And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.…
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.