Samson went down to Timnath.
(W. A. Scott, D. D.)
1. That the people of God are liable to imperfections. They are human, though partakers of grace.
2. That our lusts and passions are to be resisted. Scenes of temptation ought to be avoided, and our greatest earthly joys ought to be regarded by us as pregnant with temptation, and be carefully watched.
3. That care should be taken in forming friendships or alliances.
4. That a crooked policy does not eventually profit. Samson's wife burnt by those to whom she betrayed her husband.
5. That God frequently works good out of evil; and that God's purposes are frequently accomplished by means of persons and events apparently least adapted, or even most opposed.
6. That though God may pardon our sins, their consequences in this life are frequently irremediable. The Spirit of God came again upon Samson, but his eyes were never restored, and he perished in the destruction of his enemies.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
It was of the Lord1. This verse has been very strangely and very unfortunately misunderstood by many. It has been thought to mean(1) That Samson was moved by the Spirit of God to desire this marriage; and(2) that Samson desired to enter into it for the purpose of finding occasion to quarrel with the Philistines.
2. This view seems open to three fatal objections.(1) The silence of Samson about any such movement of the Spirit of God.(2) It makes God inspire Samson to go contrary to the spirit of His own law.(3) It is opposed to the whole spirit of the narrative, which impresses one with the idea that Samson was sincere in his passion.
3. The marriage was of God, as the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar or the treachery of Judas, inasmuch as He permitted it and overruled it for bringing Samson into collision with the Philistines, and introducing him to the grand work of his life.
A young lion... and he rent him1. Physical strength is not an index of moral power. That this man was mighty the lion and the Philistines found out, and yet he was the subject of petty revenges, and was ungianted by base passion. Oh! it is a shame that so much of the work of the Church and the world has been done by invalids, while the stout and the healthy men, like great hulks, were rotting in the sun. Richard Baxter, spending his life in the door of the tomb, and yet writing a hundred volumes and starting uncounted people on the way to the saints' everlasting rest. Giants in body, be giants in soul!
2. Strength may do a great deal of damage if it is misdirected. To pay one miserable bet which this man had lost, he robs and slays thirty people. As near as I can tell, much of his life was spent in animalism, and he is a type of a large class of people in all ages who, either giants in body, or giants in mind, or giants in social position, or giants in wealth, use that strength for making the world worse instead of making it better. Who can estimate the soul-havoc wrought by Rousseau going forward with the very enthusiasm of iniquity and his fiery imagination affecting all the impulsive natures of his time? Or wrought by David Hume, who spent his lifetime, as a spider spends the summer, in weaving silken webs to catch the unwary? Or by Voltaire, who marshalled a host of sceptics in his time and led them on down into a deeper darkness?
3. A giant may be overthrown by a sorceress.
4. The greatest physical strength must crumble and give way. He may have had a longer grave and a wider grave than you and I will have, but the tomb was his terminus.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
1. The victory over the lion of unbelief.
2. The lion of temptation.
3. The lion of a rebellious spirit.
4. Death, the last enemy, shall also be vanquished.
He told not his father or his mother
(John Bruce, D. D.)
Honey in the carcaseI. IT IS THROUGH DIVINE STRENGTH THAT VICTORIES ARE WON.
1. The Spirit of the Lord came mightily on Samson. God trains men for the work they have to do; if they are to be deliverers, saviours, then their training shall be physical — as in the case of Samson; his conflict with the lion would prepare him for repeated encounters with the Philistines.
2. It was when Samson was about to enter public life that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. It is in the freshness of youth, before the mind is saturated with worldliness and the heart incrustated with selfishness, that there are Divine visitations.
II. LIFE IS THE HISTORY OF VICTORY AND DEFEAT. A man may slay a lion, but have no control over himself; he may be physically strong, but morally weak. Many of our defeats are to be traced to our self-confidence and self-love, to our forgetfulness of God. If we have won any victories, they are to be traced to Divine grace and strength.
