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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Judges 14

 

 

Verses 1-9

EXPOSITION

14:1

Timnath, or, more correctly, Thimnathah, as in Joshua 19:43, a town in the tribe of Dan, the name of which survives in the modern Tibneh, about three miles south-west of Zorah ( 13:2, note). It may or may not be identical with Timnath in Genesis 38:12-14, and with Timnah in Joshua 15:10. It appears to have been in the possession of the Philistines at this time.

14:2

Get her, etc. Rather, take her. It is the technical phrase

14:3

Uncircumcised. Cf. Genesis 34:14. A term of reproach here added to deter Samson from the marriage. It is particularly applied to the Philistines (see 15:18; - 1 Samuel 17:26, 1 Samuel 17:36; 1 Samuel 18:29; 1 Samuel 31:4; 2 Samuel 1:20, etc.).

14:4

It was of or from the Lord. It was the method decreed by God's providence for bringing about a rupture with the Philistines. That he sought. Rather, because he sought. The writer explains the purpose of the providence. It is doubtful whether "he" refers to Samson or to the Lord. Most commentators refer it to Samson; but it is contrary to the whole tenor of Samson's impetuous course, and to all probability, that he should have asked for the Timnathite damsel merely for the sake of quarreling with the Philistines; whereas the statement that Samson s obstinate determination to take a Philistine wife was the means which God's secret purpose had fixed upon for bringing about the eventual overthrow of the Philistine dominion is in exact accordance with other declarations of Holy Scripture (cf. e.g. Exodus 7:3, Exodus 7:4; Joshua 11:20; 1 Samuel 2:25; 1 Kings 12:15; 2 Chronicles 10:15; 2 Chronicles 22:7; 2 Chronicles 25:20). An occasion. The noun only occurs here; but the verb, in its several conjugations, means, to happen at the right time; to bring a person or thing at the right time (Exodus 21:13, deliver, A.V.); to be brought at the right time (Proverbs 12:21, happen, A.V.); to seek the right time for injuring any one (2 Kings 5:7, seeketh a quarrel, A.V. ).

14:5

Went down, showing that Timnath was on lower ground than Zorah; it was in fact in the Shephelah. The vineyards of Timnath. The valley of Sorek ( 16:4), so famous for its vines (Isaiah 5:2; Jeremiah 2:21), from which it derived its name (Sorek, translated in the above passages the choicest vine, and a noble vine), is thought to have been in the immediate neighbourhood. Probably the whole district under the hills was a succession of vineyards, like the country round Bordeaux. Samson had left the road along which his father and mother were walking, at a pace, perhaps, too slow for his youthful energy, and had plunged into the vineyards. Of a sudden a young lion,—a term designating a lion between the age of a cub and a full-grown lion,—brought there, perhaps, in pursuit of the foxes or jackals, which often had their holes in vineyards (So 2:15), roared against him.

14:6

The Spirit of the Lord, etc.—as a spirit of dauntless courage and irresistible strength of body. Came mightily. Hebrew, fell upon him, or passed over upon him, as in 14:19; 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:6, 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 18:10, etc. He rent him, etc. He "had nothing in his hand," no weapon or knife, nor even a stick; but he rent him with as much ease as the kid is rent. The Hebrew has the kid, with the definite article, which is not prefixed unless some particular kid is meant, as in Genesis 38:23. Perhaps the kid means the one about to be served, which the cook rends open either before or after it is cooked. Unless some such operation is alluded to, it is not easy to understand what the rending of the kid means. He told not his father, etc. This is mentioned to. explain Genesis 38:16; but it shows that Samson had wandered some distance from his parents among the vineyards (see note to Genesis 38:5).

14:7

Went down, as in 14:1, where see note.

14:8

He returned to take her. All the preliminaries being settled between the parents, he returned to Timnath to take his bride by the same road which he and his parents had travelled by before, and, remembering his feat in killing the lion, very naturally turned aside to see what had become of the carcase. And, behold, there was a swarm of bees, etc. This has been objected to as improbable, because bees are very dainty, and would not approach a putrefying body. But as a considerable time had elapsed, it is very possible that either the mere skeleton was left, or that the heat of the sun had dried up the body and reduced it to the state of a mummy without decomposition, as is said to happen often in the desert of Arabia.

14:9

And … he went on eating, etc. Compare the account of Jonathan finding and eating the wild honey (1 Samuel 14:25, and following verses).

HOMILETICS

14:1-9

The link of the chain.

A swarm of bees light one day in the carcase of a lion which had been killed in the vineyards of Thimnathah. They construct their hive there, and make their honey. It was no doubt an unusual circumstance that the bees should form their hive in such a place rather than in a hollow tree, or the cleft of a rock, but beyond its interest as a fact in natural history nobody would have attached any importance to it. But this action of the bees was linked to curious antecedents, and to peculiar consequences. The lion had been slain by Samson, that mysterious person of gigantic strength, whose life is such a remarkable episode in the history of Israel; and Samson had been led to the spot where the lion was by his ill-regulated love for a daughter of the Philistines, who were the masters and oppressors of his country. And as to what happened after the swarming of these bees, the marriage of Samson to his Philistine bride took place after an interval just sufficient for the bees to have filled their hive with honey, and Samson on his way to the wedding, impelled by a natural curiosity to see the lion which he had killed, had turned aside from his path, and had eaten the honey which was strangely found there. It was the custom of the time and of those people to beguile the long hours of the idle wedding.feasts with curious questions and strange riddles. In the gambling spirit which is such a frequent accompaniment of insufficient occupation, whether among the lazaronis of Naples or the wealthy nobles of modern society, such riddles were made the occasion of wagers, and such wagers often led to deadly quarrels. In the present instance Samson's double adventure with the lion suggested to him the riddle, "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." Baffled in their attempts to guess the riddle by fair means, they set on Samson's wife to worm the secret out of him and divulge it to them. Samson at once perceived the treachery, broke with his wife, slew thirty Philistines, and took their spoil wherewith to pay the lost wager, and followed up the feud by successive slaughters of his enemies, thus preparing the way for the eventual overthrow of the Philistine domination. The point for our special remark is that a swarm of bees lighting on a particular spot was an important link in the chain of providence by which the destinies of a great people were guided to independence; and the observation is not only a curious one, but has an important bearing upon the difficult subject (see Homiletics, 3:12-21) of the use made of men, and of men's actions, in the providential government of the world. Samson in slaying the lion, and the bees in swarming in its carcase, did things which were links in the chain of events which God foresaw, or fore-ordained, as he did also the effects of Samson's marriage with the Philistine. But just as the bees only followed their instinct in building their hive, so Samson, in fixing his affections on the Timnathite, and in attacking the lion, and in eating the honey, and in propounding the riddle, and in avenging himself for his wife's treachery, was merely following the bent of his own inclinations and the leading of his own will, though in so doing he was bringing about God's purpose for the deliverance of Israel. What, however, we have here to notice is the wonderful way in which God brings about his own purpose, and also the infinite foreknowledge of God. We look back, and we can trace the successive steps of causation, as one follows the other, like wave upon wave. But God looks forward from the beginning, foresees the effect of each cause in endless succession, and so orders them as to accomplish his own will. The most trivial events may be necessary links in the great chain; and while men are blindly following their own inclinations, with little thought and no knowledge of what will come of them, God is making use of them with unerring wisdom to work out his own eternal purposes, for the good of his people and for the glory of his own great name.

HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR

14:1-4

Human desire overruled for Divine ends.

This incident in the life of Samson has a universal human interest. He no sooner comes to manhood than his destiny begins to determine itself. He sees a woman of the Philistines, and at once his fancy is captivated, and the strong natural desires of the young man overleap all the traditional restraints of God's people. He manufactures a law for himself; "she pleaseth me well" may mean, "it is pleasing, or right, in my own eyes." The perplexity and distress of the parents, unaware of the meaning of this strange freak, so opposed to the future they had been led to imagine for their son. Notice—

I. THE FATALITY OF DESIRE. A sudden, unreasoning, and unreasonable passion is scarcely the augury one would expect for the career of a promised deliverer. A crisis in his moral history, a pivot upon which his whole subsequent life must turn. Sexual attachments are amongst the determining factors of human character and life, and the bases of society. Yet there are no circumstances of our life so independent of mere reason, and the power of the subjects of them. Still as a rule the outward realisation of such attachments is within the control of the individual. Recognition should be made of God's share in producing them, and the matter should be laid before him. He has been blamed for "heavily loading the dice" in this matter for his own universal ends, and for wantonly subjecting the subject of passion to misery and disadvantage. Moral and intellectual progress are thus, it is said, indefinitely hindered. If it could be written, how full of light upon the moral and intellectual history of the race would be an account of the intermarriages of nations, the mésalliances of individuals! etc.

