Last time in Chapter 13, we looked at Samson and the circumstances of his unusual birth. He was to be a Nazarite from birth. Usually, someone took a Nazarite vow for a specific amount of time and did so voluntarily, whereas Samson had no say in the matter.
It is helpful to have a look at what being a Nazarite meant:
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD:
3 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.
4 All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.
5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
6 All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.
7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head.
8 All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD.
9 And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it.
~ Nu 6:1-9
A Nazarite was to drink nothing at all that came from the grape vine, not “even to the husk”. A Nazarite wasn’t to shave his head during the time of his vow. A Nazarite wasn’t to be near a dead body, not even for his immediate family.
In spite of these rules, it seemed that Samson sometimes didn’t have a high regard for the sanctity of being a Nazarite. Having said that, there are times when people claim Samson was sinning when there is no evidence of this.
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.
Samson’s parents were concerned about Samson taking a wife from “the uncircumcised Philistines”. Some actually point to this as an example of “sin” because Samson married outside of Israel. So, do people who say this have a point?
God was very specific about who Israel was not allowed to intermarry with. Specifically, they were not allowed to intermarry with those who were Canaanites that lived in the land when Israel conquered it.
1 When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
2 And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
~ Dt 7:1-3
The Philistines are not mentioned in this list of peoples with whom Israel was not to intermarry. The Girgashites, the Amorites, the Hivites and the Jebusites were all descended from Canaan (Ge 10:15-18). Heth was also a son of Canaan, and he was the father of the Hittites. The Perizzites were of unknown origin, but the term may refer to several groups that lived amongst the Canaanites.
However, the Philistines did not descend from Canaan. Rather, they descended from Mizraim, son of Cush, the latter whom was another son of Ham.
7 And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtechah: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan.
8 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.
10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
11 Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah,
12 And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city.
13 And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim,
14 And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (out of whom came Philistim,) and Caphtorim.
Cush is sometimes synonymous with darker peoples in the region, and Ham was probably the father of the darker races. This is important to consider, as Gen 10 is sometimes used to “prove” interracial marriage was forbidden by God. However, we need to note that Mizraim was also descended from Cush.
So, did Joseph sin by marrying an Egyptian (Ge 41:45)? If so, why were his sons so greatly blessed by Jacob such that he took them for his own sons (Ge 48)?
Easton’s Bible Dictionary says of Mizraim:
The dual form of matzor, meaning a “mound” or “fortress,” the name of a people descended from Ham (Genesis 10:6,13; 1 Chronicles 1:8,11). It was the name generally given by the Hebrews to the land of Egypt (q.v.), and may denote the two Egypts, the Upper and the Lower. The modern Arabic name for Egypt is Muzr.
According to the ATS Bible Dictionary, Egypt is still called “Misr in Arabic.”
In short, there is no evidence that Samson sinned by marrying a Philistine.
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.
~ Jdg 14:4
The question in the above verse is who is “he” that sought an occasion? God or Samson? Logically, it would most likely mean God, both from the context of Samson’s birth and the sentence. However, there is no reason to disbelieve that Samson also didn’t desire a fight with the Philistines. After all, it was to this purpose he was born.
Also, it doesn’t become clear until later, but Samson was already a judge at this time. This explains how he was able to override his parents’ desires. As a judge, he might have been expected to marry, although most would have not expected him to marry from their oppressors.
God’s Spirit was already working with him, and on his way to Timnath, God’s Spirit comes upon him “mightily” (v 6) when a lion attacks 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.
~ Jdg 14:6
If you’ve never butchered or dressed an animal, perhaps you haven’t given this verse much thought. He had nothing in his hand. Yet, he rent it like a kid goat? I don’t know about you, but I would want at least a very large and sharp knife to dress a goat. I cannot imagine trying to kill one with my bare hands.
7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.
~ Jdg 14:7
This is the second time we are told she “pleased” Samson. It is the same word as in v 3. Bullinger notes that it means, “is right in mine eyes”. So, while it may not have been a sin to go after a Philistine woman, it is interesting to ponder just how much God was using a weakness of Samson, which he himself may not have yet known he had.
Some time passes, and Samson returns to Timnath for the marriage. He stops by where he killed the lion, and there are honey bees that have taken over the carcass and made some honey. He will use this occasion to make a riddle afterwards. He gives the honey to his mother and father, but he doesn’t tell them where it comes from.
We have already noted that Nazarites weren’t supposed to come near a dead body, let alone the carcass of an unclean animal. And, you certainly weren’t supposed to eat something that came from such an unclean thing!
Now, we need to remember that even though Samson was most likely a judge already, Israel was still being oppressed. If you will recall the oppression of Israel prior to Gideon’s leadership, they were so poor that they ate barley bread rather than the more desired wheat (which was stolen by their oppressors). Even in Saul’s day, it was unusual to have iron weapons. So, while Samson had authority, he didn’t necessarily have any money.
Samson puts on a feast, and his mother and father bring thirty companions with them. It becomes evident later that these thirty were not Hebrew but Philistines. It also becomes fairly evident that Samson did not have the money to pay for the party or to give a dowry.
The latter becomes more obvious in the beginning of the next chapter, as it seems Samson considered her a “free wife”. That is, she still lived in her father’s home rather than in his own, but he would bring provisions as needed. Essentially, she would have been a concubine, living on her own even though legally married. Or at least that is what Samson seemed to think.
Back to the marriage party, though, Samson comes up with a scheme to pay for the party. He gives them a riddle to solve, thinking they will never solve it. Easy money, right?
Well, they accept the challenge, but they underestimated how difficult it would be to solve. As for Samson, he underestimated how much they would pressure his wife.
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.
Notice “she wept before him the seven days”, although earlier it says the Philistines came to her “on the seventh day”. Essentially, they were pressuring her the entire time, but on the seventh day was when they threatened her and her father with burning. She essentially wears him down.
15 An endless dripping on a rainy day
and a nagging wife are alike.
Men seem to be susceptible to this sort of giving in attitude when confronted by an emotional woman, but particularly with whom they have an attachment. However, Samson seems to have a specific weakness in this area, as this will not be the last time it will be his undoing.
What guarantee does she have that they wouldn’t burn her and her father with fire regardless? She shows no faith in her future husband, Samson, who is a deliverer. Rahab put her faith in the God of Israel and out of all of Jericho was spared. Samson’s fiancée shows no such faith.
So, Samson caves and tells her. She in turn tells the Philistines.
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.
So, really, what is sweeter than honey (Ps 19:9-10)? God’s judgments. What is stronger than a lion? Samson, a type for Christ, is stronger than a lion (cf 1Sa 17:34; Ps 91:13).
At any rate, “if ye had not plowed with my heifer” wasn’t exactly the sort of saying they put into illustrated children’s Bibles. I think any native English-speaking person can read between the lines here.
We again see the Spirit of God fall upon Samson, but this time he goes and kills thirty Philistines in Ashkelon for their apparel and gives it to the men of Timnath. Then, Samson returns home.
Here, the woman’s father gives Samson’s wife to another. Perhaps he thought it was over between them. Perhaps he thought Samson hated her now. We aren’t told. It isn’t clear that it was done from mischief or revenge, and perhaps it was a misunderstanding. Whichever the case, Samson apparently doesn’t realize this until he returns, and this leads to his next encounter with the Philistines.
You can continue on to Chapter 15 here.