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Samson's Marriage (Judges 14:1 - 15:8)

A Character Study Of Samson

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CHAPTER 14 Jun. 14 
Samson Marries a Philistine woman
Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. 2He came up and told his father and mother, I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore get her for me as my wife. 3Then his father and mother said to him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of your brothers, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? Samson said to his father, Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes. 4But his father and mother didn’t know that it was from Yahweh, for He sought an occasion against the Philistines, for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel. 5Then Samson went down with his father and mother, to Timnah and came to the vineyards of Timnah, and suddenly a young lion roared against him. 6The Spirit of Yahweh came mightily on him and he tore it as he would have torn a young goat, having nothing in his hand, but he didn’t tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7He went down and talked with the woman, and she pleased Samson well. 8After a while he returned to take her and he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. In it there was a swarm of bees, in the body of the lion, and honey, 9which he took it into his hands and went on, eating as he went. He came to his father and mother and gave some to them and they ate, but he didn’t tell them that he had taken the honey out of the body of the lion. 10His father went down to the woman, and Samson made a drinking feast as was the custom for the young men. 11When they saw him they brought thirty companions to be with him.
Samson’s Riddle
12Samson said to them, Let me tell you a riddle now. If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing. 13But if you can’t give me the answer, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing. They said to him, Tell us your riddle, that we may hear it. 14He said to them, Out of the eater came forth food. Out of the strong came forth sweetness. They couldn’t give the answer in three days. 15On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, Entice your husband to tell us the riddle, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you called us here to mock us? 16Samson’s wife wept before him and said, You must hate me, and don’t love me. You have given a riddle to my people but you haven’t told it me. He said to her, I haven’t even told it to my father or my mother; why should I tell you? 17She wept before him for seven days, while their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him severely. Then she told the riddle to her people. On the seventh day before the sun went down, 18the men of the city said to him, What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion? He said to them, If you hadn’t ploughed with my heifer you wouldn’t have found out my riddle. 19The Spirit of Yahweh came mightily on him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck thirty men of them and took their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. His anger was burning, and he went up to his father’s house. 20But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had considered a friend. 


