.” The village of this Timnah (there is another one in the territory of Judah) is in the Valley of Sorek, just over 5 miles west of Zorah, the hometown of Samson. Timnah is about halfway between the Philistine town of Ekron and Zorah.
“and saw a woman in Timnah.” At this point in the record of Samson, there are three quite parallel records that take a lot of text. In the two longer records, the first and third of the records, Samson sees a woman, gets involved with the woman, is betrayed by the woman, and then ends up killing a large number of Philistines. In the second and shortest record (Judg. 16:1-3), Samson sees a prostitute in Gaza, avoids an ambush, and ends up destroying the defenses of a Philistine capital city by destroying its gate complex.
In the first of the records, Judges 14:1-15:20, Samson sees a woman in Timnath (the woman is never named in the record), then marries her, then is betrayed by her when she reveals his riddle to the Philistines, and then he ends up killing lots of Philistines when they kill his wife and her family. In the third record (Judg. 16:4-31), Samson falls in love with a Philistine woman named Delilah in the Valley of Sorek, then became so involved with her that he “told her all his heart” (Judg. 16:18), then she betrays him to the Philistines, then Samson ends up killing many Philistines and also kills himself in the process.(top)
|Jdg 14:2||- (top)|
|Jdg 14:3||- (top)|
“But his father and his mother did not know that this was from Yahweh.” Although Samson’s parents did not know that what Samson wanted was from Yahweh, it seems that Samson would have. After all, Yahweh was moving in him and he certainly recognized that. Things like the strength to tear a lion apart with his bare hands certainly did not come from Samson’s natural ability.
“he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.” This phrase cannot be overemphasized, and it frames Samson’s actions throughout his life. He did lots of things that seemed strange, but a common theme through all of them is that he was seeking an occasion against the Philistines.(top)
“and his father and his mother.” It is apparent from the record that they did not travel together.
“and came to the vineyards of Timnah.” Timnah was an ancient city that, unlike many other cities, was built in a valley and not on the top of a hill. The soil of the valley was well suited for vineyards.
“a young lion came roaring toward him.” The odds of this event happening “by chance” are slim. We know that the spiritual battle rages between God and the Devil, between good and evil, and that the Devil is always trying to thwart what God is doing. The Devil would have known that God was working in Samson, and so he would have wanted to kill Samson before his mission against the Philistines even got started. Thankfully, Samson was prepared to fight and God empowered him for the battle—a battle he handily won. Then God turned a potential lemon into lemonade: the carcass of the lion became occupied by honey bees. The bees would eventually provide the substance of a riddle that ended up with several stages of slaughter of the Philistines; first, thirty men, then his wife’s family, then a thousand or so Philistine men.(top)
“the spirit of Yahweh rushed upon him.” There are times when God energizes His spirit so suddenly and powerfully that there is no doubt what God wants done. This is one of those cases. Some scholars even doubt whether Samson even knew that God was working in him, but all the translators of the REV can say about that is that those scholars have never experienced the powerful working of the spirit in a person. When God moves that powerfully in a person, they do not doubt that it is God and not some kind of natural impulse.
“he tore it apart as one would tear apart a young goat.” Samson may have been a strong young man, but he was not that strong. This exploit required God’s strength flowing through the man, Samson.(top)
“she was right in Samson’s eyes.” This is idiomatic for the fact that she was pleasing to him.(top)
“After a while.” The Hebrew is an idiom, “from days,” and it means after a while (cp. Judg. 11:4).
“remains.” The Hebrew uses a word with the root of “fall.” It can refer to a ruin or an overthrow. The lion was fallen; Samson saw the ruins of it, the remains were there. And honey was in the carcass. With the fall of Israel’s enemies, there would be sweetness for Israel.
“there was a swarm of bees in the carcass of the lion, and honey.” This was not just by chance. Yahweh was behind it. God knew Samson’s wit, and He quite possibly inspired Samson to use the lion and honey incident in His continued war against the Philistines. So this is an example of the invisible hand of God working to bring His purposes to pass.(top)
“And he scooped it out into his hands.” The Bible does not give us any details about how Samson got the honey from the carcass of the lion. It is clear that there are many details that are not supplied, and as readers, we just get the “big picture.” For one thing, bees usually defend their hives quite fiercely. A good way to calm the bees (or drive them away) is to start a smoky fire near the hive and let the smoke drift over the hive; beekeepers have been using smokers for many years. It is unlikely that Samson just simply stuck his hand into the hive and got some honey. People have been stung to death that way. It is more likely that he took the time to build a fire that would give him access to the honey.
