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Judges 14:12-14. And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: but if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets, and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it. And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.
OF all the Judges that were in Israel, there was not one who committed so many faults, or by whom God wrought so many miracles, as Samson. His character is dark and inexplicable; insomuch that, if he had not been celebrated in the New Testament as an eminent Believer, we might reasonably have doubted whether he was possessed of any true piety. It must be recollected however, that his history is very short, and that the peculiarity of the dispensation under which he lived may account for many things, which, if done at this time and without the special appointment of Heaven, would be highly criminal. Besides, there might be in him many exercises of true piety, which, if they had been recorded, would have reflected a different light upon his character. The circumstances of his birth we have noticed: those of his marriage are next to be considered.
We cannot approve his conduct in connecting himself with a Philistine woman, though we commend it highly in not forming that connexion without having first obtained the consent of his parents. It should seem as if his choice was sanctioned by God, because we are told, that “it was of the Lord that he sought an occasion against the Philistines [Note: ver. 4.].” But this circumstance does not necessarily make the action good: it may be that God only overruled the evil propensities of Samson, to accomplish his own purposes against the oppressors of his people [Note: See Joshua 11:20; 1 Kings 12:15.]. However, in going down with his parents to Timnath, where the woman lived, he turned aside from them into a vineyard, and, when separated from them, was attacked by a young lion; whom, though unarmed, he rent, as easily as he would have rent a kid [Note: ver. 6.]. This he did through the mighty power of God: yet though the exploit was so astonishing, he concealed it utterly from his parents, and proceeded with them as though nothing particular had happened unto him [Note: ver. 6.]. What a rare instance of modesty was this! How few people are there in the world, who, if they had performed such an act, could have suffered it to remain hid from their dearest friends!
Having obtained the consent of the woman, he returned home, and, after a time, went to Timnath with his parents again, in order to take her for his wife and complete the nuptials. In his way, he turned aside again, to view the lion, whom he had slain. His intention probably was, to revive in his soul a sense of the divine goodness to him, in having vouchsafed him so signal a deliverance: but behold, to his utter astonishment, he found a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion [Note: ver. 8, 9.]. Upon this he took of the honey, and ate it, and gave it to his parents; but still concealed the miracle which had been wrought in his favour.
Every thing being prepared for the nuptials, he, according to the custom of the country, made a feast of seven days’ continuance, at which thirty young men of the Philistines attended as his friends and companions. On this occasion he proposed to them a riddle, which will be profitable for our present consideration.
We will consider it,
As proposed on that occasion—
In the proposing of it we see no evil whatever—
[There was nothing improper in the riddle itself; it had nothing of an unbecoming nature couched under it; and it served as a trial of their ingenuity, and as an occasion of innocent mirth. Indeed its ultimate design was good, inasmuch us it would of necessity lead to a disclosure of the miracle that had been wrought, and consequently to a display of the power and goodness of Israel’s God.]
But the manner of proposing it was replete with evil—
[A wager was laid with all the thirty companions respecting it: and that wager was in itself evil, as being both the root and fruit of covetousness. But, if any one be disposed to deny that the laying of wagers is evil in its nature, no one, after reading this history, can doubt whether it be evil in its tendency. After three days’ fruitless inquiry, the pride of these thirty companions was greatly mortified, and their covetousness excited to a most fearful degree. Not being able to bear the thought of losing their wager, they were filled with indignation, and threatened to burn the bride, together with her father’s house, if she did not get the secret from her husband, and reveal it unto them. She, partly through fear, and partly from a partiality for them, laboured incessantly to gain from her husband the solution of the riddle. With this view, she wept before him during the remaining days of the feast, pretending that his reserve was a proof of his want of affection for her: and at last, having quite wearied him with her importunity, she obtained from him the secret, and then revealed it to them, and enabled them to gain the wager. He might justly have disputed the point with them, because they did not find out the riddle themselves, but obtained the knowledge of it by treachery. But, though he told them, “If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle,” yet he determined to pay the wager. But what a terrible resolution did he adopt! He determined to kill thirty men of the Philistines, and with their garments to pay the wager that he had lost. It is said indeed that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Askelon and slew them:” nor can we presume to question for a moment the justice of God in inflicting such judgments on the enemies of his people: He may take them off when he will, and by whom he will. But viewing the action by itself, we see in it altogether a most dreadful exhibition of the effects of gaming: in his friends, pride, covetousness, wrath, cruelty, and a confederacy to gain by fraud what they could not obtain in any other way: in his wife, hypocrisy, deceit, and treachery: in Samson, revenge, robbery, and murder. Perhaps in the annals of the whole world we shall not find a more striking display of the manner in which debts of honour, as they are called, are contracted, acknowledged, and discharged. They are contracted at friendly and convivial meetings; they are acknowledged as of greater obligation than all the common duties of justice and charity; and the peace of whole families, that were wholly unconnected with the transactions, is invaded, yea, many are reduced to poverty, to prison, and to death, in order to discharge the debts contracted by the cast of a die, or by the turning up of a card. I may go further still, and say, that of all the sources of suicide, this is by far the most fruitful. As to the endearments of friendship, or the sweets of conjugal affection, gaming almost invariably produces the same result as in Samson’s case, who left the place in disgust, deserted his treacherous wife, and had the mortification to find her afterwards in the embraces of one, who had just before professed himself his greatest friend. Would to God that every gambler in the universe would duly consider this history!]
We will now proceed to consider the riddle,
As applicable to other subjects—
We mean not to assert that it was intended to be applied to other subjects; though, considering the nature of that dispensation, and the peculiar circumstances of his history, it seems highly probable that every thing related of him had either a typical aspect or a mysterious import. We wish, however, always to lean to the safer side, and to suggest only in an accommodated sense any observations, which would admit of doubt, if applied to the Scripture as expressive of its real import.
With this caution we think the riddle may be applied,
To the Lord Jesus Christ himself—
[We know that he came down from the bosom of his Father, assumed our nature, sojourned many years upon the earth, and was at last put to death, even the accursed death of the cross. Now what good could we expect to result from this? Must we not rather suppose that the greatest possible evil must accrue from it, even the more aggravated condemnation of the whole world? Yet behold, “out of the eater came forth meat;” out of that, which we should have imagined would prove the destruction of the whole human race, has proceeded the salvation of ruined man! In this light was this mystery announced to Adam in Paradise; “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel [Note: Genesis 3:15.].” Here the very wounds which Satan should inflict on the Lord Jesus, are spoken of as the means of effecting his own destruction. Isaiah speaks to the same effect, that the Messiah, by making his own soul an offering for sin, should secure to himself a seed who should live for ever [Note: Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:12.]. In the New Testament, the same mysterious representations are given us of Christ: “He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, that he might condemn sin in the flesh [Note: Romans 8:3.];” and “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage [Note: Hebrews 2:14-15. See also 2 Corinthians 5:21; 2Co 8:9 and 1 Peter 2:24.]” — — — Amazing! that his death should be our life; his sufferings, our happiness; his humiliation, our glory! Yet so it is; for when he appeared to have been utterly vanquished, he rescued us from the hand of his great adversary, and spoiled all the principalities and powers of hell, and triumphed over them openly on his cross.”]
To every member of his mystical body—
[Great and multiplied are the trials of the Lord’s people; yet the very billows that threaten to overwhelm them, bear them forward to their desired haven. View the trials which they have in common with the rest of mankind; these are sent them by God for their good [Note: Hebrews 12:10-11.], to improve their graces [Note: Romans 5:3-5.], and eventually to augment the eternal weight of glory that shall be given them at their departure hence [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17.] — — — View the trials which they meet with on account of their Christian profession; these are rather a ground of joy than of sorrow [Note: Matthew 5:10-12.], and are occasions of holy glorying, inasmuch as they are the means of bringing to us much richer communications of divine aid [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.], and of advancing that very cause which they are intended to repress [Note: Philippians 1:12.].
Whether therefore the riddle was intended to comprehend these things or not, sure we are that it was not more applicable to the occasion on which it was used, than it is to the trials and deliverances of the Lord’s people. But, in order to unravel this mystery, we must plough with the Lord’s heifer, and seek the teachings of his Spirit [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:11; Matthew 13:11.].]
Two words of advice I would suggest as arising out of this subject—
Be frequent in reviewing the mercies of your God—
[There is no one who has not met with mercies and deliverances, on account of which he has reason to bless his God. And if we took frequent occasions of reviewing these mercies, what sweetness might we not extract from them; and that not for our own refreshment only, but for the comfort and refreshment of all connected with us! Though, as must frequently be the case, there may be things in our private experience which we cannot communicate even to our dearest friends, yet it would be impossible but that they must derive benefit from converse with us, after we ourselves have extracted the honey which God’s dispensations towards us are calculated to afford. Let us then frequently turn aside even from our dearest friends, or in the midst of the most important business, to contemplate the mercies we have received; and we shall often be surprised at the rich stores of wisdom and consolation which we shall derive from them.]
Be not hasty to complain of his judgments—
[The troubles which we may be called to endure, may appear insupportable; and we may be ready to say, like Jacob, “All these things are against me.” But, if we wait, we shall find, that they are all working for our good; and that though “clouds and darkness may be round about the Lord, righteousness and judgment are the basis of his throne.” How many thousands after a time have been constrained to say with David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted!” Know ye, Beloved, that there is no trial so heavy, but, if you acknowledge God in it, it shall yield you a rich supply of heavenly consolations. The most striking illustration of this truth will be found in Jehoshaphat’s victory over three confederate armies: he was no less than three days in gathering the spoil [Note: 2 Chronicles 20:2; 2 Chronicles 20:25.] — — — Even that last of enemies, death itself, however formidable he may appear, shall yield sweets to the believing soul: the conflict with him may be severe; but the triumph over him shall be complete, and the fruits of victory eternal.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Judges 14". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany