For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

14:1.  “And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.”

Timnath means thou wilt number: a portion.  The key to the interpretation of the history of Samson is to realize that in spite of much failure, he is nonetheless, like all the Judges, a type of Christ.  His going to Timnath therefore foreshadows the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry when He began to call out and number a people for Himself, and provide for them a heavenly portion, and it must be remembered that He came exclusively to the nation of Israel.  For example, when He sent out the twelve, it was with the command, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:5-6); declaring in 15:24 “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

This Timnathite woman therefore represents the Israel to which the Lord first came, for she too was a spiritual Philistine: she was apostate, except for the small believing remnant which included Joseph and Mary, Anna, and Simeon, etc.

14:2.  “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.”

As already noted, his parents represent those few of Israel who first trusted in Christ as Savior at the time of His birth.  As Samson desired to make this woman of Timnath his bride, so did Christ desire to take from the midst of Jewish apostasy, believers who would ultimately become the nucleus of the Church, His bride.

14:3.  “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.”

The objection of Samson’s parents appears to represent the attitude of even the early believing remnant towards those who constituted a large segment of those who became converts during His public ministry: the publicans and harlots, and others, viewed by the majority of Jews as being beyond the pale of society.  Neither the apostate mass, nor the godly remnant, appears to have grasped the fact that He had “not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mt 9:13).  Those He desired for His bride were they in whom neither the religious leaders, nor the godly remnant, could see anything desirable.  But He beheld the outcasts of society with different eyes.  He could see them transformed by His own matchless grace, cleansed and sanctified through union with Him.  To the rest of the nation these despised ones, the publicans, harlots, and sinners might be spiritual “uncircumcised Philistines,” the outcasts of Jewish society, but He saw them as they could be when washed in His own redeeming blood.  His attitude toward them is symbolically portrayed in Samson’s appraisal of the Timnathite, “she pleaseth me well,” a view very different from that of his parents who saw in her nothing more than one who was a daughter of the “uncircumcised Philistines.”

It isn’t surprising that there should be such general failure to see in Samson a type of Christ, for the Israel to which the Lord came was equally blind as to the true nature of the One Who stood in their midst two thousand years ago fulfilling the type of Samson.

14:4.  “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.”

The ignorance of Samson’s parents foreshadows that of Israel (of the godly remnant, as well as the apostate mass).  Neither fully comprehended Christ’s purpose.  Even His brethren failed to believe until after His resurrection.  But it was with Him as it was with Samson, “It was of the Lord.” 

It was the Lord who “sought an occasion against the Philistines,” a fact which points to His  condemnation of those who ruled Israel at His first advent, for the Jewish religious leaders of His day were spiritual Philistines in everything except the name.  They were apostate in heart, and like the literal Philistines of Samson’s day, they “had dominion over Israel,” as the Lord Himself declared of them, “They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Mt 23:4).  As Samson was the Lord’s instrument against the literal Philistines of his day, so was the Lord Jesus Christ God’s instrument against the spiritual “Philistines” of His day: apostate Israel. 

Though the nation was unaware of it, the Lord’s first advent marked the beginning of the end of their day of grace.  There would be one last call, the post-resurrection appeal which culminated in their killing  Stephen, and then the long delayed stroke of judgment would fall, as it did in A.D.70.  A “Philistine” (apostate) church, lording it over true believers, has made herself no less the object of God’s judgment, that judgment to come first from the hand of the Tribulation age beast ruler, and finally from the hand of Christ when He returns to end the Tribulation and establish His millennial kingdom.

14:5.  “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.”

The lion here is a figure of Satan, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pe 5:8), and few will fail to see in the roaring of the lion against Samson, Satan’s opposition to Christ.  This brings us typically to Calvary, for it was there that Christ fulfilled the type by “rending” Satan; and significantly it is recorded that his parents went with him to Timnath.  The apostate mass and the godly remnant were both represented by the multitude gathered at Calvary to see the Lord die. 