II. THE ENTANGLEMENT AND PERPLEXITY IT OCCASIONS. Here it meant connection with the idolatrous and sensual life of the Philistines. The relatives on both sides could not be cordial. A relaxation of moral principles must ensue. Children would bring a fresh discord. How could a man so related lift up his hand against the Philistines? An instance like this throws strong light upon the traditional objection of God's chosen people to intermarriage with neighbouring tribes and nations. It is not for nothing that it is written of Noah and of one and, another beside, "And he was perfect in his generation." "The daughters of Heth" are ineligible in the eyes of the patriarch's wife for other than mere social reasons. There can be no doubt but that the same caution ought to characterise Christian parents in the alliances they encourage their children to make.

III. THE FURTHER AND HIGHER MINISTRY OF DESIRE. Behind and beyond all this sinister appearance was the Divine purpose,—"For he (Jehovah) sought an occasion from the Philistines." God's will is fulfilled in many ways, and by alternatives. When sin refuses to be put under then it can be utilised; and the end more completely served, albeit not to the immediate happiness or advantage of the guilty agent. How often "by a way they knew not" have the sons of men been led by an unseen providence to gracious ends. An ill-assorted marriage is a great calamity, but it may be the determining cause of important spiritual results, and by arranging a new relationship and set of conditions, prepare for a higher and nobler, though less immediately happy, development, of inward character. Thus the whole question of the determining force of sexual desire, which has been a matter of grief and despair to the pessimist, is capable of another interpretation. The past history of our race shows that "where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound." Let us not therefore despair before these mysterious fatalities and complications, but commit the way of ourselves and children into the hands of him "who seeth the end from the beginning," and who makes "all things work together for good" to them that love him.—M.

14:5, 14:6

The lion in the way.

Very natural is this description. The wild beast in the vineyards, the weaponlessness of the hero, etc; are all in keeping with the character of the times. Local names still extant prove the former existence of lions in Palestine; the particular district was a border one between militant nations, and therefore likely to be less thoroughly brought under; and Israel as temporarily subdued had been deprived of arms. The young lover, full of his mistress, and not on the best terms with his parents, prefers to keep by himself, a little apart. All this is highly suggestive of parallel circumstances in the spiritual life: e.g.

I.. YOUTH IS OFTEN SUBJECTED TO GREAT AND SUDDEN TEMPTATIONS. Our streets, the social circle, sexual relations, etc; all abound with concealed perils. These threaten the destruction of the soul.

II. THESE ARE, FROM THEIR NATURE, GENERALLY ENCOUNTERED ALONE AND IN SECRET. Bulwer Lytton says somewhere, that boys learn many things at school of great value to them through life, that were never bargained for by their parents, or represented in the school-bill. The youthful sense of growing power, and assertion of independence, creates a little world of which guardians are but dimly conscious. There is, too, the inability of age to sympathise with youth; and the natural reticence concerning matters of affection, etc. Every youth is centre of a number of invisible but potent influences that may make or mar him for life; and he ought therefore to he frequently commended to the care of his heavenly Father, and to be treated with gentleness and consideration by those in authority.

III. THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CAN RENDER TIMELY AND EFFECTUAL HELP. The phrase, "came suddenly upon him," expresses opportuneness.

The fearlessness and modesty of the spiritual hero are here strikingly illustrated.

I. IF EARTHLY AFFECTION WILL MAKE MEN BRAVE GREAT DANGERS AND INCONVENIENCES, HOW MUCH MORE OUGHT THE LOVE OF GOD!

II. WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE, AND HE MAKES ALL THINGS EASY AND SIMPLE TO THEM THAT BELIEVE.

III. HUMILITY IS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE SPIRITUAL HERO.—M.

14:6

The mystery of spiritual might.

"And he had nothing in his hand." This is typical of the Christian. Christ's injunctions to the seventy. In Samson's case it was probably due to the regulation imposed by the Philistines upon a conquered people. Christians are commanded not to put their trust in earthly equipment or the arm of flesh.

I. THAT OUR CONFLICTS WITH SATAN MAY BE TRUE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES AND NOT MERELY OUTWARD TRIUMPHS.

II. THE INFLUX AND WITHDRAWAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT LIMIT THE AUTHORITY AND SECURE THE HUMILITY OF THE AGENT. HOW helpless even a Samson but for the Spirit! Temptations of our own seeking may be left to our own resources. No enterprise ought to be undertaken without the aid of the Holy Spirit, and the Divine blessing. What God brings upon us he will help us to overcome.

III. THE FAITH OF THE CHRISTIAN SOLDIER AND WORKER MUST BE WHOLLY IN GOD.—M.

14:8, 14:9

Recalling past deliverances.

