King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Judges 14

Samson desires a wife of the Philistines. (1-4) Samson kills a lion. (5-9) Samson’s riddle. (10-20)

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Samson desires a wife of the Philistines

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.

Samson kills a lion

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.

Samson’s riddle

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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Thamnatha, in the confines of the tribes of Juda and Gad, and of the Philistines, who often took it from the latter. It is called Thamna, Gen. xxxviii. 12, (Bonfrere) and lies near Lidda. Euseb.

Ver. 3. Eyes. He probably informed his parents (H.) that he was inspired by the Lord, v. 4. W. — The Jews say that he had first converted this woman; and interpreters generally excuse his conduct. But S. Ambrose thinks that he forfeited God’s grace; (ep. 19) and Theodoret also supposes that he transgressed the law, (Ex. xxxiv. 12.) and God only permitted him to fall in love with women, without approving his conduct, q. 21. The Scripture often says, that he does and wills what he only permits. Ex. iv. 21. Jos. xi. 20. C. — If the conversion of this woman were well attested, there would be no difficulty about his marrying her, as Salmon did Rahab. S. Mat. i. 5. We have only conjecture that the women whom these and other holy personages espoused, embraced the true faith. But these may suffice in a matter of this nature. We cannot condemn Samson on this occasion, without involving his parents in the same censure, as they were charged to keep him from any contamination. S. Ambrose justly observes that a woman was the occasion of his fall, but he might allude to Dalilia. C. xvi. 4. It seems hard to pass sentence on this judge of Israel, on his first appearance, without the most cogent reasons. See Lyran, A. Lapide, &c. H. — Heb. “She is right in my eyes.” His parents were at length convinced that he was directed by God. T.

Ver. 4. He sought. This may be understood either of the Lord, or rather of Samson. C. — Sept. “because he himself sought to retaliate upon the Philistines.” Heb. “that it was of the Lord that, or because he sought an occasion to take,” &c. H.

Ver. 5. Young lion, not quite so strong as an old one, but in its vigour. Rabbins. C. — Met him. Heb. “roared against him.” H. — His parents were at some distance. M. — S. Aug. (in Ps. lxxxviii.) shews the application of this history to Christ’s establishing and adorning the church of the Gentiles with sweet and wholesome laws. D.

Ver. 6. Spirit, increasing his courage and strength. M. — This shews that the strength of Samson was miraculous, attached to the keeping of his hair, and the observance of the duties of the Nazarites. C. C. xvi. 19. — Mother. The modesty which he displays is more wonderful than the feat of valour. H. — Brave men are never boasters. M. — He kept what he had done secret, designing to propose a riddle. Salien.

Ver. 7. Spoke. Sept. “they spoke;” both Samson and his parents (M.) asked the young woman in marriage. Gen. xxiv. 57. Cant. viii. 8. C. — That had. Prot. “and she pleased Samson well,” as at first, v. 3. H.

Ver. 8. A honeycomb. There was a very remarkable providence in this particular of the history of Samson. From which also in the mystical sense we may learn what spiritual sweetness and nourishment our souls will acquire from slaying the lions of our passions and vices. Ch. — Samson waited some time before he went to celebrate his marriage. The Rabbins say a full year was the usual term after the espousals; (Est. ii. 12,) and many have translated “after a year.” Chal. Arab. &c. During this space the flesh of the lion would be consumed, and bees might make honey in its skeleton. Herodotus (v. 114,) informs us that a swarm lodged in the skull of Onesylus, the tyrant of Cyprus, which had been suspended for a long time. They keep at a distance from carrion and every fetid smell. Some say that they were produced from the corrupted flesh of the lion, in the same manner as Virgil (iv.) describes the proceeding from a young ox beaten to death, and covered with boughs, in a place closely shut up. The bees might have laid their eggs upon these boughs, and the grass upon which an ox feeds, &c. But none of these precautions were taken with the lion which Samson tore in pieces. C.

Ver. 10. Father. Before the nuptial, the young man was not accustomed to go to the house of his future bride. Montanus. — Samson’s mother also accompanied him. Abul. — Do. Sept. “Samson made there a feast for seven days, because young men do so.” H.

