The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 68
Marriage of Samson [Judges 14.10-14.20]


Scripture (KJV) Judges 14.10-20

10 So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do.
11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought 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 declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments:
13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.
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.
15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson's wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so?
16 And Samson's wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children 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?
17 And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children 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 plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.
19 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father's house.
20 But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.


Commentary


10 So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do. —Judges 14.10 (KJV)
10 As his father was making final arrangements for the marriage, Samson threw a party at Timnah, as was the custom for elite young men.—Judges 14.10 (NLT)

So his father went down unto the woman…This was, at least, the third trip Manoah made down to Timnah. He is mentioned, because as the father of the groom, he is the head of the family and acted as the representative of Samson and his relatives. We know from the preceding verse that three made the trip; Manoah, Samson, and his mother; but, it is possible that other family members and friends were there. The Targum says that Manoah was “about the business of the woman;” about the details of the marriage of his son with her.

for Samson made a feast, for so used the young men to do;…this was the wedding feast where Samson would marry the woman he was engaged to, for the past year. It was customary in most all of the nations for the father of the groom to take responsibility for the feast; but it seems here that Samson was responsible. We can assume that Samson’s father didn’t want anything to do with his son’s marriage to a Philistine woman; therefore, Samson had to do it. Verse twelve discloses that the feast lasted for seven days, whereas sometimes it continued for up to fourteen days.

The men and women were probably entertained in separate apartments—the bride, with her female relatives, at her parents' house; Samson, in some place obtained for the occasion, since he was a stranger. A large number of local people acted as if they were “friends of the bridegroom."  They were, no doubt, furnished by the bride's family to attend his party, presumably to honor the nuptials, but really to spy on him. Much of what went on was like a "bachelor party;" literally, this is a drinking feast. If Samson didn't break his Nazarite vow by partaking of the wine, he certainly put himself in a situation where it would be far too easy to do so.

There is a comparison to be made here between this marriage of Samson with a daughter of the Philistines and the marriage of Christ with his people, especially with the Gentile church. Since they were not from the commonwealth of Israel; they were Gentile sinners, very ignorant of spiritual things, and hated by the Jews. Their calling, by the Holy Spirit offended the Jews; but it may truly express the love of Christ for his church, though they are unworthy of it. His love for His church came from his own good will and pleasure, and did not develop from any superior beauty, excellence, worth, or worthiness in them. They were children of wrath, and no better than anyone else, see [1](Judges 15:2). There was also a similarity in the manner in which Christ obtained and betrothed His church, which was by asking His father to get His people for Him; so Christ asked His people from His father to be his spouse, and when He obtained them, he betrothed them to himself in righteousness; and the Gospel feast, or ministry of the word, is kept and continued on account of it; [2](Psalms 21:2), [3](Hosea 2:19), [4](Matthew 22:2-4).

___________verse 10 notes____________
[1](Judges 15:2; ESV) And her father said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her, so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.”
[2](Psalms 21:2: NLT)  For you have given him his heart’s desire; you have withheld nothing he requested.
[3](Hosea 2:19; KJV) And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
[4](Matthew 22:2-4; ESV)  “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,”

 

11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him. —Judges 14.11 (KJV)
11 When the bride’s parents saw him, they selected thirty young men from the town to be his companions.—Judges 14.11 (NLT)

And it came to pass; when they saw him…That is, the Philistines, the citizens of Timnath, when they saw that he had arrived to consummate his marriage. What did they observe about Samson? Was he extraordinary in his stature, and strength, and countenance, and carriage? There is nothing yet to suggest that there was anything outstanding about him.

that they brought thirty companions to be with him;…to be the bridegroom's men, or children of the bridechamber, as they are called, ([5]Matthew 9:15, [6]Judges 14:20) or friends of the bridegroom, [7](John 3:29), because Samson had brought no companions with him. They would keep him company during the protracted wedding feast: It was customary at that time and a mark of honor and respect for the bridegroom. Though some, Josephus being one, believed they were brought there to be guards; to watch him, since he was a man of great strength and courage, and they were afraid of him, since his reputation had preceded him, and they were never sure what he would do next. However, all we know about him comes from Scripture, and it is not certain that there was anything detectable, that showed him to possess extraordinary courage and strength. It was only during those times when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him that he possessed those qualities, and as of yet, he had done nothing exceptional, to their knowledge. If they had known of his encounter with the lion, they might have thought of him differently, but they knew nothing of it.
It appears that the Philistine parents and relatives of the bride were diligent at putting on an extravagant feast at the expense of Samson and his family. From the number of guests, it may be inferred that Samson's family was of significant wealth and importance.

