Samson was born in the last chapter, and now he’s already grown up and exploring on his own. “And Samson went down to Timnath; and he saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines (Judges 14:1).” Samson likes this Philistine woman, and he goes home to tell his parents that he wants to marry her. In a tradition that continues among Jewish families until today, Samson’s parents are less than thrilled at the idea of his proposed intermarriage. “And his father and mother said to him, ‘Is there no woman among the daughters of your brothers and among all my people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?’ But Samson said to his father, ‘Take her for me, because she is pleasing in my eyes (Judges 14:3).'” Clearly, this is an age old problem. The same debates happen today regularly, with parents not wanting their children to marry outside of the community, but children being attracted to people who might not fall in line with expectations. In the case of Samson, his parents give in.
“And Samson and his father and mother went down to Timnath, and they came to the vineyards of Timnath, and behold, a young lion roared towards him (Judges 14:5).” On the way to claim his bride, Samson casually kills a lion with his bare hands, and in secret. He doesn’t tell his parents, and instead continues the journey. When he passes the same way a few days later to take his new wife, he passes the lion carcass once again. A phenomenon has happened: inside the body of the lion, there’s a swarm of bees, and honey. “And he separated it into his hands, and he went on, eating as he went, and he went to hi father and mother and gave them, and they ate; but he did not tell them that he had separated the honey from the body of the lion (Judges 14:9).” This interlude is left aside for the moment, and Samson goes to his wedding. As part of the celebration, he shares a riddle with his companions. “And he said to them, ‘From the eater came out food, and out of the strong came out sweetness,’ but they could not tell the riddle for three days (Judges 14:14).” None of his companions can figure out the answer, and apparently this is such a big deal that they threaten his wife with the destruction of her family if he doesn’t tell them. This seems like an unnecessary escalation, but she freaks out to Samson and he finally shares the answer.
The marriage is short lived and horrible. Samson is upset with his wife, so he kills thirty Philistine men and goes to his father’s house, while his wife is given to his companion instead. All bizarre, to say the least. I’ve heard about Samson’s strength, and Samson and Delilah, all of which is presumably coming up, but this story is totally new to me. It’s strange, and the imagery requires a lot of analysis and understanding of the symbolism that it represents. Thus far though, Samson seems like a spoiled kid, not a hero.