Judges 14

CHAPTER XIV

Samson marries a wife of the Philistines, 1-4.

Slays a young lion at Timnath, in the carcass of which he

afterwards finds a swarm of bees, 5-9.

He makes a feast; they appoint him thirty companions, to whom

he puts forth a riddle, which they cannot expound, 10-14.

They entice his wife to get the interpretation from him; she

succeeds, informs them, and they tell the explanation, 15-18.

He is incensed, and slays thirty of the Philistines, 19, 20.

NOTES ON CHAP. XIV

Verse 1. Went down to Timnath] A frontier town of the

Philistines, at the beginning of the lands belonging to the tribe

of Judah, Jos 15:57; but afterwards given up to Dan, Jos 19:43.

David took this place from the Philistines, but they again got

possession of it in the reign of Ahaz, 2Ch 28:18.

Verse 3. Is there never a woman] To marry with any that did not

belong to the Israelitish stock, was contrary to the law,

Ex 34:16; De 7:3. But this marriage of Samson was said to be

of the Lord, Jud 14:4; that is, God

permitted it, (for in no other sense can we understand the

phrase,) that it might be a means of bringing about the

deliverance of Israel.

For she pleaseth me well.] ki hi yisherah

beeynai, for she is right in my eyes. This is what is supposed to

be a sufficient reason to justify either man or woman in their

random choice of wife or husband; the maxim is the same with that

of the poet:-

"Thou hast no fault, or I no fault can spy;

Thou art all beauty or all blindness I."

When the will has sufficient power, its determinations are its

own rule of right. That will should be pure and well directed that

says, It shall be so, because I WILL it should be so. A reason of

this kind is similar to that which I have seen in a motto on the

brass ordnance of Lewis XIV., ULTIMA RATIO REGUM, the sum of regal

logic; i.e., "My will, backed by these instruments of destruction,

shall be the rule of right and wrong." The rules and principles of

this logic are now suspected; and it is not likely to be generally

received again without violent demonstration.

Verse 5. A young lion roared against him.] Came fiercely out

upon him, ready to tear him to pieces.

Verse 6. He rent him as he would have rent a kid] Now it is not

intimated that he did this by his own natural strength, but by the

Spirit of the Lord coming mightily upon him: so that his strength

does not appear to be his own, nor to be at his command; his might

was, by the will of God, attached to his hair and to his Nazarate.

Verse 7. And talked with the woman] That is, concerning

marriage; thus forming the espousals.

Verse 8. After a time] Probably about one year; as this was the

time that generally elapsed between espousing and wedding.

A swarm of bees and honey in the carcass] By length of time the

flesh had been entirely consumed off the bones, and a swarm of

bees had formed their combs within the region of the thorax, nor

was it an improper place; nor was the thing unfrequent, if we may

credit ancient writers; the carcasses of slain beasts becoming a

receptacle for wild bees. The beautiful espisode in the 4th

Georgic of Virgil, beginning at ver. 317, proves that the ancients

believed that bees might be engendered in the body of a dead ox:-

Pastor Aristaeus fugiens Peneia Tempe___

Quatuor eximios praestanti corpore tauros

Ducit, et intacta totidem cervice juvencas.

Post, ubi nona suos Aurora induxerat ortus.

Inferias Orphei mittit, lucumque revisit.

Hic ver o subitum, ac dietu mirabile monstrum

Adspiciunt, liquefacta bourn per viscera toto

Stridere apes utero, et ruptis effervere costis;

Immensasque trahi nubes, jamque arbore summa

Confluere, et lentis uvam demittere ramis.

VIRG. Geor. lib. iv., ver. 550.

"Sad Aristaeus from fair Tempe fled,

His bees with famine or diseases dead___

Four altars raises, from his herd he culls

For slaughter four the fairest of his bulls;

Four heifers from his female store he took,

All fair, and all unknowing of the yoke.

Nine mornings thence, with sacrifice and prayers,

The powers atoned, he to the grove repairs.

Behold a prodigy! for, from within

The broken bowels, and the bloated skin,

A buzzing noise of bees his ears alarms,

Straight issuing through the sides assembling swarms!

Dark as a cloud, they make a wheeling flight,

Then on a neighbouring tree descending light,

Like a large cluster of black grapes they show,

And make a large dependance from the bough.

DRYDEN.

Verse 10. Samson made there a feast] The marriage feast, when he

went to marry his espoused wife.

Verse 11. They brought thirty companions] These are called in

Scripture children of the bride-chamber, and friends of the

bridegroom. See the whole of this subject particularly illustrated

in the observations at the end, Clarke "Joh 3:25".

