Judges 14

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1 Then Samson went down to Thamnatlia, and seeing there a woman of the daughters of the Philistines,

2 He came up, and told his father and his mother, saying: I saw a woman in Thamnatha of the daughters of the Philistines: I beseech you, take her for me to wife.

3 And his father and mother said to him: Is there no woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou wilt take a wife of the Philistines, who are uncircumcised? And Samson said to his father: Take this woman for me, for she hath pleased my eyes.

4 Now his parents knew not that the thing was done by the Lord, and that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

5 Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Thamnatha. And when they were come to the vineyards of the town, behold a young lion met him raging and roaring.

6 And the spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, and he tore the lion as he would have torn a kid in pieces, having nothing at all in his hand: and he would not tell this to his father and mother.

7 And he went down and spoke to the woman that had pleased his eyes.

8 And after some days returning to take her, he went aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold there was a swarm of bees in the mouth of the lion and a honeycomb.

9 And when be had taken it in his hands, he went on eating: and coming to his father and mother, he gave them of it, and they ate: but he would not tell them, that he had taken the honey from the body of the lion.

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

11 And when the citizens of that place saw him, they brought him thirty companions to be with him.

12 And Samson said to them: I will propose to you a riddle, which if you declare unto me within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty shirts, and as many coats:

13 But if you shall not be able to declare it, you shall give me thirty shirts and the same number of coats. They answered him: Put forth the riddle that we may hear it.

14 And he said to 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 when the seventh day came, they said to the wife of Samson: Soothe thy husband, and persuade him to tell thee what the riddle meaneth. But if thou wilt not do it, we will burn thee, and thy father's house. Have you called us to the wedding on purpose to strip us?

16 So she wept before Samson and complained, saying: Thou hatest me, and dost not love me: therefore thou wilt not expound to me the riddle which thou hast proposed to the sons of my people. But he answered: I would not tell it to my father and mother, and how can I tell it to thee?

17 So she wept before him the seven days of the feast: and at length on the seventh day as she was troublesome to him, he expounded it. And she immediately told her countrymen.

18 And they on the seventh day before the sun went down said to him: What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said to them: If you had not ploughed with my heifer, you had not found out my riddle.

19 And the spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ascalon, and slew there thirty men, whose garments he took away and gave to them that had declared the riddle. And being exceeding angry he went up to his father's house:

20 But his wife took one of his friends and bridal companions for her husband.


Exploring the Meaning of Judges 14      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 14: Samson’s Philistine wife.

At the time of Samson, the Philistines were fiercely oppressing Israel. The Philistines lived on the coast, and they may well have come from overseas. They lived in the region for about 600 years, and the Old Testament refers to many later conflicts with the Philistines.

One day, Samson saw a young Philistine woman in Timnath, and he asked his parents to get her for his wife. They asked why he did not choose an Israelite woman, but he insisted on marrying the woman he saw in Timnath, so they all went to meet her. On the way, Samson was attacked by a lion, and he tore it apart with his bare hands. After some time, when he passed by the same place, there was a swarm of bees and honey inside the lion’s carcass. He ate some of the honey, and even brought some of it to his parents, but he did not tell them where it came from.

The woman pleased Samson, and he arranged a feast to which thirty companions were invited. At the feast, Samson told them a riddle: “Out of the eater came something to eat, out of the strong came something sweet.” He said that if they solved the riddle in the seven days of the feast, he would give them thirty linen sheets and thirty changes of clothing. If not, they were to give him the same. They could not solve the riddle for three days, so they convinced Samson’s wife to beg him for the answer. At the end of seven days, the men answered Samson’s riddle, and he was furious.

Then the Lord’s spirit came upon Samson, and he killed thirty Philistine men from Ashkelon, took their garments, and gave these to the thirty men at the feast. His wife was given to his companion.

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The spiritual meaning of the powerful Philistines is believing faith is all-important, and does not require charity or good works in life — a fundamental spiritual error. This way of thinking is called ‘faith alone’ spirituality, and it can take many forms. The proximity of the Philistines to Israel is also significant, as it suggests that the temptation to prefer faith without considering charity is never far away (see Swedenborg’s work, True Christian Religion 200[3]).

The pursuit of a Philistine wife reflects the alluring nature of faith without charity, an easy, complacent spirituality. The young lion represents the force of faith alone to hold us in its grip. The honey stands for the spiritual sweetness following regeneration, as we use our faith to expand our hearts and minds (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 5620[1]).

Samson’s riddle stands for the puzzling nature of the Word’s teachings to those living by faith alone. The number thirty stands for what is whole, in this instance, the completely opposing nature of faith alone and true spiritual living. The linen sheets and changes of clothing mean taking up a genuine spiritual life which involves repentance, living the by the Word, and acknowledging the Lord. Linen is the material of a priest’s robes, and stands for the highest spiritual truths (Arcana Caelestia 5319[7]).

This end of this story shows us that faith alone doubles back on itself, and leads to a completely external understanding of the Lord. This is seen in taking garments from the thirty dead Philistines and giving them to the Philistines from the feast. Samson’s wife, who was given to his Philistine companion, stands for the complete divide between faith alone and love for the Lord. Samson’s apparent anger is really the zeal of protecting the nature of true spiritual life, which comes from the Lord (see Swedenborg’s work, Apocalypse Revealed 365).

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