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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Judges 14

 

 

Verses 1-4

The opening step of Samson’s career: his unlawful desire to marry a daughter of the Philistines overruled by God for Israel’s good.

Judges 14:1-4.

1And Samson went down to Timnath [Timnathah], and saw a woman in Timnath2[Timnathah] of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath [Timnathah] 3of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then [And] his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for 4 me; for she pleaseth me well [is pleasing in my eyes]. But [And] his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord [Jehovah], that [for] he sought an occasion against [from] the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion [were lording it] over Israel.

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 14:1. And Samson went down to Timnah. Timnah or Timnathah, the present Tibneh, situated to the southwest of Zorah, at the confluence of Wady Sumt with Wady Surâr (Ritter, xvi116; [Gage’s Transl. iii241]), on the border of the tribe of Judah ( Joshua 15:10), was assigned by Joshua to the tribe of Dan ( Joshua 19:43), but had fallen into the hands of the Philistines.

Judges 14:2-3. Get her for me to wife. The history of Samson abounds with instructive notices of the social life of the times. The women lead a free life, not shut up, as they are in the East of the present day. The stranger can see the beauty of the daughters of the land. But Samson cannot yet dispense with the permission of his parents. He is yet in their house, unmarried, a בָּחוּר. From the choice of Samson, and his mode of life, there comes to view, in the first place, the prevalent, though unlawful, admixture of Israelitish and heathen families and customs. But the barriers raised by difference of nationality are nevertheless manifest. The parents at first refuse their consent to Samson’s choice; but they cannot resist his prayer. He is their only Song of Solomon,—and such a son! full of strength and youthful promise,—therefore it gives them pain.[FN1]

Judges 14:4. And his father and his mother knew not. If the mother kept in her heart the saying that her son would begin to deliver Israel, his strength and gifts doubtless awakened many hopes within her. But his wish to marry a Philistine maiden, seemed to destroy every expectation. He who when in his mother’s womb was already consecrated to be a Nazarite, desires to enter into covenant with those who have not even the consecration of circumcision,—and that against the law! He who was endowed to be a deliverer and champion of Israel against the national enemies, shall he become a friend of the tyrants, a member of one of their families? For the parents knew not,—

That this was of Jehovah, for it became an occasion of assailing the Philistines; and at that time the Philistines ruled over Israel. The parents could not but be painfully affected, for they knew not what the consequence would be But although ignorant on this point, they nevertheless yielded. They unconsciously submit to he stronger spirit of Samson; and thus their indulgence united with the unconscious longing of their son to bring about the fulfillment of what the angel had announced.

The career of Samson is an historical drama without a parallel. Its dark background is the national life out of which he emerges. Israel is under Philistine oppression, because of sin and consequent enervation. It is not without resentment against the enemy, but it lacks spirit. It prefers slavish peace to a freedom worth making sacrifices for. It hates the national enemies, but it holds illicit intercourse with them. Such a national life in itself can beget no heroes, nor use them when they exist.

The influence of this national life is evident in Samson himself. He has unequaled spirit, strength, and courage; but he is alone. The young man finds no sympathy, at which to kindle himself. There are no patriots in search of heroes. There is no national sorrow, that waits longingly for deliverance and a deliverer, and in consequence thereof recognizes him when he appears. On the contrary, luxury and sensuality prevail, eating away the heart of the rising generation; for national character also is wanting, by which, conscious of their power, Israel’s youth might clearly recognize their proper goal. Samson too had perished in sensuality, which does not distinguish between friend and foe; but his genius has a seal that cannot be broken. The consecration on his head preserves in his soul an impulse that cannot miss its goal. The law of this consecration is freedom. For freedom’s sake, it lends him strength and spirit. Hannibal’s father made him when but a boy swear everlasting war against the Romans. Samson, as Nazarite from his birth, is borne onward, less consciously, but even more surely, to a hatred with which he is not acquainted, and to wrath and battle for the freedom of Israel.

Samson is without an army, without a congenial popular spirit, without sympathy and courage on the part of his countrymen,—not even Gideon’s three hundred are with him; he has no teacher and spiritual leader; he is alone, and moreover exposed to every temptation to which gigantic strength and corporal beauty give rise; but in his consecration to God he has a guidance that does not lead astray. Hence, that by which others are fettered and subjected, becomes for him the means of attaining his destiny. The paths on which others go to destruction, for him become highways of victory and of strength. It is an act of national treason, when he takes a Philistine wife; and yet for him, it becomes the occasion for deeds in behalf of national freedom.

There is no historical drama in which the nobility and invincible destiny of a great personality, reveal themselves so luminously as in the life of Samson.

It is well known that in the history and fiction of all nations, as in the heroic poems of all ages, love for women has formed a chief motive for conflict and adventure. Even the circumstance which throws so great a charm over the lives and contests of the heroes to whom it appertains, that their love breaks through the confines of their own nation or party, and attaches itself so women who live within the circle of the enemy, is constantly recurring. But in those narratives, as also in the Persian legend, where Rudabe, the mother of Rustem, is the daughter of her Iranian lover’s hereditary foeman, and as in Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, in Romeo and Juliet, and in the dramas of Schiller,—love is the central point and principal motive. Political barriers, national hatreds, ancient passions, all must yield to love, whether it ends in joy or tragedy. How different is its position in the history of Samson! The antagonism between Israel and the Philistines is justified and commanded. Truth cannot intermix itself with idolatry. The over-leaping by sensuality of the spiritual barriers between the two, is the cause of Israel’s sunken condition. That love through which Samson desires the maiden of Timnah, can be no joyful goal. Hence, the relation of his inborn heroism to love shows itself to be very different from that which obtains in heathenism and romance. There, the exploits of heroism become the occasions of love; for Samson, romance becomes the occasion of heroism. There, love overleaps the lines that separate nationalities; in Samson’s case, it becomes the occasion by which he becomes mindful of the separation. Elsewhere, weakness, sensuality, enjoyment, become the snares which bind the inflamed hero; but for Samson, they become only the occasion for rending asunder the fetters, and for understanding the purpose for which he is endowed with divine strength.

And at that time the Philistines ruled over Israel. The addition of this remark is by no means superfluous. It serves to indicate the background of all Samson’s deeds. The mere fact that the Philistines ruled, demonstrated Israel’s apostasy and punishment; that they continued to rule, was evidence of Israel’s powerlessness and inability to repent. It was because they ruled, and Israel was without repentance, that Samson appears so different from Gideon and Jephthah. In the midst of the Philistine supremacy, he enters on his single-handed conflict with them. Notwith-standing that they ruled by means of Israel’s own sin, the objective power of the divine law and spirit evinces itself in the hero-nature of Samson, almost against his own will.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

[Bush: “I wish,” says an old divine, “that Manoah and his wife could speak so loud that all our Israel could hear them.” By nothing is the heart of a pious parent more grieved than by the prospect of the unequal yoking of his children with profane or irreligious partners; for he knows that nothing is so likely to prove injurious to their spiritual interests, and subject them to heartrending trials.—Bp. Hall: As it becomes not children to be forward in their choice, so parents may not be too peremptory in their denials. It is not safe for children to overrun parents in settling their affections; nor for parents (where the impediments are not very material) to come short of their children, when the affections are once settled: the one is disobedience; the other may be tyranny.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Keil: It is true that in Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7:3 f. only marriages with Canaanitish women are expressly forbidden; but the ground of the prohibition extended equally to marriages with daughters of the Philistines. For the same reason, in Joshua 13:8, the Philistines also are reckoned among the Canaanites.—Tr.]


Verses 5-9

Samson goes down to Timnah, with his parents, to speak with his bride-elect. On the way, he meets and tears a young lion.

Judges 14:5-9.

5Then went Samson [And Samson went] down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath [Timnathah], and [they] came to the vineyards of Timnath [Timnathah] and behold, a young lion roared against him [came to meet him, roaring]. 6And the Spirit of the Lord [Jehovah] came mightily [suddenly] upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent [as one rends] a kid, and he had nothing in his hand but [and] he told not his father or his mother what he had done 7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well [was pleasing in the eyes of Samson]. 8And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion: and behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion 9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on [,] eating [as he went], and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them [them not] that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 14:5. And Samson went down, with his father and mother, to Timnathah. The parents give way; at all events, they now first go down, with Samson, to see the maiden, and ascertain more about her. The proper object of the journey appears from Judges 14:7, where we are told that Samson “talked with the woman, and she pleased him.” Hitherto he had only seen her ( Judges 14:1). His parents urge him to “speak with her,” in order to convince himself of her character;[FN2] and he determines to do so. On this account, the statement of Judges 14:3 is repeated in Judges 14:7 : “she pleased him” now, after speaking with her, as formerly after seeing her; he therefore persists in his suit, and appoints the time of his marriage. The hope of the parents that the woman, by her want of agreeableness and spirit, would discourage their Song of Solomon, is not realized. No such want seems to have existed, so far as he was concerned.

And a young lion came to meet him, roaring. Samson went to Timnathah to look for a wife, not to engage in a lion-hunt. The comparison of his lion-fight with that of Hercules in Nemea, is altogether superficial and uncritical; and the idea that his victory is to be regarded as the first of twelve exploits,[FN3] has no foundation either in his spirit or history. The Nemean victory, as I hope yet to show elsewhere, is the expression of a mythical symbolism, and is accordingly, to a certain extent, an epos complete in itself. Samson’s conflict with the lion is an incidental occurrence. It was neither the object of his expedition originally, nor did it come to be its central point of interest afterwards. The chief difference between the two stories lies in the totally different vocations of the heroes: Hercules wrestles with beasts, conquers the hostility which, according to the Hellenic myth, inheres in Nature; Samson is a conqueror of men, a national hero who triumphs over the enemies of his people and their faith, a champion of freedom, whose strength is so great that he can well afford to expend a little portion of it in a passing encounter with a lion. Samson is not elected to take the field against lions and foxes,—that would never have given him a name in the history of Israel; but his strength and dexterity are great enough to enable him to make use of even lions and foxes, dead or alive, as means of his national conflict. Among his exploits, only the blows are reckoned, which he inflicted on the Philistines,—not the occasional means which he employed in their delivery. As little as David’s royal vocation was rooted in the battles of his shepherd days with lions and bears, so little was Samson’s destiny as a hero the outgrowth of his victory over the lion whom he did not seek, but who quite unexpectedly roared out against him. He had left his parents a little space, and when near the vine hills of Timnathah had entered into a wilderness skirting the road, when the monster rushed upon him.

Judges 14:6. And the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him, וַתִּצְלַח רוּחַ. The peculiar force of צָלַח, Isaiah, that it expresses the fortunateness of an occurrence, its happening just at the right time. In the very moment of need, the “Spirit of Jehovah” came upon him. In five passages where the expression “Spirit of Jehovah” occurs ( Judges 3:10; Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 13:25, and here), the Chaldee translation renders it “spirit of heroic strength” (geburah); for God also is a Gibbor, a Hero, and the translator wishes in this way to distinguish between the spirit of prophecy, the spirit of divine speech, which was also a spirit of God (cf. e. g., the Targum on Numbers 24:2 to Numbers 27:11, and also 1 Samuel 10:6, etc, רוּחַ נְבוּאָה), and the spirit of heroic action. But the original, very justly, makes no distinction; for in the view of divine doctrine all that man does is referred to the Spirit-source. Nothing succeeds without God. Samson needs that moral strength which does not fear the lion. The might, not of his arms, but of his soul, was of the first importance. For courageous undertakings, there is need of divine inspirations. Hence, the attack of Samson on the lion is here ascribed to an impulse of the Spirit of God, as well as Jephthah’s resolution to attack Ammon in his own country ( Judges 11:29). And it is to be further noted, that in every case the expression Isaiah, not the Spirit of Elohim, but the Spirit of Jehovah; for it was He on whom Israel was to believe, and from whom, for his own glory and the salvation of Israel, proceeded the power which Samson possessed against the enemies who knew not Jehovah.

And he rent him. It was a terrible lion that came to meet him: a כְּפיר, a term especially used when the rapacious and bloodthirsty nature of the lion is to be indicated. Bochart explains the compound name כְּפִיר אְרָיוֹת very beautifully by means of גְּרִי עִזִּים, especially here, where the fierceness of the lion is opposed to the weakness of a hoedus, kid of the goats. שָׁסַע is equivalent to σχίζω, to rend asunder. As the lion comes rushing towards him, Samson awaits him, seizes him, and rends his jaws asunder. And this he did as easily as if it were a kid of the goats. For the remark, “as one rends a kid,” does not imply that it was customary always to rend kids in this manner, but simply means that a kid could not have been more easily overcome than this powerful lion was. According to some ancient statements, Hercules choked his arms; and it is undoubtedly with reference to this that Josephus says of Samson also, that he strangled (ἄγχει) the monster. According to a French romance, Iwain, the romantic hero of the Round Table, derived his epithet, “Knight of the Lion,” from the fact that after a long struggle he had choked a lion: “il prist Lionian parmi la gorge as poinz.… si l’estrangla.” Cf. Holland, Chretien de Troyes, p161.

And he had nothing in his hand. He had gone forth to look for a wife, not expecting a battle. If, however, it be nevertheless surprising that a young man like Samson carried no weapons, we are to seek for the reason of it in the domination of the Philistines. Those tyrants suffered no weapons in the hands of the conquered, and hindered and prohibited the introduction of them and the traffic in them (cf. 1 Samuel 13:20). The suspicion of the enemy had found matter enough for its exercise, if young men like Samson had come armed into their cities. But even without arms, the heroic strength of Samson everywhere evinces itself; for not iron, but the Spirit, gives victory. Pausanias ( Judges 6:5) tells of Polydamas, a hero of Scotussa in Elis, who lived about400 b. c, that he overcame a great and strong lion on Olympus, without a weapon of any kind.

