The Word Made Fresh
1One day Samson traveled to Timnah where he saw a young Philistine woman. 2When he returned home he told his father and mother, “I saw a Philistine woman at Timnah. I want you to get her for me to be my wife.”
3His parents said, “Isn’t there a girl among our relatives, or in all of Israel? Do you have to marry a girl from the Philistines, those uncircumcised people?”
But Samson said, “Get her for me. I want to marry her.”
4His parents had no way of knowing that this was the LORD’s idea, because the LORD was planning a way to confront the Philistines who at that time ruled over Israel.
5So, Samson and his parents went to Timnah. When Samson came to the vineyards a young lion suddenly roared at him. 6The Spirit of the LORD entered Samson and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands like it was no more than a goat’s kid. He didn’t tell his parents about it.
7Later, he went to speak to the girl and was quite taken by her. 8Some time passed, and he returned to Timnah to marry her. He stopped to see the dead lion’s body and discovered that bees had made a hive in the carcass, and there was honey. 9He scooped some out with his hands and ate it as he walked along. When he met his parents, he gave some to them to eat, but didn’t tell them where he had gotten it.
10His father went to meet the young woman while Samson prepared a feast nearby as was the custom. 11When the people saw that he was there they arranged for thirty young men to accompany him. 12Samson challenged them to solve a riddle. “If you can solve the riddle during the week-long feast,” he said, “I’ll give you thirty linen shirts and thirty fancy robes. 13But if you can’t solve it, then you give me the thirty shirts and robes.”
They said, “Okay. Let’s hear your riddle.”
14Samson said, “Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the mighty came something sweet.”
They puzzled over it for three days but couldn’t come up with a solution. 15On the seventh day of the week, they threatened Samson’s bride. They said, “Get your husband to explain the riddle, and then tell us. If you don’t, we will burn your father’s house down with you in it. Did you invite us here to rob us poor?”
16So, Samson’s bride cried to Samson and said, “You hate me! You don’t love me because you asked my people a riddle, but you haven’t explained it to me!”
He said, “I haven’t even told my parents. Why should I tell you?”
17She cried and cried every day of their wedding feast, and finally, on the seventh day of the feast, he broke down and told her the answer. And, of course, she immediately told her people.
18On that day, just before sunset, they said to Samson, “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.”
19Then, filled with the spirit of the LORD, he went down to Ashkelon, killed thirty men there, took their belongings and gave their clothing to the young men who had guessed his riddle. Filled with rage, he returned to his father’s house, and his Philistine bride was given to one of the young men who had been his companion at the wedding feast.
1-4: Samson is no sooner grown than he falls for (what!) a Philistine girl. He, obviously a spoiled brat, demands that his parents get her for him, which they do. We are told that, in spite of how this sounds, God is using Samson’s flaws and foibles as part of the plan to throw off the yoke of the Philistines.
5-9: The plot of the story is cleverly prepared. Samson and his parents go to Timnah to woo the girl. Apparently, they travel separately, for Samson’s bare-handed termination of a lion is not seen by them. He talks to the woman, apparently offering her terms of matrimony, which she accepts. Later, when he returns to marry her, he finds a honeycomb in the lion’s carcass, but keeps it to himself.
10-20: Samson at the wedding feast, in a good mood, offers a wager to the young Philistine men who have been recruited to serve as his companions, since he has none in Timnah. The wager is to solve a riddle, which has to do with the lion Samson killed. They can’t guess it, but decide to lean on his fiancé to divulge the answer. Under duress she gets Samson to tell her, then passes the answer along to them. He goes to Ashkelon (another Philistine stronghold) and kills thirty men and takes their clothes to settle his bet. He suspects his fiancé of collusion and sulks back home, leaving her to shack up with his best man (probably a Philistine provided for the festivities, but no friend of Samson’s).
Samson, a hero of Israel, is not a nice man or even a good man, until everything is taken from him and he ends his life with a single selfless act of courage. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done; if God wants you God will use you. Samson was set apart before he was born for God’s purpose. In a way (hopefully, in a much safer way), God has set each of us apart for some purpose.