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Judges 14:14

ESV And he said to them, “Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet.” And in three days they could not solve the riddle.
NIV He replied, 'Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.' For three days they could not give the answer.
NASB So he said to them, 'Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet.' But they could not tell the answer to the riddle in three days.
CSB So he said to them: Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.After three days, they were unable to explain the riddle.
NLT So he said: 'Out of the one who eats came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet.' Three days later they were still trying to figure it out.
KJV 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.

What does Judges 14:14 mean?

Samson has proposed a bet to the thirty Philistine men assigned to be his wedding feast companions. If they solve his riddle before the end of the festivities, he will give each a full change of clothes. If they cannot solve it before the feast ends, each man will owe him a change of clothes. It begins as a seemingly friendly wager, though it will not end that way.

Riddles show up occasionally in Scripture; they were common in the literature of Samson's era. The queen of Sheba travelled a long way to bring "hard questions," likely riddles, as tests for wise Solomon (1 Kings 10:1), and Daniel was said to have the ability to explain riddles, among other talents (Daniel 5:12). Samson's challenge may be the most classic "so-called riddle" in the Bible.

However, this is not a true "riddle." It's just a "secret." Samson's challenge is for these men to interpret his poetic description of an obscure, bizarre occurrence. This is not a minor difference. In the classic novel The Hobbit, two characters engage in a battle of riddles, which can be solved by clever thinking or wisdom. One character absentmindedly asks himself out loud, "what have I got in my pocket?" The opponent thinks this meant as part of the challenge—he's enraged by the obviously unfair question. Samson's deception is worse: it's deliberate and his rivals don't realize it's an impossible situation.

The answer to Samson's mystery is only apparent for those who have read Samson's story to this point. Samson had recently seen a hive of bees inside the carcass of a lion—one which he'd killed with his bare hands (Judges 14:5–7). From that "strong eater" came sweet honey. Of course, without having read that passage, there is no possible way to interpret this correctly. Samson had not even told his parents about the lion or the source of the honey he shared with them (Judges 11:8–9). Later, Samson will seem to acknowledge that this was an immoral trick (Judges 15:3).

Scholars speculate that riddles given in drunken wedding feasts often had crude or sexual answers. At first, the men likely thought the answer was something along those lines. After three days of guessing, they had no clue what the solution was. Their irritation comes across in the following verse: the men are so frustrated that they threaten Samson's betrothed to find out the answer (Judges 14:15).
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