And he told not his father or his mother what he had done. It is certainly instructive to institute a comparison between Samson and the numerous lion-conquerors of history and tradition. For it reveals Samson’s greatness of soul in a most significant way. To him, the victory over the lion is precisely not one of the twelve labors which in the Heraclean mythus is glorified by tradition and art. He wears no lion’s skin in consequence of it. He makes so little ado about it, that he does not even inform his parents of it, probably in order not to startle them at the thought of the danger to which he has been exposed. For, at that time, he could not yet have thought of his subsequent fanciful conceit. There is nothing unusual about his appearance and demeanor, when he again overtakes them. He exhibits neither excitement nor uncommon elation. The divine spirit that slumbered in him has just been active; but the deed he performed under its impulse appeared to him, as great deeds always do to great souls, to have nothing of a surprising character about it, but to be perfectly natural. Others are impressed to astonishment by what to such persons are but natural life utterances. What we call geniality, what in Samson appears as the result of divine consecration, cannot exhibit itself more beautifully. It is the fullness of spirit and strength in men, out of which exploit and heroism flow as streams flow from their sources. To this very day, it is only small spirits, albeit often in thick books, who watch like griffons over each little thought that occurs to them, fearing to lose the mirror in which they see themselves reflected, and the lion-skin with which proprietorship invests them. Of Samson’s victory nothing had ever been heard, had it not furnished him with the means for indulging in a national raillery against the Philistines.

What subjects of ostentation these conflicts with lions have everywhere been. Neither the great Macedonian nor the Roman Emperors, could dispense with them. An Alexandrian poet procured for himself a life-long pension from the Emperor Hadrian, by showing him a flowering lotus sprung from the blood of a lion whom the Emperor had slain. (More definite references to this and following passages, as also discussions of them, will be contained in my Hierozoicon. Other material, being already found in Bochart and the older commentators (cf. Serarius ad locum), may here be passed over.) The extravagance of the later writers of romance, both eastern and western, was no longer content with common lion-encounters for their heroes. The Arabian Antar conquers a lion although the hero’s feet are fettered. For Rustem and Wolfdieterich such exploits are performed even by their horses. It was only when the crusades put the knightly spirit to the test in the land of the lion, that Europeans experienced the historical terribleness of such conflicts. And few of them had the strength and resoluteness of Godfrey of Bouillon, who stood his ground against a bear, or of the bold and powerful Wicker von Schwaben, who, near Joppa, killed a great lion with the sword in his hand (Albert Aquensis, vii70; Wilken, Gesch. der Kreuzzüge, ii109). Yet these men are not myths, because such deeds are ascribed to them; nor do we suspect only mythical echoes in the stories that are told of them.

The deed of Samson is executed with such ease and freedom, and represented with such simplicity and naturalness, that if the narrative were not historical, it would be impossible to account for its origin. And yet, according to some, it is a mythical reflection of the legend concerning Hercules. The theories of these critics have their false basis in the Hellenistic one-sidedness by which the relation, according to which the myth must receive its symbols from nature and history, is often quite reversed, so that historical life-utterances are attenuated into ideas and mythical phantasies. It is as easy to show that every lion-conqueror, down to Gérard of our own days,—yea, that all menageries to the contrary notwithstanding, the lion himself must be declared mythical, as it is to prove that Samson’s encounter with a lion, in a region where the animal was then indigenous, related without the least approach to ostentation, and performed in the greatness of an unassuming spirit, cannot be historical.

Judges 14:8. And after a time he returned. The betrothal had taken place, the wedding was to follow.[FN4] Samson and his parents descended the same road again. As the hero came to the spot where on their recent journey he turned off from the road, and had the adventure with the lion, the incident came again into his mind, and he turned aside once more, in order to see what had become of the dead lion. Then he found that a swarm of bees had settled themselves in the skeleton of the beast.

The swarm of bees is significantly spoken of as the עֲדַת דְּבֹרִים, the congregation of bees. Commonly, עֵדָה designates the congregation of the Israelitish people, as regulated by the law. It is only on account of its wonderful social organization that a swarm of bees, but no other brute multitude,[FN5] was denoted by the same name.[FN6] Horapollo, in his work on Hieroglyphics (lib. i62), informs us that when the Egyptians wished to picture the idea of a people of law (πειθήνιον λαόν), they did it by the figure of a bee.

The skeleton of the lion had been thoroughly dried up by the heat, for which process, as Oedmann[FN7] long ago remarked, scarcely twenty-four hours are required in the East. In this case many days had intervened. That bees readily settle in situations like the present, long since freed from all offensive odors, is well known from what expositors have adduced from Bochart and others. The instance of the swarm found settled in the head of the slain Onesilaus, in Amathus, may also, familiar as it Isaiah, be alluded to (Herodot. v114). The opinion of the ancients, that bees originate out of the carcasses of steers, wasps out of those of asses, and other insects out of dead horses and mules, may perhaps have some connection with the observation of phenomena like that which here met Samson’s eye (cf. Voss, Idololatria, lib. iv. p556, and others).

Bees must have a place of refuge from the weather. It has been observed, in recent times, that at present the bees of southern Palestine are smaller in size, and of a lighter yellow brown color than those of Germany (Ritter, xiv283). The term דְּבַשׁ, honey, is connected with דְּכוֹרָה, bee (by an interchange of r and s). It is a remarkable fact, to which I have already directed attention in my Berlin Wochenblatt, 1863, that our German [and by consequence, our English] names for wax and honey are perfectly identical with the Semitic terms for the same objects, although in an inverted relation. The Hebrew דְּבַשׁ (pronounce: dvash), honey, answers to the German Wachs (O. H. G. wahs), English, “wax;” and the Hebrew דּוֹנָנ (donag), wax, to the German Honig (honec), English, “honey;” and this is the only proper explanation to be given of the etymology of these German words.

Judges 14:9. And he took thereof. The word רָדָה, according to my view, has nothing to do either with a signification “to tread,” or with the idea of “seizing,” “making one’s self master of;” but has preserved its original meaning in the later usus linguœ of the Mishna and Talmud, where it bears the signification “to draw out,” as bread is drawn out of the oven. The examples given by Buxtorff are borrowed from the Aruch of R. Nathan (172 a), where they may be found still more plain. Of bread in the oven it is said, ונותן בסל רודה, “it is drawn out and put into the basket.” R. Nathan also justly explains our passage by this signification. For Samson, in like manner, drew the honeycomb out of the hive, and put it on the palm of his hand (כַּף). Kimchi takes it in the same way (in his dictionary of roots, sub voce, near the close). Hence also, פרדה, mirda, is the oven-fork, with which things are drawn-out of the fire, Latin rutabulum. It is easily seen that a widely diffused root comes to view here (comp. forms like rutrum, rutellum, from eruo, erutum, Greek ῥύω, ῥυτήρ, ρυστάζω, etc.).

He drew out the honey, and as he had no other vessel, took it on his hand, and refreshed himself with it in the heat of the day, as Jonathan strengthened himself with it after the battle ( 1 Samuel 14:29). He also gave to his parents, who likewise relished it; but neither did he now tell them whence he had taken it. It would have involved telling them the history of the encounter with the lion; and though they might not now have been terrified by it, they would doubtless have caused a great deal of talk about it.

Roskoff,[FN8] in his book Die Simsonssage und der Heraklesmythus, 1860, p65, thinks that the circumstance of Samson’s eating of honey taken from the lion’s skeleton, is a proof that the rule by which the Nazarite was required to abstain from anything unclean had not yet received its later extension, and that consequently the Mosaic law was not yet in existence. We cannot regard this position as very well founded. For this reason, if no other, that the Book which is intimately acquainted with the Mosaic law, relates this act of Samson without the addition of any explanatory remark. And it has very good reason for adding no explanation; for the objection proceeds upon a view of Samson’s Nazaritic character which is foreign to the Book, and greatly affects the proper understanding of his history. The truth Isaiah, the hero was not at all such a Nazarite as the sixth chapter of Numbers contemplates. The introduction to his history clearly shows that definite prescriptions concerning food and drink were given only to his mother; concerning himself,[FN9] nothing more is said than that no razor is to come upon his head. It is only upon this latter obligation, as the history shows, that the strength of his Nazariteship depends. The Nazariteship, abstractly considered, is an image of the general priesthood. On Samson particularly there rests a glimmer of that gospel freedom, with reference to which the Apostle says to the disciples: “All things are yours.” From the consecration of his spirit, Samson has a typical strength by which to the pure all things are pure. Samson can do everything, and that, as the ancients explained of their Samson-Nazarite, without sin-offerings; only one thing he may not do,—desecrate this his consecration, sin against this spirit itself. But this his freedom is naturally held within bounds by his calling. It must have war against the Philistines for its cause and goal. The Apostle’s meaning Isaiah, All things are yours, if ye be Christ’s. Samson may do everything, when the honor of his God against the hereditary enemy is at stake. This freedom was given him, not that he might live riotously, as with Delilah—for which reason he fell—but only to do battle. Herein lies the key to the profound observation of the narrator, when the parents of Samson did not approve of his proposed marriage with the woman of Timnah: “They knew not that this was an occasion from God.” The whole Samson was an occasion from God against the Philistines. It is therefore also with a profound purpose that the hero himself is not commanded to abstain from wine and unclean things. He is born, to a certain extent, in a state of pure consecration, in which for the ends of this consecration everything becomes pure to him. He continues to be the hero, even when he eats that which is unclean, and marries foreign women, which yet, according to Judges 3:6, forms one of the causes of divine judgments; but he falls, when in divulging his secret he does that which, though not in itself forbidden, profanes his consecration.

Samson’s character, in that spiritual freedom which makes war on the Philistines, is a type of the true Christian freedom,—so long as it does not consume itself.

It would therefore lead to useless hair-splitting, to inquire whether it was right in Samson to bring of the honey to his parents without telling them whence he had taken it. He brought it as an evidence of his childlike heart, and committed no wrong. It was a Talmudic question, whether the honey was unclean, although the rule enjoined on Samson’s mother extended only to the time of her son’s birth. He was silent about the history of the honey, in order to avoid boasting.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Samson is stronger than lions and more cunning than foxes. He must be this in order to conquer the Philistines. For there is no one to assist him. The Philistines have enervated, terrified, desecrated Israel. Israel, on their account, has no more faith in its faith. It is afraid of the strength of its own spirit. Desirous of peace at any price, it has surrendered even its own sentiments and beliefs.

Beautiful, on this account, is the use which the ancient church made of Samson the Lion-slayer as a type of Christ. The rending lion is also an image of Satan, the destroyer of men. As Samson rends the lion’s jaws asunder with his hands, so Christ tears to pieces the kingdom of Satan and death. Hence the old custom of putting the picture of Samson the Lion-conqueror on church doors. But that lion who goes about seeking to snatch us away from Christ is still ever terrible. The battle with him is still daily new. The victory, however, is sure, if only we believe in the conquest of the true Samson. But if we have the Spirit only on our tongues, and not in our souls, we shall never conquer like Him. Only faith will enable us to stand. But every victory flows with honey; and with it we refresh father and mother. Every new victory strengthens the old love.

Starke: They who do the greatest works, make the least noise and boasting about them. Enmity and war are easily begun, but not so easily ended. The Philistines could readily make an enemy of Samson, but to make a friend of him was more difficult.—The Same: Christian, imitate, not Samson’s deed, but his faith and obedience.—Lisco: Samson’s life and deeds can be rightly judged only when viewed, not as those of a private person, but as the activity of a theocratic deliverer and judge.

[Wordsworth: “He told not his father or his mother,” though they were not far from him at the time ( Judges 14:5). So our Lord would not that any one should spread abroad his fame. He said, “Tell no man” ( Matthew 8:4; Matthew 16:20). Hitherto, then, Samson, in his spiritual gifts, in his self-dedication to God, in his strength, courage, and victory, and in his meekness and humility, is an eminent type of Christ. But afterwards he degenerates, and becomes in many respects a contrast to Him. And thus, in comparing the type and the antitype, we have both encouragement and warning, especially as to the right use to be made of spiritual gifts, and as to the danger of their abuse.—Bp. Hall: The mercies of God are ill bestowed upon us, if we cannot step aside to view the monuments of his deliverances; dangers may be at once past and forgotten. As Samson had not found his honeycomb, if he had not turned aside to see his lion, so we shall lose the comfort of God’s benefits, if we do not renew our perils by meditation.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#2 - Cf. Abarbanel in locum. The offense of such marriages, the later Jews, with reference to Samson and Song of Solomon, sought to avoid by assuming that the heathen had caused their women to be converted to the true religion. Cf. Danz, Baptismus Proselytorum, § 26; Meuschen, Nov. Test. in Talm., p263.

FN#3 - This idea has been set forth with special plausibility by Bertheau, and is justly and ably combated by Keil.

FN#4 - The assumption of earlier expositors, that an interval of a year must elapse between betrothal and marriage, is after all but an arbitrary one.

FN#5 - The exception in Psalm 68:31 (30), is only apparent.עֲדַת אַבִּירִים, “the congregation of bullocks,” like the beast of the reed,” is a metaphorical mode of designating a body of men—Tr.

FN#6 - Hence also the Sept. συναγωγή.

FN#7 - Vermischte Samml. aus der Naturkunde, vi135. Rosenmüller, Morgenland, No462.

FN#8 - On a general refutation of whom we cannot here enter He agrees in his results, for the most part, with Bertheau and Ewald.

FN#9 - Jerusalem Talmud, “Nazir,” cap1, Hal. 2, etc.


Verses 10-14

Samson’s wedding-feast. He proposes a riddle to his companions.

Judges 14:10-14.

10So [And] his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used [it is customary for] the young men to do 11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought [chose] thirty companions to be with him 12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly [if ye indeed] declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets [shirts][FN10] and thirty change [changes] of garments 13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets [shirts] and thirty change [changes] of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it 14 And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 14:12.—סְדִינִים. Dr. Cassel translates this word by the general term Gewande, garments. He apparently considers the only distinction between the סְדִנִים and the חֲלִפֹת בְּיָדִים, to be that between common and more costly garments (see below). But the סְדִינִים are probably under-garments, tunicœ, shirts, made of a fine linen. The derivation of the word סָדִין, and whether it be related to the Greek σίνδων (Sept.), can hardly be determined.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 14:10. And his father went down unto the woman. The whole narrative is full of naive delineations of manners and customs. The father’s present visit to the maiden is in his son’s behalf, and expresses the parental approbation of Samson’s marriage engagement. That the parents of the bride were consulted about the marriage is not indicated in any way, although we know that the father was still living (cf. Judges 15:6). Are we to suppose that among the Philistines an application to the parents was unnecessary? Did not Isaac, through Eliezer, make suit for Rebecca to her father? and Jacob to Laban? Was not the same custom current also among other, heathen nations? Is not the young woman in the nuptial song of Catullus (Carmen, xii14:61) exhorted that it is the father and mother who must be obeyed?[FN11] The Philistine women seem really to have enjoyed a position of great social freedom. They are seen on the street, and are visited by men, without being on that account regarded as “harlots.”