Verse 12. I will now put forth a riddle] Probably this was one

part of the amusements at a marriage-feast; each in his turn

proposing a riddle, to be solved by any of the rest on a

particular forfeit; the proposer forfeiting, if solved, the same

which the company must forfeit if they could not solve it.

Thirty sheets] I have no doubt that the Arab hayk, or hake, is

here meant; a dress in which the natives of the East wrap

themselves, as a Scottish Highlander does in his plaid. In Asiatic

countries the dress scarcely ever changes; being nearly the same

now that it was 2000 years ago. Mr. Jackson, in his account of the

Empire of Morocco, thus mentions the Moorish dress: "It

resembles," says he, "that of the ancient patriarchs, as

represented in paintings; (but the paintings are taken from

Asiatic models;) that of the men consists of a red cap and turban,

a (kumja) shirt, which hangs outside of the drawers, and comes

down below the knee; a (caftan) coat, which buttons close before,

and down to the bottom, with large open sleeves; over which, when

they go out of doors, they throw carelessly, and sometimes

elegantly, a hayk, or garment of white cotton, silk, or wool, five

or six yards long, and five feet wide. The Arabs often dispense

with the caftan, and even with the shirt, wearing nothing but the

hayk." When an Arab does not choose to wrap himself in the hayk,

he throws it over his left shoulder, where it hangs till the

weather, &c., obliges him to wrap it round him. The hayk is either

mean or elegant, according to the quality of the cloth, and of the

person who wears it. I have myself seen the natives of Fez, with

hayks, or hykes, both elegant and costly. By the changes of

garments, it is very likely that the kumja and caftan are meant,

or at least the caftan; but most likely both: for the Hebrew has

chaliphoth begadim, changes or succession of

garments. Samson, therefore, engaged to give or receive thirty

hayks, and thirty kumjas and caftans, on the issue of the

interpretation or non-interpretation of his riddle: these were

complete suits.

Verse 14. And he said unto there] Thus he states or proposes his

riddle:-

Out of the eater came forth meat,

And out of the strong came forth sweetness.

Instead of strong, the Syriac and Arabic have bitter. I

have no doubt that the riddle was in poetry; and perhaps the two

hemistichs above preserve its order. This was scarcely a fair

riddle; for unless the fact to which it refers were known, there

is no rule of interpretation by which it could be found out. We

learn from the Scholiast, on Aristophanes, Vesp. v. 20, that It

was a custom among the ancient Greeks to propose at their

festivals, what were called γριφοι, griphoi, riddles, enigmas, or

very obscure sayings, both curious and difficult, and to give a

recompense to those who found them out, which generally consisted

in either a festive crown, or a goblet full of wine. Those who

failed to solve them were condemned to drink a large portion of

fresh water, or of wine mingled with a sea-water, which they were

compelled to take down at one draught, without drawing their

breath, their hands being tied behind their backs. Sometimes they

gave the crown to the deity in honour of whom the festival was

made: and if none could solve the riddle, the reward was given to

him who proposed it.

Of these enigmas proposed at entertainments &c., we have

numerous examples in ATHENAEUS, Deipnosoph, lib. x., c. 15, p.

142, edit. Argentorat., and some of them very like this of Samson

for example:-

διδουςτιςουκεδωκενουδεχωνεχει

"Who gives, and does not give?

Who has not, and yet has?"

This may be spoken of an enigma and its proposer: he gives it,

but he does not give the sense; the other has it, but has not the

meaning.

εστιφυσιςθηλειαβρεφησοζουσυποκολποις

αυτηςταυταδαφωναβοηνιστησιγεγωνον

καιδιαποντιονοιδμακαιηπειρουδιαπασης

οιςεθελειθνητωντοιςδουπαρεουσιςακουειν

εξεστικωφηνδακοηςαισθησινεχουσιν

"There is a feminine Nature, fostering her children in her bosom;

who, although they are dumb, send forth a distinct voice over

every nation of the earth, and every sea, to whom soever they

please. It is possible for those who are absent to hear, and for

those who are deaf to hear also."

The relator brings in Sappho interpreting it thus:-

θηλειαμενουνεστιφυσιςεπιστολη

βρεφηδεναυτηπεριφερειταγραμματα

αφωναδονταταυτατοιςπορρωλαλει

οιςβουλεθετεροςδαντυχητιςπλησιον

εστωςαναγινωσκοντοςουκακουσεται

"The Nature, which is feminine, signifies an epistle; and her

children whom she bears are alphabetical characters: and these,

being dumb, speak and give counsel to any, even at a distance;

though he who stands nigh to him who is silently reading, hears no

voice."

