Now as the child grew up, Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah with the daughters of the Philistines.
Zorah is right at the base of the mountains, and Timnah is at the western end of the valley, just a few miles down from Zorah, entering into the mountains. This is the valley that was occupied by the Philistines. The people of Dan pretty much hugged the hillsides, while the plains were pretty much controlled by the Philistines.
Samson went down the valley to Timnah, a Philistine city, he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines, and he came home and told his father and his mother, I have seen a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines, and I want you to get her for me as my wife. (14: 1-2)
Now, in those days, marriage was by arrangement. The parents would get together and haggle over a dowry. Once the amount of the dowry was determined, the groom’s father would pay the dowry to the bride’s father, and the son would then have the privilege of marrying the girl. A dowry was their answer to their weak divorce laws, which gave a woman no rights. A woman could not divorce her husband under any circumstance, but a husband could divorce his wife under any circumstance. If he didn’t like her, if he wasn’t satisfied with her, if she didn’t fix his eggs to his liking, he could just write “I divorce you” on a piece of paper, hand it to her, and she had to leave. She had no rights at all. There were, in those days, many lousy men, who would take advantage of this law. And this was the custom of dowry, which was developed to protect the women. The dowry was nothing more than alimony, in advance. The dad would make the arrangements. “You pay me so much, you can have my daughter.” It was the father’s duty to invest the dowry and to increase it by the investment. If the husband kicked the wife out, she would come home, and the dowry would be used to support her, so she was no burden to her family. The father’s duty was to keep the dowry intact and invest, so that she would always have something to fall back on.
So, Samson came home and said “Hey dad, I saw a cute little girl down there in Timnah, a daughter of the Philistines. Go down and make the arrangements! I want to marry this girl!” His father and his mother asked him if there weren’t enough cute girls in Israel, maybe his nieces. They asked him why he had to fall in love with one of those uncircumcised Philistine daughters. Samson basically told his father to stop arguing with him and get him what he wanted. The girl pleased him.
This is the first time, but not the last time we will see Samson falling in love with a Philistine girl, and each time it led him to great trouble. Now, I read on Facebook, all the time, how romanticists say that you can’t help who you fall in love with. I say you can! It’s an error to think that you can’t help who you fall in love with. And, this is a good story to demonstrate just that fact. You see, Samson fell in love with a girl in Timnah, when, actually, he had no business being in Timnah. Had he never gone there, he would never had fallen in love with a girl in Timnah.
His first mistake was going into the camp of the enemy. His first mistake led to his second, which was falling in love with the girl. There are places where we, as children of God should never go. If we go to these places, trouble will come our way. We could avoid so many problems if we would simply stay out of the camp of the enemy. The best way to avoid problems is to stay away from problem areas. In Samson’s case, just don’t go to Timnah. Stay away from the camp of the enemy. He went to Timnah. Things compounded, and he fell in love with a girl in Timnah.
So often, God takes our mistakes and turns them around for His purposes. I love the way that God so often turns the tables. Joseph’s brothers sold him to the slave traders, who were going to Egypt. Later, when Joseph faced his brothers, he said “Hey guys! Don’t trouble yourself for what you did. I know you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” It is so gracious that God will, many times, take those things that we do wrong, and turn them around to use them for His purposes. He even causes the wrath of man to praise Him.
And so, the parents did not know that the Lord was seeking an occasion against the Philistines for at that time, they had dominion over Israel. (14:4)
The angel of the Lord said that Samson was going to BEGIN the deliverance from the Philistines, not that he would completely deliver them.
Then Samson went down, and his father and his mother, to Timnah. And as they came to the vineyards of Timnah, behold, the young lion roared against Samson and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him and he tore that lion as you would have torn a little goat and he had nothing in his hands no knife, or sword, or whatever and he didn’t tell his father or his mother what he had done.
This was, to Samson, no great feat. He just tossed it over the vineyard and bushes and went his way, without even telling his folks. If I torn a lion apart, with my bare hands, I would be in permanent chest out position, telling everyone I met. But not this guy. It was nothing to him.