And Samson made there a feast; for such is the custom of young men. He did not take her with him into his father’s house,[FN12] after the marriage was settled, but remained in Timnah, and there gave the feast. Among the Philistines it was customary for the bridegroom (בָּחוּר) to arrange the banquet. At the wedding of Cana, also, described by St. John ( Judges 2:10), the bridegroom seems to have been the entertainer. But this was not the case when Laban gave his daughter to Jacob, or when Tobias married the daughter of Raguel ( Tobit 8:19). In those instances, the parents of the bride give the feast.

Marriage feasts were much liked among all nations. When, in the Odyssey (4:3), Telemachus comes to king Menelaus, the latter is just celebrating the nuptial feasts of his children. Among the Romans, the name repotia[FN13] was in use for the entertainments which (according to Festus) were given on the day after the marriage at the new husband’s house (cf. Horace, Sat. ii60). Plutarch makes the question, Why even law-givers have appointed a certain degree of luxury to be observed in connection with such feasts, a subject of discussion in his Symposium (lib. iv. quæ James 3). Samson’s marriage-celebration lasted seven days. The parents-in-law of Tobias, in their joy, appropriated fourteen days. But down to late times luxury and sensuality are more characteristic of such feasts than is compatible with their proper observance. Neither the spirit of Samson, nor the piety of Tobias fills and governs them, albeit in some instances the duration of those ancient celebrations may be rivaled. We hardly seem to have taken a long leap backward, when in the fourteenth century we hear it provided by the Ravensburg Regulation concerning weddings, that “the nuptial celebration shall only last till the next day, no longer” (Birlinger, Volksthümliches, ii399); or when, in1643, the Würtzburg bishop, John Philippians, orders that the custom of protracting banquets through three days be discontinued, “as a useless and hurtful expense” (Schaltjahr, i445). For even in our day, like excesses occur, wherever there is money and wantonness. So late as ten years ago, it was stated that in Swabia the feasting attendant upon a village wedding still frequently lasted from four to five days (Meier, Schwab. Sagen, p479).

Judges 14:11. And when they saw him, they chose thirty companions, who were with him. A bridegroom is like a king’s son. His wedding is his coronation. Hence, also, crown and chaplet are not wanting for the wedded pair. For the same reason they have also a following. These are ancient, universally diffused ideas, which it would lead us too far to collect together from all nations and languages. In comparatively recent times, the Jews have minutely traced the analogy of the bridegroom with the king, through all the customs pertaining to them respectively, even to the point of calling attention to the fact that חָתָן and מֶלֶךְ have each three letters. (On the proofs that חתן דומה למלך,[FN14] compare the liturgical works, of which Tania, ed. Cremona, 1565, p130, and Taschbaz, of R. Meier of Rotenburg, p45, may here be especially cited.)

Accordingly, the כִּ־ְאוֹתם, “when they saw him,” is to be so understood, that when Samson appeared, i. e. publicly, both at the time of the marriage, concerning the manner of which nothing is said, and during the seven festive days, it was always with a retinue of thirty companions, somewhat as in our day brides are still attended by suites of bridesmaids.

וַיּקְחוּ, and they chose. It was customary, no doubt, when a daughter or son of the city was married, for the bridegroom to provide himself with a retinue. As Samson was a stranger, his bride and her father told him whom to invite, and therefore the writer says “they chose.” The number of young men chosen was thirty. Samson’s parents seem to have been in good circumstances, and hence the bridegroom appeared not without splendor, as the giver of a seven days’ feast. That thirty was the unvarying number, cannot be maintained. The ancients had a philosophical number, which they called the “wedding,” and which consisted of five or six. (Both chosen on account of their being formed from2 × 3,2 + 3, one even, the other odd.) But5 × 6 is also = 30.[FN15] In later times, also, the Jews had many brides’-men. In Worms, their number had been restricted to eight. The later Jews called such a brides’-man ששבין, which term does not, however, come from the Syriac, as Sachs thought (Beiträge, i82), but is only the Hebraized form of sponsor (otherwise auspex, paranymphios, cf. Matthew 9:15).—The idea of Josephus, which Bertheau adopts, that the thirty young men were to watch Samson, is to be rejected. For, in the first place, nothing was as yet known concerning Samson that could render him so seriously suspected; and, in the next place, it is manifest from Judges 14:15, that they were invited on the part of the bridegroom himself.

Judges 14:12-13. I will put forth a riddle unto you. The custom of propounding riddles for amusement is very ancient. The acuteness which exercised itself therein, was, as it were, the counterpart of that which invented the language of figure, signs, and symbols. For it brought to light again the secrets which the latter had locked up. “In ancient times,” says Plutarch, “the Greeks were already in the habit of propounding riddles to each other.” It is related of the maiden Cleobuline, the daughter of a wise Prayer of Manasseh, that she was so ingenious, as to play with riddles as if they were dice, propounding or solving them with equal ease. The banquet of the seven wise men, in Plutarch, shows the high estimation in which the diversion was held; and Cleodemus, the physician, who was unskillful at solving riddles, is not unaptly rebuked by Æsop, for holding such occupation to be suitable only for girls when engaged in knitting girdles and hoods, but not for intelligent men. Athenæus, also, in his work (pp453–459), cites large extracts from the book of Clearchus on riddles, and adds, “that the unraveling of such riddles is very similar to the pursuit of philosophy, and that therefore their solution, as a sign of Wisdom of Solomon, is held in favor, and deemed an appropriate mode of entertainment at table.” We, however, pass by these examples from Clearchus, not only because they were already brought to the notice of expositors by Bochart, but especially because in the case of Samson’s riddle the real stake at issue is higher than a garland for the winner, or the drinking of a forfeit-cup[FN16] by the loser. It evokes a stern conflict.

Then I will give you thirty garments (סְדִינִים) and thirty changes of raiment (חֲלִיפֹת בְּגָדִים). With this explanation, the more recent expositors would probably agree. By a “change” of raiment we are to understand a dress of state—a Sunday suit, as we would say—for which the every-day dress may be exchanged on festive occasions. The Targum, however, has another explanation, which deserves to be mentioned. Like the Septuagint and Josephus, it translates חֲלִיפֹת (changes) by אצטלית, στόλη; assuming thereby for חָלף, a signification which indeed it sometimes seems to have, namely, to fight, to wound (Sept πατάσσειν, τιτρώσκειν). For στόλη is the classical term for a soldier’s dress. In like manner, it translates סְדִינִים by פלדסים, i. e. balteus, the girdle or belt which the soldier buckled around his body (cf. 2 Kings 5:23).—It was thus no small price that was put upon the solution of the riddle. But in other cases also it was probably not unusual for large sums to be staked. Thus, if we are to believe Dius, quoted by Josephus (Antiq. viii5, 3; cf. Jablonski, Pantheon Ægypt., Proleg, p. cxiv), Solomon and Hiram lost a great deal of money to each other. Plutarch relates how that the Ethiopian king staked many cities and villages on a riddle propounded to Amasis, and would have won them, had not the philosophical Bias come to the aid of the Egyptian monarch. It was in consequence of solving a riddle that the legendary Persian hero was permitted to marry Rudabe, the mother of Rustem. According to ancient Scandinavian law, criminals could save themselves from death by means of a riddle (Olin Dalin, Gesch. Schwedens, German, i155). The same idea occurs in German riddle-books (Simrock, Räthselbuch, p463; Menzel, d. Dichtung, i427).—King Heidrik in Ridgotland had a severe war with Gester Blinde, king in Gothland. Finally, he challenged him to solve riddles. The latter invoked Odin, and conquered (Olin Dalin, i186).

