Judges 14: Samson's Strength
Do you remember Samson? He was the child that the angel promised when he came to Manoah and his wife in Zorah. And what did the angel tell them about the child? He was to be a Nazarite all his life, one set apart to the Lord. And how did a Nazarite look different from other men? The child was born and grew, and the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times.
Who were the people living near to Samson's home who were enemies to the children of Israel? The Philistines. They lived in the great meadows toward the sea. Many times Samson's great strength was seen in their country and they were afraid of him.
Once, Samson met a lion. You have seen pictures of lions, perhaps you have seen a lion, and you know how strong they are. But Samson caught and killed the lion with his hands. It happened in this way. Samson was going with his father and mother to Timnath, a town near Zorah in the edge of the Philistine country. He loved a woman of Timnath, one of the Philistines, and wished to marry her, and his father and mother were going with him to arrange the marriage. It was in the vineyards as they came near the town, that the lion roared against him, and Samson caught and killed the lion; but he told not his father or mother.
After their visit, they went home, but they came again to Timnath when it was time for the wedding and the wedding feast. Then Samson found honey in the body of the lion, for bees had made their comb there. Have you seen honey in a comb? Usually, bees make it in a hive or wild bees in a hollow tree or among the rocks. This comb was in the body of the lion, and Samson took some, and ate it himself and gave some to his father and mother, but he did not tell them that it was from the lion.
Now, can you think what Samson meant at the wedding feast when he said as a riddle for the people to guess, "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness"? You know what he meant the lion and the honey; but no one of the company knew or could guess. At last on the seventh and last day of the feast Samson's wife learned from him and told them. There were other times when Samson's strength was seen, but today let us read about the lion and the honey.
The story is about Samson and a lion. Notice a few things as you read the story. First, find Zorah and Timnath on your map. Timnath was three or four miles to the southwest of Zorah. The town was in the inheritance of Dan, but Philistines were living there. (Joshua 19:43)
Second, the marriage customs in that country. A marriage was arranged by the parents for the young people. This was the errand when Samson's father and mother went with him the first time to Timnath. The wedding and the wedding feast came later, and on their second visit they were going for the wedding. You will remember marriage feasts mentioned in other places in the Bible; the marriage feast at Cana (John 2:1-11); the parable about the marriage feast made by a king for his son (Matt. 22:1-14); and another parable about virgins waiting with their lamps to go in to the marriage feast (Matt. 25:1-13). The festivities at Samson's marriage lasted seven days. Perhaps the "riddle" was a part of the entertainment. The Eastern people were fond of riddles and "hard questions." (1 Kings 10:1)
Third, notice Samson's riddle. What did the riddle refer to that had happened in the vineyards? How was the riddle guessed? What grew out of the riddle and the guessing of it? How did Samson get the thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes to give to those who guessed it? Ashkelon was a Philistine city. You will see also that this riddle of Samson's is one that people are always asking: how to get sweetness out of trial. Many persons never guess the riddle, but those who are strong from the Lord know that as often as they put down a lion of anger or selfishness or pride, they find sweetness in its place.
There were other times when the Philistines saw Samson's strength. At one time he was bound with two new cords, but strength from the Lord came to him and he broke the cords "as flax that was burned with fire." (Judges 15:12-14) At another time, he "took the doors of the gate of the city [Gaza, one of the great Philistine cities], and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of the hill that is before Hebron." (Judges 16:2-3) How far was it from Gaza to Hebron?
1. Who were Samson's special enemies? In what ways did he use his strength against them?
2. Who lived at Timnath? What happened on the first visit of Samson and his parents to that town? What happened on the second visit?
3. What riddle did Samson give? How did they find out the answer?
4. May we ever find honey in a lion that we overcome?
We must recall what we learned about the strength which Samson represents. The fact that his strength depended on his hair reminds us that the strength for which he stands is the strength of the letter of the Lord's Word, which is its least living part. The law requiring the Nazarites to keep from wine and all fruit of the vine shows that the strength of Samson is not from much learning and intelligence, for such intelligence is represented by the vine. The Nazarites and Samson represent rather a celestial character in its love for the letter of the Lord's Word. It meets reasonings of the tempter not with reasonings, but with simple trust in the teaching of the Lord's Word: "It is written"-- so and so. "Thus saith the Lord." It is a strength which a child should have, a strength which the Lord had Divinely in His overcoming of evil. Samson was given strength that he might represent the Lord in combats on the natural plane, in which He fought with the hells and subdued them, "and this before He put on Divine good and truth also in the natural man." Read this and much more of interest about the Nazarites and Samson, in A. 3301. See also A. 5113, 5247, 6437; S. 49.
"The power in the Word in the sense of the letter is the power of opening heaven, by virtue whereof communication and conjunction is effected; and also the power of fighting against falsities, thus against the hells. A man who is in genuine truths from the literal sense of the Word, can cast down and dissipate all the diabolical crew and their arts, in which they place their power, which are innumerable, and this in a moment, by only a look, and an effort of the will. In fine, in the spiritual world nothing can resist the power of genuine truth, confirmed from the literal sense of the Word." (E. 1086)
Samson's relations with the Philistines. The Philistines represent an intellectual power, usually without any care for good life. The Philistine vineyard represents such intellectual power, and the lion which roared against Samson in the vineyard is the pride of such self-confident intelligence. Much the same is represented by the Philistine giant Goliath, who trusted in his size and in his armor and defied the Lord and the army of Israel. The victory of Samson over the lion represents the greater strength of simple trust in what the Lord's Word teaches.
We have spoken of the honey in the body of the lion as representing the sweetness found when any selfish evil passion arising in the mind has been bravely met and overcome. We see now that this honey represents in particular the sweetness of charity which fills the soul when the pride of knowing without doing is cast aside. (E. 619)
Samson found no right marriage with the Philistines. This is implied by the remonstrance of his parents, who said, "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?" We remember the charge to Isaac and to Jacob, not to take wives of the daughters of Canaan, and the repeated command to the people of Israel, not to marry with the native people of the land. Such marriage would represent a union of a true spiritual life with elements of evil. Marriage of Samson with a woman of the Philistines would mean a weakening of simple trust in the Lord's Word by mixing with it a self-confident intelligence. The right course to follow and the only course which can lead to a union of spiritual life with Philistine intelligence is pictured in Samson's killing of the lion (the pride of self-intelligence) and finding the honey (the sweetness of a life of charity). The Philistine mind knows nothing of this and cannot guess the riddle, and as a consequence the marriage comes to nothing.