___________verse 11 notes____________
[5](Matthew 9:15; KJV) And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. Can the children of the bride-chamber—These persons were the companions of the bridegroom, who accompanied him to the house of his father-in-law when he went to bring the bride to his own home.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[6](Judges 14:20; KJV) But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend. But Samson's wife was given to his companion—This was the same kind of person who is called the friend of the bridegroom, John 3:29. And it is very likely that she loved this person better than she loved her husband, and went to him as soon as Samson had gone to his father's house at Zorah.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[7](John 3:29; KJV)  He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

 

12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments:—Judges 14.12 (KJV)
12 Samson said to them, “Let me tell you a riddle. If you solve my riddle during these seven days of the celebration, I will give you thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing.—Judges 14.12 (NLT)

And Samson said unto them…He said it to his thirty companions, the “children of the bridechamber,” most likely on the first day of the feast.

I will now put forth a riddle to you:…This particular riddle was a secret, hidden, obscure thing, not easily understood; a mysterious saying, wrapped up in figurative terms.

The rules say that each contender would offer a riddle, to be solved by any of the rest of the participants. If they could solve it, there was a reward that was previously agreed upon. In the case of a forfeit, the reward went to the one who submitted the riddle. Samson posed a riddle concerning the lion and the honey. At a later time, the Queen of Sheba came to test Solomon’s wisdom with riddles [8](1 Kings 10.1).

Riddles are a favorite Oriental amusement at festive engagements of this nature. The riddle was probably one part of the entertainment at Samson’s marriage-feast, and it owed its popularity to the fact that not all their time could be spent in dull eating and drinking; [8]1 Kings 10.1. Today, many people, Christians included, would find this type of celebration very comical and dull, quite unlike the degenerate entertainment of this age, where large amounts of drugs and alcohol are consumed, and sex is involved.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

if you can certainly declare it unto me within the seven days of the feast;…The wedding-feast would last for seven days; therefore, that was the window of opportunity they had to find it out, and then explain the riddle, see ([9]Genesis 29:27, 28; [10]2 Chronicles 7:8).

then I will give you thirty sheets, and thirty change of garments:…that is, every man will get one of each. I have no doubt that the Arab hayk, or hake, is what is meant here. In Asiatic countries the garb hardly ever changes; it is almost the same now as it was 2000 years ago. Mr. Jackson, who authored the Empire of Morocco, mentioned the Moorish outfit: "It resembles," he says, "that of the ancient patriarchs, as represented in paintings; (but the paintings are taken from Asiatic models;). Men wear a red cap and turban, a (kumja) shirt, which hangs outside of the pants, and comes down below the knee; a (caftan) coat, which is worn over the shirt with buttons from top to bottom and large open sleeves. Over this, when they go outside, they may wear a hayk, or garment of white cotton, silk, or wool, five or six yards long, and five feet wide. The Arabs often dispense with the caftan, and even with the shirt, wearing nothing but the hayk." By the change of garments, it is very likely that the kumja and caftan are meant, or at least the caftan; but most likely both. Samson, therefore, agreed to give or receive thirty hayks, and thirty kumjas and caftans: these were complete suits.

Essentially, Samson and his thirty companions have made a bet, and like most betting, this "friendly wager" is going to turn into something not quite so friendly.


____________verse 12 notes______________
[8](1 Kings 10.1; KJV) And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions. hard questions -- enigmas or riddles. The Orientals delight in this species of intellectual exercise and test wisdom by the power and readiness to solve them.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary Also see: Psalms 49:4; Proverbs 1:6; Ezekiel 17:2; 20:49; Matthew 13:13,34; Luke 14:7; John 16:29; 1 Corinthians 13:12
[9](Genesis 29:27, 28; NLT)  “But wait until the bridal week is over, then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.” So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too
[10](2 Chronicles 7:8; KJV) Also at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt.

 


13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.—Judges 14.13 (KJV)
13 But if you can’t solve it, then you must give me thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing.” “All right,” they agreed, “let’s hear your riddle.”—Judges 14.13 (NLT)

But if ye cannot declare it unto me…explain the riddle within the seven days allotted for the feast.

then shall ye give me thirty sheets, and thirty change of garments;...thirty complete suits of clothing.

and they said unto him, put forth thy riddle that we may hear it;…that is, we accept your terms and conditions, so tell us the riddle.

