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Judges chapter 14

New International Version

1 Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 2 When he returned, he said to his father and mother, 'I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.'
3 His father and mother replied, 'Isn't there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?' But Samson said to his father, 'Get her for me. She's the right one for me.' 4 (His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)
5 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. 6 The Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her.
8 Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion's carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. 9 He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion's carcass.
10 Now his father went down to see the woman. And there Samson held a feast, as was customary for young men. 11 When the people saw him, they chose thirty men to be his companions.
12 Let me tell you a riddle,' Samson said to them. 'If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.
13 If you can't tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.' 'Tell us your riddle,' they said. 'Let's hear it.'
14 He replied, 'Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.' For three days they could not give the answer.
15 On the fourth day, they said to Samson's wife, 'Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father's household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?'
16 Then Samson's wife threw herself on him, sobbing, 'You hate me! You don't really love me. You've given my people a riddle, but you haven't told me the answer.' 'I haven't even explained it to my father or mother,' he replied, 'so why should I explain it to you?' 17 She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people.
18 Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him, 'What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?' Samson said to them, 'If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.'
19 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. 20 And Samson's wife was given to one of his companions who had attended him at the feast.
English Standard Version

1 Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”
4 His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.
5 Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring. 6 Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson’s eyes.
8 After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. 9 He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.
10 His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. 11 As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said to them, “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes, 13 but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Put your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14 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.
15 On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is, lest we burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?” 16 And Samson’s wife wept over him and said, “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told my father nor my mother, and shall I tell you?” 17 She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people. 18 And the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” And he said to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.”
19 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. 20 And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man.
King James Version

1 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. 3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, 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? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. 4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel. 5 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. 6 And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. 7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. 8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. 9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.
10 So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do. 11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: 13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it. 14 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. 15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson's wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? 16 And Samson's wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? 17 And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. 18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle. 19 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. 20 But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.
New American Standard Bible

1 Then Samson went down to Timnah, and he saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 So he came back and told his father and mother, 'I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; so now, get her for me as a wife.' 3 But his father and his mother said to him, 'Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?' Yet Samson said to his father, 'Get her for me, because she is right for me.' 4 However, his father and mother did not know that this was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. And at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.
5 Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. 6 And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, so that he tore it apart as one tears apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. 7 So he went down and talked to the woman; and she looked pleasing to Samson. 8 When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. 9 So he took out the honey on his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had took the honey out of the body of the lion.
10 Then his father went down to the woman; and Samson held a feast there, for the young men customarily did this. 11 When they saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him.
12 Then Samson said to them, 'Let me now propose a riddle for you; if you actually tell me the answer within the seven days of the feast, and solve it, then I will give you thirty linen wraps and thirty outfits of clothes. 13 But if you are unable to tell me, then you shall give me thirty linen wraps and thirty outfits of clothes.' And they said to him, 'Propose your riddle, so that we may hear it.'
14 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.
15 Then it came about on the fourth day that they said to Samson’s wife, 'Entice your husband, so that he will tell us the riddle, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us to impoverish us? Is this not so?' 16 So Samson’s wife wept in front of him and said, 'You only hate me, and you do not love me; you have proposed a riddle to the sons of my people, and have not told it to me.' And he said to her, 'Behold, I have not told it to my father or mother; so should I tell you?' 17 However she wept before him for seven days while their feast lasted. And on the seventh day he told her because she pressed him so hard. She then told the riddle to the sons of her people.
18 So the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down, 'What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?' And he said to them, 'If you had not plowed with my heifer, You would not have found out my riddle.' 19 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. 20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion who had been his friend.
New Living Translation

1 One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. 2 When he returned home, he told his father and mother, 'A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.'
3 His father and mother objected. 'Isn't there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry?' they asked. 'Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?' But Samson told his father, 'Get her for me! She looks good to me.' 4 His father and mother didn't realize the LORD was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time.
5 As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. 6 At that moment the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion's jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. But he didn't tell his father or mother about it. 7 When Samson arrived in Timnah, he talked with the woman and was very pleased with her.
8 Later, when he returned to Timnah for the wedding, he turned off the path to look at the carcass of the lion. And he found that a swarm of bees had made some honey in the carcass. 9 He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. He also gave some to his father and mother, and they ate it. But he didn't tell them he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion.
10 As his father was making final arrangements for the marriage, Samson threw a party at Timnah, as was the custom for elite young men. 11 When the bride's parents saw him, they selected thirty young men from the town to be his companions.
12 Samson said to them, 'Let me tell you a riddle. If you solve my riddle during these seven days of the celebration, I will give you thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing.
13 But if you can't solve it, then you must give me thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing.' 'All right,' they agreed, 'let's hear your riddle.'
14 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. 15 On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, 'Entice your husband to explain the riddle for us, or we will burn down your father's house with you in it. Did you invite us to this party just to make us poor?'
16 So Samson's wife came to him in tears and said, 'You don't love me; you hate me! You have given my people a riddle, but you haven't told me the answer.' 'I haven't even given the answer to my father or mother,' he replied. 'Why should I tell you?' 17 So she cried whenever she was with him and kept it up for the rest of the celebration. At last, on the seventh day he told her the answer because she was tormenting him with her nagging. Then she explained the riddle to the young men.
18 So before sunset of the seventh day, the men of the town came to Samson with their answer: 'What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?' Samson replied, 'If you hadn't plowed with my heifer, you wouldn't have solved my riddle!'
19 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. 20 So his wife was given in marriage to the man who had been Samson's best man at the wedding.
Christian Standard Bible