In this case Samson is led to do so either by curiosity or the impulse of God's Spirit. He revisits the scene of the exploit, and meets with welcome but unexpected refreshment. There are various ways of recalling spiritual experiences of God's saving power in the past. Sometimes an accident (?) may bring up vividly some forgotten circumstance of Divine grace, and we are overwhelmed with the recollections that crowd upon the mind. Soldiers who have fought side by side in famous battles have their anniversaries of fellowship and celebration. Are there no circumstances that justify these amongst Christians? It is a spiritual education and confirmation to recall circumstances and revisit scenes of God's saving mercies.

I. THE DUTY OF THANKFUL RECOLLECTION OF DIVINE INTERPOSITIONS.

II. THE SECRET AND UNSHARED COMMUNION OF THE SUBJECT OF GRACE WITH HIS SAVIOUR.

III. ITS ADVANTAGE AND BLESSING.—M.

HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY

14:5, 14:6

Samson and the lion.

I. THE DANGER.

1. It came unsought. It is foolish for the bravest to court danger. We have only ground for meeting it bravely when we have not rashly provoked it.

2. It was unexpected. Had Samson expected to encounter the lion he would probably have chosen another path, or have armed himself against it. One of the worst features of the great dangers of life is that we can rarely foresee and provide against them.

3. It was when Samson was on a pleasurable journey. He went to seek a wife, and met a lion! The greatest trouble may spring upon us at the moment of highest elation. Earthly joy is no safeguard.

4. It was when Samson was acting in a questionable manner. He was seeking a wife among the Philistines. His parents disapproved of this course though their affection sought an excuse for it ( 14:3). His conduct was contrary to the law of God (Exodus 34:16). We may meet with trouble in the path of duty, bat we must expect to meet with it in the way of transgression (Jonah 1:4).

II. THE TRIUMPH.

1. It was effected in the might of the Spirit of the Lord. Herein is the distinction between Samson and Hercules. The Jewish hero does not trust to his own muscular strength. Strong man as he is he can only do great things in God's strength. This is the redeeming feature of his character. It shows him as one, though amongst the lowest, of the heroes of faith. If Samson needed the strength of inspiration, how much more do we weaker men need to be clothed in the panoply of God's might before we can face the dangers of life!

2. The Spirit of God came upon Samson in especial force in his greatest need. God gives us strength according to our requirements. In our hour of weakness it seems impossible to face the future difficulty, but when this comes how wonderfully is the new strength bestowed to meet it (Deuteronomy 33:25). We must not, however, abuse this truth and neglect natural expedients. Samson would have been wrong in going unarmed if he had expected to meet the lion. We have only a right to believe that God will help us in sudden emergencies when we are not rashly and negligently increasing the danger of them.

3. The Spirit of God helped Samson by inspiring him to an extraording exercise of his natural powers. It was to Samson the strong, a spirit of strength. God works in us through our natural faculties and helps us differently according to our various gifts. Though the might is God's, the daring, the will, the effort must be ours. God gave him strength, yet Samson slew the lion with his own hands.

4. After victory, Samson modestly concealed his triumph. It is better to be more than we seem than to seem more than we are. If the source of our victory is God's strength we have no ground for boasting.—A.


Verses 10-20

EXPOSITION

14:10

So his father went down. It is not clear what is meant by this mention of his father alone; but it was probably some part of the wedding etiquette that the father should go to the bride first alone; perhaps, as Kimehi says, to give her notice of the bridegroom's approach, that she might get ready. Among the preparations may have been the selection of the thirty young men to be "the children of the bride-chamber'' (Matthew 9:15). As these were all Philistines, the inference is that they were selected by the bride, just as with us the bride has the privilege of choosing the minister who is to officiate at the marriage.

14:11

When they saw him, i.e. when the father and mother and friends of the bride saw him approaching, they went to meet him with the thirty companions who had been selected. We still see a strong resemblance to the wedding arrangements referred to in Matthew 9:15, and Matthew 25:1-12; only in this case they were young men instead of young women who went out to meet the bridegroom. We may observe, by the way, that the scale of the wedding feast, as regards numbers and duration, indicates that Samson s family was one of wealth and position.

