The Bible

 

Judges 14 : Samson's Riddle

Study

           |

1 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.

2 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.

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.

8 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.

9 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.

10 So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do.

11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.

12 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:

13 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.

14 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.

15 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?

16 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?

17 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.

18 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.

19 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.

20 But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.

Commentary

 

Happiness From Living Usefully

     

By Rev. William Woofenden

Rider Attacked by a Jaguar, by Eugène Delacroix

"Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." Judges 14:14
Additional readings: Luke 24:16-53, Psalms 107:1-13, Psalm 108

This text is known as Samson's Riddle. It may be called "The Riddle of Life." The Scripture setting of our text is found in the fourteenth chapter of Judges: "Then went Samson down...to Timnath...and, behold, a young lion 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 after a time he returned...and he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion… And Samson said, 'I will now put forth a riddle unto you… "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness."'"

The Word in the letter throughout is wonderful. Through our knowledge of the letter of the Word the Lord speaks to us. Through our reading of it the Lord's presence and power come into our lives.

The stories of Samson have a strong appeal. They are among the best known of the Bible stories, and are often quoted. Samson is a synonym for strength. His many feats are a marvel—the slaying of the lion, the carrying away of the great gates of Gaza, the pulling down of the temple of Dagon.

We should note carefully that Samson did not perform these deeds in his own strength, for it is written that "the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him." We are familiar with examples of remarkable endurance and of physical strength in apparently weak persons in emergencies and under stress of emotion. And there is this statement in the writings: "Man's thought from his will produces all the strength of his body, and if it were inspired by the Lord through His Divine truth, man would have the strength of Samson" (Arcana Coelestia 10182). It is unwise to set limits on what the Lord can accomplish through the human form brought into the Divine order. We are today very far from what is possible for us in physical as well as in spiritual powers. The literal accuracy of the Samson stories has been questioned, but we should not be among the questioners.

Samson was called a Nazarite, as he took the vows of Nazariteship, and the life and deeds of Samson are prophetic of the Lord's work in His early youth and manhood. As a Nazarite Samson represented the natural humanity of the Lord which, armed with the Divine truth, battled with the hells and overcame them.

Samson's strength is said to have been in his long hair. This is representative. The hair is the outmost of the body, external even to the skin, and represents the very outmosts of our life, the life that is directly in contact with the world.

Translating this relationship to things of the mind, the hair represents our thoughts which we carry out into actions, and in a particular sense the literal meaning of the Divine Word which is its outward sense. Truth is strong and effective when it is brought out and applied directly to the doings of our outward life.

We may entertain many ideas of what is allowable for us to do, but when we consult the commandments, the truth confronts us in the plain practical form of self-denial. And we can devise no ingenious argument which will break the practical force of these laws of conduct. "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him into powder" (Matthew 21:44). In fact the word Nazarite means self-denying. Said Hannah of her son Samuel, "I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head" (1 Samuel 1:11).

Because the power of literal truth is represented by the hair, Elijah and John the Baptist, who taught obedience to the laws of God, are particularly represented as hairy men. If we keep the precepts of the Word in our outward lives, the Lord can inflow and give us power. No power is exerted by holding truth in the memory and not letting it operate in our lives. It is in the doing of the truth that the Lord's power is manifested in us.

It was not in his own strength that Samson slew the lion. It is written, "And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid." When Samson suffered his hair to be cut, his strength left him. If we take away the outward deeds in which power is embodied and acts, we deprive good and truth of the instrument or means by which they can exert their power.

There is a lesson for us in Samson's slaying the lion. In a good sense the lion, as the king of beasts, represents the mighty power of truth fighting against evil, and especially the mighty power which is in the letter of the Word of God. In this good sense the Lord is called "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5). But when, as in this story of Samson, the lion is used in a bad sense, it represents the power of truth perverted and turned into falsity, that power within us which wages war against the spirit of Divine truth and stands in our way to prevent our doing what is good in practical life. This lion is the demand to conform to the natural-mindedness and self-seeking of the world. It represents the terrible power of the natural mind when it is working for self-advantage, the destructive power which we see so active in the world today. Such lions are frequently mentioned in Scripture. "They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion" (Psalm 22:13) and "My soul is among the lions" (Psalm 57:4).

There is a time when we should learn the truth and do it simply because it is the truth. A soldier is not made just by giving him equipment. He must learn to use it and to obey. The armor of the spirit has to be proved. And we are assured that if we learn and keep the precepts of the Word because they are from the Lord, He Himself will be with us and give us the victory.

When Jesus sent the seventy forth to preach the Gospel, they returned again with joy saying, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name" (Luke 10:17). "And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:19). Sometimes evils seem too strong for us. They are indeed too strong for us always, but they are not too strong for the Lord, The Spirit of the Lord can come upon us mightily as it came upon Samson.

On his return, Samson came upon the carcass of the lion. Using its skeleton as a hive, bees had made honey within it. Then Samson put forth his riddle: "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." None could guess this riddle.

It is a riddle to many today. They say, "How can I be happy by doing always what is true and right? How can I gain delight and pleasure by denying myself, by restraining my desires and curbing my passions?" This is a riddle and will always be a riddle to the natural man.

But self-denial does not mean the giving up of the affections and desires with which the Lord has endowed us, but only that we use them as they were meant to be used. Only so can we really enjoy them and only so can the Lord bless us through them. When we cease to misuse and abuse our faculties, when we have put away evil from our doings, we find that we have not lost anything. Our affections remain, and they have been purified and sweetened. The natural affections that stood in the way of our regeneration will be increased in power and allowed full freedom once the desire for evil has been slain.

This is a great truth, namely, that when heavenly love, love to the Lord and to the neighbor, inflow into our affections, cleansing and purifying them, we come into the fullness of life. No good thing does the Lord ever wish to withhold from us. No evil man can possibly be happy. That is why the Lord came into the world to make clear the way of life and to give the power to overcome evil. Evil may promise happiness, but its promises are false; in the end it will curse and not bless. Happiness is the result of overcoming evil.

Of those that walk in the way of the Lord, of those that keep the commandments and precepts of the Word in their outward acts it is written: "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon... And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and. gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:9-10).