Here is another, attributed by the same author to Theodectes:-

τηςφυσεωςοσαγαιαφερειτροφοςουδοσαποντος

ουτεβροτοισινεχειγυιωναυξησινομοιαν

αλλενμενγενεσειπρωτοσπορωεστιμεγιστη

ενδεμεσαιςακμαιςμικραγηραδεπροςαυτω

μορφηκαιμεγεθειμειζωνπαλινεστιναπαντων

"Neither does the nourishing earth so bear by nature, nor the

sea, nor is there among mortals a like increase of parts; for at

the period of its birth it is greatest, but in its middle age it

is small, and in its old age it is again greater in form and size

than all."

This is spoken of a shadow. At the rising of the sun in the

east, the shadow of an object is projected illimitably across the

earth towards the west; at noon, if the sun be vertical to that

place, the shadow of the object is entirely lost; at sunsetting,

the shadow is projected towards the east, as it was in the morning

towards the west.

Here is another, from the same author:-

εισικασιγνηταιδιτταιωνημιατικτει

τηνεπεραναυτηδετεκουσυποτησδετεκνουται

"There are two sisters, the one of whom begets the other, and she

who is begotten produces her who begat her."

Day and night solve this enigma.

The following I have taken from Theognis:-

ηδηγαρμεκεκληκεθαλαττιοςοικαδενεκρος

τεθνηκωςζωωφθεγγομενοςστοματι

THEOGN. Gnom., in fine.

"A dead seaman calls me to his house;

And, although he be dead, he speaks with a living mouth."

This dead seaman is a conch or large shellfish, of which the poet

was about to eat. The mouth by which it spoke signifies its being

used as a horn; as it is well known to produce, when opened at the

spiral end and blown, a very powerful sound.

Verse 17. And she wept before him] Not through any love to him,

for it appears she had none, but to oblige her paramours; and of

this he soon had ample proof.

Verse 18. If ye had not ploughed with my heifer] If my wife had

not been unfaithful to my bed, she would not have been unfaithful

to my secret; and, you being her paramours, your interest was more

precious to her than that of her husband. She has betrayed me

through her attachment to you.

Calmet has properly remarked, in quoting the Septuagint, that to

plough with one's heifer, or to plough in another man's ground,

are delicate turns of expression used both by the Greeks and

Latins, as well as the Hebrews, to point out a wife's

infidelities.

Thus Theognis, Gnom. v. 581:-

εχθαιρωδεγυναικαπεριδρομονανδρατεμαργον

οςτηναλλονριηνβουλεταρουραναρουν

"I detest a woman who gads about, and also a libidinous man, who

wishes to plough in another man's ground."

Fundum alienium arat, incultum familiarem deserit.

PLAUTUS.

"He ploughs another's farm, and leaves his own heritage

uncultivated."

Milo domi non est, perepre at Milone profecto

Arva vacant, uxor non minus inde parit.

MARTIAL.

"Milo is not at home, and Milo being from home, his field lies

uncultivated; his wife, nevertheless, continues to breed, and

brings forth children."

There is the same metaphor in the following lines of Virgil:-

Hoc faciunt, nimo ne luxu obtusior usus,

Sit genitali arvo, sulcosque oblimet inertes.

Geor. l. iii., v. 135.

In this sense Samson's words were understood by the Septuagint,

by the Syriac, and by Rabbi Levi. See BOCHART, Hierozoic. p. 1.,

lib. ii., cap. 41., col. 406.

The metaphor was a common one, and we need seek for no other

interpretation of the words of Samson.

Verse 19. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him] "The spirit of

fortitude from before the Lord."-Targum. He was inspired with

unusual courage, and he felt strength proportioned to his wishes.

He-slew thirty men-and took their spoils] He took their hayks,

their kumjas, and caftans, and gave them to the thirty persons

who, by unfair means, had solved his riddle; thus they had what

our version calls thirty sheets, and thirty changes of raiment.

See Clarke on Jud 14:12.

Verse 20. But Samson's wife was given to his companion] This was

the same kind of person who is called the friend of the

bridegroom, Joh 3:29. And it is very likely that she loved this

person better than she loved her husband, and went to him as soon

as Samson had gone to his father's house at Zorah. She might,

however, have thought herself abandoned by him, and therefore took

another; this appears to have been the persuasion of her father,

Jud 15:2. But her betraying his secret and his interests to his

enemies was a full proof he was not very dear to her; though, to

persuade him to the contrary, she shed many crocodile tears; see

Jud 14:16. He could not keep his own secret, and he was fool

enough to suppose that another would be more faithful to him than

he was to himself. Multitudes complain of the treachery of friends

betraying their secrets, &c., never considering that they

themselves have been their first betrayers, in confiding to others

what they pretend to wish should be a secret to the whole world!

If a man never let his secret out of his own bosom, it is

impossible that he should ever be betrayed.

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