14:1 Judah also did wrong in Timnah (14:1) with a woman, and was deceived and shamed by her (15:1 = Gen. 38:17). Earlier Scripture, which it seems Samson well knew and appreciated, was crying out to Samson to take heed. But he was blind to the real import of it all. See on 13:15.
Samson "went down" to take a Philistine girl for wife (:1,5,7,10); and yet by doing so he was seeking an opportunity to slay Philistines. He may well have had in mind the sustained emphasis on the fact that Gideon went down to destroy the Midianites (7:9,10,11,24). He went down morally and physically, and yet he justified this by thinking that as Gideon went down physically, so would he. Such is the complexity of the process of temptation. 
14:2 It could be argued that because the father was responsible for his son's marriage partner (12:9;  15:2; Gen. 24:3-9; Neh. 10:30), therefore Samson's father was equally guilty for Samson's 'marriage out'. Many of the commands against intermarriage were directed to parents, commanding them not to give their children in intermarriage. 
14:3 The disappointment of Samson's parents cp. that of Esau's (cp. Gen. 26:35; 27:46; 28:1). See on 13:15. 
“Is there never a woman among the daughters of your brothers” implies that she wasn't the first one; he had often got involved with Philistine girls down in the valley, despite his conscience for Yahweh troubling him as he walked alone on the heights (13:25 Heb.). Samson gave no good answer to his parents: simply "Get her for me; for she is right in my eyes" (repeated in :7 for emphasis- he really did fall for the lust of the eyes). This insistence rather than explanation would suggest a bad conscience in Samson. Likewise the crowd only shouted out the more when asked why and for what crime they wished to crucify Jesus (Mt. 27:23). But she was 'right in his eyes' not for beauty but in the sense that 'she suits my purpose' (Heb.). The same Hebrew is used not concerning beauty but rather utility in 1 Sam. 18:20; 2 Sam. 17:4; 1 Kings 9:12. The way in which Samson set up the riddle, almost expecting that they might tease it out of him through his wife, the way in which he agreed that if they did this, he would give them the clothes of 30 Philistines... it all suggests that Samson set the whole thing up to seek an opportunity against the Philistines.
14:4 The whole question of Samson's marriage is overshadowed by the fact that "It was from Yahweh”; He used this failure to deliver His people. There are a number of other passages which mention how "it was of the Lord" that certain attitudes were adopted by men, resulting in the sequence of events which He desired (Dt. 2:39; Josh. 11:20; 1 Sam. 2:25; 1 Kings 12:15; 2 Chron. 10:15; 22:7; 25:20). It is tempting to read 14:4 in this context, meaning that God somehow made Samson desire that woman in order to bring about His purpose of freeing Israel from Philistine domination. However, it is more likely that God worked through Samson's wrong desires, through his human weakness, to bring about God's purpose and glory.  
14:5 Not only do circumstances repeat between the lives of God's children, but also within our lives. We may pass through a very similar experience more than once. The similarity and repetition may be so that we learn the lesson we failed to learn; or it could even be a punishment for not learning the lessons we should have learned. Again, Samson's life demonstrates this. The lion roared against him as the Philistines did (s.w. 15:14); and not least in the uncanny similarities between the way his first wife enticed him and wrung his secrets from him, and the way 40 years later another worthless woman did the same to him (14:15-17 = 16:5,15,16). He just didn't see the similarities, or if he did, he didn't learn any lessons. Admittedly, it's far easier for us, presented with the records as they are, spanning 40 years within a few pages.   
To the vineyards- Why did he as a Nazirite go for a walk in vineyards, among the forbidden fruit? This was typical of him: a great zeal and understanding, mixed with a desire to walk as close to the edge as possible, and to ultimately have a little of both. He had a fascination with vineyards, which the record brings out. Like an ex-alcoholic staring at the bottles in the shop ‘just out if interest’, so Samson fooled about with what was forbidden- just as we all tend to. He later teased Delilah to tie him with seven “cords” (16:7), the Hebrew word implying made from a vine. He just would mess with the forbidden. The way he burnt up those vineyards in 15:5 may have been as a result of realizing that the answer lay in total devotion and rooting out of temptation; cutting out the eye that offends.
14:6 Samson's zeal to deliver Israel was confirmed by God, in that he was given gifts of Holy Spirit in order to enable him to deliver Israel. However, this doesn't mean that he himself was a man rippling with muscle. The Philistines wanted to find out the secret of his strength; it wasn't that he had such evidently bulging muscles that the answer was self-evident. He told Delilah that if his head were shaved, he would be like any other man (16:17). He was therefore just an ordinary man, made strong by the Father after the pattern of the Saviour he typified. The stress is on the way in which the Spirit came upon Samson (14:6,19; 15:14), as it did on other judges (3:10; 6:34; 11:29). The New Testament gifts of the Holy Spirit were likewise for specific things at specific times, and were withdrawn once the intended work had been done.
14:10 Samson was a Nazirite to God (i.e. in God's eyes?) all his life (13:7)- although he broke his Naziriteship by contact with dead bodies (14:19; 15:15 cp. Num. 6:6) and probably here by drinking wine at his wedding ("drinking feast"). This was not only imputed righteousness, but God counting the essential intentions of a weak willed man to him as if he had actually achieved what he fain would do.  
14:16 “Why should I tell you” implied that his wife should expect that he was closer to his Hebrew parents than to her. Gen. 2:24 taught that a man must leave his parents and cleave to his wife in marriage; she must be closer to him than them. It could be that by saying this, Samson was reminding her that he didn't see their relationship as full marriage; he was only using her (cp. how he 'used' a Philistine as his best man, :20). Yet he did what only days before had been unthinkable: he told her his finest and most personal secret, which he wouldn't even tell his dear parents. Such is the fickleness of our nature. Yet it seems no accident that he chose Timnah, 'a portion assigned'- to Israel. This was part of the land promised to Dan, but which they had allowed the Philistines to overrun (Josh. 19:43,47).
14:18 They had to declare the riddle "and find it out" (:12). This would indicate that they had to actually find the carcass of a lion with honey in it. They ploughed behind his wife as a heifer, and so were led by her to Samson's secret place of meditation where the dead lion was (:18).
14:19 When he slew the thirty men at Ashkelon, as he seemed to have planned right at the start in his seeking occasion against the Philistines, he was burning with anger. His motive was partly bitterness and the revenge of a man humiliated and deceived by a woman; but his slaughter of the Philistines was also done in faith (Heb. 11:32-34), with God given strength to confirm his faith. Our motives can be terribly mixed, even when doing God’s work.