Samson’s Unconsummated Marriage
1 Samson went down to Timnah, where a Philistine girl caught his eye.#tn Heb “and he saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines.” 2 When he got home,#tn Heb “and he went up.” he told his father and mother, “A Philistine girl in Timnah has caught my eye.#tn Heb “I have seen a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines.” Now get her for my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Certainly you can find a wife among your relatives or among all our#tn Heb “my.” The singular may seem strange, since the introduction to the quotation attributes the words to his father and mother. But Samson’s father apparently speaks for both himself and his wife. However, the Lucianic recension of the LXX and the Syriac Peshitta have a second person pronoun here (“you”), and this may represent the original reading. people! You should not have to go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines.”#tn Heb “Is there not among the daughters of your brothers or among all my people a woman that you have to go to get a wife among the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me,#tn “Her” is first in the Hebrew word order for emphasis. Samson wanted this Philistine girl, no one else. See C. F. Burney, Judges, 357. because she is the right one for me.”#tn Heb “because she is right in my eyes.” 4 Now his father and mother did not realize this was the Lord’s doing,#tn Heb “this was from the Lord.” because he was looking for an opportunity to stir up trouble with the Philistines#tn Heb “for an opportunity he was seeking from the Philistines.” (for at that time the Philistines were ruling Israel).
5 Samson went down to Timnah. When he approached#tc The MT reads, “Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah. When they approached…” Verse 6b states that Samson did not tell his parents about his encounter with the lion (vv. 5b-6a), but v. 5a gives the impression they would have seen the entire episode. One could assume that Samson separated from his parents prior to the lion’s attack, but the Hebrew text does not indicate this. It seems more likely that the words “with his father and his mother” were accidentally copied into the text, perhaps under the influence of v. 4a, where the same phrase appears. An original singular verb (“he approached”) may have been changed to the plural form (“they approached”) after the words “his father and his mother” were accidentally added to the text. the vineyards of Timnah, he saw a roaring young lion attacking him.#tn Heb “and look, a young lion of the lions was roaring to meet him.” 6 The Lord’s spirit empowered#tn Heb “rushed on.” him and he tore the lion#tn Heb “him” or “it”; the referent (the lion) has been specified in the translation for clarity. in two with his bare hands#tn Heb “and there was nothing in his hand.” as easily as one would tear a young goat. But he did not tell his father or mother what he had done.
7 Samson continued on down to Timnah#tn Heb “He went down.” and spoke to the girl. In his opinion, she was just the right one.#tn Heb “She was the right one in the eyes of Samson.” 8 Some time later, when he went back to marry#tn Heb “get.” her, he turned aside to see the lion’s remains. He saw#tn Heb “and look, a swarm of bees…” a swarm of bees in the lion’s carcass, as well as some honey. 9 He scooped it up with his hands and ate it as he walked along. When he returned#tn Heb “went.” Samson apparently went home to his parents before going to Timnah for the marriage. Seeing and tasting the honey appears to encourage Manoah to go with his son to Timnah. Perhaps both Samson and his father viewed the honey as a good omen of future blessing. Possibly Samson considered it a symbol of sexual pleasure or an aphrodisiac. Note the use of honey imagery in Song 4:11 and 5:1. to his father and mother, he offered them some and they ate it. But he did not tell them he had scooped the honey out of the lion’s carcass.#sn Touching the carcass of a dead animal undoubtedly violated Samson’s Nazirite status. See Num 6:6.
10 Then Samson’s father accompanied him to Timnah for the marriage.#tn Heb “And his father went down to the woman.” Samson hosted a party#tn Or “[wedding] feast.” there, for this was customary for bridegrooms#tn Heb “the young men.” to do. 11 When the Philistines saw he had no attendants, they gave him thirty groomsmen who kept him company.#tn Heb “When they saw him, they gave him thirty companions and they were with him.” Instead of כִּרְאוֹתָם (kir’otam, “when they saw”) some ancient witnesses (e.g., some mss of the LXX) assume the reading בְּיִרְאָתָם (bÿyir’atam, “because they feared”). 12 Samson said to them, “I will give you a riddle. If you really can solve it during the seven days the party lasts,#tn Heb “If you really can tell it to me [during] the seven days of the feast and you find [its answer].” I will give you thirty linen robes and thirty sets#tn Heb “changes.” of clothes. 13 But if you cannot solve it,#tn Heb “you are unable to tell me.” you will give me thirty linen robes and thirty sets of clothes.” They said to him, “Let us hear your riddle.”#tn Heb “Give your riddle so we can hear it.” 14 He said to them,
“Out of the one who eats came something to eat;
out of the strong one came something sweet.”
They could not solve the riddle for three days.
15 On the fourth#tc The MT reads “seventh.” In Hebrew there is a difference of only one letter between the words רְבִיעִי (rÿvi’i, “fourth”) and שְׁבִיעִי (shÿvi’i, “seventh”). Some ancient textual witnesses (e.g., LXX and the Syriac Peshitta) read “fourth,” here, which certainly harmonizes better with the preceding verse (cf. “for three days”) and with v. 17. Another option is to change שְׁלֹשֶׁת (shÿloshet, “three”) at the end of v. 14 to שֵׁשֶׁת (sheshet, “six”), but the resulting scenario does not account as well for v. 17, which implies the bride had been hounding Samson for more than one day. day they said to Samson’s bride, “Trick your husband into giving the solution to the riddle.#tn Heb “Entice your husband so that he might tell us the riddle.” If you refuse,#tn Heb “lest.” we will burn up#tn The Hebrew text expands the statement: “burn up with fire.” The words “with fire” are redundant in English and have been omitted from the translation for stylistic reasons. you and your father’s family.#tn Heb “house.” Did you invite us here#tc The translation assumes the Hebrew form הֲלֹם (halom, “here,” attested in five Hebrew mss and supported by the Targum), instead of the inexplicable הֲלֹא (halo’), a negative particle with interrogative particle prefixed to it. to make us poor?”#tn For discussion of this difficult form, see C. F. Burney, Judges, 364. 16 So Samson’s bride cried on his shoulder#tn Heb “on him.” and said, “You must#tn Heb “only”; or “simply.” hate me; you do not love me! You told the young men#tn Heb “the sons of my people.” a riddle, but you have not told me the solution.” He said to her, “Look, I have not even told my father or mother. Do you really expect me to tell you?”#tn Heb “Should I tell you?” 17 She cried on his shoulder#tn Heb “on him.” until the party was almost over.#tn Heb “the seven days [during] which they held the party.” This does not mean she cried for the entire seven days; v. 15 indicates otherwise. She cried for the remainder of the seven day period, beginning on the fourth day. Finally, on the seventh day, he told her because she had nagged him so much.#tn Heb “because she forced him.” Then she told the young men the solution to the riddle.#tn Heb “she told the riddle to the sons of her people.” 18 On the seventh day, before the sun set, the men of the city said to him,
“What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?”
He said to them,
“If you had not plowed with my heifer,#sn Plowed with my heifer. This statement emphasizes that the Philistines had utilized a source of information which should have been off-limits to them. Heifers were used in plowing (Hos 10:11), but one typically used one’s own farm animals, not another man’s.
you would not have solved my riddle!”
19 The Lord’s spirit empowered him. He went down to Ashkelon and murdered thirty men. He took their clothes#tn Heb “equipment”; or “gear.” and gave them#tn Heb “changes [of clothes].” to the men who had solved the riddle. He was furious as he went back home.#tn Heb “he went up to his father’s house.” 20 Samson’s bride was then given to his best man.#tn Heb “to his companion who had been his attendant.”