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Samson’s Unconsummated Marriage

14 Samson went down to Timnah, where a Philistine girl caught his eye.[a] When he got home,[b] he told his father and mother, “A Philistine girl in Timnah has caught my eye.[c] Now get her for my wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Certainly you can find a wife among your relatives or among all our[d] people! You should not have to go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines.”[e] But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me,[f] because she is the right one for me.”[g] Now his father and mother did not realize this was the Lord’s doing,[h] because he was looking for an opportunity to stir up trouble with the Philistines[i] (for at that time the Philistines were ruling Israel).

Samson[j] went down to Timnah. When he approached[k] the vineyards of Timnah, he saw a roaring young lion attacking him.[l] The Lord’s Spirit empowered[m] him, and he tore the lion[n] in two with his bare hands[o] as easily as one would tear a young goat. But he did not tell his father or mother what he had done.

Samson continued on down to Timnah[p] and spoke to the girl. In his opinion, she was just the right one.[q] Some time later, when he went back to marry[r] her, he turned aside to see the lion’s remains. He saw[s] a swarm of bees in the lion’s carcass, as well as some honey. He scooped it up with his hands and ate it as he walked along. When he returned[t] to his father and mother, he offered them some and they ate it. But he did not tell them he had scooped the honey out of the lion’s carcass.[u]

10 Then Samson’s father accompanied him to Timnah for the marriage.[v] Samson hosted a party[w] there, for this was customary for bridegrooms[x] to do. 11 When the Philistines saw he had no attendants, they gave him thirty groomsmen who kept him company.[y] 12 Samson said to them, “I will give you a riddle. If you really can solve it during the seven days the party lasts,[z] I will give you thirty linen robes and thirty sets[aa] of clothes. 13 But if you cannot solve it,[ab] you will give me thirty linen robes and thirty sets of clothes.” They said to him, “Let us hear your riddle.”[ac] 14 He said to them,

“Out of the one who eats came something to eat;
out of the strong one came something sweet.”

They could not solve the riddle for three days.

15 On the fourth[ad] day they said to Samson’s bride, “Trick your husband into giving the solution to the riddle.[ae] If you refuse,[af] we will burn up[ag] you and your father’s family.[ah] Did you invite us here[ai] to make us poor?”[aj] 16 So Samson’s bride cried on his shoulder[ak] and said, “You must[al] hate me; you do not love me! You told the young men[am] a riddle, but you have not told me the solution.” He said to her, “Look, I have not even told my father or mother. Do you really expect me to tell you?”[an] 17 She cried on his shoulder[ao] until the party was almost over.[ap] Finally, on the seventh day, he told her because she had nagged him so much.[aq] Then she told the young men the solution to the riddle.[ar] 18 On the seventh day, before the sun set, the men of the city said to him,

“What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?”

He said to them,

“If you had not plowed with my heifer,[as]
you would not have solved my riddle!”

19 The Lord’s Spirit empowered him. He went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty men. He took their clothes[at] and gave them[au] to the men who had solved the riddle. He was furious as he went back home.[av] 20 Samson’s bride was then given to his best man.[aw]