As the following verse makes clear, however, his parents didn’t see him slay the lion, and in this is declared the truth that neither the apostate mass nor the believing remnant of Israel “saw,” i.e., understood what Christ had done at Calvary.

14:6.  “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.”

Clearly he was alone when he slew the lion; nor is there any contradiction between this and what is recorded in verse 5.  The explanation appears to be that he and his parents went together to Timnath, but the encounter with the lion occurred after they had arrived there, and when he was alone.  This simply emphasizes the accuracy of the type.  Friend and foe might surround the cross, but no one could follow Him into the darkness when He engaged the “lion” and “rent” him.  He was alone, forsaken even of God.

“... and he had nothing in his hand.”  This is the OT symbolic announcement of the truth that when the Lord did battle with Satan at Calvary, He had no weapon in his hand except His perfect obedience to the Word of His Father.  As another has expressed it:

In weakness and defeat,

He won the meed and crown,

Trod all His foes beneath His feet,

By being trodden down.

The contrast between what Christ became as Man, and what He was inherently as God, is beyond finite minds to grasp, but a glimpse of the superiority of His power to that of Satan is given in the words “and he rent him as he would have rent a kid.”  Powerful though he is - and we should never underestimate his power - Satan is still only a creature: Christ is the Creator.

14:7.  “And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.”

This seems to bring us typically to the time immediately following Christ’s resurrection when the Gospel was preached to Israel on and following the day of Pentecost, calling them to repent, and trust in the One Who had been delivered for their offenses, but Who had been raised again for their justification, the assurance being given that God was willing to view their crucifixion of His Son as having been a deed committed in ignorance, see Ac 3:17.  The pleasure he continued to find in the woman after his encounter with the lion, tells us symbolically of the love the Lord continued to have for Israel even after they had crucified Him, God being willing to count their crucifixion of His Son an act committed in ignorance, as it is written in Ac 3:17, “I wot (know) that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.”

What blessing the nation forfeited by her unbelief!  What blessing is forfeited by all who refuse to trust in Christ!

14:8.  “And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion.”

This return following the killing of the lion is a figure of the Lord’s resurrection, and Samson’s desire to make the woman his wife continues to point to Christ’s love for Israel even after they had crucified Him.   The bees and the honey in the lion’s carcass, are the symbolic announcement of the truth that as a result of Calvary’s work there is life and food for all Who will trust Christ as Savior.  It is significant that the word translated “swarm” is literally “assembly or congregation,” and is linked also with the idea of witness or testimony.  In the figurative language of the OT God reveals a great deal to those who are willing to submit to the teaching of the Holy Spirit; the antithesis being that those who refuse to see anything more than literality in the language of the OT, rob themselves of that revelation.

That congregation of bees, producing the very food which Samson ate, and which the Lord is to eat, “Butter and honey shall he eat” Isa 7:15, is a type of the Church; nor should we miss the significance of eating.  We eat to satisfy hunger, and of Christ it is written, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” Isa 53:11.  It is the Church which affords Him that satisfaction.  Surely only spiritually blind eyes will fail to see in all of this the foreshadowing of the Lord’s actual experience.

14:9.  “And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.” 

The believer shares in the Lord’s satisfaction, for we read again in Isa 7:22 “For butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.”  Had she but believed, Israel could have had the spiritual equivalent of that honey.  Sadly, only a small remnant (represented by Samson’s parents) believed, that remnant ultimately becoming the nucleus of the Gentile Church.