III. PAST VICTORIES ARE NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN. On a subsequent occasion Samson turned aside to see the lion he had slain. God will not have us forget the past, or the way by which we have reached our present position (Deuteronomy 8:2-5). All our Sabbaths, and sacraments, and sermons, are always saying to us, "Thou shalt remember." They remind us of the great victory gained for us by the Captain of our salvation, in which we are permitted to claim our part.
IV. WE GET STRENGTH AND ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE REMEMBRANCE OF PAST VICTORIES. If ever you have slain a lion, be sure that eventually it will yield you honey. You have overcome doubt — you have strengthened faith. You have vanquished sin — you have increased holiness. You have conquered fear — you have gained strength. We learn, too, that there is a Divine power ever at work in this world. From the secret place of thunder come forth the streams that make glad the world. The light is born in darkness. Good comes out of evil.
(H. J. Bevis.)
I. THE BELIEVER'S LIFE HAS ITS CONFLICTS. Learn, then, that if, like Samson, you are to be a hero for Israel, you must early be inured to suffering and daring in some form or other.
1. These conflicts may often be very terrible. By a young lion is not meant a whelp, but a lion in the fulness of its early strength; not yet slackened in its pace, or curbed in its fury by growing years. Fresh and furious, a young lion is the worst kind of beast that a man can meet with. Let us expect as followers of Christ to meet with strong temptations, fierce persecutions, and severe trials, which will lead to stern conflicts. These present evils are for our future good: their terror is for our teaching.
2. These conflicts come early, and they are very terrible; and, moreover, they happen to us when we are least prepared for them. Samson was not hunting for wild beasts; he was engaged on a much more tender business. He was walking in the vineyards of Timnath, thinking of anything but lions, and "behold," says the Scripture, "a young lion roared against him." It was a remarkable and startling occurrence. Samson stood an unarmed, unarmoured man in the presence of a raging beast. So we in our early temptations are apt to think that we have no weapon for the war, and we do not know what to do. We are made to cry out, "I am unprepared! How can I meet this trial? " Herein will the splendour of faith and glory of God be made manifest, when you shall slay the lion, and yet it shall be said of you that "he had nothing in his hand" — nothing but that which the world sees not and values not.
3. I invite you to remember that it was by the Spirit of God that the victory was won. We read, "And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid." Let the Holy Spirit help us in our trouble, and we need neither company nor weapon; but without Him what can we do?
II. THE BELIEVER'S LIFE HAS ITS SWEETS. What is more joyful than the joy of a saint!
1. Of these joys there is plenty. We have such a living swarm of bees to make honey for us in the precious promises of God, that there is more delight in store than any of us can possibly realise. There is infinitely more of Christ beyond our comprehension than we have as yet been able to comprehend. How blessed to receive of His fulness, to be sweetened with His sweetness, and yet to know that infinite goodness still remains!
2. Our joys are often found in the former places of our conflicts. We gather our honey out of the lions which have been slain for us or by us. There is, first, our sin. A horrible lion that! But it is a dead lion, for grace has much more abounded over abounding sin. "I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and as a thick cloud thine iniquities." Here is choice honey for you! The next dead lion is conquered desire. When a wish has arisen in the heart contrary to the mind of God, and you have said, "Down with you! I will pray you down. You used to master me; I fell into a habit and I was soon overcome by you; but I will not again yield to you. By God's grace I will conquer you" — I say, when at last you have obtained the victory such a sweet contentment perfumes your heart that you are filled with joy unspeakable, and you are devoutly grateful to have been helped of the Spirit of God to master your own spirit. Thus you have again eaten spiritual honey.
III. THE BELIEVER'S LIFE LEADS HIM TO COMMUNICATE OF THESE SWEETS. As soon as we have tasted the honey of forgiven sin and perceived the bliss that God has laid up for His people in Christ Jesus, we feel it to be both our duty and our privilege to communicate the good news to others. Here let my ideal statue stand in our midst: the strong man, conqueror of the lion, holding forth his hands full of honey to his parents. We are to be modelled according to this fashion.
1. We do this immediately. The moment a man is converted, if he would let himself alone, his instincts would lead him to tell his fellows.
2. The believer will do this first to those who are nearest to him. Samson took the honey to his father and mother, who were not far away. With each of us the most natural action would be to tell a brother or a sister or a fellow-workman, or a bosom friend. It will be a great joy to see them eating the honey which is so pleasant to our own palate.
3. The believer will do this as best he can. Samson, you see, brought the honey to his father and mother in a rough-and-ready style, going on eating it as he brought it. Carry the honey in your hands, though it drip all round: no hurt will come of the spilling; there are always little ones waiting for such drops. If you were to make the gospel drip about everywhere, and sweeten all things, it would be no waste, but a blessed gain to all around. Therefore, I say to you, tell of Jesus Christ as best you can, and never cease to do so while life lasts.
4. But then Samson did another thing, and every true believer should do it too: he did not merely tell his parents about the honey, but he took them some of it. If your hands serve God, if your heart serves God, if your face beams with joy in the service of God, you will carry grace wherever you go, and those who see you will perceive it.
5. Take note, also, that Samson did this with great modesty. In telling your own experience be wisely cautious. Say much of what the Lord has done for you, but say little of what you have done for the Lord.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
He told not them that he had taken the honey
1. To secure that his parents might eat the honey. According to the ceremonial law, the honeycomb, from its having been in contact with a dead body, was unclean, and the likelihood is that, if the parents of Samson had known the fact, they would have refused to eat it. Such a motive for his silence would be indeed discreditable; but it does not seem likely that such minute particulars of ceremonial observance, in that degenerate period, would be present to the mind of a young man of about nineteen years of age.
2. The other reason — and probably the true one — is, that he might ensure the success of his riddle at the marriage feast. Samson was gifted with a quick wit and ready invention. He saw, as he walked along, how the circumstance of getting the honey out of the carcase of the lion might be turned into a riddle for the entertainment of his guests, and so, in order to make sure that no inkling of it might get abroad, he resolved to keep it a secret. He was manifestly a young man who could keep his own counsel.
I will now put forth a riddle unto you
1. This general observation may be applied to those painful convictions and apprehensions which sometimes harass the minds of beginners in religion. Many who have felt the deepest sorrow for sin have afterwards possessed the greatest degree of religious joy, and have "loved much, because they knew that much was forgiven." Thus, then, "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness."
2. The same may be said of divers temptations with which a Christian may be exercised.
3. It is the lot of many, of very many good people, to be poor. Yet, even here, they gather honey from the carcase of the lion; for their various troubles give occasion for the exercise of humble resignation to the sovereign will of God. Constant dependence upon God is thereby promoted. Thankfulness is another fruit of sanctified affliction; for such is the ingratitude of our hearts, that we are scarcely sensible of the value of our mercies but by the loss or suspension of them. Another advantage which may be gained from poverty is, that the Christian is led to seek the things that are above.
4. Apply this sentiment to the person who is grievously afflicted with severe pains and bodily afflictions. "We have borne chastisement; we will not offend any more," then is the purpose of Divine goodness in the visitation accomplished (Psalm 119:67, 71).
5. Domestic trials may produce the same advantages (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
6. The same may be said with regard to disappointments in our worldly affairs.
7. Persecution is another of those evils to which the people of God are exposed. As long as there are men "born after the flesh," there will be hatred and opposition against those who are "born after the Spirit." But out of this unpromising lion sweet honey has been procured.