14:12

Riddle. The Hebrew word is the same as that which is rendered hard questions in 1 Kings 10:1, and dark questions, Numbers 12:8, and occurs also in Ezekiel 17:2, where the phrase is the same as here and in Ezekiel 17:16, as if we should say in English, I will riddle you a riddle. In English, however, to riddle, as a verb active, means to solve a riddle, not, as in Hebrew, to propound one. The derivation of the Hebrew word and of the English is the same as regards the sense—something intricate and twisted. Thirty sheets, or rather, as in the margin, shirts, a linen garment worn next the skin. In Isaiah 3:23 spoken of the women's garment, "the fine linen," A.V as also Proverbs 31:24. The word (sadin, Sanscrit sindu) means Indian linen. Change of garments—the outward garment of the Orientalist, which was part of the wealth of the rich and great, and was, and is to the present day, one of the most frequent presents on all state occasions (see Genesis 45:22; 2 Kings 5:5, 2 Kings 5:22; Isaiah 3:6, Isaiah 3:7; Matthew 6:19, etc.).

14:15

On the seventh day. There is some apparent difficulty in understanding how to reconcile this statement with what was said in 14:14, that they could not in three days expound the riddle; and also with what is said in 14:16 and 14:17, that Samson's wife wept before him the seven days of the feast. And several different readings have arisen from this difficulty: viz; in this verse, the reading of the fourth day for the seventh, and the omission of the words, And it came to pass on the seventh day; and, in the latter part of 14:14, seven days for three days. But all difficulty will disappear if we bear in mind the peculiarity of Hebrew narrative noticed in note to section 14:1-6 of 2:1-23; when we come to consider 2:16. Entice thy husband. Cf. 16:5. That he may declare unto us. If the text is sound, they must mean to say, declare it unto you, that you may declare it unto us, i.e. declare it unto us through you. But it is simpler either to read with the Septuagint, that he may declare unto you, etc; or to read, and declare unto us, in the imperative mood. Burn with fire. See 12:1, and 15:6. Have ye called us, etc; i.e. Did you invite us to this feast in order to impoverish us, to plunder us of our property? We shall conclude that you did so if you do not disclose to us the riddle.

14:16

And Samson's wife, etc. This statement does not follow 14:15, but is a parallel narrative to that beginning in 14:14, "And they could not in three days," etc; down to the end of 14:15, bringing the story down to the same point of time, viz; the seventh day. One stream of the narrative tells us what the young men did when Samson had propounded his riddle; the other tells us what Samson's wife did. From the very first, no doubt, she had wished to be in the secret, not perhaps from treacherous motives, but from curiosity, and the natural desire to be in her husband's confidence, and she pressed her request with cajolery and petulance. The young men at the same time had tried to find out the riddle by fair means. But on the seventh day they threatened to burn her and her father unless she found out the riddle for them, and under the terror of this threat she extracted the secret from Samson and divulged it to the Philistine young men. The only difficulty is to explain why a gap of four days occurs in the account between 14:14 and 14:15. The most likely thing is, that after three days' vain attempt to find out the riddle, they began to tamper with Samson's wife, offering her money, as the Philistine lords did to Delilah ( 16:5), though the narrative does not mention it; but that on the seventh day, becoming desperate, and thinking that the woman was not doing her best, they resorted to the dreadful threat of burning her.

14:17

She lay sore upon him. In 16:16 the same word is rendered pressed him. It came to pass on the seventh day. This is the confluence of the two streams of narrative.

14:18

The men of the city—the same as were spoken of in 14:11 as Samson's companions. Before the sun went down—just in time, therefore, to save the wager, as defined in 14:12. This is the uncommon word for the sun used also in 8:13, where see note. What is sweeter, etc. They put their answer in a form to make it seem as if they had guessed the riddle; but Samson instantly perceived his wife's treachery, and showed that he did so by quoting the proverb of plowing with another person s heifer. They had not used their own wit to find out the riddle, but had learnt the secret at Samson's cost, through his wife. He insinuates that had they acted fairly he would have won the wager.

14:19

The Spirit of the Lord, etc.—as in 14:6 and 13:25, where see notes. The verb here, came upon him, is the same as in 13:6. Thirty men—the number of the companions to whom he felt bound to pay the thirty changes of garment. Ashkelon ( 1:18)—one of the five Philistine cities, but the least often mentioned, owing, it is thought, to its remote situation "on the extreme edge of the shore of the Mediterranean, far down in the south." It still preserves its ancient name, and was famous in the time of the Crusaders. "Within the walls and towers now standing Richard (Coeur de Lion) held his court." The onion called eschalot, or shallot, is named from Eshkalon, or Ashkalon. Their spoil—that which was stripped from them. His anger was kindled—against the Philistines in general, and his wife in particular, so that he went back to his father s house without her.