Incidentally, the interpretation that makes honey a type of mere natural sweetness is erroneous, and robs the symbol of its true meaning.  As noted already, it is said to be the Lord’s food, and also the food of the redeemed; and it is surely significant that every Scriptural reference to honey has a good connotation.  There are no exceptions.  Honey represents, not mere natural sweetness, as is asserted by most commentators, but rather the godliness of the Lord Jesus Christ; and its being excluded from the offerings is to teach us, not that there was no mere natural sweetness in Him, but that His divinity was excluded from the fire of testing.  It needed no confirmation.  His divinity is a fact to be believed by faith.  It is something God does not condescend to prove, as is verified by the Lord’s refusal to come down from the cross in response to the taunt of the unbelieving multitude, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross .... If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” Mt 27:40-42.  It was His humanity that was tested, not to reveal the possibility of failure, but to verify that there was in Him as Man the same inherent holiness that was His as God.

Samson’s failure to disclose the source of the honey to his parents was literally because they would have counted it unclean, and would have refused it.  But the spiritual significance is very different.  Their ignorance foreshadows Israel’s ignorance of the true significance of Christ’s redemptive work.  As they were unaware that their son had slain the lion, see verse 6, so was Israel unaware that at Calvary Christ had “slain the lion.”  Their eating this honey points to the fact that in the beginning, following His resurrection, it seemed as though the nation would believe, but that first spark died before becoming a flame, with the result that those early converts of the Apostolic age, who, as the new nation of Israel, could then, two thousand years ago, have inherited millennial blessings following the seven years of the Tribulation, became instead the nucleus of the Church, appointed to enjoy better blessings: those which are spiritual and eternal.

14:10.  “So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast: for so used the young men to do.”

Samson’s spreading the feast represents the Gospel feast set before the apostate nation of Israel following the Lord’s resurrection.  His father’s going down with him to the woman seems to portray the fact that the believing remnant eventually realized that it was sinners such as she represents whom the Lord was calling to a life-giving relationship with Himself; and as his father assisted in the arrangements for the wedding feast, so did those who comprised the believing remnant spread the good tidings of the Gospel, calling upon sinners to repent and be saved.

14:11.  And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.”

Those thirty may represent those who appeared to become believers in the early Apostolic age as they witnessed the miracles performed by the Apostles; but  the persecution that so quickly replaced the favor in which the believers had been held at first, revealed the true state of those professed believers: they had drawn near with their lips only.  They remained the enemies of Christ and of those who were His.

14:12.  “And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments.”

Profession must be tested, and one of the proofs of a genuine conversion is evidence that the professor has the ability to discern spiritual things, as for example, ability to understand at least something of the spiritual content of Scripture.  This doesn’t mean that every believer has the same competence in this area, but it does mean that even though the man may not see, for example, the significance of a type when he reads the relative passage himself, he should at least grasp something of its truth when it is set before him.

This is the spiritual import of the riddle propounded by Samson, and it is instructive to note that their ability to understand its meaning would result in their receiving from him thirty sheets or shirts, lit. wrappers or coverings of fine linen, and “thirty change of garments.”  The lesson is easily read.  Those fine linen coverings represent the righteousness which covers every believer; and as those Philistines might have received them from Samson if they met his conditions, so may every man willing to trust Christ as Savior receive from Him that garment of righteousness without which no man can stand in the presence of God

“Sheets” is literally shirts or undergarments, while the “garment” refers to the outer robe.  The undergarment represents the righteousness which is perceived by the eye of God; the outer robe, that which is seen by man.  The two combine to teach the truth that men should see in the lives we live the same righteousness which meets the eye of God, i.e., the righteousness of Christ which is ours by divine imputation.

Additional significance is added in the number thirty, the number of resurrection.  Only he who has had a resurrection out of spiritual death, i.e., has been born again, receives the spiritual equivalent of those garments offered the Philistines.  Only believers receive that garment of righteousness.

The riddle portrays the truth that there is an element of Scripture which is discernible only through the miraculous revelation of the Holy Spirit; and Scripture itself assures us that that revelation is given only to believers, because, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he that is spiritual judgeth all things....” 1 Co 2:14-15.  The Lord Himself explained to the disciples when they asked why He spoke in parables, “... because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Mt 13:13-15).                           