 

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.—Judges 14.14 (KJV)
14 So he said: “Out of the one who eats came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet.” Three days later they were still trying to figure it out.—Judges 14.14 (NLT)

And he said unto them, out of the eater came forth meat… The riddle is perfectly clear to the reader, because of the explanation regarding the lion and the swarm of bees, related earlier (see Chapter 67). If you read it, then you would know that a lion is the devouring eater, and that Samson took honey (meat) out of it, which he shared with his mother and father. Honey was a common food for some persons, such as of John the Baptist.

I have no doubt that the riddle was given in the form of poetry; and it has been preserved that way in Scripture. I don’t believe this was a fair riddle, unless the facts to which it refers were known, because there is no rule of interpretation by which it could be found out.

and out of the strong (Instead of strong, the Syriac and Arabic have bitter.) came forth sweetness:…"The strong” refers to the lion, which was strong in body and courage when it was alive, but the carcass of a dead lion can also have a strong offensive odor, and out of that came forth honey (sweetness).  Josephus expresses it this way, “that which devours all things furnishes out pleasant food, when that itself is altogether unpleasant.”

and they could not in three days expound the riddle;… Samson's riddle was his own creation, and it was based upon his own achievement: Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. Read it again, what is this? Beasts of prey do not provide meat for man, yet food came from the devourer; and those creatures that are strong when they are alive, commonly smell strong and are very offensive when they are dead. A good example and something you are familiar with is “road kill.” Here in South Carolina the most common is deer, which has a terrible odor, depending on how old it is.

If only Samson’s thirty companions had enough sense to consider what eater is the strongest, and what meat is the sweetest, they would have figured out the riddle; after all, neither lions or honey were unfamiliar to them.

Solving of the riddle would have given Samson the occasion to tell them the entertaining story on which it was founded. This riddle is applicable to many of the methods of divine providence and grace. When God, by His divine intervention, brings good out of evil to his church and people, when that which threatened to ruin them turns to their advantage, when their enemies are made to serve them, and the wrath of men changes to God's praise, then we can say meat out of the eater and sweetness out of the strong; See [11]Philippians 1:12.
Three days had passed, and all their attempts to unravel the meaning of the riddle were made in vain. The festive week was quickly drawing to a close, and the thirty were becoming stressed and angry when someone said that they were invited only to give Samson the opportunity to plunder them; verse 15.

______verse 14 notes________
[11](Philippians 1:12; KJV) But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;


 

15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson's wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? —Judges 14.15 (KJV)
15 On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband to explain the riddle for us, or we will burn down your father’s house with you in it. Did you invite us to this party just to make us poor?”—Judges 14.15 (NLT)

And it came to pass on the seventh day…Not on the seventh day of the feast; because it was before then that they sought to intimidate his wife into pressuring him hard to disclose the meaning of his riddle. Rather it was on the Sabbath day, according to both Kimchi and Jarchi, on the seventh day of the week, not on the seventh day of the feast; this is so clear, that the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, instead of the seventh, read the fourth day. Dr. Wall, from what he observes from verse 17, confirms this, since there it says that she wept for the remainder of the seven days; but there wouldn’t have been any time for that if she was not threatened until the seventh and last feast day.

hat they said unto Samson's wife, entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle;…that is, persuade him to tell you the meaning of it, and then you tell it to us. No doubt they had talked to her before this, but that was the usual “best wishes” and “May God bless your marriage;” but time is running out and still they “don’t have a clue.” Whether they lacked the intellect or their minds were dulled by wine or by an act of God there is no way for us to know, but apparently they decided to find the answer in a low-down way by threatening Samson’s wife. "Persuade thy husband to show us the riddle, without his noticing it, "lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire.” It is strange that none of the thirty could in all this time stumble upon so simple a thing as that, What is sweeter than honey and what stronger than a lion?

lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire;…She was at her father’s house, because Samson has not yet taken her to his or his father’s house. It seems that their sense of humor, as well as manners, were barbarous—barbarous to the point of threatening the bride. They threatened to burn down her father’s house, unless she would find out the meaning of her husband’s riddle. They didn’t care how she did it, but I am sure she believed that if she didn’t do it, they would be true to their word, and burn her and her family along with the house. Could anything be more uncivilized? It was immoral enough to turn a prank into such a serious threat, but it is almost undeserving of mentioning the outrageousness of these cowards, rather than confess their ignorance and lose such a small wager, they would threaten a woman’s life, and force her to be a traitor to her husband. In [21]15.6 a burning is described that could be applied to the threat given Samson’s wife.

have ye called us to take that we have?...Now they ask an absurd question; “Did you invite us to the wedding feast to strip us of our garments, to take the very shirts from off of our backs .” If they could not explain the riddle or send for other suits and shirts from their own houses, and if Samson insisted upon immediate payment, it could happen. But what was more inhuman? Was it to threaten to burn-to-death her and her family, if she could not succeed in uncovering the meaning of the riddle, or to forfeit a shirt and a coat: Have you called us to take what we have?

