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Bible Commentaries
Judges 14

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-4

Samson Falls in Love (14:1-4)

Samson’s youth is passed over, and we next meet him falling in love with a Philistine. This indicates that, up to this point, the coastal invaders and the Israelites were not in open hostility. This was a period of settling down and consolidation, a fact which is supported by archaeological evidence. Customarily the Hebrew parents made the choice of the bride for a son, as well as the financial arrangements for securing her. Here Samson made the choice and sought the co-operation of his parents; they protested, however, against his choice of a bride from among the Philistines. The editor implies that even this choice was in the divine strategy, for it would provide an occasion against the Philistines.

Verses 5-9

The Adventure with the lion (14:5-9)

The protest of his parents notwithstanding, Samson went down to Timnah to pursue his objective. All versions put the verb "come" in the singular, and thus suggest that Samson went alone, the mention of his father and his mother as accompanying him being a later addition. Samson was now determined upon the kind of marriage in which his parents accepted no responsibility, and the presence of his parents was thus unnecessary. This peculiar type of marriage did not involve a marriage price paid to the bride’s father by the father of the bridegroom, and the wife continued to dwell in her father’s house, there to be visited periodically by her husband.

On the way, the roar of a lion attracted Samson, who, possessed of an abnormal strength by the presence of the Spirit of God, tore the lion asunder by sheer brute force, leaving the carcass by the way. A later visit to his future bride brought Samson once more by the lion’s body, which had now been possessed by a swarm of bees and filled with honeycomb. Both elements in this story — the slaying of the lion and the swarm of bees occupying a dead body — are to be found elsewhere in hero legends. Hercules and Polydemas are credited with slaying lions with their bare hands. Virgil and Herodotus connected swarms of bees with carcasses. Indeed, there seems to have been an ancient idea that bees were generated by putrefying flesh. Such parallels need not call the historicity of this story into question. The location of the bees and their honey remained a closely guarded secret which Samson did not communicate even to his parents and which provided the basis for his subsequent riddle.

Verses 10-20

The Wedding Feast and the Riddle (14:10-20)

As a preliminary to his wedding, Samson entertained the young men at a feast where he propounded his riddle and challenged them to solve it within the seven days of the feast. Unaware of the circumstances that lay behind the bare statement of the riddle, they strove unavailingly for a solution over a period of three days. The wager involved a considerable amount of apparel which neither side could afford to lose. The young men were provided by the Timnahites as the companions of the bridegroom and thus had no long friendship for or loyalty to Samson. They therefore approached his bride, threatening to bum down her parental home and her in it, unless she found the answer. This threatened calamity was serious enough to call forth all her woman’s wiles, including tears. If Samson loved her, she pleaded, surely he would tell her his secret. At last, worn out by her importunities, Samson told her the solution, unaware of either the threat to her or her intended treachery. When the young men came up with the answer to the riddle, at the very last moment, Samson’s rage knew no bounds. He answered the men in a jingle of the same form as his riddle, and, disgusted with his wife’s treachery, left her, the marriage unconsummated. (This is the meaning of the phrase "before the sun went down" which can also be translated "before he entered the room to take his bride.") Once more an access of strength, because of his Spirit-possession, enabled him to overpower thirty Philistines and despoil them of their festal garments that he might pay his debt to the Philistines of Timnah. Meanwhile his bride was consoled by being given as wife to the best man, for otherwise Samson’s wrathful exit would have brought disgrace upon her. Samson himself returned to his father’s house.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Judges 14". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/judges-14.html.
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