Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Thamnatha, in the confines of the tribes of Juda and Gad, and of the Philistines, who often took it from the latter. It is called Thamna, Genesis xxxviii. 12, (Bonfrere) and lies near Lidda. (Eusebius)
Ver. 3. Eyes. He probably informed his parents (Haydock) that he was inspired by the Lord, ver. 4. (Worthington) — The Jews say that he had first converted this woman; and interpreters generally excuse his conduct. But St. Ambrose thinks that he forfeited God’s grace; (ep. 19) and Theodoret also supposes that he transgressed the law, (Exodus xxxiv. 12.) and God only permitted him to fall in love with women, without approving his conduct, q. 21. The Scripture often says, that he does and wills what he only permits, Exodus iv. 21., and Josue xi. 20. (Calmet) — If the conversion of this woman were well attested, there would be no difficulty about his marrying her, as Salmon did Rahab, St. Matthew i. 5. We have only conjectures that the women whom these and other holy personages espoused, embraced the true faith. But these may suffice in a matter of this nature. We cannot condemn Samson on this occasion, without involving his parents in the same censure, as they were charged to keep him from any contamination. St. Ambrose justly observes that a woman was the occasion of his fall, but he might allude to Dalilia, chap. xvi. 4. It seems hard to pass sentence on this judge of Israel, on his first appearance, without the most cogent reasons. See Lyranus, Cornelius a Lapide, &c. (Haydock) — Hebrew, “She is right in my eyes.” His parents were at length convinced that he was directed by God. (Tirinus)
Ver. 4. He sought. This may be understood either of the Lord, or rather of Samson. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “because he himself sought to retaliate upon the Philistines.” Hebrew, “that it was of the Lord that, or because he sought an occasion to take,” &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. Young lion, not quite so strong as an old one, but in its vigour. (Rabbins) (Calmet) — Met him. Hebrew, “roared against him.” (Haydock) — His parents were at some distance. (Menochius) — St. Augustine (in Psalm lxxxviii.) shews the application of this history to Christ’s establishing and adorning the church of the Gentiles with sweet and wholesome laws. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 6. Spirit, increasing his courage and strength. (Menochius) — This shews that the strength of Samson was miraculous, attached to the keeping of his hair, and the observance of the duties of the Nazarites. (Calmet) (Chap. xvi. 19.) — Mother. The modesty which he displays is more wonderful than the feat of valour. (Haydock) — Brave men are never boasters. (Menochius) — He kept what he had done secret, designing to propose a riddle. (Salien)
Ver. 7. Spoke. Septuagint, “they spoke;” both Samson and his parents (Menochius) asked the young woman in marriage, Genesis xxiv. 57., and Canticle of Canticles viii. 8. (Calmet) — That had. Protestants, “and she pleased Samson well,” as at first, ver. 3. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. A honeycomb. There was a very remarkable providence in this particular of the history of Samson. From which also in the mystical sense we may learn what spiritual sweetness and nourishment our souls will acquire from slaying the lions of our passions and vices. (Challoner) — Samson waited some time before he went to celebrate his marriage. The Rabbins say a full year was the usual term after the espousals; (Esther ii. 12,) and many have translated “after a year.” (Chaldean, Arabic, &c.) During this space the flesh of the lion would be consumed, and bees might make honey in its skeleton. Herodotus (v. 114,) informs us that a swarm lodged in the skull of Onesylus, the tyrant of Cyprus, which had been suspended for a long time. They keep at a distance from carrion and every fetid smell. Some say that they were produced form the corrupted flesh of the lion, in the same manner as Virgil (iv.) describes them proceeding from a young ox beaten to death, and covered with boughs, in a place closely shut up. The bees might have laid their eggs upon these boughs, and the grass upon which an ox feeds, &c. But none of these precautions were taken with the lion which Samson tore in pieces. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. Father. Before the nuptials, the young man was not accustomed to go to the house of his future bride. (Montanus) — Samson’s mother also accompanied him. (Abulensis) — Do. Septuagint, “Samson made there a feast for seven days, because young men do so.” (Haydock)
Ver. 11. With him. Some imagine that these were placed to watch his motions. But he had surely invited them, ver. 15. During the time that the nuptials were celebrated, these men (who are called the friends of the bridegroom, Matthew ix. 15,) are said to have been exempted from all public charges. (Montanus) (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Riddle. Such obscure and ingenious questions were much liked in the East, 3 Kings x. 1. The Egyptians concealed the mysteries of their religion, and Pythagoras his choicest maxims under them. (St. Clement of Alexandria, strom. 5.) The Greeks proposed the griphous at feasts, determining some reward or punishment to those who succeeded or failed to explain them. Athenĉus (x. 22,) relates that Simonides proposed this to his companions, after he had seen a blacksmith asleep, with a skin of wine and a craw-fish beside him. “The father of the kid, which eateth all sorts of herbs, and the miserable fish knocked their heads against each other, and he who has received upon his eye-lids the son of the night, would not feed the minister, who kills the oxen of king Bacchus.” He could not get his ax mended. The ancients kept their wine in skins of kids, &c., whence he alludes to the bottle of wine, near the miserable craw-fish or lobster. — Shirts. Hebrew sedinim, “sindons,” the garment which was worn next the skin, Mark xiv. 51. It was used also by women, (Isaias iii. 23,) and is probably the same which is called a tunic. (Calmet) — Coats. Hebrew, “change of garments.” Some understand new and splendid garments. But Samson complied with his promise, by giving such as he found upon the 30 men, whom he slew, ver. 19. (Haydock) — The custom of making presents of garments has long prevailed in the East. The Turkish emperor still receives and makes such presents to ambassadors. (Calmet) — Their long robes may easily be made to fit any person. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Sweetness. The explication of the ancient riddles frequently depended on the knowledge of something that had taken place. Our riddle-makers follow other rules. In a spiritual sense, the Philistines might be considered as those strong ones who had domineered over Israel, but would shortly afford them the spoils of a glorious victory. Jesus rises triumphant from the grave, and, after he has been persecuted and torn in pieces, becomes the food of Christians. (St. Augustine, &c.) (Calmet)