  1. Judges 14:1 tn Heb “and he saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines.”
  2. Judges 14:2 tn Heb “and he went up.”
  3. Judges 14:2 tn Heb “I have seen a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines.”
  4. Judges 14:3 tn Heb “my.” The singular may seem strange, since the introduction to the quotation attributes the words to his father and mother. But Samson’s father apparently speaks for both himself and his wife. However, the Lucianic recension of the LXX and the Syriac Peshitta have a second person pronoun here (“you”), and this may represent the original reading.
  5. Judges 14:3 tn Heb “Is there not among the daughters of your brothers or among all my people a woman that you have to go to get a wife among the uncircumcised Philistines?”
  6. Judges 14:3 tn “Her” is first in the Hebrew word order for emphasis. Samson wanted this Philistine girl, no one else. See C. F. Burney, Judges, 357.
  7. Judges 14:3 tn Heb “because she is right in my eyes.”
  8. Judges 14:4 tn Heb “this was from the LORD.”
  9. Judges 14:4 tn Heb “for an opportunity he was seeking from the Philistines.”
  10. Judges 14:5 tc The Hebrew includes “and his father and his mother.” See the next note.
  11. Judges 14:5 tc The MT reads “they approached,” while the LXX reads “he approached.” The previous sentence suggests that his parents were there, reading literally, “he went down, Samson and his father and his mother, to Timnah.” But the story line suggests that his parents were not there, as v. 6b reports that Samson did not tell them about the incident. The following sentence begins with וְהִנֵּה (vehinneh, “and behold”). This particle is used to focus or shift attention, typically pointing something out or introducing it into the scene (here the lion). But the scene that וְהִנֵּה comments on is set by the previous verb. If the verb “approached” were plural, then Samson’s parents should be with him when the lion attacks, something that contradicts the story as a whole. This indicates the verb should be singular. Since the previous verb, “went down,” is also singular (so also v. 7a), the phrase “and his father and his mother” may have been accidentally copied into the text under the influence of v. 4a. Later the verb was changed to “they approached” to account for the addition, but not until after the LXX was translated. Or one might suppose that his parents had gone on this trip down to Timnah (retaining “and his father and his mother”), but he had separated from them before approaching to the vineyards.
  12. Judges 14:5 tn Heb “and look, a young lion of the lions was roaring to meet him.”
  13. Judges 14:6 tn Heb “rushed on.”
  14. Judges 14:6 tn Heb “him” or “it”; the referent (the lion) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  15. Judges 14:6 tn Heb “and there was nothing in his hand.”
  16. Judges 14:7 tn Heb “He went down.”
  17. Judges 14:7 tn Heb “She was the right one in the eyes of Samson.”
  18. Judges 14:8 tn Heb “get.”
  19. Judges 14:8 tn Heb “and look, a swarm of bees….”
  20. Judges 14:9 tn Heb “went.” Samson apparently went home to his parents before going to Timnah for the marriage. Seeing and tasting the honey appears to encourage Manoah to go with his son to Timnah. Perhaps both Samson and his father viewed the honey as a good omen of future blessing. Possibly Samson considered it a symbol of sexual pleasure or an aphrodisiac. Note the use of honey imagery in Song 4:11 and 5:1.
  21. Judges 14:9 sn Touching the carcass of a dead animal undoubtedly violated Samson’s Nazirite status. See Num 6:6.
  22. Judges 14:10 tn Heb “And his father went down to the woman.”
  23. Judges 14:10 tn Or “[wedding] feast.”
  24. Judges 14:10 tn Heb “the young men.”
  25. Judges 14:11 tn Heb “When they saw him, they gave him thirty companions and they were with him.” Instead of כִּרְאוֹתָם (kirʾotam, “when they saw”) some ancient witnesses (e.g., some mss of the LXX) assume the reading בְּיִרְאָתָם (beyirʾatam, “because they feared”).
  26. Judges 14:12 tn Heb “If you really can tell it to me [during] the seven days of the feast and you find [its answer].”
  27. Judges 14:12 tn Heb “changes.”
  28. Judges 14:13 tn Heb “you are unable to tell me.”
  29. Judges 14:13 tn Heb “Give your riddle so we can hear it.”
  30. Judges 14:15 tc The MT reads “seventh.” In Hebrew there is a difference of only one letter between the words רְבִיעִי (reviʿi, “fourth”) and שְׁבִיעִי (sheviʿi, “seventh”). Some ancient textual witnesses (e.g., LXX and the Syriac Peshitta) read “fourth,” here, which certainly harmonizes better with the preceding verse (cf. “for three days”) and with v. 17. Another option is to change שְׁלֹשֶׁת (sheloshet, “three”) at the end of v. 14 to שֵׁשֶׁת (sheshet, “six”), but the resulting scenario does not account as well for v. 17, which implies the bride had been hounding Samson for more than one day.
  31. Judges 14:15 tn Heb “Entice your husband so that he might tell us the riddle.”
  32. Judges 14:15 tn Heb “lest.”
  33. Judges 14:15 tn The Hebrew text expands the statement: “burn up with fire.” The words “with fire” are redundant in English and have been omitted from the translation for stylistic reasons.
  34. Judges 14:15 tn Heb “house.”
  35. Judges 14:15 tc The translation assumes the Hebrew form הֲלֹם (halom, “here,” attested in five Hebrew mss and supported by the Targum), instead of the inexplicable הֲלֹא (haloʾ), a negative particle with interrogative particle prefixed to it.
  36. Judges 14:15 tn For discussion of this difficult form, see C. F. Burney, Judges, 364.
  37. Judges 14:16 tn Heb “on him.”
  38. Judges 14:16 tn Heb “only”; or “simply.”
  39. Judges 14:16 tn Heb “the sons of my people.”
  40. Judges 14:16 tn Heb “Should I tell you?”
  41. Judges 14:17 tn Heb “on him.”
  42. Judges 14:17 tn Heb “the seven days [during] which they held the party.” This does not mean she cried for the entire seven days; v. 15 indicates otherwise. She cried for the remainder of the seven day period, beginning on the fourth day.
  43. Judges 14:17 tn Heb “because she forced him.”
  44. Judges 14:17 tn Heb “she told the riddle to the sons of her people.”
  45. Judges 14:18 sn Plowed with my heifer. This statement emphasizes that the Philistines had utilized a source of information which should have been off-limits to them. Heifers were used in plowing (Hos 10:11), but one typically used one’s own farm animals, not another man’s.
  46. Judges 14:19 tn Heb “equipment”; or “gear.”
  47. Judges 14:19 tn Heb “changes [of clothes].”
  48. Judges 14:19 tn Heb “he went up to his father’s house.”
  49. Judges 14:20 tn Heb “to his companion who had been his attendant.”

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