Page images

21 But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD.

22 And Manoah said unto his wife, 10We shall surely die, because we have seen God.

23 But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat

offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these. 24 And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.

25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

10 Exod. 33. 20. Chap. 6. 22.

Verse 2. "Zorah."-This is one of the towns which were taken out of Judah's lot, and given to Dan. (Josh. xv. 33; xix. 41.) It seems to have been a frontier town towards Judah after the boundary was altered; for when the ten tribes revolted from the house of David, Rehoboam retained Zorah, and it is mentioned among those towns which he made "cities of defence in Judah." (2 Chron. xi. 5.) Its inhabitants were called Zorites and Zorathites. (1 Chron. ii. 54; iv. 2.) Zorah existed as a town in the time of Eusebius and Jerome. It will be well to recollect, that the territory of Dan lay between that of Judah and the Philistines, and consequently at no great distance from any of the places which are mentioned in the remarkable history of Samson, and which were the scenes of his exploits.

5. "Nazarite."-See the note to Num. vi. 2.

19. “Upon a rock.”—A rock was signalized much in the same manner in the history of Gideon (chap. vi. 20, 21). Large masses of stone, of various forms, some of which are well adapted to serve occasionally as altars, occur in the plains and valleys of Judea and other hilly countries. Some of these are seen in their natural position, rising out of the ground, while others appear as detached fragments, thrown down from the rocky eminences. To such insulated masses of rock there are frequent allusions in Scripture.

25. "Eshtaol."-This was another principal town of Dan which had once belonged to Judah. It was this place and Zorah that furnished the six hundred armed Danites, who went into the north of the country and took Laish (afterwards Dan), forming a new settlement near the sources of the Jordan. These are the only circumstances which make Eshtaol of any historical importance. It still existed in the time of Jerome, who describes it as being ten miles to the north of Eleutheropolis, on the road to Nicopolis or Emmaus. Eleutheropolis, which must sometimes be mentioned, as the place from which Eusebius and Jerome measure their distances, does not occur in the Bible, or at least not under that name. It is supposed to have been built considerably later than the destruction of Jerusalem, and, in the fourth century, when the eminent men whom we have named lived, was a place of much importance. Its name imports the free city. It lay near what had been the boundary line between Judah and Dan, and is commonly placed about N. lat. 31° 42', E. long. 34° 54'.


1 Samson desireth a wife of the Philistines. 6 In his journey he killeth a lion. 8 In a second journey he findeth honey in the carcase. 10 Samson's marriage feast. 12 His riddle by his wife is made known. 19 He spoileth_thirty Philistines. 20 His wife is married to another.

occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

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.

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.

AND Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.

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.

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.

4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an

1 Heb. she is right in mine eyes.

7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. 8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.

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 carcase of the lion. 10 ¶ So his father went down unto the meeting him.

woman and Samson made there a feast; and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest for so used the young men to do.


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

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?

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 gar


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.

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.

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?

16 And Samson's wife wept before him, Or, shirts. 4 Heb, to possess us, or to impoverish us.

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.

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.

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.

20 But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.

5 Or, the rest of the seven days, &c,


Or, apparel.


Verse 1. "Timnath."-This place was very ancient, it having been mentioned in the time of Jacob. Judah had his sheep shorn in or near Timnath (Gen. xxxviii. 12), his visit to which involved the only stain upon his character with which we are acquainted. The town was at first in the lot of Judah, and afterwards in that of Dan; but we do not know that either tribe ever acquired possession of it (Josh. xv. 57; xix. 43). It is mentioned under the names of Timnah, Timnath, and Timnatha; and is usually stated to have been twelve miles from Eshtaol and six from Adullam.

