Samson marries a wife of the Philistines: he rends a lion in pieces, in whose carcase he afterwards finds a swarm of bees and honey: he puts forth a riddle to his companions, the interpretation of which his wife enticeth from him: he slays thirty Philistines.
Before Christ 1155.
Judges 14:1. Timnath— See on Joshua 19:43.
Judges 14:4. His father and mother knew not that it was of the Lord, &c.— According to Archbishop Usher's computation, Samson was now twenty-two years old. Every thing was extraordinary, and ought not to be judged of by common rules. The marriage which he solicited, was contrary to the law of Moses; (See Exodus 34:16. Deuteronomy 7:3.) but he was instigated to it by an impulse from God, and consequently dispensed from an observation of the law. See Bp. Hall's contemplations on the subject.
Judges 14:5. Behold, a young lion roared against him— It appears from this and many other passages, that there were lions in Judaea; whence several places had their names. See Joshua 15:32; Joshua 19:6. Every one knows, that a young lion, just come to its full strength, is the fiercest of all the species. Josephus tells us, that Samson throttled this lion with his hand: if this was the case, he must first have strangled him, and then have torn him in pieces. For some curious remarks upon this subject, we refer to Scheuchzer on the place.
Judges 14:8. And after a time— In the Hebrew, after days; i.e. (as this phrase frequently signifies, and as the circumstances seem to render probable,) after a year; See Exodus 13:10. For it was not usual to celebrate the nuptials between a man and an espoused virgin till twelve months after the espousals. See Selden Uxor. Heb. lib. 2: cap. 8 and so long time seems necessary for the reducing the carcase of the lion, to a state proper for the reception of bees; which, as Aristotle and other naturalists observe, being remarkably abhorrent of all foetid smells, would scarcely settle in the carcase of a lion till the flesh was wholly consumed by the birds and beasts and time; but that being done, there is nothing more probable, than that a swarm of bees should settle in such a skeleton. See Boch. Hieroz. pars 2: lib. 4 and Vossius de Orig. et Prog. Idol. lib. 4: cap. 72. We have here a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. The devil is the roaring lion, whom our divine Samson has destroyed; and from his victory consolations are brought to the believer's soul, sweeter than honey and the honey-comb.
Judges 14:10. And Samson made there a feast— Nuptial feasts of this kind were usual in all countries. And, no doubt, Samson's riddle was proposed by him in accommodation to the customs of these feasts, as the thirty companions were brought by his wife's friends, as a kind of bridemen to honour his nuptials. See Lowth. Praelect. Poet. p. 392. 8vo.
Judges 14:12. Samson said,—I will now put forth a riddle unto you— It was a very ancient custom, as we learn from this, to propose at feasts, enigmas to their guests, in order to exercise their wit, and enliven conversation, instead of passing the whole time in downright eating and drinking. The Greeks derived this custom from the Orientals, and they generally proposed a reward to those who solved the riddle.
Bp. Warburton observes, that as symbolick writing, the more it receded from the proper hieroglyphick, became the more obscure; so it was with the parable, which grew the more mysterious, till it became a riddle, which exactly corresponded with the enigmatical hieroglyphick. This in sacred scripture is called a dark saying, by way of eminence. In the interpretation of these riddles consisted much of the old eastern wisdom, according to the observation of the wise man, Proverbs 1:5-6. It was the custom too, as we learn from this passage, and it lasted long, as we are informed by Josephus, for the sages of those times to send or offer riddles to each other, as a trial of sagacity, to the exposition of which rewards and penalties were annexed; so that the present of a riddle was only the stratagem for a booty. Hence the understanding of dark sentences became proverbial among the Hebrews, to signify the arts of fraud and deceit, as may be collected from the character frequently given by Daniel of Antiochus Epiphanes; Daniel 8:23. The mysterious cover to this kind of wisdom made it, as such a cover always will, the most high prized accomplishment: So when the psalmist would raise and enlarge the attention of his audience, he begins his song in this manner: I will incline mine ear to a parable; I will open my dark saying upon the harp. Psalms 49:4. For, a great critic in sacred and prophane learning rightly observes upon the place, "The Psalmist, in order to engage the attention of his auditors, promises to treat of such things as were esteemed the highest reach of wisdom; and in composing this Psalm, he made use of all the art that he was master of, to render it worthy of his subject." Div. Leg. vol. 3: p. 155. See Boch. Hieroz. pars 2: lib. 4 cap. 12. & Egid. Strauchii Dissert. de Enigm. Sams.
Judges 14:13. Thirty sheets— These were vestments of linen, which were worn next the flesh. See Matthew 27:59. Mark 14:51. & Braunius de Vestit. Sacerd. Heb. lib. cap. 7.
Judges 14:14. Out of the eater, &c.— We do not perceive in this version, the opposition which there ought to be between the two latter terms, as there is between the two first; for what opposition is there between strength and sweetness? But, as Bochart has judiciously observed, there is this opposition in the original; for, in the Arabic language the word mirra, which implies strength, comes from marra, which signifies to be bitter; and therefore, the antithesis of the words is this, "Food came from the devourer, and sweetness from that which is eager or sharp, i.e. violent or fierce." And Bp. Patrick well observes, that the word acer, which signifies as well sharp, as a valiant man, is usually applied to lions.
Genus ACER LEONUM. Ovid.
Judges 14:15. That he may declare unto us— The LXX. Syriac, and Arabic, instead of unto us, render the passage, that he may declare unto thee.
Judges 14:18. If ye had not plowed with my heifer— A proverbial expression; which signifies no more, than that without the assistance of his wife the Philistines could not have found out his riddle.
Judges 14:19. And slew thirty men of them— This action is prefaced by a declaration, that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, moving him to so extraordinary a deed, which no one has a right to imitate; for, 1st. The Philistines were considered as in a state of war with the Israelites; they were their tyrants and oppressors. 2nd. Samson was actually general of the Israelites, appointed by heaven to punish the Philistines. 3rdly. He was in this case no other than an instrument in the hand of God to punish offenders.
Judges 14:20. Samson's wife was given to his companion— Enraged at his wife for betraying, and at his companions for their mean proceedings; Samson returned to his father's house, and left his wife with her own relations. She, looking upon herself as wholly forsaken, and willing perhaps to unite with her relations to show their resentment at Samson, was readily persuaded to marry one of his bride-men; one with whom he had been most familiar, who was peculiarly his friend, honoured possibly with the name of the friend of the bridegroom, and whose office it was to conduct the bride to her house. See St. John 3:29 and Selden de Uxor. Heb. as before.
REFLECTIONS.—We have here,
1. Samson keeping his bridal feast. He did not refuse to comply with an innocent custom, nor would, on such an occasion, appear morose or singular. Note; Unnecessary singularity proceeds more from pride than piety.
2. Thirty young men are brought to do him honour on the occasion, and to be his companions during these festal days. Civility and respect are amiable, even in Philistines.
3. To exercise their ingenuity, Samson proposes a riddle to them. Note; (1.) Many dispensations of God seem, for a time, like this riddle, dark and inexplicable. (2.) The sweetest mercies of God to our souls come from the severest trials, as meat from the eater, and honey from the lion.
4. Three days do they in vain puzzle themselves to discover the secret; the fourth, which was the sabbath, or seventh day, they come to Samson's wife, and threaten to burn her and her father's house with fire, unless she would extort it from him, and save them the loss of their wager, though to her own husband's great disadvantage: a request unreasonable, and a threatening most barbarous and inhuman. Note; (1.) Unreasonable and wicked men stop at nothing when their worldly interests are at stake. (2.) Wagers are always better avoided, as contrary to the spirit of the Gospel; but they are sure to be highly sinful, when their loss is such as may injure our circumstances or occasion the ruffling of our tempers.
5. This false and faithless woman immediately began to importune him for a discovery, upbraiding him with want of love, and plying him with tears, which he beheld with the tenderest emotions. In vain he expostulates on the unreasonableness of the demand, when he had not told even his parents; she wearies him with ceaseless importunity, till he can no longer resist her crocodile tears and unkind accusations; and on the seventh day he intrusts her with the important secret. Note; (1.) An inordinate love of women makes wise men fools. (2.) A woman's tears are often her strongest argument: he must be more than Samson, who can steel his heart against them.
6. No sooner is the secret known, than she communicates it; perhaps the pride of her power operated as strongly as her fears or perfidy to make her eager to know, and hasty to reveal it. With this explication, they come to Samson before the seven days are expired, and claim the wager. He acknowledges it to be theirs; but hints their unfair dealing, in making use of his own wife to betray him. Note; (1.) When we trust a secret out of our own breast, we must not expect it will long continue such. (2.) Our corrupt affections are the heifer that Satan plows with, and by these he prevails.
7. Though the wager is lost, it shall not be at Samson's cost; the Philistines shall rue it. The spirit of the Lord coming upon him to authorise and enable him for the work, he descends to Ashkelon, seizes thirty Philistines, slays and strips them, and with these garments pays his companions. And now, from experience of their perfidy, heartily sick of his wife and them, he leaves the country, and retires to his father's house. Note; (1.) Ill-judged and rash marriages frequently end in unhappy separation. (2.) It were well if the ill usage of the world drove us out of it in affection, to seek our true rest at home with our God and Father.
8. No sooner has he turned his back, than his wife is given to his companion: perhaps, for his sake she had betrayed her husband's secret, and now hesitates not to defile his bed. Note; (1.) A forsaken wife is in a dangerous state. (2.) The friendships of the world are often faithless. (3.) If a woman's affections stray from her husband, it is to be, feared that her person will soon follow them.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 14". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany