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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.
Timnath - See Joshua 15:10 and note. It was below Zorah Judges 13:2, about three miles S. W. of it.
2And 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.
Get her for me - namely, by Paying the requisite dowry (see marginal references) and gifts to relations. Hence, the frequent mention of parents taking wives for their sons Exodus 34:16; Nehemiah 10:30, because the parents of the bridegroom conducted the negotiation, and paid the dower to the parents of the bride.
3Then 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.
The uncircumcised Philistines - Compare 1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 17:26; 1 Samuel 31:4, for a similar use of the term as one of reproach. Also Acts 11:3.
4But 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.
His father and mother very properly opposed Samson's marriage with a Pagan woman, the daughter of the oppressors of his race. But they could not prevail, because it was the secret purpose of God by these means to "seek occasion" against the Philistines; i. e. to make the misconduct of the father of Samson's wife, which He foresaw, the occasion of destruction to the Philistines. Compare the marginal references for similar statements.
5Then 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.
6And 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.
7And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.
8And 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.
The formal dowry and gifts having been given by Samson's father, an interval, varying according to the Oriental custom, from a few days to a full year, elapsed between the betrothal and the wedding, during which the bride lived with her friends. Then came the essential part of the marriage ceremony, namely, the removal of the bride from her father's house to that of the bridegroom or his father.
The carcase of the lion - The lion, slain by him a year or some months before, had now become a mere skeleton, fit for bees to swarm into. It was a universal notion among the ancients that bees were generated from the carcass of an ox.
9And 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.
10So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do.
Made a feast ... - This was the wedding-feast, protracted in this instance seven days, in that of Tobias (Tobit 8:19) fourteen days. It was an essential part of the marriage ceremony Genesis 29:22; Esther 2:18; Matthew 22:2-4; Revelation 19:7, Revelation 19:9.
11And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.
Thirty companions - These were "the children of the bride-chamber" (Matthew 9:15; see Judges 14:20). From the number of them it may be inferred that Samson's family was of some wealth and importance.
12And 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:
See the marginal references. Riddles formed one of the amusements of these protracted feasts.
Sheets - Rather "linen shirts;" the "garments" which follow are the outward garments worn by the Orientals.
13But 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.
14And 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.
Three days ... on the seventh day - Proposed alterations, such as "six days ... on the fourth day," are unnecessary if it be remembered that the narrator passes on first to the seventh day (at Judges 14:15), and then goes back at Judges 14:16 and beginning of Judges 14:17 to what happened on the 4th, 5th, and 6th days.
To take that we have - See the margin. They affirm that they were only invited to the wedding for the sake of plundering them by means of this riddle, and if Samson's wife was a party to plundering her own countrymen, she should suffer for it.
15And 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?
16And 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?
17And 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.
18And 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.
They try to give the answer in a way to make it appear that they had guessed it. Samson saw at once that she had betrayed him. He lets them know in a speech, which was of the nature of a riddle, that he had discovered the treachery.
19And 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.
20But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.
His companion - Perhaps one of those mentioned in Judges 14:11. The transaction denotes loose notions of the sanctity of marriage among the Philistines. It should be noted carefully that the practical lesson against ungodly marriages comes out most strongly in this case and that the providential purpose which out of this evil brought discomfiture to the Philistines, has nothing to do with the right or wrong of Samson's conduct.