14:20

His companion—no doubt his "best man," the "friend of the bridegroom." The parents of the Thimnathite, having no doubt obtained Samson's dower, and supposing him to have finally broken with his treacherous wife, proceeded to give her in marriage to the Philistine young man who had been Samson's friend—perhaps the man to whom she had told the riddle. The sad end of this unhappy alliance fully justified the opposition of Samson's parents to it in 14:3.

HOMILETICS

14:10-20

Another view of married life.

The lessons which we drew from the married life of Manoah and his wife seem to receive a striking confirmation, by contrast, from the unhappy union of their son with the daughter of the Philistines. Here everything was against a reasonable prospect of happiness. Their religion was different, one might say opposite. Samson had been brought up in the faith of the LORD God of Israel. He was in covenant with him by circumcision. His creed was that there was one true and living God, the Lord of heaven and earth, and that all the gods of the heathen were but vain idols. His religious duty was to love the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, and to serve him alone. His wife did not believe in the Lord, nor love him, nor fear him, but was a worshipper of Dagon, whose temples were at Gaza ( 16:21-30) and at Ashdod (1 Samuel 5:1-5). There could therefore be no union for them in that great bond of union which is the living God. Righteousness can have no fellowship with unrighteousness, nor light with darkness, nor the believer with an infidel, nor the temple of God with idols. Then again the interests of their respective peoples were opposite. To break off the Philistine yoke from the neck of Israel; to set his people free from a shameful bondage; to rescue his native towns, and fields, and vineyards, from the usurped possession of the uncircumcised invader; to drive out the foreigner from the land which God gave to his forefathers; was Samson's natural aim, and the use which he must needs make of his supernatural strength. But his wife's sympathies were all with the children of her people. Her heart would swell with pride as she thought of their conquests over Israel, of Dagon's conquests over the people of Jehovah. She would look with scorn upon the subject race, and be proud of her kindred with the conquerors. Every movement of either people must at once put them on opposite sides. What was joy to him would be grief to her; and what made her glad would make him sorry. Their language was different, their tastes were different, their habits of thought and life were different. They had nothing in common to cement their hearts and interests together, and to bind their life into one. He was pleased with her beauty, and she was gratified by his admiration. That was all. And how long would that last? What strong temptation, what powerful motive of action, what great provocation, would those influences be able to withstand? What promise did they give of unity of sentiment, and harmony of conduct, amidst the difficulties of troublous times, and the intricacies of conflicting duties? One week in their case was sufficient to supply the answer to these questions. A betrayed husband, a deserted wife, discord, strife, bloodshed, were the fruit of seven days of this ill-assorted union. The wife married to another husband is cut off by murderous hands in the prime of her youth and beauty. The husband married to another wife is again betrayed and given up to his enemies to be mocked, and blinded, and to die. The man of splendid gifts, but irregular passions, lives a stormy life, and dies a violent death. He has no gentle, clear-sighted woman to restrain and guide him; no sym-pathising wife to share his sorrows, and by sharing to lighten them. He only knows what is bad in woman, because he only seeks them on the bad side. And that one week of disappointed love in an unhappy and unholy wedlock casts its shade upon a whole life which might have been a most happy and glorious one. We seem, therefore, to be taught by the ill-starred marriage of Samson with the Thimnathite, as forcibly as by the blessed union of his father and mother, what to seek and what to avoid in choosing a partner for life. The union of two souls in the love of God and in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ; the union of two minds in all rational and sober pursuits, whether intellectual, political, or social; the identity of interests; the community of purpose to make the most of what God has given to each for the common stock of happiness; the care of each for the other as the first human duty, and the faithfulness of each to the other in the whole series of actions, from the least to the greatest—this is the ideal of Christian wedlock to which we are led by the failures of the erie as well as by the virtues of the other. It is sad to think how frequently happy married life is an idea only, and not a reality, from the entire failure on both sides to carry out the conditions upon which happiness depends. A foolish choice at first, based only upon beauty and vanity, upon wealth and position, upon whim and fancy, without consulting religion, or reason, or true affection, is followed up by independent and selfish action, by each crossing the other's wishes, by mutual neglect, by mutual reproach, by mutual violation of the spirit of the marriage contract. There follow in different cases various degrees of unhappiness and disorder according to the various measures of temper, and violence, and self-will, and disregard of solemn vows, and contempt of God's word, of the parties concerned. In one home it is the constant jarring of antagonistic wills, and unloving tempers; in another it is the coldness of distant and reproachful spirits; the constant sense of injury from unfulfilled duties: in others, the man having failed to find in his wife the kindness, the solace, the help, which he expected, seeks to indemnify himself in the flatteries and cajoleries of other women; and the wife, wounded in her pride, and hurt in her affections, looks for balm and for revenge in the attentions of the profligate, and the admiration of the licentious. In both cases true manhood and womanhood are marred and crushed, and the whole life is distorted, and like a building in ruins. Public duties in the cabinet and in the field may indeed be performed by men of gifted minds and transcendent powers, in spite of their aberrations from moral rectitude; but the delicate organisation of affections and faculties which were given to make up the charm and beauty of private and domestic life cannot live in an atmosphere of vice; and when there is a breakdown of the love and obedience due to God, there is a breakdown also of the dignity and happiness of man. The careful study by married people, in a spirit of true Christian philosophy, of what is necessary to make wedlock the blessing God intended it to be when he "made the woman and brought her unto the man," and the careful daily endeavour, in the spirit of saintly obedience, to perform each his or her part in the mutual contract, in spite of difficulties and hindrances, would be a large contribution to human happiness, and to the beauty of the Church of God.

HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR

14:14

Samson's riddle.

A strong impression had been produced by the circumstance upon the mind of Samson. This was one of the means used by God to penetrate and awaken the moral nature of his servant. A certain Divine wisdom is given for its interpretation, and for its suitable statement to the world, the heathen of his day. The form which the circumstance assumes when declared to the Philistines is a favourite one to this day amongst Eastern and primitive peoples. It constituted a distinct portion of God's great revelation of himself to man, but for many and weighty reasons it was not a plain declaration, but the "wisdom of God in a mystery.

I. THE PHENOMENA OF THE NATURAL WORLD LINK THEMSELVES WITH, AND BECOME SYMBOLS OF, SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. Thus the deepest things of the spiritual universe may be uttered by those who are but dimly conscious of their meaning. And no man is wholly destitute of spiritual teaching. The teachings of revelation thus become indefinitely enriched and extended.

II. TO THE AWAKENED SPIRIT OF MAN THE DIVINE MEANINGS OF LIFE AND THE WORLD ARE ALONE IMPORTANT. How vast is the relationship of the truth thus generalised! For many days will such food sustain the soul. Trials may become the sources of spiritual consolation if overcome in God's strength. Death is the gate of Life.

III. TO THE UNBELIEVING IS THE TRUTH OF GOD SPOKEN IN PARABLES, THAT SEEING, THEY MAY NOT PERCEIVE, AND HEARING, THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND. This might be called the "gospel of the Philistines." It is a mighty revelation. How near were these heathen, if they had known it, to the wisdom and kingdom of God! So is it to-day with the preaching of the gospel to unbelievers. The moral character, and not the mere intellectual power, of men is tested in this way. What the Spirit of the Lord inspires the same Spirit can interpret. God will bestow illumination upon those who seek it. How often has God spoken through striking incidents to those who would not care to hear the preaching of his word, or to whom it has not been granted! Do not let any one hastily say, "I never heard." Do not let Christians despair of those who have not heard, and who will not hear the preaching of men. God has his own way to every heart.—M.

14:15-20

Unlawful methods of interpreting Divine mysteries.

Samson is betrayed into revealing his riddle. It was a mean subterfuge, and the fraud is promptly avenged.

I. THERE ARE ILLEGITIMATE WAYS OF GETTING AT DIVINE TRUTH. False prophets. Unwilling prophets, as Balaam. Mercenary attempts at obtaining a peculiar knowledge, as of Simon Magus (cf. Acts 8:9-24; Acts 19:13; Colossians 2:17, Colossians 2:18).

II. THE ESSENTIAL MEANING OF THE TRUTH CANNOT BE THUS DISCOVERED. The Philistines only learnt the historic circumstance; they were still in outer darkness as to the evangelic significance of the parable or riddle. So it is with those who "intrude into those things which they have not seen or heard, vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds." God will deliver them over to strong delusion, and the belief of a lie.

III. THIS IS FULL OF DANGER, AND WILL BE PROMPTLY AVENGED. Partly in the apparent illumination, but real ignorance, of such men; and partly in the consequences attending an incomplete or garbled gospel. Here the vengeance was both spiritual and physical. How sorry the gain that involved their fellow-countrymen in such a death!—M.

14:18

Ploughing with another's heifer.

The saying derives itself from the occasional discovery of hidden treasure by the plough, and the superstitious belief that the homebred heifer knew where the furrow ought to be drawn, because it has been shown the way before, when the treasure was hid.

