And he said to 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Out of the strong came forth sweetness.—The antithesis is not perfect, but we cannot strain the word “strong” to mean “bitter,” as the LXX. and Syriac do. Josephus gives the riddle in the form,”the all-devouring having generated sweet food from itself, though itself far from sweet” (Antt. v. 8, § 6). The whole of Samson’s life has been described by Ewald as “a charming poetic picture, in which the interspersed verses gleam forth like the brightest pearls in a circlet.” It must be confessed that the riddle was hardly a fair one, for the event to which it alluded was most unusual, and no one could have guessed such a riddle without some clue; for—
“ ’Tis seldom when the bee doth leave her comb
In the dead carrion.”
Shakespeare: Henry V., ii. 4.
Cassel quotes a curious parallel from the legends of North Germany. The judges offer a woman her husband’s life if she can make a riddle which they cannot guess. On her way to the court she had found the carcase of a horse in which a bird had built its nest and hatched six young ones, which she took away. Her riddle was (I venture rudely to translate the rude old lines):—
“As hitherwards on my way I sped,
I took the living out of the dead,
Six were thus of the seventh made quit:—
To rede my riddle, my lords, ‘tis fit.”
The judges failed, and the husband was spared (Mullen-hof, Sagen, p. 506).
In three days.—It is hard to see why this is mentioned if it was only on the seventh day (Judges 14:15) that they tried the unfair means of inducing Samson’s wife to reveal the secret. Bishop Hervey conjectures, with much probability, that we should read shesheth “six,” for shelsheth, “four.” The LXX. and Syriac read “on the fourth day,” and ד (7) may easily have been confused with ד (4).Judges 14:15), and then goes back at Judges 14:16 and beginning of Judges 14:17 to what happened on the 4th, 5th, and 6th days.
To take that we have - See the margin. They affirm that they were only invited to the wedding for the sake of plundering them by means of this riddle, and if Samson's wife was a party to plundering her own countrymen, she should suffer for it.
12-18. I will now put forth a riddle—Riddles are a favorite Oriental amusement at festive entertainments of this nature, and rewards are offered to those who give the solution. Samson's riddle related to honey in the lion's carcass. The prize he offered was thirty sindinim, or shirts, and thirty changes of garments, probably woolen. Three days were passed in vain attempts to unravel the enigma. The festive week was fast drawing to a close when they secretly enlisted the services of the newly married wife, who having got the secret, revealed it to her friends.
and out of the strong came forth sweetness: not only out of that which was strong in body while alive, but of a strong and ill scent, as the carcass of a dead lion is, and out of that came forth honey, than which nothing is sweeter. Josephus (m) expresses it,"that which devours all things furnishes out pleasant food, when that itself is altogether unpleasant:"
and they could not in three days expound the riddle; so long they laboured to find it out, but then began to despair of it.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)14. The riddle is cast into poetical form; the verse consists of two members with three beats in each. The structure of the retort in Jdg 14:18 is the same.Judges 14:9, by his parents. On the way "he turned aside (from the road) to see the carcase of the lion; and behold a swarm of bees was in the body of the lion, also honey." The word מפּלת, which only occurs here, is derived from נפל, like πτῶμα from πίπτω, and is synonymous with נבלה, cadaver, and signifies not the mere skeleton, as bees would not form their hive in such a place, but the carcase of the lion, which had been thoroughly dried up by the heat of the sun, without passing into a state of putrefaction. "In the desert of Arabia the heat of a sultry season will often dry up all the moisture of men or camels that have fallen dead, within twenty-four hours of their decease, without their passing into a state of decomposition and putrefaction, so that they remain for a long time like mummies, without change and without stench" (Rosenmller, Bibl. Althk. iv. 2, p. 424). In a carcase dried up in this way, a swarm of bees might form their hive, just as well as in the hollow trunks of trees, or clefts in the rock, or where wild bees are accustomed to form them, notwithstanding the fact that bees avoid both dead bodies and carrion (see Bochart, Hieroz, ed. Ros. iii. p. 355).
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