_____________verse 15 notes_________________
[21](Judges 15.6: KJV) Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.

 

16 And Samson's wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children 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? —Judges 14.9 (KJV)
16 So Samson’s wife came to him in tears and said, “You don’t love me; you hate me! You have given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” “I haven’t even given the answer to my father or mother,” he replied. “Why should I tell you?”—Judges 14.16 (NLT)

And Samson's wife wept before him…When she came to him to get out of him the explanation of the riddle, thinking that her tears would move him to tell her.

and said, thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not:…Samson’s new wife knew he could not bear to have his love called into question, which was now very strong, as it usually is with newlyweds. Therefore, along with her tears, she pleaded with him to show his love for her: “I know you don’t love me, because you have given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.”

It is perhaps the most well known relationship in Christian history; when Samson meets Delilah. Their story is found in Judges 16.4-16.22 and Chapters 72-75 in this commentary. Delilah followed the same strategy as this woman used, and she had the same successful outcome; could she have heard what happened here and do you see the similarity between their stories; see [12]Judges 16:13-17?

thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people;…her countrymen, fellow citizens, and neighbors (Samson’s thirty Philistine companions). I have heard it said “They could not but be dear to her, and respected by her; so that what affected and afflicted them must have some influence upon her.” But remember; this is the same crowd that threatened to burn-to-death her and her family, if she did not succeed in finding out the meaning of the riddle. This was her true incentive.

and hast not told me;…she may have heard the riddle itself; but she didn’t know how to explain it.

and he said unto her behold, l have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee?...he was greatly indebted to his parents, whom he held in the highest reverence and esteem, and was convinced of their devotion and dependability, and yet he had not thought it appropriate to disclose it to them; therefore, how could she expect to be trusted with such a secret, since he had not known her long enough to know whether she could keep it or not?

_______verse 16 notes_________
[12](Judges 16:13-17; NLT) Then Delilah said, “You’ve been making fun of me and telling me lies! Now tell me how you can be tied up securely.” Samson replied, “If you were to weave the seven braids of my hair into the fabric on your loom and tighten it with the loom shuttle, I would become as weak as anyone else.” So while he slept, Delilah wove the seven braids of his hair into the fabric. Then she tightened it with the loom shuttle. Again she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” But Samson woke up, pulled back the loom shuttle, and yanked his hair away from the loom and the fabric. Then Delilah pouted, “How can you tell me, ‘I love you,’ when you don’t share your secrets with me? You’ve made fun of me three times now, and you still haven’t told me what makes you so strong!” She tormented him with her nagging day after day until he was sick to death of it. Finally, Samson shared his secret with her. “My hair has never been cut,” he confessed, “for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as anyone else.”

 

17 And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. —Judges 14.17 (KJV)
17 So she cried whenever she was with him and kept it up for the rest of the celebration. At last, on the seventh day he told her the answer because she was tormenting him with her nagging. Then she explained the riddle to the young men.—Judges 14.17 (NLT)

And she wept before him the seven days, while the feast lasted…that is, the time remaining of the seven feast days, from the fourth to this time. This is how Kimchi seems to correctly interpret it; though some think she began to coerce him with tears, on the first day of the feast—to reveal the secret for her own satisfaction—and then, after the men had threatened her life on the fourth day—if she couldn’t persuade Samson to tell her the meaning of the riddle—she pressed him more intensely with tears until the seventh day. Some, go along with Abarbinel, who thinks there were fourteen days, seven days before the festival began; on the last day before the feast began, they bullied her into trying to get the secret from him, (Judges 14:15), and after that she continued pressuring him all the second seven days; but one thing seems quite clear, that it was at the beginning of the seven days of the feast that the riddle was given by Samson, which was to be explained within the time frame of the feast (Judges 14:12).

Thus, we can confidently state that his wife wept before him throughout the seven days of the banquet. This statement is not at variance with that in Judges 14:15, to the effect that it was only on the seventh day (Saturday, the seventh day of the week) that the Philistine young men urged her with threats to entice Samson to tell her the answer to the riddle, but it may be explained very simply in the following manner. The woman had already come to Samson every day with her request out of simple curiosity; but Samson resisted her until the seventh day, when she became more insistent than ever, after she was threatened by her Philistine countrymen.

and it came to pass on the seven day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him;… When Samson doesn't do what his wife wants him to, she is quick to charge that he doesn't love her. In this case, the charge is pure manipulation. She pestered him constantly with her pleas, cries, and tears: her tears were not shed due to any love for him, for it appears she had none, but all the tears were meant to please her paramour; and Samson soon had ample proof of this.