Judges 14:14. Out of the consumer came material for consumption, and out of the terrible came sweetness. The translator must take care not to destroy the ambiguity of the term אֹכֵל, consumer. For this reason, the rendering of De Wette and Arnheim, “vom Fresser kommt Frass” [from the feeder comes feed], is not good; for, on the one hand, Frass [feed, a term used only for the food of beasts][FN17] is not applicable to the honey which is meant, and on the other hand, human beings [do not feed, but] eat. Ewald’s rendering, “aus dem Esser kam ein Essen” [out of the eater came an eating, i. e. something eatable], is unsuitable, because the lion, who is meant, is not an Esser, eater, nor yet as Bertheau renders, a Speiser [both terms being used of human beings only]. Equally erroneous is it to translate עַז by “sour.” For the antithesis between this word and מָתוֹק is here to be taken in a wider sense, so as to give rise to a second equivoque; for מָתוִֹק means not only “sweet,” but metaphorically also “pleasant,” agreeable. The ingenuity of the riddle consists precisely in this, that the ambiguity both of its language and contents can be turned in every direction, and thus conceals the answer. It is like a knot whose right end cannot be found,—a figure from which the sense of the Hebrew חוּד, to propose a riddle, as also that of the Greek γρῖφος (cf. γρῖπος, the braided fishing net), is doubtless to be derived. The Gordian knot was likewise an emblematical riddle. Samson’s problem distinguishes itself only by its peculiar ingenuity. It is short and simple, and its words are used in their natural signification (אֹכֵל is to consume, in general, without regard to the specific form or nature of the consumption, and עַז is terrible, as “the strong one,” whether in a good or evil sense, always is). It is so clear as to be obscure. It is not properly liable to the objection, that it refers to an historical act which no one could know. The act is one which was natural in that country. Its turning-point, with reference to the riddle, was, not that it was an incident of Samson’s personal history, but that its occurrence in general was not impossible.

The ingenuity of the riddle shows itself further in that it applies equally well both to an historical occurrence and a mere abstract conception. This was a characteristic of ancient popular riddles in general, and indicates their origin. Just as it was an art to represent historical facts symbolically by pictures (of which the modern rebus is an insipid distortion), so it was an art out of such abstractions to disinter an historical fact. Most popular riddles call for the exercise of this art. The instance showing most likeness to the riddle proposed by Samson, is found in a story current in North Germany, and communicated by Müllenhoff (Sagen, p504): A man was condemned to death. His wife intercedes for him. The judges offer to let him go, if she can propose a riddle which they shall not be able to solve. The woman says:—

As ik hin güng, as ik wedder kam,

Den Lebendigen ik uet den Doden nam.

Süss (Sechs) de güngen de Saewten (den Siebenten) quitt,

Raet to, gy Herren, nu ist Tyt.”[FN18]

The woman had found the carcass of a horse by the way, and in it a bird’s-nest, and in the nest six young birds. The six young ones she took with her, whereby these became quit of the seventh; and thus she had taken the living out of the dead. It went with the wise judges even as it did with the proud Philistines—they guessed nothing.

Footnotes:

FN#10 - Judges 14:12.—סְדִינִים. Dr. Cassel translates this word by the general term Gewande, garments. He apparently considers the only distinction between the סְדִנִים and the חֲלִפֹת בְּיָדִים, to be that between common and more costly garments (see below). But the סְדִינִים are probably under-garments, tunicœ, shirts, made of a fine linen. The derivation of the word סָדִין, and whether it be related to the Greek σίνδων (Sept.), can hardly be determined.—Tr.]

FN#11 - Quibus parere necesse est.

FN#12 - Because she was an alien. He does not impose upon his father’s house that in which he allows himself. That would have been an insult to the law and customs of Israel.

FN#13 - “An after drinking.” The Sept. renders מִשְׁתֶּה ( Judges 14:10) by πότος, a drinking.

FN#14 - Cf. Jalkut, Shophetim, n70, p11 c.

FN#15 - Cf. Plutarch, on the doctrine of the Timœus concerning the origin of souls.

FN#16 - That Isaiah, a cup of unmixed wine, or of wine mixed with salt-water, to be emptied at one draught. See Smith’s Dict. Antiq., s. v. “Symposium.” It will be remembered that the Greeks always mingled water with their wine. They considered it not only unhealthy, but barbarous, to drink clear wine, which may suggest an explanation of the above-mentioned penalty.—Tr.]

FN#17 - In German, the act of eating on the part of beasts is called fressen; on the part of human beings, essen or speisen. The nearest approach we have to this distinction in English is between feeding and eating.—Tr.]

FN#18 - “As I came along, I took the living out of the dead; six got quit of the seventh; guess away, my masters, now is the time.”—Tr.]


Verses 15-20

The Philistines solve the riddle by means of treachery. Samson’s anger and payment of the forfeit

Judges 14:15-20.

15And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said[FN19] unto Samson’s wife, Entice [Persuade] thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called [invited] us to take that we have [plunder us]? is it not so? 16And Samson’s wife wept before him and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a [the] riddle unto the children [sons] of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? 17And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted [during which they had their feast]: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him [pressed him hard]: and she told the riddle to the children [sons] of her people 18 And the men of the city said unto 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 unto them, If ye had not ploughed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle 19 And the Spirit of the Lord [Jehovah] came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil [attire], and gave [the] change [changes] of garments unto them which expounded 20 the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house. But [And] Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend [who had attended him].

