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.
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).
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).
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).
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).