It looks as if Samson just grew tired of her constant nagging and wanted a little peace and quiet; so he gave-in to her and told her the answer to the riddle (Since the marriage was to be consummated on the seventh day perhaps that had something to do with it.); at which point she immediately betrayed him by telling it to her countrymen. The world's strongest man is rather easily manipulated by a woman; this weakness of Samson will later be the cause of his downfall. This proves that Samson's Philistine wife knew how to manipulate the situation, and make herself a burden to her husband until she got what she wanted from him. Samson could kill lions and break ropes, but he couldn’t overcome the power of a woman’s tears.

The willingness of Samson's Philistine wife to side with her people against Samson shows a fundamental weakness in their marriage. She had not fulfilled the idea essential to marriage of leaving one's father and mother to be joined in a one flesh relationship to their spouse ([13]Genesis 2:24; KJV). But how could someone with no love for the God of Israel be expected to build a marriage on Godly principles?

Of course, many wives today will make themselves a burden to their husbands until they get what they want; they do it for a simple reason: it often works in the short term. But it poisons the relationship, and ends up costing more than it gains.

and she told the riddle to the children of her people;…though she knew it would be to her husband's detriment, and that he would be obliged to give them thirty sheets of linen, and as many suits of apparel, and though we may suppose she promised to keep it secret, she immediately told it to the children of her people (see [14]Proverbs 2.16, 17); but, could he expect better from a Philistine, especially when the interests of her countrymen were at stake; See [15]Micah 7:5, 6. Now we can see that the reason Samson's wife cooperated with the Philistines is somewhat complicated, because there was a fear factor included in her decision: she acted out of fear because of their threat. If only she would have told Samson about the threats, he could have more than handled the situation. She didn't feel safe with Samson, but he was her best safety!

_______verse 17 notes_________
[13](Genesis 2:24; KJV)  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
[14]Proverbs 2.16, 17;NLT)  Wisdom will save you from the immoral woman, from the seductive words of the promiscuous woman.  She has abandoned her husband and ignores the covenant she made before God.
[15](Micah 7:5, 6; KJV) Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

 

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 plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.—Judges 14.18 (KJV)
18 So before sunset of the seventh day, the men of the town came to Samson with their answer: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Samson replied, “If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer, you wouldn’t have solved my riddle!”—Judges 14.18 (NLT)

And the men of the city said unto him, on the seventh day, before the sun went down…And so, being aware of the obligation they otherwise would have been under, to have given him the sheets and changes of raiment they agreed upon, they come up to Samson on the seventh day, but before the sun went down, which would signal the start of the eighth day and their failure to solve the riddle.

Some commentators have trouble with this passage, because of the references to "three days" and to "seven days," but as Hervey noted, There are two streams to the narrative here: (1) one tells what the young men did; and (2) the other tells what Samson's wife did."
Unraveling the tangled narrative, we see that:
1. From the first, Samson's wife, anxious to have her husband confide in her, tearfully attempted to find out the meaning of the riddle, pressured him with sweet talk and tantrums.
2. The young men tried for three days to solve the mystery, and being unable to do it they began to force sexual favors from Samson's wife.
3. On the seventh day, they were desperate, and threatened to burn her and her father's house unless she extracted the secret and made it known to them.
4. Under that awful threat, she extorted the secret from Samson and made it known to her countrymen.
5. In order to embarrass Samson the guests waited until the very last day of the feast, just before the sun went down, and just before he took his bride and consummated the marriage.

what is sweeter than honey?... nothing, at least that was known at the time, since sugar had not yet been invented. Julian the emperor, in his commendation of figs, shows, according to various authors, that nothing is sweeter than figs, except for honey.

The riddle is at length unriddled: What is sweeter than honey, or a better meat? [16]Proverbs 24:13. Samson generously concedes they had won the wager, though he had good reason to quarrel over it, if he chose to, because they had not figured-out the riddle on their own, which was understood and did not need to be included in  the bargain [22](Judges 13:12), but it had been declared to them by Samson’s wife.
and what is stronger than a lion?...no creature is; it is the strongest and most feared of all the beasts, [17](Proverbs 30:30). Homer gives the epithet of a strong lion: “What is stronger than a lion, or a greater devourer?

and he said unto them, if ye had not ploughed with my heifer;…They try to give the answer in a way that would make it appear that they had guessed it; but, Samson saw at once that she had betrayed him, and he lets them know, with words which were in the nature of a riddle, that he had discovered the treachery. If my wife had not been unfaithful to my bed, she would not have been unfaithful to my secret; and, you being her paramours are more precious to her than her husband. She has betrayed me through her attachment to you.

Calmet has properly remarked, in quoting the Septuagint, that to plough with one's heifer, or to plough in another man's ground, are delicate terms of expression used both by the Greeks and Latins, as well as the Hebrews, to point out a wife's infidelities. 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.

Samson compares her to an heifer (he calls her heifer, because she was joined with him in the same yoke.); young, wanton, and unaccustomed to the yoke; and by "ploughing" with her, he alludes to making use of her to get the secret out of him, and then hounding her until she tells them the secret; and their actions to uncover the solution to the riddle was like ploughing up ground; they discovered what they searched for, and without it they could never have had the knowledge needed to solve the riddle. How do you think she felt about being called a “heifer?” In calling her a heifer he was ridiculing her for her untamed and stubborn spirit.

Samson's proverb (if ye had not ploughed with my heifer; ye had not found out my riddle) shows the anger and bitterness he felt at being manipulated. Samson's wife had "won" what she wanted through manipulation, but she lost her husband's heart. When a man gives in to his wife's manipulations just to keep peace, it almost always builds anger and resentment in the man—and guilt in the woman for what she has done. The way of manipulation is tempting (because it works!), but always brings real destruction.

ye had not found out my riddle;… (if ye had not ploughed with my heifer; ye had not found out my riddle); a metaphor borrowed from agricultural pursuits, in which not only oxen but cows and heifers were, and continue to be, employed in dragging the plough. Ben Gersome and Abarbinel interpret ploughing, as committing adultery with her; note that it does not say "ploughed my heifer", but ploughed with her. Her adultery might have been deemed by a man of less noble spirit and generosity as reason enough to release him from the obligation to fulfill his bargain. 

Samson received an object lesson in this disastrous sinful marriage, but there is no evidence that he paid any attention to it.


_______verse 18 notes_________
[16](Proverbs 24:13; KJV) My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:
[17](Proverbs 30:30; KJV)  A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any;
[22](Judges 13:12; KJV) And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?

 

19 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father's house.—Judges 14.19 (KJV)
19 Then the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him. He went down to the town of Ashkelon, killed thirty men, took their belongings, and gave their clothing to the men who had solved his riddle. But Samson was furious about what had happened, and he went back home to live with his father and mother.—Judges 14.19 (NLT)

And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him…God had a strategy to use against the Philistines (He was seeking a reason to make an aggressive move against the Philistines, [18]Judges 14:4), and so He pours out His Spirit on Samson to fight against the Philistines. The Targum puts it this way. “The Spirit of might from the Lord filled him with zeal and courage, animating him to undertake the following task,” and increased his bodily strength so that he was able to carry out the mission of obtaining thirty suits of clothing, and keep his promise.

and he went down to Ashkelon;…one of the five principal cities of the Philistines; it was located near the Mediterranean sea, and, according to Bunting, was twenty four miles from Timnath. It is not clear why he went so far; some think there was some festival, which he knew of, that, was held there at this time, where the people put on their best suits of apparel, and that is what he wanted. He slew thirty men that day; but we can say he was justified in his actions by observing that Samson was now raised up by God to be judge of Israel; and that he acted now as such, and under the direction and impulse of the Spirit of God, and the persons he slew were the common enemies of Israel; and if they were observing a festival in honor of their gods, they were justly cut off for their idolatry. Those who were aware of the slaughter that Samson carried out on this occasion were doubtless struck with such terror, that every one sought only to preserve himself, and no one dared to pursue him.

and slew thirty men of them,…He-slew thirty men-and took their spoils. He took their hayks, their kumjas, and caftans, and gave them to the thirty persons who, by unfair means, had solved his riddle; thus they had what our version calls thirty sheets and thirty change of garments.

We are not told how he killed so many, why other Ashkelonites didn’t try to help their comrades, or how he was able to walk out of the city after committing such carnage.

and took their spoil (or apparel);…he took their clothes off their backs, stripped them of their apparel, and even of their shirts, and then he left Ashkelon taking all thirty suits of clothing with him (their spoil).

Now, you may have observed, that though Samson was a Nazarite, he was not a common one, he was an extraordinary person, and he must not have been bound to the law of the Nazarites in all of its precepts; at least parts of that law was dispensed with in various instances for only Samson; consider that he took honey out of the carcass of the lion, and here he stripped dead bodies which was a defiling, act.

and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle;…Samson pays his wager to these Philistines with the spoils taken from their countrymen at Ashkelon.