It is also unlikely that he scraped his hand along the carcass of the lion—directly touching the carcass—to dislodge the honeycomb and get the honey. That would have been unnecessary. He could have simply scooped through the honeycombs and they would have broken off. Also, it seems he would have taken the honey to his parents in the honeycombs. Out of the comb, honey is very runny, especially in the heat of the day in Israel. Although Samson could have had some kind of pot or jar, that seems unlikely, so the only way to get the honey from the hive to his parents without it all dripping to the ground would be if he kept it intact in the comb.
“he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.” The Bible does not tell us why Samson did not tell his parents that the honey came from the carcass of a lion. It might be that he was already formulating his idea of making a riddle about it, and there may have been other reasons as well, but in any case, the Bible does not say why he did not tell his parents. In any case, it came in very handy during his wedding feast, because Samson used the fact that he had not told his mother or father about it to show that just because he did not tell his wife about it did not mean he did not love her. He loved his parents and did not tell them.
Most scholars believe the honey was unclean because it came from the carcass of a dead animal, and that was why he did not tell his parents. While it is likely that if Samson thought that his parents believed the honey was unclean then he probably would not have told them, there is reason to doubt that the honey was unclean. Bees are unclean insects (Lev. 11:20; Deut. 14:19), and they are constantly touching the honey. So if the unclean bees do not make the honey unclean even though they directly touch it, then it is likely that the carcass of the lion would not make the honey unclean either, especially since the carcass would not have directly touched the honey, but only the base of some honeycombs.(top)
|Jdg 14:10||- (top)|
“they brought 30 companions.” It is unclear whether 30 companions at a wedding was a common Philistine custom, or whether because Samson was an untrusted Israelite that the Philistines considered him some kind of danger to them and wanted protection from him.(top)
“tell you a riddle.” The Hebrew is “riddle you a riddle,” using “riddle” as a noun and verb. Samson had a good sense of humor, and that may be why it occurred to him to turn the lion and honey incident into a riddle (see commentary on Judg. 15:4).
“tell, yes, tell.” The Hebrew text uses the figure polyptoton and uses the verb “tell” in two different verbal aspects.
[See commentary on polyptoton in Genesis 2:16.]
“30 linen garments and 30 changes of clothing.” The linen garments and “changes of clothing” made up a full set of clothes. The linen garments were the equivalent of underwear, and the “changes of clothing” were the outer garments. Both the inner and outer garments were commonly worn. At the crucifixion of Jesus, the soldiers divided Jesus’ outer garment among them but cast lots for his inner tunic, equivalent to the “linen garments” (John 19:23).
This is a very high wager, and Samson obviously made it on purpose as part of his mission to “seek an occasion against the Philistines.” It was common for many people to own just one outer garment, so to wager for 30 was a high-stakes game. Samson was not stupid, so we can assume that Samson made that wager and played that game knowing that he would win either way. If the Philistines could not guess the riddle, he would make a considerable amount of money. If they did guess the riddle, he would attack some unsuspecting Philistines and pay his debt with their clothes. It seems less likely that Samson thought the Philistines would threaten his wife and her family, but given the amount of the wager it seems he may have thought that through as well.(top)
“Tell us your riddle, that we may hear it.” The Philistines accepted the challenge to solve Samson’s riddle. It may be they thought that their collective minds could figure it out, but it is also almost certainly the case that if they did not accept the challenge it would be the equivalent of admitting that the Israelites were smarter than they were or better than they were, and they were ruling over Israel (Judg. 14:4). In the honor-shame society of the time, it would have been shameful and therefore unacceptable to turn down the challenge. So the Philistines were basically forced by their situation and the culture of the times to accept Samson’s challenge.(top)
|Jdg 14:14||- (top)|
“fourth.” Although the Masoretic Hebrew text reads, “seventh,” that creates a contradiction in the text with such verses as Judges 14:17. The Septuagint and some Aramaic texts read “fourth,” and there is every reason to believe that was the original reading of the Hebrew. There is only a difference of one letter between the Hebrew word for “fourth” and “seventh,” and that could have been made by an accidental scribal error.
