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(MT versing)
Samson's Marriage Samson's Philistine Wife Samson
Samson and the Woman from Timnah Samson Marries
14:1-4 14:1-9 14:1-4 14:1-2 14:1-4
14:5-9 14:5-9 14:5-6 14:5-11
14:10-11 14:10-14 14:10-14 14:10-13a
Samson's Riddle 14:13b Samson's Riddle


14:15 14:15-17

14:19-20 14:19-20

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


1Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2So he came back and told his father and mother, "I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife." 3Then his father and his mother said to him, "Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?" But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, for she looks good to me." 4However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.

14:1 "Samson went down to Timnah" Timnah means "the allotted portion" (BDB 584). It is a famous wine-growing region and is about 4 miles from his hometown of Zorah.

▣ "he saw a woman" The Tyndale Commentary Series, p. 162, says, "the term 'woman' used here is a very unusual term to describe a 'woman of marriageable age.'" It usually referred to a widow or someone who had been divorced and is often used as a word of contempt (cf. Jdgs. 16:4). It is used in Jdgs. 13:1, 3, 7, 10 and may be an Israelite way of showing some contempt for this Philistine woman.

14:2 "get her for me as a wife" At this time and in this culture (ANE) the parents arranged the marriages for their children. Samson was willing for his parents to do the traditional thing if he got to choose his own wife. Apparently his choice was based solely on physical beauty (cf. Jdgs. 14:3, 7). Samson had tremendous problems during his life with this particular aspect of his character.

See IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 266, which mentions that since the land of Canaan was allotted by God to specific tribes, then marrying within one's tribe was an important way to keep the land in the family. The year of Jubilee (every 50 years, cf. Leviticus 25; 27) was also a way to restore lost land to the original family.

14:3 "the uncircumcised" I am putting my notes on Gen. 17:10 here to explain this term.

Genesis 17:10 "circumcised" Circumcision (BDB 557 II) was not an uncommon rite in the ancient Orient. All of the surrounding people circumcised their children at puberty except possibly the Assyrians, Babylonians, Hivites, or Horites of central Palestine and the Philistines (Aegean people) who invaded the southern coast of Palestine in the 1200's B.C. (cf. Jer. 9:25-26). However, circumcision had a religious purpose for the Israelites. It was always an outer sign of an inner faith (cf. Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4; 9:26; Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 2:11-13).

The parents may have been aware of the prohibitions in Exod. 34:11, 16; Deut. 7:1, 3, of marrying Canaanite women. See Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, pp. 46-48.

14:4 "However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines" This is an extremely important theological point made by the contemporary author or later editor. This assumes the reader/hearer understands that God is using Samson's inappropriate behavior and lust toward foreign women to occasion a conflict between the Philistines and the Judeans.

This is the theological thrust of the entire account. YHWH used Samson in a unique way. He was equipped to begin this confrontation. The King James and Revised Standard Versions have a small "h" in the word "He" in this verse, but in the New English Bible and New American Standard Bible, it is a capital "H." The capitalization implies that it was YHWH seeking an occasion and not Samson.

▣ "occasion" This NOUN (BDB 58, KB 1675) occurs only here according to BDB. BDB has "opportunity," i.e., "ground for quarrel." See the use of the Hithpael PARTICIPLE in 2 Kgs. 5:7, "see how he is seeking a quarrel against me."

A closely related form is found in Pro. 18:1, where it is translated "desire." YHWH wanted and planned a way to stimulate Judah to resist and repulse the non-military Philistine invasion.

5Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. 6The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. 7So he went down and talked to the woman; and she looked good to Samson. 8When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. 9So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion.

14:5 "young lion" This would not refer to a lion cub but to a young lion in all of its strength (BDB 498 CONSTRUCT BDB 71). There has been much allegorical interpretation based on this lion and the honey. However, in context, it is simply recorded to show the origin of the riddle that will be given in Jdgs. 14:14. Be careful of allegorical interpretations. Biblical authority comes only from the intent of the original author as seen in the context. See "Bible Interpretation Seminar".

14:6 "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily" Again, Samson had little control of this but the Spirit comes in times of crisis or great excitement. See note at Jdgs. 13:25 and Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., pp. 881-885.



▣ "he had nothing in his hand" This may imply that

  1. he carried no weapons because the Philistines had all of the metal implements (cf. 1 Sam. 13:19-22)
  2. it may simply be an allusion to Samson's strength (i.e., "tore him as one tears a kid")

14:7 "she looked good to Samson" Samson was living life according to his individual desires, not YHWH's laws. The key theme of the tragic book of Judges is "every man did what was right in his own eyes" (cf. Jdgs. 17:6; 21:25 for the concluding verse of the book). Samson's actions reveal this same mentality (cf. Jdgs. 14:3). Personal freedom, personal preference, not YHWH guided human activity. It was, and is, a disaster (cf. Gen. 6:5, 11-12, 13; 8:21; Deut. 12:8; Rom. 1:17-3:18, 23)!

As far as biblical precedent, remember the Bible records what humans do/did, not what they should have done. Do not confuse "foreknowledge" and "predestination"! The Bible is a guide book, not to bind our freedom but to insure long, happy individual lives in stable, productive societies.


14:9 Touching a dead body would violate Samson's Nazirite vow (cf. Numbers 6).

▣ "eating as he went" This is a construction with an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB of the same root (BDB 229, KB 246), which seems to emphasize that he took little time to do this and went on his way quickly. He gave no thought to the ceremonial consequences of touching the body of an unclean animal (for food).

10Then his father went down to the woman; and Samson made a feast there, for the young men customarily did this. 11When they saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him.

14:10 This week-long feast, given by a Philistine family, would surely have involved heavy drinking (BDB 1059, meaning, "drinking bout"; Josephus, Antiq. 5.8.6). This was another violation of the Nazirite vow of Numbers 6.

14:11 "they brought thirty companions to be with him" Samson apparently consented to the local custom of having a week long marriage celebration. Josephus (Antiq. 5.8.6) tells us that these were thirty Philistines who were sent to guard him. The LXXA here adds "when they were afraid of him." Samson was an awesome physical person, so this may be true.

12Then Samson said to them, "Let me now propound a riddle to you; if you will indeed tell it to me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes. 13But if you are unable to tell me, then you shall give me thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes." And they said to him, "Propound your riddle, that we may hear it." 14So he said to them,
 "Out of the eater came something to eat,
 And out of the strong came something sweet."
But they could not tell the riddle in three days.

14:12 Samson tried to take advantage of these thirty companions by asking them a riddle. The bet was for thirty changes of clothes, which would be very expensive, party clothes (cf. Jdgs. 14:15; BDB 690, cf. Pro. 31:24; Isa. 3:22), not daily wear. This was one of the main types of wealth in the ancient world, along with food stuffs, weights of precious metals, and jewels.

There have been several theories why Samson asks the riddle.

  1. It was culturally expected.
  2. It was a way to humiliate the Philistine attendants.
  3. It was to make money.
  4. It was because the 30 Philistine attendants did not wear the proper wedding attire.

From Jdgs. 14:15-17, it is obvious these thirty were not family friends, but local, aggressive young men.

▣ "propound" Like Jdgs. 14:9, this is another emphatic construction of an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and an IMPERFECT VERB of the same root (BDB 616, KB 665).

▣ "your riddle" The MT has the VERB (BDB 295, KB 295, Qal COHORTATIVE) and the NOUN, therefore, translated "let me riddle you a riddle" (AB, p. 231). See Sandy and Giese, Cracking OT Codes, pp. 257-258 and NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 107.

14:14 "they could not tell the riddle in three days" There is some problem with the time sequence here between

  1. the three days mentioned in this verse
  2. the fourth day in Jdgs. 14:15, which in the Masoretic Hebrew text is really "the seventh day"
  3. the seven days mentioned in Jdgs. 14:17
  4. the seventh day mentioned in Jdgs. 14:18

The exact relationship is uncertain but it was a week long party and apparently his new bride-to-be pressed him, cried for an entire week (Jdgs. 14:17) and tried to get him to tell her the answer to the riddle because the Philistines had threatened to burn her and her father's house (Jdgs. 14:15) if she did not help them. It is ironical that this is exactly what will happen in Jdgs. 15:6.

15Then it came about on the fourth day that they said to Samson's wife, "Entice your husband, so that he will tell us the riddle, or we will burn you and your father's house with fire. Have you invited us to impoverish us? Is this not so?" 16Samson's wife wept before him and said, "You only hate me, and you do not love me; you have propounded a riddle to the sons of my people, and have not told it to me." And he said to her, "Behold, I have not told it to my father or mother; so should I tell you?" 17However she wept before him seven days while their feast lasted. And on the seventh day he told her because she pressed him so hard. She then told the riddle to the sons of her people. 18So 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 found out my riddle."
19Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father's house. 20But Samson's wife was given to his companion who had been his friend.

14:17 "pressed him" This VERB (BDB 847, KB 1014, Hiphil PERFECT) is used of psychological stress and pressure (cf. Job 36:16; Ps. 25:17; 107:6; 119:143; Pro. 1:27; Isa. 8:22; Zeph. 1:15) inflicted on Samson by two of his Philistine women (i.e., Jdgs. 14:17, and in 16:16).

14:18 Samson realized his new Philistine wife had revealed the riddle.

14:19 "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil" Apparently they were having a similar wedding feast at Ashkelon because this is not the normal clothing that was worn every day. This, of course, caused great anger among the people of that city and this begins the series of actions which caused conflict between Samson and the Philistines.

▣ "And his anger burned, and he went up to his father's house" Because Samson left, the girl's father was not certain that he wanted to marry his daughter so he gave her to one of the Philistine companions (Jdgs. 14:20). This man is called his "friend," but it refers to one of the Philistine companions who had been at the party.

There has been some question as to whether Samson's marriage had been consummated but we are simply not sure whether, in the custom of that day, this was done on the first day or the last day of the feast (cf. alternate reading, "bridal chamber," REB, NJB or "before the sun went down" [Jdgs. 14:18]). However, UBS Text Project, p. 108, gives the NASB an "A" rating (very high probability).

NASB, NKJV, NJB  "companion"
NRSV, TEV, NET  "best man"
JPSOA  "wedding companion"
REB, Peshitta  "groomsman"
LXXB  "one of his friends, with whom he had been friendly"

The MT has the VERB "befriend" (BDB 946, KB 1246, Piel PERFECT). The context implies it was one of the Philistine "thirty" (Jdgs. 14:11). Their role was uncertain.

  1. protect the wedding party from robbers
  2. protect the bride Samson
  3. support and befriend Samson
  4. protect the family and community from Samson

This verse supports #2. Samson's apparent abandonment of his new wife demanded she be settled in someone's care/home. Who better than the leader of the Philistine "thirty"?


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Was it unusual for Israelites to marry outside their ethnic group? Why?
  2. How does the end of Jdgs. 14:3 and 14:7 foreshadow the last verse of the book?
  3. Why is Jdgs. 14:4 so theologically significant?
  4. What does it mean that "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him"? (Jdgs. 14:6,19) Is the Spirit distinct from YHWH?
  5. Explain in your own words the difference between "foreknowledge" and "predestination."

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