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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Joshua 14

 

 

Verses 1-15

Samson was not a leader, but a rugged individualist.He knew the Philistines were oppressors of Israel, yet he consorted with the Philistines when it pleased him, and he attacked them when he pleased.This strange inconsistency is sometimes seen in the children of God today, those who will denounce the evils of mere ritualistic churches, yet identify with them for certain purposes. Thus the first action of Samson of which we read is his going down among the Philistines and finding a woman to whom he was attracted. So he asked his parents to get the woman for him as a wife(v. 2).They knew how inconsistent this was, and protested that he ought to at least find an Israelite wife. Samson did not even defend himself in this, but responded, "Get her for me, for she pleases me well" (v. 3). He showed no evidence of seeking God's will in finding a wife, but depended only on his personal feelings.

Yet, in spite of Samson's inconsistency, God was behind the scenes with the intention of having the authority of the Philistines challenged (v. 4). Samson's parents did not know this, of course.This does not excuse Samson, but it does show how God is sovereign in using any means He pleases in accomplishing His will.

Samson and his parents therefore went down to Timnah (v. 5), but while Samson was alone, a young lion came against him. The power and roar of the lion did not intimidate Samson, however. In this case is the first intimation of the great strength God had given him. With his bare hands he tore the lion apart! (v. 6). But this was because the Spirit of God came mightily upon him. This is significant of the power God gives believers over the power of the devil by His Spirit (1 John 2:13). Samson did not even mention this episode to his parents.

At this time Samson talked with the woman toward whom he was attracted (v. 7) and was fully persuaded that he wanted her as his wife. Some time later he returned to claim her, and on the way turned out of the way to see the carcass of the lion he had killed. In the carcass was a swarm of bees, and honey (v.8).This is totally out of character for bees, for they usually avoid corruption of any kind. However, there is a serious lesson in this. Honey is the result of the gathering of nectar by the worker bees to be shared by all in the hive. Thus honey symbolizes the ministry of the Word of God, which is sweet, though not as sweet as the Word itself (Psalms 19:10). Samson was gifted by God to be of help to others, but he allowed his ministry to be linked with the corruption of death in his association with the Philistines.Honey itself resists corruption, so that though it would not contract the pollution, it was in a place not suited to its character. Samson should have been concerned thus about his inconsistency in consorting with the enemy, just as there was inconsistency in the fact of bees swarming in a dead body. Samson ate of the honey and also gave some to his parents, not telling them where it came from (v. 9).

Verse 10 and 11 indicate the marriage of Samson to the young woman. He made a feast to celebrate the occasion, and thirty young men (Philistines) were brought there as guests, to be Samson's companions. We do not read of any Israelite guests except his father and mother.

Samson proposed a riddle to the thirty young men, telling them that if they solved it he would give them thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing. If they did not solve it, then they must give the same to him. This was rather a foolish proposal, for what would he (one man) do with the clothes for thirty men? However, the wager was accepted, and he told them the riddle, "Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet" (vv. 12-14).

To answer a riddle like this the men would have to be able to read Samson's mind. Samson gave them the seven days of the feast to come up with the answer, but on the seventh day they threatened his wife with death if she would not find out the answer for them (v. 15). She did not tell Samson about the threat (as a wife surely ought to have), but she wept in urging him to tell her the answer to the riddle; and when Samson capitulated she told the Philistines the answer. How clear a proof was this that her heart was not with her husband but with her native people. Then the men gave Samson his own answer, "What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion?" (v. 18). Of course no one would think of honey coming from a lion, and they knew nothing of a dead lion with honey in its carcass.

However, there is a spiritual significance in this riddle that is good for us. Samson, in common with all the deliverers in the book of Judges, reminds us of the Lord Jesus, not in his character, but in his conquests.Killing the lion speaks of a complete victory over Satan, which only the Lord Jesus has accomplished. For though Satan is strong, the Lord Jesus is stronger than he. The result of this victory means the sweetest blessing for those who trust the Lord Jesus. It was at the cross that the Lord Jesus totally defeated Satan, thus delivering every believer fromSatan's power and giving them the positive blessing of eternal life.

Samson knew that his companions had learned the answer to his riddle from his wife, and tells them, "If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle" (v.18).It is certainly insulting to his wife that he would call her a heifer. But what did he expect after telling the answer to his wife, who was a Philistine?

But the Lord used this unsavory occasion of Samson's resentment against them to stir him up against the Philistines. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily and he went to Ashkelon, some distance away, and killed thirty Philistines, taking the clothing of these dead men to give to the men who had answered the riddle (v. 19).Thus he kept his bargain, but at the expense of the lives of thirty men who were not involved in the matter.

Samson's anger was such, however, that he did not stay with his wife, but went back to his father's house, where he remained for a while. The girl's father evidently considered this to be desertion, and therefore gave his daughter to Samson's close friend, one of the thirty companions of the Philistines (v. 20). Of course there was carelessness on Samson's part as well as looseness on the part of the girl's father.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/joshua-14.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, January 19th, 2020
Second Sunday after Epiphany
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