5. "A young lion roared against him."-It is evident from this and other passages of Scripture, that lions formerly existed in Judea. Some places, indeed, took their names from the lion, as Lebaoth and Beth-lebaoth (Josh. xv. 32; xix. 6). We do not know that lions are now to be met with in that country; but this is not surprising, as numerous instances might be cited of the disappearance of wild animals, in the course of time, from countries where they were once well known. This is particularly the case with respect to those animals which, like the lion, are no where found in large numbers. Lions have not, however, disappeared from Western Asia. They are still found in Mesopotamia and Babylonia-or rather, on both sides of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. That they existed anciently in Syria (as they do still in the eastern parts of that country), as well as in Mesopotamia, is attested by several ancient writers. Thus Q. Curtius (viii. c. 1) mentions that Lysimachus, when hunting in Syria, had killed a very large lion, single-handed, but not until the animal had torn his shoulder to the bone. The historian mentions this incidentally while relating how Alexander the Great, while hunting, was assailed by a large lion, which he slew. This was thought a great feat even for Alexander, although he was armed with a hunting-spear:-what then shall we say of Samson, who overcame a lion when unprovided with any kind of weapon? It will be observed that “young lion” does not here mean a whelp, for which the Hebrew has quite a different word—but a young lion arrived at its full strength and size, when it is far more fierce than at a later period of its life.

8. "After a time he returned to take her."-She had doubtless been betrothed to him in the first instance, and the "time" mentioned, refers to the interval which it was considered necessary should elapse between the betrothal and actual marriage: that is to say, it was usual for the betrothed bride to remain for a time in the house of her parents, after which the bridegroom came to fetch her home and take her fully as his wife. The length of the interval depended on circumstances. As the young people were often affianced by their parents when mere children, a long interval then elapsed before the completion of the marriage; but when they were already marriageable, the time was shorter, as might be previously agreed upon between the respective parties. Even in such a case, however, the time was seldom less than about ten months or a year, which therefore may be taken to denote the period expressed by "a time," in the present text. The Jews still keep up this custom; the parties being, at the least, betrothed six or twelve months before marriage. After the betrothal, the parties were considered man and wife; and hence a betrothed woman guilty of any criminal intercourse with another was regarded as an adulteress; and if from any cause the husband should be unwilling to complete the engagement, the woman was regularly divorced, like a wife. Yet still, in this time, the man and woman appear to have had little if any communication with each other; but it is difficult to determine exactly the terms on which they socially stood towards each other. Some think that they had no opportunities of even talking together; while others allow that the betrothal entitled the bridegroom to visit the bride at her father's, but without any intimate communication. The latter is the practice among the modern Jews, who retain so much of their ancient oriental ideas as to consider it improper for a young man and woman even to walk together in public without being betrothed; and among whom, therefore, the betrothal merely admits to a restricted courtship. In point of fact. we apprehend that the betrothal was considered necessary to enable a young man to pay to a woman even that limited degree of particular attention which eastern manners allowed. (See Lewis's Origines Hebrææ ;' Jahn's 'Archæologia;' and Isaacs's Ceremonies, &c., of the Jews.")

[ocr errors]

"There was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion."-The preceding note explains in part the present text. It is evident that several months had elapsed between the first and second visit to Timnath, and in that time the carcase of the lion must have been reduced to a clean skeleton; which might form a very suitable receptacle for the bees which abounded in that region. This would be articularly the case, if it remained covered with some portions of the dried skin, or if it was in a secluded place among bushes or high grass, as seems to be implied in the fact of Samson's "turning aside" to look for it, and in its not having been previously discovered by others, who, we may be sure, would have anticipated him in taking the honey. Much less time than the probable interval would amply have sufficed to have rendered the carcase of the lion a perfectly clean habitation for the bees. A day or two for birds, and a night or two for beasts of prey, would, in that country, have cleared the skeleton of every particle of flesh; and, in a few days more, the heat of the sun would absorb all the moisture from the bones and from any portion of the hide which may have been left remaining. There is, therefore, nothing in this fact repugnant to the naturally cleanly habits of bees, and their alleged repugnance to impure smells. Herodotus relates an anecdote somewhat in conformity with this view. He says that the Amathusians revenged themselves on Onesilus, by whom they had been besieged, by cutting off his head which they carried to their city, and hung up over one of its gates. When became hollow, a swarm of bees settled in it, and filled it with honey-comb (Terpsichore,' 114). Virgil's fourth Georgic, which is devoted to the subject of bees, concludes with the account of an invention by which the race of bees might be replenished or renewed, when diminished or lost. He speaks of it as an art practised in Egypt; and through the absurd distortions of the story, it is not difficult to perceive that it originated in accounts of bees swarming in the carcases of animals. The process, in brief, is to kill a steer two years old, by first stopping his nostrils and then knocking him on the head, so that

"His bowels, bruised within, Betray no wound in the unbroken skin.""

