JUDGES - CHAPTER 14
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the
daughters of the Philistines.”
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.”
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.
“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
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.
“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.”
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
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
“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.”
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.”
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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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:
weakness and defeat,
won the meed and crown,
all His foes beneath His feet,
being trodden down.
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.
“And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson
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.”
blessing the nation forfeited by her unbelief! What
blessing is forfeited by all who refuse to trust in Christ!
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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
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.
“So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast: for
so used the young men to do.”
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.
And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to
be with him.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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
“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.”
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
“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.”
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.
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.
“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
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.
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).
is the truth declared in the threat of the thirty Philistines.
“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?”
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!
Timnathite woman had as little understanding of the riddle as did the rest of the
Israel whom Christ called, remained also spiritually ignorant of the truth of
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
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
he went up to his father’s house....” This portrays Christ’s abandonment of
Israel as a nation two thousand years ago.
“But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his
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.