Judges 14:19 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 14:19, NIV: Then the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he returned to his father's home.

Judges 14:19, ESV: And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house.

Judges 14:19, KJV: And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father's house.

Judges 14:19, NASB: Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty men of them and took what they were wearing and gave the outfits of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house.

Judges 14:19, NLT: Then the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him. He went down to the town of Ashkelon, killed thirty men, took their belongings, and gave their clothing to the men who had solved his riddle. But Samson was furious about what had happened, and he went back home to live with his father and mother.

Judges 14:19, CSB: The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on him, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men. He stripped them and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. In a rage, Samson returned to his father's house,

What does Judges 14:19 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

For the second time in this chapter, the Spirit of the Lord rushes on Samson. He has lost a bet to thirty men from Timnah because they used his wife to betray him. Despite their unfairness—which was in response to his own deceptive attempts—he now owes them each a set of clothes (Judges 14:11–18).

Samson travels to the fortified Philistine city of Ashkelon. The choice of a city which was likely a full day's travel away from Timnah might have been to avoid being recognized. He does this without staying to consummate the marriage to his new bride; he will not return to her for some time. This leads to further misunderstanding and scandal (Judges 14:20).

Scripture uses the Hebrew root word nakah to describe Samson's act. This word literally means to "strike" or to "beat." It is usually interpreted to mean "killing." However, the Bible sometimes needs to specify that it has caused death (Numbers 35:16; 2 Samuel 1:15; 11:15). The same root word will be used later to describe Samson's retaliation against the Philistines, implying death without explicitly counting casualties. Most likely, this verse means Samson killed thirty men and took their clothes to pay his debt. It's possible, but less likely, that he attacked the men and robbed them of their garments, instead.

Samson has behaved defiantly and foolishly throughout this passage. That began with deciding to marry a Philistine woman in the first place (Exodus 34:15–16). It likely continued by breaking aspects of the Nazirite vow (Judges 13:5; 14:10). What he does here is only briefly described, but it's certainly not self-defense. It's an act of aggression and violence. That raises the question which lingers over Samson's entire life: why does the Spirit of the Lord empower Samson at all, let alone in moments such as this?

The answer comes earlier, when explaining why God allowed Samson to pursue his marriage to a Philistine bride (Judges 14:4). God's overall plan for Samson is to disrupt the Philistines' comfortable control over Israel (Judges 13:1, 5). After forty years, Israel has grown complacent in captivity. They seem resigned to living under the rule of the Philistines. Unlike previous times, Israel has not called out for rescue from their condition (Judges 2:16–19). Samson's willingness to marry a pagan, idol-worshipping Philistine and his parents' weak resistance are evidence of this lack of conviction. Samson's sins are just that—sins—and he will suffer for them throughout his life. And yet, the Lord intends to use Samson's lack of character and self-control to ignite a spark of resistance within Israel.

Even after such a violent act, Samson, is still boiling over with rage. That seems to include anger at his betrothed wife. Rather than returning to her and consummating the marriage, he returns to his parents' home in Zorah.