Ver. 11. With him. Some imagine that these were placed to watch his motions. But he had surely invited them, v. 15. During the time that the nuptials were celebrated, these men (who are called the friends of the bridegroom, Mat. ix. 15,) are said to have been exempted from all public charges. Mont. C.

Ver. 12. Riddle. Such obscure and ingenious questions were much liked in the East. 3 K. x. 1. The Egyptians concealed the mysteries of their religion, and Pythagoras his choicest maxims under them. S. Clem. strom. 5. The Greeks proposed these griphous at feasts, determining some reward or punishment to those who succeeded or failed to explain them. Athenæus (x. 22,) relates that Simonides proposed this to his companions, after he had seen a blacksmith asleep, with a skin of win and a craw-fish beside him. “The father of the kid, which eateth all sorts of herbs, and the miserable fish knocked their heads against each other, and he who has received upon his eye-lids the son of the night, would not feed the minister, who kills the oxen of king Bacchus.” He could not get his ax mended. The ancients kept their wine in skins of kids, &c. whence he alludes to the bottle of wine, near the miserable craw-fish or lobster. — Shirts. Heb. sedinim, “sindons,” the garment which was worn next the skin. Mar. xiv. 51. It was used also by women, (Isai. iii. 23,) and is probably the same which is called a tunic. C. — Coats. Heb. “change of garments.” Some understand new and splendid garments. But Samson complied with his promise, by giving such as he found upon the 30 men, whom he slew, v. 19. H. — The custom of making presents of garments has long prevailed in the East. The Turkish emperor still receives and makes such presents to ambassadors. C. — Their long robes may easily be made to fit any person. H.

Ver. 14. Sweetness. The explication of the ancient riddles frequently depended on the knowledge of something that had taken place. Our riddle-makers follow other rules. In a spiritual sense, the Philistines might be considered as those strong ones who had domineered over Israel, but would shortly afford them the spoils of a glorious victory. Jesus rises triumphant from the grave, and, after he has been persecuted and torn in pieces, becomes the food of Christians. S. Aug. &c. C.

Ver. 15. Seventh day of the week, (Salien) which was the fourth of the feast; and the Syr. Arab. and some editions of the Sept. read, “the fourth.” The young men tried their skill for three days; when, despairing of success, they solicited Samson’s wife to draw the secret from him. She tried; but the seventh day being come, or at hand, (M.) the men began to threaten her, so that she became more importunate, and obtained her request. She had been weeping during a great part of the seven days, (v. 17. C.) or perhaps she had begun to tease him from the beginning. M. — Strip us. Sept. “to impoverish us.” Homer (Odys. Z.) insinuates, that it was customary for the bride to furnish her attendants with white linen garments. These companions of Samson fear that they are going to be losers, by the honour which they do him. C. — The compel his wife by threats to betray his secret, and still destroy her afterwards: thus persecutors frequently treat those who comply with they demands, and deny the faith. W.

Ver. 18. Down, at which time the day ended among the Jews. — Heifer. This proverbial expression means, that another’s property had been used against himself; (Delrio adag.162) or it may intimate, that improper liberties had been taken with Samson’s wife, (C.) as her so readily taking one of them for her husband, (v. 20) might lead us to suspect. H. — The Greek and Latin authors speak of a faithless wife in similar terms. Theognis. lviii. &c.

Ver. 19. Riddle. Samson must no longer be considered as a private man. He was authorized by the Spirit of the Lord, thus to punish the oppressors of Israel. C. — Though these 30 men had done him no injury in person, (H.) they had sinned against God, and deserved to die. Salien. — He slew them publicly in the city (M.) though others believe that he did it in the neighbouring country, as it does not appear that the people knew of their death. C.

Ver. 20. Companions, the chief friends of the bridegroom, (Jo. iii. 29,) the paranymph. S. Amb. C. — Prot. “But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.” It seems her father had supposed, from Samson’s keeping away for a long time, that he had abandoned her. H. — But, though he offered some sort of recompense, (M.) he justly fell a victim to the people’s rage, who abhorred adultery, (C.) and were irritated at the persecution which he had brought upon them. C. xv. 2. 6. H.