What does Judges 14:1 mean?
ESV: Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines.
NIV: Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman.
NASB: Then Samson went down to Timnah, and he saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines.
CSB: Samson went down to Timnah and saw a young Philistine woman there.
NLT: One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye.
KJV: And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.
Verse Commentary:
The prior verses indicated that Samson experienced the stirring of the Lord's Spirit in him as a young man. No details are given about how long has passed, but in this passage, he is at least of marrying age. Given his consecration even before birth (Judges 13:4), one would hope his life would be marked by holiness. This is not what happens. Almost immediately we see that Samson is not especially committed to God's commands.

Timnah was located not far from Samson's hometown of Zorah. Modern-day Tel Batash in the Sorek Valley of Israel sits above the ancient town of Timnah. Archaeologists have uncovered the Philistine layer of the fortified town that existed during the time of Samson and Judges in the early Iron Age. Samson is said to have gone "down" to Timnah in the sense that it sat at a lower elevation than Zorah.

Timnah was originally given to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:43), though it was on or near the border of Judah's territory (Joshua 15:10). During this time, the Philistines controlled the entire area, and occupied Timnah. The text does not reveal why Samson went to Timnah in the first place. While there, a young Philistine woman catches his eye, and he is captivated by her and impulsively decides he must marry her. This is only the first example of what seems to be Samson's most profound weakness: women (Judges 16:1, 4).
Verse Context:
Judges 14:1–4 finds Samson deeply infatuated with a Philistine woman. Despite being set apart before he was even born and blessed by God at a young age (Judges 13:24–25), his life seems to have drifted away from careful devotion to God. Marrying those who worship other gods violates the Law of Moses (Exodus 34:15–16). His parents object, but Samson insists. None of them realize that God is beginning to use Samson to disrupt Philistine control over Israel.
Chapter Summary:
Samson (Judges 13:24–25) is now old enough to marry. He demands his parents arrange marriage to a Philistine woman with whom he is infatuated. When attacked by a lion, Samson rips the animal apart with his bare hands, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Later, he finds a beehive and honey in the lion's carcass. At the wedding feast, Samson proposes a wager based on this secret. His thirty Philistine companions become frustrated when they can't solve it. They threaten Samson's bride, and she manipulates him to get the secret. Samson attacks thirty Philistines in another town to pay the wager.
Chapter Context:
This chapter leaps forward from Samson's birth (Judges 13:5, 24–25) to somewhere in his adulthood. He demands a Philistine woman for a wife. At the wedding feast, he proposes a bet with thirty Philistine men. They learn the answer to his trick question by threatening to kill the bride. Samson attacks thirty Philistines in another town to secure the payment for the wager. His bride is given to one of the men who threatened her. Samson will return, expecting marital rights, only to be told she has been given to someone else (Judges 15:1–2).
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
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