8. The subject may even be extended to death itself. The death of Christ, though "according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," was effected by the cruel hands of wicked men. But bitter as seemed this event to the disciples; what ever produced so much sweetness? Apply this also to the death of believers. Nothing to nature is so formidable as death; it is the king of terrors; and through the fear of it, many are all their lifetime subject to bondage. Such, indeed, is the carcase of the lion; but search and see: is there no honey within? Is there nothing to lessen the terrors of the tomb, and reconcile man to the grave? Yes; there is much every way. The sting of death is extracted. And not only so, but death is gain. The Christian leaves a troublesome world, a diseased body, a disordered soul, to be with Christ, to behold His glory, to be perfectly like Him.Conclusion:
1. Let us be led to adore the wisdom and goodness of God in bringing good out of evil.
2. On the contrary, it is painful to reflect on the state of worldly and wicked men, who are unhappily so entirely under the power of sin and Satan that they continually extract evil even from good.
3. What an argument may we derive from this subject for the commitment of ourselves and all our concerns into the hands of an all-wise and all-gracious God!
I. In the HISTORY OF CIVILISATION we see how honey comes from the lion, rich fruitage from conflict. Men at first dwelt in caves. Navies were then only in forests, and railways in the mountains. Men's necessities goaded to effort. Even in Eden sinless man toiled; much more must sinful man toil. Think of the poverty and pains of Elias Howe, through long years of weary effort, before he perfected the sewing-machine; of the obscurity and penury out of which the great emancipator came who rent the lion of American slavery and rescued the slave; and of Him whom we worship as the Saviour of the race — if you would justly estimate the value and significance of disciplinary trial.
II. THE CONFLICTS OF THE CHURCH illustrate the same. In the glens and on the moors of Scotland thousands have fallen martyrs in struggles against superstition, etc.
III. INDIVIDUAL HISTORY. You are a business man. The prosperity you have has been gained by toil. These are the sweets that came from the lion of poverty and toil. You are a parent, and have suffered tribulation in the loss of dear ones. Good comes out of it if you love God, somehow, as purity comes to the atmosphere after the thunderstorm. I saw recently, in the gallery of the Royal Academy in Edinburgh, the face of St. Paul painted with an encircling cloud full of angels. It held me as no other picture, and I thought that every cloud which darkens the believer's way is full of angels, if he did but know it. Conclusion: There are three ways of conquering a foe — you may knock, talk, or live him down. Choose the last. Though others are bad, be yourselves good.
1. I do not see anything wrong in Samson making a feast, as the young men used to do. It belonged to the bride and her friends to say what its details should be. In so far, then, as he could comply with the customs of her people without sinning we find no fault. The Bible does not require us to be proud, mopish, rude, supercilious, or ill-behaved. The want of genuine politeness is no proof of true religion.
2. At weddings it was common to have games, riddles, and the like amusements. An old scholiast on Aristophanes is quoted by Dr. Clark as saying that it was "a custom among the ancient Greeks to propose, at their festivals, what were called 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 either in 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 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." It were a much better way to spend our time at seasons of merry-making in expounding enigmas and riddles than in slandering our neighbours or in gluttony or excessive drink. At our weddings let there be entertainment for the mind, as well as employment for the palate. Our social habits and opportunities should be diligently employed in doing and receiving good. At the wedding all goes on merrily. Sport and play are in the ascendant. The cup-questions were as sparkling as the cups. Many were the passages at Wit. At last Samson is aroused. He says, "I will propose a riddle." If they solve his riddle, he is to pay thirty changes of raiment. If they fail, they are to pay him one change of raiment apiece. Samson had an odd humour generally of pitting himself against great odds. No doubt he thought himself sure of victory.
3. The solution is given at the appointed hour. Josephus paraphrases the interview thus: "They said to Samson, 'Nothing is more disagreeable than a lion to those that light on it, and nothing is sweeter than honey to those that make use of it.' To which he replied: 'Nothing is more deceitful than a woman; for such was the perfidious person that discovered my interpretation to you." He meant, doubtless, that without the assistance of his wife they could not have told the riddle. And on this plea, he might have disputed whether they were entitled to the forfeit.
