And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.
Verse 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 (Judges 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.
And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.
Verse 2. - Get her, etc. Rather, take her. It is the technical phrase
(1) for a man taking a wife for himself, as Genesis 4:19; Genesis 6:2; 1 Samuel 25:39, 43, and vers. 3, 8 of this chapter;
(2) for a man's parents taking a wife for him, as Exodus 34:16; Nehemiah 10:30. The parents of the bridegroom paid the dowry agreed upon (see Genesis 34:12; 1 Samuel 18:25).
Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
Verse 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 Judges 15:18; - 1 Samuel 17:26, 36; 1 Samuel 18:29; 1 Samuel 31:4; 2 Samuel 1:20, etc.).
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.
Verse 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, 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. ).
Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him.
Verse 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 (Judges 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 (Song of Solomon 2:15), roared against him.
And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.
Verse 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 ver. 19; 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:6, 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 ver. 16; but it shows that Samson had wandered some distance from his parents among the vineyards (see note to ver. 5).
And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.
Verse 7. - Went down, as in ver. 1, where see note.
And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.
Verse 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.
And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.
Verse 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).
So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do.
Verse 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.
And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.
Verse 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.
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:
Verse 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 ver. 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, 22; Isaiah 3:6, 7; Matthew 6:19, etc.).
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.
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.
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?
Verse 15. - On the seventh day. There is some apparent difficulty in understanding how to reconcile this statement with what was said in ver. 14, that they could not in three days expound the riddle; and also with what is said in vers. 16 and 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 ver. 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 vers. 1-6 of ch. 2, when we come to consider ver. 16. Entice thy husband. Cf. Judges 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 ch. 12:1, and Judges 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.
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?
Verse 16. - And Samson's wife, etc. This statement does not follow ver. 15, but is a parallel narrative to that beginning in ver. 14, "And they could not in three days," etc., down to the end of ver. 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 vers. 14 and 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 (Judges 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.
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.
Verse 17. - She lay sore upon him. In Judges 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.
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.
Verse 18. - The men of the city - the same as were spoken of in ver. 11 as Samson's companions. Before the sun went down - just in time, therefore, to save the wager, as defined in ver. 12. This is the uncommon word for the sun used also in Judges 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.
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.
Verse 19. - The Spirit of the Lord, etc. - as in ver. 6 and Judges 13:25, where see notes. The verb here, came upon him, is the same as in ver. 6. Thirty men - the number of the companions to whom he felt bound to pay the thirty changes of garment. Ashkelon (Judges 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.
But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.
Verse 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 ver. 3.