He took this occasion to quarrel with the Philistines, and then he went down to Ashkelon, one of their cities, where probably he knew there was some great festival going on at this time, to which many flocked. From out of the crowd, he picked out thirty men. He killed them easily, and took their clothes, and these he gave to those that had explained the riddle. So, if you were to consider what we have read of Samson’s life so far, it appears that the Philistines were the losers, since one of the lives they lost was worth all the suits of clothes they won: the body is more than raiment. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, both to authorize and to enable him to do this. There is one thing I am curious about. Did Samson wash the blood off the clothing before he gave them out, or did he leave it on, so they would know what Samson did to get them?  My opinion is that he left the blood stains for all to see; he was not ashamed, because he acted at the behest of the almighty.                                                                                                                                                                                   

and his anger was kindled;…It was not brutish revenge that had incited Samson to do the deed. His anger was not inflamed until the deed itself was done; and even then it was not against his Philistine companions for their deceit and dishonesty, and to whom he had been obligated to pay the thirty garments, and it was not against the citizens of the place, who perhaps laughed at him for being so easily tricked, but against his wife, who had betrayed his secret to her countrymen.

and he went up to his father's house;…he left his wife, and her relations, and his companions, and the men of Timnath, and went to his father's house again without consummating the marriage, and he acted as if he had never married; his parents very probably had returned before him.

It is a good thing for us, if the unkindness and disappointments we meet with in the world, has this good effect on us, to oblige us to return by faith and prayer, to our heavenly father's house.

_______verse 19 notes_________
[18](Judges 14:4; KJV) But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

 

20 But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.—Judges 14.20 (KJV)
20 So his wife was given in marriage to the man who had been Samson’s best man at the wedding.—Judges 14.20 (NLT)

But Samson's wife was given to his companion…No sooner had he gone (see verse 19) than his wife was given to another to be his wife. Instead of begging him to forgive her for the wrong she had done him, she immediately marries the chief of the guests, the pretend friend of Samson. See how little confidence is to be placed in man, when those whom we have taken as our friends, may prove to be our enemies. Perhaps she loved the man that was appointed to serve as Samson’s best man more than she did her husband. Maybe it was this man she wanted to please, when she got her husband to tell her the riddle; and she went to him as soon as Samson had gone to his father's house at Zorah. She might, however, have thought herself abandoned by him, and therefore took another; this appears to have been done with the persuasion of her father, [1]Judges 15:2. But her betraying his secret to his enemies was enough proof that he was not very dear to her; though, to persuade him to the contrary, she shed many crocodile tears; see Judges 14:16. He could not keep his own secret, and he was fool enough to suppose that another would be more faithful to him than he was to himself. Multitudes complain of the treachery of friends betraying their secrets; but, if a man never let his secret out of his own bosom, it is impossible that he should ever be betrayed.

It was her father, who gave her to another, but without a doubt it was done with her consent. Both the woman and her father felt insulted when Samson left without her. The bride would be disgraced by Samson “leaving her standing alone at the alter,” if her father had not given her to the best man [7](John 3.29). The Philistines and especially the family and friends of the bride were provoked by Samson leaving her, and, as a result they not only judged her to be injured, but they declared that she was discharged from the marriage and free to marry another.

Samson won the battle, but lost the war; his wife left him, and went to another. Samson's marriage failed; but whose fault was it? Let’s pretend that Samson is a modern man and that what we have read here has taken place in 2011. Samson and his wife, at the insistence of their friends and family would probably have gone to a marriage counselor.

What Samson might say to a marriage counselor: I love my wife, but it seems that we are not moving in the same direction. All I hear is nag, nag, nag; I finally do what she nags me to do, but by then I'm angry and the situation is worse than ever. I need to feel that she supports me, and that she's on my side. I think she wants to give up on the marriage, if she hasn't already.

What Samson's wife might say to a marriage counselor: My husband is a good guy, but he is not meeting my needs. It was love at first sight for us, but now things have gone downhill. There are things I need him to do and to be that he just can't, or won't. He doesn't respond to my needs and then we just get into a big fight, and no one is happy. I wonder if he loves me anymore.

Samson was at fault for not guarding his heart against falling in love with a woman he had no business falling in love with; for not founding the marriage on God's principles; for not responding to his wife's manipulations with a firm love, free from anger.

Samson's wife was at fault for siding with others against her husband; for not telling her husband what the real problem was; and for manipulating her husband by being such a bother until she got her way.