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 14:15.—וַיֹּאמְרוּ. Dr. Cassel treats all that comes after the phrase, “and it came to pass on the seventh day,” down to the same phrase in Judges 14:17, as parenthetic, and consequently renders וַיֹּאמְרוּ by the pluperfect: “and they tad said.” Cf. below.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

The æsthetic beauty and psychological truth which characterize the narrative notwithstanding its compressed brevity, and which would be incomparable even though the narrative were not found in the Bible, and had not divine truth for its contents and object, can scarcely be adequately pointed out, so manifoldly do they manifest themselves. The drama is represented with such historical life-likeness, and its development is so natural, that while no one could foresee why the wedding should give rise to a conflict, yet in the sequel it becomes manifest that its occurrence was unavoidable. Samson really loved the maiden of Timnah, and took the full measure of youthful delight in the nuptial banquet and festival; but it is impossible for an Israelite, as he Isaiah, to enter into any kind of close connection with the enemies and oppressors of his people, without getting into a conflict. It must never be supposed that covenants, even in the simplest relations of life, can be made with those who are opponents in principle and tyrants in disposition. No occasion is so slight, but it suffices to inflame the fires of antagonism. Samson is too genial of nature to be a far-seeing party man; but he deceived himself when he expected to find a covenant of love and fidelity in a Philistine family. The preventing cause lay not only in his opponents, but also in himself, in that he was always, even unconsciously, showing who he was. Everything appeared to be harmonious when he propounded the riddle. He did it in the most peaceful spirit, from the impulse of an active mind. But it immediately brought the hidden antagonism to light. For they to whom it was proposed for solution were Philistines. As such, they would at all events be put to shame, if they failed to solve it. At the same time, it is true, the nobility of Samson’s disposition reveals itself, in contrast with the vulgar natures of the Philistines. Hebrews, for his part, risks thirty times the value of what, in case of failure, each of the thirty has to pay. This is the very reason why, in their covetousness, they accept the wager. The result was natural. They cannot solve the riddle, but neither are they willing to admit this. They are too vain to be humbled by an alien, but especially too covetous to endure a loss. They therefore turn to Samson’s young wife. Had she not been a Philistine, they would not have dared to do this. But, as it Isaiah, they expect to find in her an ally against the Israelite, even though he be her husband. She seems indeed to have resisted for a while,—until they arouse both her fears and her vanity. Her fears, by the threat to burn her father’s house over her head; her vanity, by hinting that probably the riddle was only put forth in order to plunder the guests. The latter suspicion she may have found especially intolerable, women being ever peculiarly sensitive to similar surmises of village slander-mongers. Perhaps, however, she merely invented these threatening speeches afterwards, in order to pacify Samson. For else, why did she not confess the truth to Samson? That alone would have ended the trouble. Either he would have felt himself strong enough to protect her, and to humble the miserable enemies, or he would have consented to the sacrifice of appearing to be vanquished. But she did not do this, just because she did not forget that she was a Philistine. Samson, she conjectured, would not allow himself to be humbled. She sought, therefore, to persuade him by means of that very antagonism for the sake of which she betrayed him. She complained, weeping, that he still treated her like her countrymen, and also kept from her that which he would not tell them. She desires to make it appear that her love has so entirely brought her over to his interests, that she thought not to be put on the same footing with her countrymen. This would have been the right relation. The wife may assist no party but that of her husband. But she only dissembled, in order to betray. Finally, on the seventh day,—the sun was already declining,—she had so tormented the hero, that he told it to her. He had a heart not only great, but also tender, which at last succumbs to the prayers and tears of the wife whom he loves and holds to be true. The treachery is completed. The miserable Philistines act as if they had themselves found the solution, and claim the reward. Then a light goes up for Samson. He sees the whole contrast,—the incongruity and error of a covenant with Philistines. Before the treason of which he has been made the subject, the mists with which a seductive sensuality had obscured, his vision are scattered. National wrath and national strength awake within him. His whole greatness reveals itself. He does not refuse the Philistines the promised reward. But the manner in which it is given, is full of contempt and humiliation. He throws to them the spoils of thirty slain Philistines. He leaves the woman, and returns to Israel. The conflict has begun, and Samson’s true calling becomes manifest. He who wears the consecration of God on his head, cannot revel in the houses of Philistines.

Judges 14:15. And it came to pass on the seventh day. More recent expositors have made no remarks on this difficult statement. To assume that the Philistines first applied themselves to the woman on the seventh day, is rendered impossible by Judges 14:17, which says that she wept before Samson “seven days.” The LXX. therefore, read here, “on the fourth day,” because Judges 14:14 states that for three days they were not able to find the solution. Considering how easily ד and ז may be interchanged, the substitution of “seven” for “four” appears very likely. But the clearer it seems that the reading should be, “on the fourth day,” the more surprising it is that the Masora retained “on the seventh day.” The Masora, however, supposed the Sabbath to be meant by the seventh day,—an opinion also followed by some of the older expositors (cf. Serarius), but which cannot be correct.[FN20] For in Judges 14:17 a “seventh day” is again mentioned, which cannot, however, be another Sabbath; for as the first “seventh day” Isaiah, by the supposition, the fourth, so this second is the seventh, day of the wedding-feast. The reading “on the seventh day” can be retained, if the passage which begins immediately after it in Judges 14:15, and extends to the same phrase in Judges 14:17, be regarded as a sort of parenthesis. The writer was already on the point of stating that after they had ineffectually puzzled over it for three days, Samson on the seventh day told it to his wife, when it occurred to him first to interpose the statements of Judges 14:15-17, as showing the motives by which Samson was influenced. Accordingly, “on the seventh day,” in Judges 14:17, only continues what the same words in Judges 14:15 had begun. The statement in the parenthesis that she wept before him “seven days,” falls in with this view. The idea Isaiah, that from the time at which she began, she continued to torment him throughout the whole seven-day period of the feast. Throughout the whole week, therefore, instead of cheerful guests, Samson had sullen Philistine faces, and, instead of a happy wife, crocodile tears and reproaches.[FN21]

Persuade thy husband, that he declare unto us the riddle. פַּתִּי, persuade; most frequently, it is true, “befool,” “entice by flattery.” Very significant is the expression, “that he declare unto us the riddle.” If he tells it to her, they intimate, he will have told it to them. For do not they and she constitute an “us?” She belongs to them, and must act accordingly, if she would not incur their enmity against herself and her house.

Have ye invited us to plunder us? is it not so?הַלְיָרְשֵׁנוּ is the kal infinitive with suffix, and is to be derived from יָרַשׁ, to inherit, to get by conquest, to take into possession. The word is aptly chosen here. When Israel was taking possession of the land, יָרַשׁ was a word in constant use. The Philistines mockingly ask whether they were invited that Israel, in the person of Samson, might “conquer,” “inherit,” their property. הֲלֹא, at the close, is an interrogative particle, like the Latin ne, used enclitically.

Judges 14:16. Thou dost but hate me, שְׂנֵאתַנִי. Samson, she intimates, must look on her as one looks on a person who belongs to a hostile tribe, seeing that he conceals the solution of the riddle from her as well as from the other people of the city. The woman, pressed to decide between her people and Samson, inclines to the Philistines. A lesson for Samson and others like him.

Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother. It is true, he deferred not to father and mother in the matter of his marriage, but not from want of reverence for them. They are his most beloved. To them he brings of the honey. (Very insipidly, Josephus adds here that he brought honey to the woman also.) And the woman, in the midst of her flatteries and tears, must endure to hear him say to her: Have I not told it to my parents, and shall I tell it to thee? To be sure, it would have been inexcusable to have put his parents—and such parents!—on the same level with a Philistine woman.

Judges 14:18. Before the sun went down. Here also we have the poetical name חַרְסָה (instead of the form חֶרֶס), for the sun, cf. on Judges 8:13. Beautiful is the expression בּוֹא, to come, for “to set.” The sun comes home, as it were—comes into his house, like a bridegroom after his wedding. On the other hand, when the sun rises, the Hebrew says that he “goes forth” into activity, forth for victory like a hero.

