Notes on Judges 14, verses 1-7
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 14:1, KJV: And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.
Timnath was apparently close to the tri-border area (Dan, Judah, and the Philistine territory). “Went down” usually means a decrease in elevation: the Philistines lived on the coastal plain or eastern bank of the Mediterranean Sea which was either sea level or low hills. Israel’s territory was more mountainous.
God had promised all the land of the Philistines to Israel (Joshua 13:2-3) but Israel either failed to conquer the land or else lost it to the Philistines over time.
Why Samson went to Timnath is nowhere stated. The fact that he went into literally enemy territory, and that he “saw (apparently more than just a passing glance)” a pagan woman, should have been a warning.
2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.
Finding a spouse or life partner for one’s child has seldom been easy. In Abraham’s time, he directed one of his servants to find a suitable spouse for Isaac, Abraham’s son. Details about what Abraham and the servant said to each other are sketchy, at best but Abraham was firm about Isaac remaining with him, and also that Isaac was not to marry any of the (Canaanite, probably pagan) girls in his vicinity (Gen. 24:1-9).The LORD led the servant to Rebekah, a true woman of virtue, and the servant brought her to Isaac. Esau, Isaac’s older son, chose three, possibly five, wives for himself: Judith and Bashemath, both Hittite girls (Gen. 26:34); and later Mahalath, daughter (maybe granddaughter) of Ishmael (Gen. 28:9). Moses also wrote in Genesis 36:10 that Esau had another wife, Adah; and in Gen. 36:14 still another wife, Anah. Of note is that nowhere is it recorded that he ever made an inquiry of the LORD or even his parents.
It is not specified in the text how much or how well Samson followed the parts of the Law besides the Nazirite vow. He surely should have known that intermarriage with pagans was not only condemned (see Exod. 34:11-16, and Judges 3:6) but disastrous: few pagans seem to have been won to faith in the LORD, God of Israel but time and again in Judges it is recorded that Israel forsook the LORD and worshiped various gods of various nations. Samson would get himself in trouble but he didn’t know it.
3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, (Is there) never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. 4 But his father and his mother knew not that it (was) of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
Both of his parents knew that it would have been better for Samson to marry another Israelite rather than a foreigner who did not believe in or worship the God of Israel. Samson insisted that his parents make the arrangements for his marriage to a Philistine woman.
5 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him.
Samson had convinced his parents to come down to Timnath so they could arrange his marriage to the woman of Timnath (see verses 1-2).
The text mentions vineyards. There is no exact location specified but apparently the vineyards were not in, but near, this city. Many years later, Naboth kept or tended the vineyard which had been in his family for generations (1 Kings 21) in Jezreel, close to Ahab’s palace, but that was further north than Timnath.
Lions were a problem. David, several years later (1 Samuel 17:34-37), explained to King Saul that he killed a lion which had tried to steal a lamb from his flock . Even after the united kingdom of Israel separated into Judah and Israel (the 10 northern tribes), a lion killed a prophet, near Bethel, who disobeyed God’s commands (1 Kings 13:24-26). This lion roared against Samson, but what about his parents? Were they close by, or were they in hiding?
6 And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and (he had) nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.
This verse says that in this first miracle or great deed performed by Samson, he tore the lion in pieces just like he would have done to a kid. Samson “had nothing in his hand”, i.e., no weapon so he used only his hands to do this deed. Oddly, he didn’t say anything to either parent, which may mean they were not close to his location when this event happened. One wonders why: if this was self-defense, there would not be a problem in fighting wild beasts. It would only be a sin—making him “unclean”--for him to touch the carcase after the lion, in this case, was dead (Lev. 5:2, 11:26-28).
7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.
Before this, Samson had apparently only seen the Philistine woman of Timnath (verses 2-3), Now he is talking to her and she “pleased (him) well”. The text does not give any further details of how she pleased him, nor does it mention either set of parents.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).