The limitation of the feast to seven days, declares the truth that the offer of the Gospel will not continue for ever.  There is a limit to the duration of each man’s day of grace, hence the warning, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Co 6:2).

14:13.  “But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments.  And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.”

Failure to interpret the riddle would result in their losing what they already had.  Failure to obey the Gospel brings spiritual loss, for the man who dies in unbelief will discover, too late, that his lack of faith has caused him to lose even the garment he had - the filthy rags of his own self-righteousness, the worthlessness of which he failed to understand in the dim light of earth.  The blazing light of God’s presence will reveal both his error and his spiritual nakedness.  “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath” (Mt 13:12).  The man who has the righteousness of Christ will have also a rich eternal reward.  He who has not Christ will lose all that he has - his life, and his soul, and the self-righteousness he valued so highly, but so wrongly, on earth, and that blinded him to his need of a Savior.

14:14.  “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.”

How different is the believer’s understanding of Scripture from that of the unbeliever!  Faith reads this riddle, and sees in it the clearest presentation of the truth of the Gospel; unbelief, however, reading the same words, finds itself confronted with a baffling mystery.

The three days are significant, for three is the Biblical number of resurrection, and the truth being declared here is that the Gospel, understood, and obeyed in God’s time, raises the believer up out of spiritual death, and sets him before God as a new creation in Christ (2 Co 5:17).  Those thirty Philistines, however, failing to understand the riddle in three days, represent those, who trusting in human wisdom, and their own self-righteousness, have stopped their ears, and closed their eyes, against the Gospel.

14:15.  “And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so?”

This threat discloses the true attitude of those who were outwardly Samson’s companions, but who were at heart, his foes.  Such were those who were attracted by the miracles wrought by the Lord, and after His ascension, wrought also by the Apostles.  They saw that power as the source of material enrichment only, and failed to grasp the truth that the blessings offered the believer aren’t temporal, but spiritual.  Those thirty Philistines had no part with a Samson who was the one appointed by God to deliver Israel from the Philistine yoke; nor has the mere unconverted professor any part with the Christ Who delivers believers from spiritual bondage.

But their enmity extended also to the woman whom Samson would make his bride; and so is it also in regard to those who are the Bride of Christ.  They too are the objects of the hatred of the false professor, and of the confessed unbeliever; and it was the Lord Himself Who warned His own of that hatred, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.... because ye are not of the world.... the world hateth you.... If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you....” (Jn 15:18-20).

This is the truth declared in the threat of the thirty Philistines.

14:16.  “And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me.  And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee?”

She might be the object of Samson’s affection, and he might desire to make her his bride, but she was still a Philistine.  To her the Philistines were still “my people.”  And so was it with the Israel whom Christ loved, and whom He desired to associate with Himself in the enjoyment of eternal blessing.  They remained “Philistine” in heart.  They were apostate!

That Timnathite woman had as little understanding of the riddle as did the rest of the Philistines.  The  Israel whom Christ called, remained also spiritually ignorant of the truth of the Gospel.

The fact that his parents were also ignorant of the meaning of the riddle, reminds us that even those who loved Him, didn’t fully understand until after His resurrection.

14:17.  “And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people.”

Her weeping, instead of rejoicing, during the seven days of the feast, reminds us that the early Apostolic age, when Christ was still calling Israel through the Gospel, was also a time of “weeping,” for almost from the beginning it became apparent that the nation would not accept Him as their Savior Messiah.

How different it would have been had Samson’s espoused bride simply told him of the threat, and left the matter in his hands!  Was not he who had rent the lion as if it were a kid, capable of protecting her and her father’s house from a few Philistines?  How different it would have been with Israel had she trusted Christ!  Was not He Who had “rent the lion,” and risen from the tomb, capable of keeping her through seven years of tribulation, and bringing her into the enjoyment of millennial blessings?

“... and she told the riddle to the children of her people.”

