Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” Judges 14:1-2
Timnah was originally allotted to the tribe of Dan in the days of Joshua but was taken over and became a Philistine city. Samson went down to Timnah which was located in the Valley of Sorek. Timnah was a little town about four miles from where Samson was living at Zorah.
Samson had seen a woman in Timnah and asked his parents to obtain this Philistine woman as his bride. In the ancient world marriage was arranged by the parents. Samson’s parents would need to negotiate the dowry which was a gift of money or valuables given by the bride’s family to the groom and the newly formed household at the time of their marriage.
His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” Judges 14:3a
Samson’s parents were told by angel of the LORD that their son was destined to be a life-long Nazarite. They believed the heavenly messenger and earnestly prayed for divine guidance in raising their son. They, who were faithful to obey all that were told to do, are appalled that their grown son would disobey the commandment for the Israelites not to intermarry with the people living in the Promised Land.
and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. Deuteronomy 7:2-4
Samson’s father and mother understood that they were in covenant with the LORD. They were puzzled and disturbed as to why their son would seek a wife among the uncircumcised Philistines.
But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.”(His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.) Judges 3b-4
Samson wanted to marry this pagan woman because he was physically attracted to her. His motive was neither pure nor spiritual. The text says that this was from the LORD. God never condones sin and disobedience. But Samson’s actions would accomplish God’s purposes. God chose Samson as a Nazirite and deliverer, but Samson didn’t merit such honor and privilege. In spite of his many sins God would use him to deliver his people from the Philistines.
Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. Judges 14:5-6
While Samson was alone and separated from his parents as they approached the vineyards of Timnah, he was attacked by a young lion. The wild mountain passes of Judah were the lairs of savage beasts; and most or all the ‘lions” of Scripture appear in that wild country. Samson was able to perform the supernatural act of tearing apart this powerful beast with his bare hands because he had been empowered by the Holy Spirit who came upon him.
The Spirit “coming upon” an individual in the Old Testament doesn’t always indicate the person’s spiritual condition – that they were righteous and obedient. So, while in the New Testament the Spirit only indwells believers, and that indwelling is permanent, the Spirit came upon certain Old Testament individuals for a specific task, irrespective of their spiritual condition. Once the task was completed, the Spirit presumably departed from that person.
Samson’s parents were unaware of what he had done to the lion.
Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. Judges 14:7
Samson had seen this Philistine woman and had found her attractive. Having spent some time talking with her, he also liked her personality.
Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass. Judges 14:8-9
Samson was chosen by Yehovah to be a life-long Nazarite. Although Samson was set apart for God’s purposes, he made no effort to keep himself from being defiled.
You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud. However, of those that chew the cud or that have a divided hoof you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the hyrax. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a divided hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses. Deuteronomy 14:6-8
A lion has neither a divided hoof nor chews the cud. A lion is not only ceremonially unclean to eat but it is forbidden to touch its carcass. Samson, who was on his way to make arrangements to marry a Philistine woman, scooped out honey from a carcass of an unclean animal, ate some of it, and then shared the rest with his parents.
Now his father went down to see the woman. And there Samson held a feast, as was customary for young men. When the people saw him, they chose thirty men to be his companions. Judges 14:10-11
The wedding festivity would last a week. The men and women were probably entertained in separate homes. The bride, her female relatives, and companions celebrated at her parents’ house. Since Samson was not a Philistine and did not live in Timnah, he, and the “friends of the bridegroom,” were selected by the bride’s family and attended his party in some local place obtained for the occasion.
“Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.” Judges 14:12-13a
Riddles formed one of the amusements of these Middle Eastern protracted feasts.
“Tell us your riddle,” they said. “Let’s hear it.”
“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”
For three days they could not give the answer. Judges 14:13b-14
Samson’s encounter with the honey-filled carcass of the lion he had torn apart formed the basis for his wedding feast riddle.
On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?” Judges 14:15
The festive week was more than halfway over when the thirty men chosen to be the bridegroom’s companions demanded that Samson’s newly married wife learn the answer to the riddle. They were enraged because if they failed to obtain the answer to the riddle, they would be stripped of their clothes and left practically naked.
If Samson’s wife failed to get the explanation to the riddle from her husband and was unable to secretly tell them the answer, she and her father’s household would be burned to death.
Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.”
“I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people. Judges 14:16-17
Samson’s wife in fear of being burned alive, sobbed, wailed, and pleaded for the remainder of the seven days until Samson was worn down. Emotionally and mentally exhausted, Samson told his wife the meaning of the riddle on the last day of the feast.
Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?”
Samson said to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.” Judges 14:18
Samson instantly perceived his wife’s treachery, and showed that he did so by quoting the proverb of plowing with another man’s heifer. The men who had attended the wedding feast had not used their own wit to solve the riddle, but had learned the secret through his wife. Samson insinuates that had they acted fairly he would have won the wager.
Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he returned to his father’s home. Judges 14:19
Samson’s anger was kindled against his wife, for her treachery and unfaithfulness to him, and against his companions for their deceit, and against the citizens of the town, who perhaps laughed at him for being tricked and deceived.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit with supernatural strength and led by the Spirit, Samson went to the city of Ashkelon. Ashkelon was one of the five principal cities of the Philistines which was located about twenty-four miles away. There he slew thirty of their men who he stripped of their clothes.
After forty years of oppression by the Philistines, Samson was destined to be the warrior-judge who would deliver Israel from her enemies. His slaughter of thirty Philistine men marked the first round in the battle to liberate the Israelites from her oppressors.
And Samson’s wife was given to one of his companions who had attended him at the feast. Judges 14:20
Samson’s return to his father’s house was construed as a rejection of his wife, and so she was given in marriage to Philistine man. This action would result in Samson taking revenge on the Philistines and another step in the fulfillment of God’s plan to free His Chosen People.