1 Samson went down to Timnah and saw a young Philistine woman there. 2 He went back and told his father and his mother, "I have seen a young Philistine woman in Timnah. Now get her for me as a wife."
3 But his father and mother said to him, "Can't you find a young woman among your relatives or among any of our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines for a wife? "But Samson told his father, "Get her for me. She's the right one for me." 4 Now his father and mother did not know this was from the Lord, who wanted the Philistines to provide an opportunity for a confrontation. At that time, the Philistines were ruling Israel.
5 Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother and came to the vineyards of Timnah. Suddenly a young lion came roaring at him, 6 the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on him, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. 7 Then he went and spoke to the woman, because she seemed right to Samson.
8 After some time, when he returned to marry her, he left the road to see the lion's carcass, and there was a swarm of bees with honey in the carcass. 9 He scooped some honey into his hands and ate it as he went along. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it. But he did not tell them that he had scooped the honey from the lion's carcass.
10 His father went to visit the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, as young men were accustomed to do. 11 When the Philistines saw him, they brought thirty men to accompany him.
12 "Let me tell you a riddle," Samson said to them. "If you can explain it to me during the seven days of the feast and figure it out, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.
13 But if you can't explain it to me, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.""Tell us your riddle," they replied. "Let's hear it."
14 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. 15 On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, "Persuade your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father's family to death. Did you invite us here to rob us? "
16 So Samson's wife came to him, weeping, and said, "You hate me and don't love me! You told my people the riddle, but haven't explained it to me.""Look," he said, "I haven't even explained it to my father or mother, so why should I explain it to you? "
17 She wept the whole seven days of the feast, and at last, on the seventh day, he explained it to her, because she had nagged him so much. Then she explained it to her people.
18 On the seventh day, before sunset, the men of the city said to him: What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?So he said to them: If you hadn't plowed with my young cow, you wouldn't know my riddle now!
19 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, 20 and his wife was given to one of the men who had accompanied him.

What does Judges chapter 14 mean?

Samson was set apart, even before birth, as a Nazirite (Judges 13:5, 24–25). His unique mission as a judge (Judges 2:16–19) is not to achieve Israel's redemption, but to "begin to save Israel from the hand from the Philistines." The nature of Samson's early life might look like one deeply connected to God. Immediately, however, that image falls apart. The Samson we meet in his adulthood does not seem interested in this mission. Nor does he seem committed to maintaining a godly character.

Samson travels the short distance from his parents' home in Zorah to the Philistine city of Timnah. There he sees and likes a young Philistine woman. He returns home and demands that his parents get her for his wife. They object and ask him if there isn't any Israelite woman he could marry. Philistines were not among the explicitly-forbidden nations, from which Israel was never to take wives (Deuteronomy 7:1–4). Yet they are just as idolatrous, opposed to God, and currently oppressing the nation. Samson's parents seem to object more out of distaste than piety. Samson blatantly rejects any reasons other than personal preference: this is what he wants, so this is what he intends to get (Judges 14:1–3).

What follows is a statement which is key to understanding the entire story of Samson. Despite being irresponsible, impulsive, violent, and blatantly sinful, God empowers Samson in his conflicts with the Philistines (Judges 14:19; 15:14–15; 16:3). Here, God allows this designated man to insist on marriage into a pagan culture. That paradox is resolved by noting that God plans to use Samson as an instigator. The Lord's intent is for Samson to disrupt the Philistine's sense of control over Israel. Samson's poor choices will result in his own misery, but God will also arrange events so that they help Israel, in the end (Judges 14:4).

On his way to Timnah to make wedding arrangements, Samson is attacked by a young lion. The Lord's Spirit supernaturally empowers him. He tears the lion apart with his bare hands. He tells no one—perhaps because this is the first time such a thing has happened. He proceeds to Timnah to meet the young woman and talk with her. This affirms his infatuation; he resolves that marrying her is the right thing to do (Judges 14:5–7).

Once the wedding arrangements are made, Samson once again returns to Timnah for the wedding feast. Scripture does not say how much time passed between visits, but it might have been many weeks. On the way, he stops to see the lion's carcass. He discovers something extremely unusual: a beehive inside the remains. Whether this means a hive in the lion's skull, or the dried remnants of skin and bone, no details are given. Samson scoops out honey and eats some—a ritually unclean act. He even shares the honey with his parents without telling them what happened (Judges 14:8–9).

Samson hosts a traditional week-long wedding feast. This may have involved copious amounts of alcohol. Thirty Philistine companions are assigned to him for the week. He challenges them to a bet. If they can solve his "riddle" within the seven-day celebration, he will give each of them a set of clothes. If they cannot solve it, each of them will give him a set of clothes. True riddles can be solved by clever thinking; the guests might have thought Samson was adding entertainment to a gift. They agree, not realizing that what Samson has in mind is a blatantly unfair trick (Judges 14:10–13).

Samson's challenge is not a true "riddle," but a poetic reference to a secret only he knows: the lion carcass with a beehive in it. After three days, the Philistine men seem to suspect this is not a fair challenge. Frustrated, they threaten to kill Samson's bride and her family if she does not get the answer. Likely terrified, she manipulates Samson to tell her the secret. When he finally gives in, she tells her fellow townspeople, and they declare the answer to the puzzle on the last day of the feast. Samson immediately realizes that he's been betrayed, reacting with a crude insult of his bride (Judges 14:14–18).

In a rage, Samson heads to the fortified Philistine city of Ashkelon, about a full day's travel away. Once again empowered by the Spirit to spark rebellion against the Philistines (Judges 14:4), he attacks thirty men there. He takes their clothes and returns to Timnah to pay off his wager. He then leaves, without the bride, and likely without even consummating the marriage. Thinking that Samson will not return, his bride's father gives her to one of the groomsmen (Judges 14:19–20).

Samson will return after some time, while assuming he still has marital rights with the Philistine woman. When he realizes she's been given to someone else, his rage will again boil over (Judges 15:1–3).