My son, Kiiler, has some of Samson’s character traits. Kiiler could bench press Montana, so it is nothing for him to work out with 400 pounds on the bench press. If I could do that, everyone in Branson would be aware. But, for Ki, it is not worth mentioning.
So he went down and talked with the woman and he was very much in love with her. Now, after a time, he returned the time of the wedding, to take her as his bride, and he decided to go in and take a look at the carcase of the lion. And behold there was a swarm of bees and there was honey in the carcase of the lion. And he took the honey in his hands and he went on the path eating it and he came to his father and mother and gave it to them and they did eat it, but he didn’t tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion. (14:5-8)
Why is this important? You see, Samson is supposed to be a Nazarite. One of the rules for a Nazarite is that you cannot touch a dead carcase. Even if it were his own parents, he was not to touch a dead body. Here, he is taking honey out of the dead carcass of the lion. Samson must have been quite a guy, to just reach in to this carcass and get a handful of honey. He was licking it off his fingers, sharing with his parents, and letting them take a few licks. He is really a tight mouthed type of man. He didn’t tell them about killing the lion in the first place, and now he makes no mention of where he obtained the honey. In fact, Samson must have been extremely confident. Perhaps it was just that quiet confidence that we admire in so many today? Most guys, had they been attacked by a lion, along a certain road, would never take their parents along that same road, for fear of another possible attack by another member of the pride. Yet, he didn’t seem to have any concern about that. Perhaps he felt he could slay the whole pride, should they attack. It just was of no importance to him. He had no fear, and felt no need to brag or even discuss the events.
So his father went down to the woman and Samson made there a feast.
The young men would have these huge wedding feasts, lasting seven days.
And it came to pass that when they saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him.
These young men were hired to spend the week with the groom, to be his companions during the celebration and to help him prepare for the wedding. This was similar to our bachelor party, only it lasted a lot longer. Samson’s parents were, evidently, of means, to hire that many young men attend to Samson all week.
So Samson said unto these thirty men, “I’m going put forth a riddle unto you. If you can declare it me within the seven days of the feast and find it out, then I will give you thirty shirts, and thirty changes of garments. But if you can’t declare to me the riddle, then you have to give me thirty shirts and thirty changes of garments. They said to him, “You’re on man! What’s your riddle?” And so he said to them, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong, came forth sweetness”. And for three days, they tried to figure this thing out. And it came to pass that on the seventh day they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband that he may declare unto us the riddle, or else we are going to burn you and your father’s house with fire.” (14:10-15)
These shirts, which he bet, were really just undershirts. They were worn next to the body, and the thirty changes of garments were the outer robes. This was a healthy bet.
So, these guys, who were hired to keep Samson company, can’t figure this riddle out. So, they threaten the bride, if she doesn’t entice Samson for the answer. They threatened to burn her father’s house and burn her with it. Not really a nice choice for groomsmen.
And Samson’s wife wept before him and said, “You hate me! You don’t love me! You put forth a riddle to these fellows and you haven’t told me what it is!” And he said,
“Hey! I haven’t even told my parents woman!” (14:16)
She was probably trying to figure this thing out for most of the week. Now, she has even more reason to seek the answer. She really pushed him for the answer.
And it came to pass that on the seventh day, that he told her.
You can be sure that she nagged him all week, until he gave in.
And so she told the riddle to the children of the Philistines. And 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’d have never found out.” (14:16-18)
It is interesting that he used this language to speak of his wife. What he said was, to say the least, unkind. “Plowing my heifer” was a strange use of words, and a bit telling. Samson was really upset, and he was fully aware that she was the one that told the answer to these guys. Trust went right out the window, before they were even married.
So the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he went down to Ashkelon, one of the coastal cities and there he got hold of thirty Philistines, who he killed, took their shirts and their garments. (14:19)
Samson’s response to being cheated in this way caused his anger to flare. So, he went down to the coastal city of Ashkelon and killed thirty Philistines, stripped them of their clothing, and gave the clothing to pay his bet. This was also, a bit “in your face!” He came right back and paid off his bet to the guys who had expounded his riddle. He was still extremely angry. He just went home, without even saying anything to his wife. In retaliation, her father gave her to the best man. I think Samson became even angrier, after this insult.