4. Though betrayed and badly treated, Samson scorns to complain, but goes right off to procure the means to pay his forfeit. He was neither a cruel husband nor a repudiator.
5. Samson's "anger was kindled, and he went up to his father's house." Anger is as natural as a smile. His wife's treachery was a just cause of anger, and his going up to his father's house at this time showed unusual prudence and forbearance. When he returned to Timnath to pay the forfeit, he seems not to have seen his wife. But lordly as Achilles, and quite as angry and proud in his self-consciousness of unmerited wrong and impulsive ferocity, he strides off home to his father and mother. It was not wise for him to trust himself in his wife's presence when the sense of his wrongs was so warm within him. "But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend." That is, she was given by her father and the chiefs of the town in marriage to his first groomsman. Although she had but little liberty in the matter, still no doubt she was glad the Hebrew was gone, and that she was the wife of his friend. How far Samson was justified in leaving his wife is not altogether clear from the text. Most probably he did not intend a final separation, although this was the result.
(W. A. Scott, D. D.)
(T. L. Cuyler.)
Luther, a man of gigantic force and grasp; before whose fixed will and undaunted perseverance the Papacy itself totters. And yet in the familiar talk which happily survives to tell what manner of man he was, how kindly he shows himself, how gentle, how full of domestic cheerfulness and mirth, how loving to little children! So perhaps in Luther's master, Paul, it is the strength which dared and endured so much that first makes its mark upon us: we marvel at the inexhaustible energy which founded so many churches, traversed the civilised world hither and thither, survived such various hardships, could know no pleasure, enjoy no rest, so long as an opportunity remained of speaking a word or winning a soul for Christ. And yet, as we look more closely, we note how this restlessly energetic apostle is still the prophet — I had almost said the poet — of Christian love; keeps his sway over men's minds by the charm of sweetness. On the other hand, it is peculiar to that type of character which we call the saintly to make an impression of sweetness, which diverts attention from the hidden strength within: that St. Francis should draw hearts of like pulse to his own, and live the centre of a brotherhood of love, we can understand; while that he should be a power in the Church for centuries, begetting spiritual sons through generation after generation, is a fact that startles us into the search for its explanation. But the consummate instance of this kind of character is the Master Himself. In Him men see and feel the sweetness, but they have to learn the strength. They are swayed, but so gently that they are hardly conscious of the force, which nevertheless they are unable to resist. These examples are all taken from the high places of humanity: let us look a little nearer home. We may admit without any difficulty that there is a strength which has no sweetness in it; which puts itself forth and strives towards its own ends, without caring what other forces it jostles against, or even what hearts it tramples on; which, wholly self-centred, goes on its way with all the hardness which comes of pure and unalloyed selfishness. But whether such strength is not in its nature partial and incomplete, whether its very lack of sweetness does not argue a certain narrowness of scope and meanness of aim, I will rather ask than pause to prove. With all the finest strength we associate the idea of magnanimity; and what we call "greatness of mind" has in it precisely the quality which I attributed to the powers of nature, of being concerned with things on the largest scale, and yet easily and unconsciously bending to things on the least. This, however, is not the point to which I chiefly ask your attention; but rather that, though there is a sweetness of disposition, undoubtedly genuine and lovable after its kind, which does not co-exist with force of character, the truest and noblest sweetness is that which "cometh out of the strong." For this last is no mere yieldingness and flexibility of heart, which is willing to take men for their outward seeming and at their own valuation, but a keen and large discernment of what elements of nobleness are really in them; not a desire that the complicated machine of society should run smoothly, and unpleasant things be hidden out of sight, and a general pretence established that life holds no sin and is stained by no shame, but a true reaching forth towards the essential harmony in which all God's world is compact together, an aspiration after the peace which comes of all places filled and all rights respected.
(C. Beard, B. A.).