But, as far as we can tell, the bottom line is this; it was she who gave up on the marriage; Samson didn't leave her, she left him. No matter what the problems in a relationship, what God commands us most of all is to not give up on the marriage. Keep in mind that Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend--that is, "the friend of the bridegroom," who was the channel of communicating between him and his bride, during the festivities. The acceptance of her hand, therefore, was an act of vile treachery that could not fail to provoke the just resentment of Samson. The actions of the bride and her lover indicate that the notion of the sanctity of marriage among the Philistines was loosely held. It should be carefully noted that the practical lesson against ungodly marriages comes out very strongly in this case and that the providential purpose which out of this evil brought humiliation to the Philistines, has nothing to do with the right or wrong of Samson's conduct.

whom he had used as his friend;…although there were thirty of them that were his companions, yet there was one of them that was the leader and most outstanding, and was friendly with him. Samson, accordingly, was friendly with him, and he spent more time in conversation with him than with the others; he was called the friend of the bridegroom [7](John 3:29) (whom Samson had entrusted with this office at the marriage festival), while the others were called the children of the bridechamber, [5](Matthew 9:15). It is not unlikely that this person had been intimate with Samson's wife before, and so he was the one that she gave the secret of the riddle to, and he was ready to marry her, as soon as Samson departed; and all this gave rise to the motivation and opportunity, which he sought after, to have his revenge on the Philistines. The faithlessness of the Philistines towards the Israelites was no doubt apparent here; for even if Samson went home enraged at the treacherous behavior of his wife, without taking her with him, he did not intend to break the marriage tie, as [19]Judges 15:1-2 clearly shows. So instead of looking at the wrong which Samson felt had been done to him, and trying to diminish his wrath, the parents of the woman made the break with Samson irreparable by giving their daughter as a wife to his companion.

There is some question of whether or not Samson actually consummated this marriage. Some believe that the marriage was consummated on the first day of the wedding feast, but Moore stated that, "Samson rushed away without consummating the marriage," an opinion that was also accepted by Strahan. "He rushed away leaving the marriage unconsummated, regardless of the feelings of the bride and her family." However, both of those writers rejected the plain statement of the text here that Samson's journey to Ashkelon was inspired by the Holy Spirit, labeling [20]Judg. 14:19a as, "a later insertion," and attributing Samson's action in that verse to his carnal rage. There being no evidence whatever to support such an allegation regarding [20]Judg. 14:19a, we reject it as nothing more than another example of radical critics tampering with the Word of God!
The opinion of Keil on this point is far more dependable. There is also another sharp disagreement among scholars as to Samson's intention when he rushed away to his father's house. Dalglish thought that, “He never intended to go back.”At least, this was how his father-in-law interpreted the situation; and so he gave his daughter to Samson's “best man.” We consider that comment incorrect, because, as Keil said, "Even though Samson went home enraged at the treacherous disloyalty of his wife, he did not intend to break the marriage tie, as [19]Judg. 15:1-2, clearly shows."

It is clear enough that the Spirit of God was working in the events of this tragic chapter in order to teach the Israelites that:
(1) The Philistines did not honor the marriage tie.
(2) They were a vicious and ruthless people as indicated by their vicious threat to burn the home of Samson's wife (a threat they later carried out).
(3) And they relied upon falsehood and treachery to achieve their objectives. The supreme tragedy of the chapter is that Samson learned nothing whatever from this disastrous "deal" with the Philistines. He would go right on trusting that pagan people. The sad termination of this shameful marriage fully justified the opposition to it which Samson's parents had manifested from the very first.
(4) The Lord used this turn of events to motivate Samson to decide to fight the Philistines instead of entertaining them.

 
Application

If Samson had won his way and married a philistine woman, that relationship would have crippled  the work God had called him to do. Believers today who enter into unholy alliances are sinning and hindering the work of the Lord too [23](2 Cor 6.14-18). If Samson had sought God’s leading, the Lord would have directed him. Instead, Samson went his own way, and the Lord had to overrule his selfish decisions.

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” (Psalms 32:8-9; NLT) If we are looking by faith into the face of our Lord, He can guide us with His eye, the way parents guide their children. But if we turn our backs on Him, He has to treat us like animals and harness us. Samson was either impetuously rushing ahead like the horse or stubbornly holding back like the mule, and God had to deal with him.


_______verse 20 notes_________
[19](Judges 15:1-2; KJV) But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. On her betraying him, he had, no doubt, left her in great disgust. After some time his affection appears to have returned; and, taking a kid, or perhaps a fawn, as a present, he goes to make reconciliation, and finds her given to his brideman; probably, the person to whom she betrayed his riddle.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[20]Judg. 14:19a  And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil,
[23](2 Cor 6.14-18; KJV) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

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