I. So SATAN AND HIS SERVANTS BETRAY MEN THROUGH THEIR HABITUAL TEMPERAMENT OR BIASTHE WEAKNESS PECULIAR TO THEM. The weak place in Samson was his sensuality. His enemies speedily discovered this, and were unscrupulous enough to take advantage of it.

II. SAINTS SHOULD BE DISTRUSTFUL OF UNHOLY CONFIDENCES, AND SHOULD LEAVE "NO UNGUARDED PLACE" IN THEIR SPIRITUAL CHARACTER OR RELATIONS. All habitual relations or companionships with worldly persons are dangerous. Our sin will find us out, to our confusion. Safety can alone be found in perfect consecration—putting on the whole armour of God. Relations in life which, when both parties are holy, are full of comfort and help, when they involve us in close fellowship with the wicked may be our destruction.—M.

14:20

How Confidence in wicked men is rewarded.

The world is full of such instances of misplaced trust. The fable of the viper and the husbandman. It is hard to persuade men of the utter folly of worldly friendships and alliances. Only the most severe warnings and painful consequences will suffice to disabuse the mind. At the same time that the carnal nature of God's servant draws him towards the enemies of his country and his faith, God's providential dispensations are working out an effectual divorce, and preparing Samson for deadly hostility to his quondam friends.

I. THE CONFIDENCE WE PLACE IN THE WICKED WILL CERTAINLY BETRAY US.

II. GOD SEEKS BY STERN LESSONS TO SEPARATE HIS PEOPLE FROM THE WORLD.

III. NONE ARE SO OPPOSED TO THE CHARACTERS AND PRACTICES OF THE WICKED AS THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BETRAYED BY THEM.—M.

HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY

14:14

Samson's riddle.

The first intention of Samson's riddle is plainly, as he shows in the interpretation, to wrap up in mystery a simple event of his own experience. But, with the Eastern instinct for imagery, Samson may well be supposed to intend also to set forth general principles which he sees illustrated in that event. The words seem to suggest the beautiful truth that things harsh and destructive may be found to contain within them sources of happiness and life.

I. SOURCES OF LIFE MAY BE FOUND IN POWERS OF DESTRUCTION. Out of the destroyer came forth food.

1. The destroying agencies of nature prepare the way for fresh life. Geological catastrophes renew the face of the old earth with virgin fields of fertility. The products of decay are the food of new life; the rotting leaves of autumn nourishing the blooming flowers of spring.

2. National revolutions sometimes introduce a better order. Out of the corruption and disintegration of the Roman empire the separate nationalities of modern Europe sprang into being.

3. Religious destructive agencies prepare the way for new religious institutions. The work of the Hebrew prophets, of Christ and his apostles,—especially St. Paul,—of the leaders of the Reformation, was largely destructive, and only after a certain amount of ruthless breaking up of old revered habits and doctrines was it possible to introduce the good things they were ultimately destined to establish. We may be too fearful of needful but painful destroying agencies, and by joining the new cloth to the old garment may only increase the final rent.

4. Destructive influences in private life are overruled by God's providence to produce fruitful issues. Our cherished hope is dashed to the ground; for the moment we are in despair. But in time out of the grave of the past God makes a purer, nobler hope to spring.

5. The death of Christ is the source of the Christian's life. In his broken body we see our bread of life (1 Corinthians 11:24).

II. SOURCES OF QUIET BLESSEDNESS MAY BE FOUND IN MOVEMENTS OF VIOLENT STRENGTH. Out of the strong comes forth sweetness.

1. It is only in strength that we can find true gentleness. While gentleness makes us great, greatness is necessary to the perfection of gentleness. Soft weakness is not gentleness. Self-control, forbearance, quiet work in the midst of difficulty are signs of gentleness, and they all imply great, strength of soul. Christ's shadow shelters us because he is a great rock (Isaiah 32:2).

2. Violent exercises of strength are sometimes required to remove an unsettled, restless condition of things, to establish an equilibrium, and so secure more peace. Storms clear the air and bring about a more stable calm than that which preceded them. The troubles of life subdue our passions, rebuke our wilfulness, chasten our affections, and thus prepare us to receive the peace of God.

3. A healthy exercise of strength is the means of bringing happiness to others. Sentimental sympathy is of little use. If we wish to sweeten the lot of the most miserable classes of men, we must be prepared for active measures of improvement.

4. In proportion to the violence of earthly trials will be the sweetness of the heavenly rest.—A.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Judges 14:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/judges-14.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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