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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Judges 14

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Samson’s First Failed Marriage

A. Samson seeks a Philistine wife.

1. (Jdg 14:1-3) Samson demands a Philistine wife.

Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”

a. Saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines: This seemed to be a case of “love at first sight” for Samson. He saw this woman and he instantly wanted to marry her.

i. She pleases me well is literally, “she is right in my eyes.” What Samson really cared about was how things looked to himself, not how they looked to the Lord.

ii. Love at first sight is a powerful, but dangerous thing. It is entirely possible for us to fall in love with someone that we have no business falling in love with – which was exactly the case with Samson here. As well, love at first sight feels wonderful, but doesn’t last in its initial form forever. We can be attracted more to the feeling of love itself than the person we focus upon – whom we don’t really know at first sight.

b. Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well”: In demanding a Philistine wife, Samson showed a sinful disregard for his parents and for God’s will (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Bound by romantic feelings, there are many people who still demand from God a mate out of God’s will.

i. “His parents attempted to dissuade him, but he allowed himself to be swept by his passion and determined to realize his own desires.” (Morgan)

ii. The command to the Israelis to not intermarry with the pagan nations around them applies to the Christian today in that a Christian must not marry someone who is not a Christian, joining themselves together with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14).

iii. It isn’t because those who are not Christians are not lovable – they are sometimes more lovable than believers. It is not because they aren’t good enough, or worthy of our love, or that they are somehow inherently incapable of being a good marriage partner. It is simply because to be a Christian means Jesus Christ is the most important thing in your life; and when a Christian and a non-Christian get together, you have two people who disagree on the most important things in life.

iv. By extension, a Christian should never date a non-Christian. Those who do run a serious risk of falling in love with someone they have no business falling in love with.

v. Additionally, a Christian is advised to carefully discern the Christian commitment of the one they are interested in. There have been many pretended conversions, calculated to merely entice a Christian to marriage.

vi. If someone goes against God’s plan and marries an unbeliever or if someone becomes a Christian before their spouse, there are specific commands applying to their situation. The Apostle Paul clearly wrote that this one must do all that is possible to stay in the marriage, and be the best spouse they can be (1 Corinthians 7:10-16).

vii. God did use Samson mightily; but God used Samson despite his sin, not because of it. It is fair to suppose that God may have used Samson in a far greater way if he made himself a clean vessel according to the principle of 2 Timothy 2:20-21.

2. (Jdg 14:4) God’s will behind the scenes of Samson’s desire to marry a Philistine woman.

But his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord; that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

a. His father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord: As the rest of the chapter shows, some good ultimately came out of this ungodly marriage. Many Philistines were killed and they were kept off balance in their attempts to dominate the Israelites.

i. However, none of that justified Samson’s actions. Though God can make even the evil of man to serve His purposes, it never justifies the evil that man does.

b. He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines: In accomplishing this purpose, God did not make a reluctant Samson pursue the Philistine woman for marriage. God allowed Samson to do what he wanted to do, though the act itself was sinful. God allowed it for reasons in both Samson’s life and for reasons on a larger scale.

i. Someone today might justify their desire to marry a non-Christian because they trust some good will come out of it – such as their non-Christian partner eventually coming to Jesus. Things may work out that way, but even though God used Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman, it all came at a great personal cost to Samson.

ii. No matter how much good God can bring out of even the bad things we do, He can always bring far more good out of our obedience – and we ourselves experience much less pain.

3. (Jdg 14:5-9) Samson slays a lion and eats some wild honey.

So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah. Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. Then he went down and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion. He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.

a. He came to the vineyards of Timnah: Samson was dedicated to God with a lifelong vow of a Nazirite (Judges 13:4-5). Nazirites were to have nothing to do with grape products in any form (Numbers 6:3-4). Samson was dangerously close to significant compromise.

b. He tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat: Though Samson flirted with compromise – both with his impending marriage and the vineyards of Timnah – he still had miraculous strength because the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him.

i. “If that roaring lion, that goes about continually seeking whom he may devour, find us alone among the vineyards of the Philistines, where is our hope? Not in our heels, he is swifter than we: not in our weapons, we are naturally unarmed: not in our hands, which are weak and languishing; but in the Spirit of God, by whom we can do all things. If God fight in us, who call resist us? There is a stronger lion in us than that against us.” (Spurgeon)

ii. The Holy Spirit of God wants to come upon us and give us power but power for something far more important than ripping apart lions. The Holy Spirit comes upon us for the empowering to live for God as we should and for the power to tell others about Jesus effectively.

c. She pleased Samson well: This does not mean that she was a good woman for Samson to be attracted to or to marry. It is possible to fall in love with someone who is actually very wrong for us. This is why Proverbs 4:23 says: Keep (literally, guard or protect) your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. If we don’t guard our hearts, we can end up in trouble.

i. If we find that we are already in love with a wrong person, the only thing to do is to give them up, because it is right before God. Jesus told us that following Him would require that we give up the things we love most (Mark 10:29-30).

d. He took some of it in his hands and went along: When Samson gathered honey from the dead carcass of a lion, he expressly violated his Nazirite vow, which stipulated that a Nazirite should never touch a dead body or carcass (Numbers 6:6-7).

i. Significantly, Samson did this after he was remarkably filled with the Holy Spirit. This shows that an outpouring of the Holy Spirit does not automatically make a person godlier. An outpouring of the Holy Spirit gives one the resources to be godlier, but it doesn’t “do it to” them. A person can be wonderfully gifted by the Holy Spirit and yet very spiritually immature.

e. He did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion: Samson did not tell his parents where he got the honey because he knew it was a compromise of his Nazirite vow.

i. Samson had consecration (at least the appearance of it) without communion. This was only good for the sake of image. The empty nature of his consecration would eventually be evident.

ii. In the killing of the lion and the sharing of the honey, Spurgeon saw a spiritual picture of the work of Jesus Christ for us: “And what a type we have here of our Divine Lord and Master. Jesus, the conqueror of death and hell. He has destroyed the lion that roared upon us and upon him…I see our triumphant Lord laden with sweetness, holding it forth to all his brethren, and inviting them to share in his joy.” (Spurgeon)

iii. In the same way, Samson shared the sweetness of his victory over the lion with others. Spurgeon pointed out that this is, by analogy, a pattern for the way we should share the gospel.

· Samson brought the honey first to those nearest to him.
· Samson brought the honey in his hands, in the simply way available to him.
· Samson actually gave them some of the honey to taste.
· Samson brought the honey modestly, not boasting about killing the lion.

B. The feast and the riddle.

1. (Jdg 14:10-11) Samson hosts a “bachelor party” for Philistine friends.

So his father went down to the woman. And Samson gave a feast there, for young men used to do so. And it happened, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.

a. Samson gave a feast there: Literally, this was a drinking feast. If Samson didn’t break his Nazirite vow by partaking in the wine, he certainly put himself in a situation where it would be easy to do so.

b. They brought thirty companions to be with him: It was not – and is not – difficult to get many people to be part of a drinking feast.

2. (Jdg 14:12-14) Samson poses a riddle concerning the lion and the honey.

Then Samson said to them, “Let me pose a riddle to you. If you can correctly solve and explain it to me within the seven days of the feast, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing. But if you cannot explain it to me, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing.” And they said to him, “Pose your riddle, that we may hear it.” So he said to them: “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.” Now for three days they could not explain the riddle.

a. Changes of clothing: This literally describes a fine suit of clothes one would wear to an important occasion; therefore 30 fine suits were wagered. Like most betting, this “friendly wager” would turn into something not quite so friendly.

b. Out of the eater came something to eat: This was a clever riddle, and Samson showed that even if he was weak morally he was not weak intellectually.

3. (Jdg 14:15-18) Samson’s Philistine wife extracts the answer to the riddle from Samson and tells it to the Philistines.

But it came to pass on the seventh day that they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband, that he may explain the riddle to us, or else we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us in order to take what is ours? Is that not so?” Then Samson’s wife wept on him, and said, “You only hate me! You do not love me! You have posed a riddle to the sons of my people, but you have not explained it to me.” And he said to her, “Look, I have not explained it to my father or my mother; so should I explain it to you?” Now she had wept on him the seven days while their feast lasted. And it happened on the seventh day that he told her, because she pressed him so much. Then she explained the riddle to the sons of her people. So the men of the city said to 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 to them: “If you had not plowed with my heifer, You would not have solved my riddle!”

a. Then Samson’s wife wept on him, and said, “You only hate me! You do not love me!” Samson’s Philistine wife knew how to manipulate the situation and how to make herself a burden to her husband until she got what she wanted from him.

i. Some wives will make themselves a burden to their husbands until they get what they want. This tactic is used because it often works in the short term; but it can poison the relationship and ends up costing more than it gains.

b. He told her, because she pressed him so much: A woman easily manipulated the world’s strongest man. This weakness of Samson will later be the cause of his downfall.

i. The willingness of Samson’s Philistine wife to side with her people against Samson shows a fundamental weakness in their marriage. She did not fulfill the idea essential to marriage of leaving one’s father and mother to be joined in a one flesh relationship to their spouse (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5). Yet this also shows why it was wrong for Samson to marry a Philistine. We cannot expect someone who does not love the God of Israel to build a marriage on God’s principles.

ii. However, we see that the reason Samson’s wife cooperated against her husband was also somewhat complicated. She acted out of fear because of their threat (else we will burn you and your father’s house with fire). If she told Samson about the threats, he could have more than handled the situation. She apparently did not feel safe with Samson, but he was her best safety.

c. If you had not plowed with my heifer, You would not have solved my riddle: Samson’s use of this proverb showed the anger and bitterness he felt at being manipulated. Samson’s wife “won” what she wanted through manipulation, but she lost her husband’s heart.

i. When a man gives in to his wife’s manipulations so as to keep peace, it almost always builds anger and resentment in the man — and guilt in the woman for what she did. The way of manipulation is tempting (because it works), but always brings real destruction.

4. (Jdg 14:19-20) Samson’s anger and revenge.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men, took their apparel, and gave the changes of clothing to those who had explained the riddle. So his anger was aroused, and he went back up to his father’s house. And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man.

a. Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily: The Spirit of the Lord did not come upon Samson to avenge the hurt feelings of a husband. God’s strategy was larger: He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines (Judges 14:4). Therefore He used this occasion to pour out His Spirit on Samson to fight against the Philistines.

b. Killed thirty of their men, took their apparel, and gave the changes of clothing to those who had explained the riddle: Samson paid off the bet, but he did it at the expense of the Philistines. He killed thirty of these enemies of Israel, and gave their garments to satisfy the debt.

c. Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man: Samson won the battle, but lost the war. His wife left him and went to his best man. It is interesting to think what Samson and his wife might say if they went in for marriage counseling.

i. 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.

ii. What Samson’s wife might say to a marriage counselor: My husband is a good guy, but he does not meet 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.

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

iv. At the same time, Samson’s wife was at fault for siding with others against her husband. She was at fault for not telling her husband what the real problem was. And she was at fault for manipulating her husband by being such a bother until she got her way. Most of all, she was at fault for giving 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.

v. We might rightly say with Charles Spurgeon: “Samson himself is a riddle. He was not only a riddle-maker; but he was himself an enigma very difficult to explain.” (Spurgeon)

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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