How could everything go so wrong? Samson had thought life was sweet; he was in love and the future looked bright.
The wedding trip started well, once he had persuaded his reluctant parents to agree.
“Could you not find a wife from among our own people?” they had asked. But Samson was besotted with the young Philistine woman he had found.
“I must have her,” he demanded. “Now get her for me as my wife.”
As they journeyed to Timnah for the wedding, Samson turned aside to see the carcass of the young lion he had killed on his previous trip. He remembered his fright as the lion bounded towards him with a loud roar, the incredible feeling of invincibility as the Spirit of the Lord came on him in power, and the sickly wetness of flesh ripping as he tore the lion apart with his bare hands. Tossing the carcass aside so it was hidden from the track, he had washed his hands in the nearby stream before continuing his journey.
Now as he looked at the carcass he found honey. The sticky sweetness dripped through Samson’s hands as he scooped out handfuls from the carcass. It was the best and sweetest honey he had ever tasted. He managed to avoid the buzzing bees as he ate his fill, and then scooped out more for his mother and father, which he gave them as he rejoined them on the track, not telling them where it had come from.
He thought again of this power which he had felt more and more lately and it frightened and exhilarated him. He knew the source of it, of course, his parents had taught him well.
“The Lord told us you were to be a Nazirite from birth,” they told him often. “That’s why your hair is long, and it must never be cut. That is why you are not to eat anything unclean, or drink any wine or fermented drink. We have been under the domination of the Philistines for these past forty years, and you will be the one to deliver Israel from our oppressors.”
Now he was taking a wife from among those very oppressors. He knew it didn’t make sense, but it seemed he couldn’t help himself, she was so beautiful and he was so much in love. He was going now to take his wife and when the next seven days of feasting were through she would be all his. He couldn’t wait.
On arrival in Timnah he was given thirty young Philistine men as companions for the duration of the feasting. He decided to tease them with a riddle, promising thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes if they could solve it in time.
“Tell us,” they said, “that will be easy.”
“Out of the eater, something to eat;
Out of the strong, something sweet.”
For days they puzzled but couldn’t come up with a meaning. The wine flowed and they became increasingly angry at not being able to solve the puzzle. They whispered furtively to the bride.
“Coax your husband to tell you,” they said, “then you can tell us. If you don’t we will burn you and your father to death.”
She wept and wheedled but Samson refused to tell her. She wept some more. At last on the final day he gave in and told her. When the men gave him the answer he was enraged.
“You would not have solved it if you had left my wife alone,” he shouted. The Spirit of the Lord came on him in power in the familiar way and he ran down to the nearby town. There he killed thirty men, took their clothes and gave them to the men who had been his companions. Furious, he left and returned to his father’s house.
When he cooled down he took a young goat as a peace offering and went down to Timnah.
“I’m going to my wife’s room,” he told the girl’s father, but he barred Samson’s way.
“I thought you hated her,” he said, “and I’ve given her to your best friend.”
Fury filled him as never before. Samson stormed out in anger to wreak havoc on the Philistines. The promised sweetness had turned sour, and he must have revenge.
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