“we will burn you and your father’s house with fire.” The intensity of the Philistine's demand and threat show the value of 30 complete sets of clothing including the undergarment and the outer garment. It was significant enough an expense that the Philistines charged the woman and her family with colluding with Samson to take their belongings and thus enrich themselves.
“Have you all called us.” The verb is plural in Hebrew, thus meaning, “Have you all called us?” Because the sentence starts with the Philistines speaking to Samson’s wife, we would naturally assume that the “you” in the last phrase was singular, referring to just the wife. But it is plural, and indicates that at this point, the Philistine leaders thought that the Timnite woman had sided with the Israelites against them and that “you all” (she, Samson, and her family) had plotted together to take their property, and so they thought killing the Timnite and her family as national enemies was justified.(top)
“hate.” The word “hate” in the Bible does not always have the meaning it has in English, an intense feeling of animosity, anger, and hostility toward a person, group, or object. In Hebrew and Greek, the word “hate” has a large range of meanings, from actual “hate” to simply loving something less than something else, neglecting or ignoring something, or being disgusted by something. “Hate” can also mean “to ignore, to have nothing to do with; or to have a lack of love and kindly sentiment toward someone or something.” Especially in the context of “love” and “hate,” “hate” means you like something else better than the thing you “hate” (you ignore, you neglect). Samson’s wife was saying that Samson loved other things more than she, and was neglecting her.
[For more on the large semantic range of “hate” and its use in the Bible, see commentary on Proverbs 1:22, “hate.”]
“to the children of my people.” The fact that Samson’s wife referred to the Philistines as “my people” reveals to us where her allegiance was, and thus it should not be unexpected that she told Samson’s secret to “her people.”
“and have not told it to me.” This is a battle of secrets. Samson has a secret, and it is the answer to his riddle. But Samson’s wife also had a secret, which is that she is really Samson’s enemy and secretly plans to betray him. Thus her words, that you, Samson, “do not love me” are hollow, because the truth is that it is she who does not love him. He loves her and tells her his secret; she hates him and betrays him to his enemies.
“I have not told it to my father or my mother, and should I tell you?” Samson denies the claim that he does not love his wife and points out that he has not told his parents, and he loves them just as much as he loves his wife.(top)
|Jdg 14:17||- (top)|
“plowed with my heifer.” This refers to the common custom of plowing with a goad, a sharpened stick that was used in training and directing the animal pulling the plow. The goad comes up several times in Scripture (Judg. 3:31; 1 Sam. 13:21; Eccles. 12:11; Acts 26:14). The word “heifer,” referring to a young female cow, was a term used of women, like a woman might be called a “chick” (or a “bird” in England). Cows were valuable and watched over, and the word “cow” is used of women in Amos 4:1. Thus, in essence, Samson was saying, “If you have not threatened my young woman with pain, you would not have found out my riddle.”
There are some scholars who assert that “plowed with my heifer” refers to having sex with Samson’s wife, but that is almost certainly not the case here.(top)
“the spirit of Yahweh rushed upon him.” It had done this in Judges 14:6 when the lion attacked him.
“and he went down to Ashkelon.” The geographical reference is accurate. Ashkelon was about 25 miles away to the southwest toward the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and thus it was indeed “down.” Furthermore, the 25 miles was far enough away that it would have taken some time for news of 30 dead men stripped naked to get back to Timnah. It seems certain that over time the Philistines figured out who killed the 30 men. There is no indication in the text as to how Samson killed the men, but it does not seem that there was blood all over the clothing or that the clothes had knife cuts. Samson may well have strangled the men, or broken their necks. No matter how he killed the men, the clothing would have been distinctly Philistine, and the Philistines likely suspected where it came from and later confirmed that fact.
“And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house.” Ordinarily and according to common custom, we would have expected Samson’s wife to return to Samson’s home with him. However, it seems apparent that Samson was so upset and angry about being betrayed by his wife that he left for home without her (and her parents may not have let her go in those circumstances anyway). Samson needed some time to calm down—but he was still married to her, something that becomes important in the next verses.(top)
“But Samson’s wife was given to his companion.” This was done without Samson’s knowledge or agreement. While we can understand why this could have happened, it was a breach of protocol that no one went to Samson’s house to find out what his wishes were. Frankly, the Philistine family and the town were probably glad that Samson was gone, and likely hoped he would stay gone.(top)