Ver. 15. Seventh day of the week, (Salien) which was the fourth of the feast; and the Syriac, Arabic, and some editions of the Septuagint read, “the fourth.” The young men tried their skill for three days; when, despairing of success, they solicited Samson’s wife to draw the secret from him. She tried; but the seventh day being come, or at hand, (Menochius) the men began to threaten her, so that she became more importunate, and obtained her request. She had been weeping during a great part of the seven days, (ver. 17.; Calmet) or perhaps she had begun to tease him from the beginning. (Menochius) — Strip us. Septuagint, “to impoverish us.” Homer (Odyssey Z.) insinuates, that it was customary for the bride to furnish her attendants with white linen garments. These companions of Samson fear that they are going to be losers, by the honour which they do him. (Calmet) — They compel his wife by threats to betray his secret, and still destroy her afterwards: thus persecutors frequently treat those who comply with they demands, and deny the faith. (Worthington)
Ver. 18. Down, at which time the day ended among the Jews. — Heifer. This proverbial expression means, that another’s property had been used against himself; (Delrio adag.162) or it may intimate, that improper liberties had been taken with Samson’s wife, (Calmet) as her so readily taking one of them for her husband, (ver. 20) might lead us to suspect. (Haydock) — The Greek and Latin authors speak of a faithless wife in similar terms. (Theognis. lviii., &c.)
Ver. 19. Riddle. Samson must no longer be considered as a private man. He was authorized by the Spirit of the Lord, thus to punish the oppressors of Israel. (Calmet) — Though these 30 men had done him no injury in person, (Haydock) they had sinned against God, and deserved to die. (Salien) — He slew them publicly in the city (Menochius) though others believe that he did it in the neighbouring country, as it does not appear that the people knew of their death. (Calmet)
Ver. 20. Companions, the chief friend of the bridegroom, (John iii. 29,) the paranymph. (St. Ambrose) (Calmet) — Protestants, “But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.” It seems her father had supposed, from Samson’s keeping away for a long time, that he had abandoned her. (Haydock) — But, though he offered some sort of recompense, (Menochius) he justly fell a victim to the people’s rage, who abhorred adultery, (Calmet) and were irritated at the persecution which he had brought upon them, chap. xv. 2, 6. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Samson desireth a wife of the Philistines. He killeth a lion: in whose mouth he afterwards findeth honey. His marriage feast and riddle, which is discovered by his wife. He killeth and strippeth thirty Philistines. His wife taketh another man.
1 Then *Samson went down to Thamnatha, and seeing there a woman of the daughters of the Philistines,
2 He came up, and told his father and his mother, saying: I saw a woman in Thamnatha of the daughters of the Philistines: I beseech you, take her for me to wife.
3 And his father and mother said to him: Is there no woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou wilt take a wife of the Philistines, who are uncircumcised? And Samson said to his father: Take this woman for me; for she hath pleased my eyes.
4 Now his parents knew not that the thing was done by the Lord, and that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
5 Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Thamnatha. And when they were come to the vineyards of the town, behold a young lion met him, raging and roaring.
6 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, and he tore the lion as he would have torn a kid in pieces, having nothing at all in his hand: and he would not tell this to his father and mother.
7 And he went down, and spoke to the woman that had pleased his eyes.
8 And after some days, returning to take her, he went aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold there was a swarm of bees in the mouth of the lion, and a honey-comb.
9 And when he had taken it in his hands, he went on eating: and coming to his father and mother, he gave them of it, and they ate: but he would not tell them that he had taken the honey from the body of the lion.
10 So his father went down to the woman, and made a feast for his son Samson: for so the young men used to do.
11 And when the citizens of that place saw him, they brought him thirty companions to be with him.
12 And Samson said to them: I will propose to you a riddle, which if you declare unto me within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty shirts, and as many coats:
13 But if you shall not be able to declare it, you shall give me thirty shirts and the same number of coats. They answered him: Put forth the riddle, that we may hear it.
14 And he said to them: Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not for three days expound the riddle.
15 And when the seventh day came, they said to the wife of Samson: Sooth thy husband, and persuade him to tell thee what the riddle meaneth. But if thou wilt not do it, we will burn thee, and thy father’s house. Have you called us to the wedding on purpose to strip us?
16 So she wept before Samson and complained, saying: Thou hatest me, and dost not love me: therefore thou wilt not expound to me the riddle, which thou hast proposed to the sons of my people. But he answered: I would not tell it to my father and mother: and how can I tell it to thee?
17 So she wept before him the seven days of the feast: and, at length, on the seventh day, as she was troublesome to him, he expounded it. And she immediately told her countrymen.
18 And they, on the seventh day before the sun went down, said to him: What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said to them: If you had not ploughed with my heifer, you had not found out my riddle.
19 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ascalon, and slew there thirty men, whose garments he took away, and gave to them that had declared the riddle. And being exceeding angry, he went up to his father’s house:
20 But his wife took one of his friends and bridal companions for her husband.
1: Year of the World 2867, Year before Christ 1137.