Had ye not ploughed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle. The answer of the angry Samson is elegantly couched in the form of a proverb, full of spirit, as are all his sayings which have been preserved. It starts from the experience that buried treasures come to light, when the soil is turned by the plough. (Tages, the Roman Genius, was fabled to have been thus ploughed up.) But not every one knows where to draw the furrow. The Philistines would not have known it; but his heifer had shown them the way. The comparison is not very flattering to the traitoress, but quite appropriate. For no merit accrues to the heifer when it ploughs the right furrow: it has been shown to it. So also the woman: she has solved nothing, but only played the traitor.

Judges 14:19. And he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them. Why to Ashkelon? Against the people of Timnah he could not turn his wrath. He had eater with them, and he would not withdraw himself from the obligations he had assumed. But their conduct had awakened him to a sense of the great national contrast between them and Israel. At this moment he felt that Israel lay in the bands of servitude. Between his people and the Philistines no other treaty existed, than that which is made by the cowardly and the God-forsaken with their enemies. Israel endured servitude, because it had fallen away from its ancient spirit. It ventured no longer on resistance.

All this came home to Samson’s mind at this moment. He determined to give a proof of Israelitish strength. Hence we read, “the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him,” a remark always found where Israel manifests a determination to lift up heart and hand against the enemies of God. His relations would have advised him to collect money and buy the garments. It was a divine inspiration which moved him to pay by battle. Why did he go to Ashkelon? Because there were rich and valiant men there, whom it was worth while to attack and overcome. Probably it was a nuptial party, graced, as his own had been, with thirty attendant groom’s-men, that he surprised. It was not done in the midst of peace. There was no peace between Philistines and Israel. He conquered the thirty Philistines (members, perhaps, as we have said, of a nuptial train) with the sword, as he vanquished his own retinue in a conflict of intellect. The fame of the wonderful young Israelite resounds through the land. No reprisals are made. The princes of the Philistines look on the occurrence as a private affair. But a silent quaking of conscience, such as seizes on tyrants when a fresh spirit stirs itself among the oppressed, contributed no doubt to the preservation of repose.

Took their attire, חֲלִיצוֹתָם. Chalitsah (חֲלִיצָה) is the military equipment, of which the fallen are stripped, cf. 2 Samuel 2:21. There, the Sept. renders it πανοπλία; here, στόλη. This supports the opinion of the Targum, adduced above, that the promise of Samson referred to military garments. For the chaliphoth (changes of garments) which he paid, were doubtless part of the chalitsoth, or military suits, which he took; so that Samson did not first sell his booty, and then buy new garments. It is in harmony with the dramatic course of the action, that Samson flung to his treacherous friends, as the price of their deception, garments snatched from their own countrymen.

And he went up to his father’s house. His wrath blazed up into a national flame against the Philistine brood. He turns his back upon them, and goes home. It seems to be his intention never to come back. How little they were worthy of him, is shown by the conduct of the woman, after his departure. That she may not be without a husband in consequence of her treason, she is rewarded with the hand of another man. One of the companions for whose sake she deceived Samson, marries her. To treason she adds infidelity. Meanness of disposition gives birth to everything that is bad. It can neither love nor be faithful; but least of all can it comprehend a man such as Samson was.

A survey of only that which chapter 14 shows of Samson, should have excited the attention of those who find pleasure in comparing him with Hercules. While all the ancient statements about the Greek hero have value only as the vehicles of mythico-symbolical ideas, Samson appears in the midst of history, wearing the living hues of actual existence. Hercules, the more the later Greeks take him historically, the more he assumes the character of a coarse giant and glutton, who, averse to culture, kills his master; while Samson is at once portrayed as a genial Prayer of Manasseh, of noble disposition. It were more feasible to institute a comparison between Samson and many traits in the character of Ulysses, were it not that in the latter, as in Greek heroes generally, there is wanting the pathos of the national champion, and that elevation of spirit which, in the case of Samson, breaks through the fetters of even his deepest sensuality. It is already a misapprehension when some would assign twelve exploits to Samson, seeing that his whole life is given for a testimony; but when his slaying of the thirty Philistines is counted as the second (as e. g. by Bertheau), there is a want of understanding even of the Heraclean performances. These are a didactic poem; what is told of Samson, signifies an ethical deed. The deeds of Hercules have no mutual connection: those of Samson, ethico-historical in their nature, are conditioned one by the other. The succeeding history, related in chap, 15, connects itself with what has gone before.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

[Henry (on Judges 14:10; Judges 14:12): It is no part of religion to go contrary to the innocent usages of the places where we live; nay, it is a reproach to religion, when those who profess it give just occasion to others to call them covetous, sneaking, and morose. A good man should strive to make himself, in the best sense, a good companion.—The same: “If ye had not ploughed with my heifer, you had not found out my riddle.” Satan, in his temptations, could not do us the mischief he does, if he did not plough with the heifer of our own corrupt nature.—The same: “And he went up to his father’s house.” It. were well for us, if the unkindness we meet with from the world, and our disappointments in it, had but this good effect upon us to oblige us by faith and prayer to return to our heavenly Father’s house, and rest there.—The same: “Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.” See how little confidence is to be put in Prayer of Manasseh, when those may prove our enemies whom we have used as our friends.—Bp. Hall (on Judges 14:19): If we wonder to see thirty throats cut for their suits, we may easily know that this was but the occasion of that slaughter whereof the cause was their oppression and tyranny.

Wordsworth: At the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee, Christ manifested forth his glory ( John 2:11). But at this marriage in Timnath, Samson betrayed the first signs of moral weakness and degeneracy.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#19 - Judges 14:15.—וַיֹּאמְרוּ. Dr. Cassel treats all that comes after the phrase, “and it came to pass on the seventh day,” down to the same phrase in Judges 14:17, as parenthetic, and consequently renders וַיֹּאמְרוּ by the pluperfect: “and they tad said.” Cf. below.—Tr.]

FN#20 - Least correct of all would it be, with Lilienthal, to leave the words out because the Königsberg MSS. did not have them.

FN#21 - Dr. Cassel’s explanation of this matter does not strike me favorably. It certainly fails to justify the remark of Judges 14:17 : “she wept before him seven days.” The natural explanation seems to be this: As soon as the riddle was given, the young wife at once began to teaze for its solution. Refusal both stimulated her curiosity and wounded her vanity, so that even before the end of the first day she had recourse to the argument of tears. Day by day she renewed the assault, but always ineffectually. Finally, on the seventh day she brings a new argument, furnished her by the guests. For the first three days of the festivities these had sought to solve the riddle in a legitimate way. Such appears to be the import of the remark in Judges 14:14 : “and they could not in three days expound the riddle.” What they did on the next three days is not stated. They may have remained inactive, trusting in some way to compass the solution at last, or they may have been already ploughing with Samson’s heifer. But if the latter, they had not yet recourse to threats. On the last day of the feast, however, when they find that waiting has been as ineffective as working, and that the wife’s importunities (of which they were probably cognizant, even though they did not stimulate them), have likewise accomplished nothing, they resort to threats against the wife. The latter thereupon becomes more urgent and tearful than ever, and gains her point. Compare Bertheau and Keil, who give essentially the same explanation.—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Judges 14:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/judges-14.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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