What does Judges 14:15 mean?
ESV: 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?”
NIV: 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?'
NASB: 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?'
CSB: 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? "
NLT: 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?'
KJV: 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?
When Samson proposed a wager to his thirty Philistine groomsmen, they probably thought it was an entertaining gesture of generosity. He'd offered them seven days to resolve a riddle. Most likely, they thought the answer would be something clever, possibly crude or bawdy, but not impossible. The bet might have seemed like a whimsical way of offering them gifts (Judges 14:11–13). What Samson offers, however, is not a "riddle" at all. It's just a fancy statement of a personal secret—something no one could ever know or learn (Judges 14:5–9, 14).
After three days, what probably started off in laughter turns vicious. Samson's challenge is simply a description of his own recent experience: eating honey out of the carcass of a lion. When days of guesses fall apart, the men may have begun to suspect they were being tricked. That may have led them to decide that if Samson's cheating, they will cheat.
The Philistine men approach the woman Samson has come to marry. This passage refers to her as his "wife;" that term is accurate, in the ancient context, though she is currently only "betrothed" to Samson. Only when the wedding feast is over, and the relationship is consummated, will they be fully wed. The angry guests threaten to murder her if she doesn't find out Samson's secret. The implication behind their threat—the reference to her "fathers' house"— is that they will kill both her and her entire family.
Their complaint is an exaggeration. Buying a single set of clothes wouldn't likely cost any of these guests all they have. Though a set of clothes could be expensive, it's more likely the men are angry at the idea that being guests at a wedding feast could cost them money. For an Israelite to insult them and trick them into losing a bet would be unthinkable. This verse also reveals that these men have now become enemies of the bride's family because of Samson.
Judges 14:10–20 explains the disastrous outcome of Samson's attempted marriage to a Philistine woman. As was the custom, a weeklong wedding feast is held. Thirty Philistines companions are assigned to Samson. He makes an exorbitant bet with them, making a riddle about his killing of the young lion (Judges 14:5–6). The men threaten the future bride, who pesters Samson until he tells her the secret, which she gives to the groomsmen. Enraged at her betrayal, and empowered by the Lord's Spirit, Samson assaults thirty Philistine men in another town (Judges 14:4). He takes their clothes as the payment for the wager. Because Samson angrily abandons the wedding feast, his bride is given to another man.
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.
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).
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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