Her betrayal of Samson adumbrates Israel’s rejection of Christ in the Apostolic age.  Incidentally, since Calvary is portrayed in Samson’s slaying the lion, this betrayal, coming as it does after that event, cannot represent the Lord’s betrayal by Judas.

14:18.  “And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion?  And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.”

The literal darkness that would follow the going down of the sun that day, was a foreshadowing of the spiritual darkness that would settle upon Israel as a result of their refusal to accept Christ as their Savior Messiah.

The fact that there was no miraculous revelation of the riddle, is the symbolic announcement of the truth that Israel’s unbelief made the knowledge of the Gospel preached to her in the early Apostolic age a      head knowledge only.  With a few rare exceptions, the striving of the Holy Spirit failed to produce conviction and repentance, with the result that instead of the blessing which might have been, there came instead the judgment of God in A.D.70, with the Romans the instrument of that judgment.  And it is instructive to see the peculiar propriety of the judgment.  She who had delivered the Lord into the hand of the Romans just thirty-eight years earlier, found herself delivered by God into that same cruel hand, her fate confirming that what a man sows is what he will also reap.

14:19.  “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle.  And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house.”

Ashkelon, meaning fire of infamy, was also a Philistine city, and the meaning of the name serves to remind us that the fire of divine judgment will yet consume all that Philistinism represents, that is, the apostasy of professing Christendom, that judgment being portrayed in Samson’s slaughter of the thirty men of the city.  

His taking their garments is the symbolic announcement of the truth that there will ultimately be taken from all apostates the self-righteousness they cling to while refusing to accept Christ’s righteousness through faith.  There will be taken from them even that which they think they have.

His giving those garments to the thirty who had expounded his riddle, speaks of increase of self-righteousness: they had acquired more Philistine garments, and those only second-hand, instead of the new Israelite garments that would have been theirs had the secret of the riddle been revealed to them by the Holy Spirit.  Such is the spiritual state of all who reject the Gospel, but cling to religion.  In proportion as their head-knowledge of Scripture increases, so also does their self-righteousness.  The Israel which rejected the post-resurrection Gospel, having added to their existing self-righteousness that which they imagined themselves to have acquired through their condemnation of Christ, added also that which accrued from their equally blind and vicious persecution of the Apostolic-age believers.  Consider, for example, Paul’s persecution of the Christians prior to his own conversion.  He thought he was rendering God service.  That persecution furnished them with imagined additional righteousness, another set of “Philistine” garments; but they failed to see that they were simply the garments of “thirty dead Philistines,” for now, rejecting the truth relative to their resurrected Savior-Messiah, they made themselves guilty of His death, and thereby “died” themselves.  The two sets of thirty Philistines represent the same thing: apostate Israel; the thirty living, and receiving the extra  garments, portraying the nation under the double condemnation of having slain Christ, and now also of rejecting the pardon offered them for that crime.  The thirty slain, portray the nation now condemned for Christ’s death; and the tragedy is that God didn’t impute that guilt to them until they rejected the Gospel preached after the Lord’s resurrection, see Acts 3:17.

“And his anger was kindled....”  This pictures the Lord’s anger against Israel for refusing to believe the Gospel preached to them in the Apostolic age.

“And he went up to his father’s house....” This portrays Christ’s abandonment of Israel as a nation two thousand years ago.

14:20.  “But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.”

As noted already, he had desired to make her his bride, but the marriage had not taken place; and so was it with the Israel whom Christ would have made His bride had she been willing to believe.  The Timnath-ite­’s being given to one of the thirty “companions,” is the symbolic revelation of the truth that the Israel who could have had her millennial blessings two thousand years ago, forfeited those blessings through unbelief, and instead of being “wedded” to Christ, became instead more closely joined to apostasy, and incurred the sentence of death, dying nationally, as this Philistine woman did literally in the next chapter.

[Judges 15]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough