Weddings are usually beautiful, fun and love-filled. Samson’s wedding was really quite sour. He famously composed a riddle for his thirty Philistine wedding companions. They were volatile fellows who had been provided by the bride’s family. The riddle was all about his encounter with the lion and the honey – an encounter that he alone knew about.
“Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.” Judges 14:14
Samson speaks in riddles and poetry on a number of occasions. Do we see this in a positive or negative light? How do we balance poetic expression with an academic approach to writing about Scripture? How should we represent our faith? Great swathes of scripture are poetic and full of vivid stories and imagery. Is our written output reflective of this? If we could further distill our faith into poetry, picture, story and song – as well as statements – maybe our expression of faith would be increasingly memorable and meaningful?
It is often assumed that Samson is merry with wine, or even drunk, at his wedding feast. This of course would have broken his Nazirite vow. The Bible is however silent on this. To help us obtain a balanced approach to Samson’s wedding feast we could note that the same Hebrew word for feast is used for banquets held by David (2 Samuel 3:20), Abraham (Genesis 21:8), Isaac – for the King of the Philistines (Genesis 26:30) and Lot for the angels that saved him (Genesis 19:3). Where any of these men wildly drunk at their feasts? Let us not be too hasty to judge Samson.
In telling his riddle, Samson did however gamble with his companions. Fine linen and garments were at stake. Before the age of a wedding gift registry Samson had his eyes set on receiving a bounty from his thirty groomsmen. If they however managed to solve his riddle, he would be severely out of pocket. Clothes have become ubiquitous to most of us. They fill our wardrobes and drawers (and ironing baskets). Today clothes are found as easily as oxygen for many in the Western world. To acquire the amount of clothing mentioned by Samson would have been no small feat. Joseph, second to Pharaoh in the kingdom of Egypt, gave one change of clothes to his half-brothers (five to his brother Benjamin). When Namaan, the Assyrian military leader, was seeking healing he sent ten changes of clothes to the King of Israel. Samson wanted thirty changes of clothing…and thirty linen shirts!
The moment the riddle passes Samson’s lips his wedding is thrown into a tussle with the people of Timnah. Whatever Samson hoped to achieve, it certainly seems to backfire (remember however that God is still at work). The potential loss in this wager is not acceptable to the Timnah collective, so they bully his bride into acquiring the answer. They put her under great duress – threatening her life, her family and her home.
We shouldn’t however underestimate the damage of her words upon Samson. Words can be like a thrusting sword (Proverbs 12:18), harming even the strongest of warriors:
“And Samson’s wife wept over him and said, “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is.” Judges 14:16
There are words and phrases you would expect to hear from a bride or groom at a wedding. We don’t however expect to hear – you do not love me. Samson’s wife accused him of hatred towards her. This would throw any heart into absolute turmoil. We find that both the wife in Timnah and Delilah wage damaging, emotional warfare on Samson. This is a warning to us. Our words can be devastating.
What can we learn from Samson’s relationship with the woman of Timnah?
Their union was not built upon or within a shared heritage. Their love had no spiritual foundation. Their relationship was shallow, superficial. It did not last the length of their turbulent wedding celebration.
“What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” 2 Corinthians 6:14
There was a drought of honesty in their short-lived marriage. And this has the most destructive results. She was forced to entice the riddle’s solution out of Samson, but lust wasn’t Samson’s weakness on this occasion. Seduction can be a deadly weapon, but enormous damage is caused at this time by assaulting Samson’s emotions.
Samson was bothered to a state of surrender – his wife was like continual dripping on a rainy day. She wore him out; her words and weeping eventually caused Samson to buckle. She passed the riddle’s answer straight on to the treacherous wedding companions.
There is always disaster in dishonesty.