The body is then left in a proper situation; and when the operator repairs thither nine mornings after:—

"Behold a prodigy! for from within

The broken bowels and the bloated skin,
A buzzing sound of bees his ears alarms:

Straight issuing through the sides assembling swarms.
Dark as a cloud they make a wheeling flight,

Then on a neighb'ring tree descending, light:

Like a large cluster of black grapes they show,

And make a large dependence from the bough."—Dryden.

10. "Samson made there a feast."-This feast used to last seven days, as we see by verse 12 (see also the note on Gen. xxix. 27: several other marriage customs are noticed in that chapter, and in chaps. xxiv. and xxxiv); after which the bride was brought home to, or fetched home by, her husband. We must understand probably, in conformity with

existing usages in the East, that Samson made his feast at the house of some acquaintance, or in one hired for the occasion, as his own home was distant; while, at the same time, the woman entertained her female friends and relatives at her father's house. The different sexes never feasted together on these or any other occasions, and the bride and bridegroom did not even give their respective entertainments in the same house, unless under very peculiar circumstances. In reading this narrative, we must not forget that Samson was a stranger at Timnath.

11. "Thirty companions."-We differ from those who think it was a regular custom for the bride's friends to provide the bridegroom with a number of companions or bridesmen. We are continually mistaking when we take peculiar cases as indications of general usage. It seems more probable that Samson being a stranger in the place, the bride's friends undertook to provide him with a suitable number of guests or companions to give proper importance to his wedding. Feasting thirty persons for a week must have been a very costly affair: but it is quite oriental. In the East, sums that would make a little fortune-and not always a little one-are often spent on such occasions: and every one so much desires to distinguish himself by the richness and profusion of the wedding entertainment, that the manner in which the expense is to be borne is often a subject of warm discussion and previous arrangement between the friends of the bride and those of the bridegroom. The object of the latter is, chiefly, to induce the former to give up a part of "the price" of the girl, towards the expenses of this occasion; and to some extent they generally succeed.

12. "I will now put forth a riddle unto you."-It was a very ancient custom among different nations-as the Phonicians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and others-to relieve their entertainments, by proposing difficult and obscure questions, to the solution of which a reward was annexed usually equivalent to the forfeiture which inability incurred. This was a favourite amusement and exercise of ingenuity among most people in those times, when the very limited extent of knowledge and general information afforded few topics of interesting conversation or discussion. Devices of this sort were particularly necessary for amusement and pastime in a festival of seven days' duration, like the present. We need not remind the reader that the tales of ancient and modern times, Oriental and Europeau, abound in instances in which the interest of the story turns upon some great advantage or exemption from calamity depending upon the successful interpretation of a riddle. This was also, and is still in the East, a favourite, but certainly a very mistaken, method of testing the abilities of a person of reputed wisdom or learning. Thus the queen of Sheba came to prove Solomon with hard questions (1 Kings x. 1). The Arabs, Persians and Turks have ancient and modern books, of great reputation among themselves, containing riddles, or rules by which riddles may be interpreted or manufactured.

13. “Thirty sheets and thirty change of garments."-Instead of "sheets" the marginal reading of "shirts" is unquestionably to be preferred. That is to say, he offered thirty dresses, which probably consisted only of a shirt and upper garment. Indeed, as it is probable that only one garment, of woollen, was worn at this time by the common people, the shirt may be taken to denote that the dresses were such as persons of consideration usually wore. (See the note on Deut. xxix. 5.)

18. "If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle."-We do not understand this to mean more than what we already know, namely, that the Philistines could not have obtained the solution of Samson's riddle, but with the assistance of his wife.

19. "Ashkelon," otherwise called Askelon or Ascalon, was, as we have before seen, the chief and denominating city of one of the five principalities of the Philistines. It was taken, with the others, by Judah (chap. i. 18), but that tribe did not long retain it. It was situated on the Mediterranean coast, between Gaza on the south and Ashdod on the north. It is distant about twelve miles from the former town, and, as well as can be ascertained, about twice that distance S.S. W. from Timnath. Why Samson went so far it is not easy to determine, unless it were that his aggression might be committed in another, and perhaps more adverse, principality than that in which the previous transactions had taken place. In the time of Herodotus the place was famous for a temple, which, he says, was the most ancient of those consecrated to the Heavenly Venus, and which had been plundered by the Scythians, B.c. 630. This Heavenly Venus was no doubt the same as "Astarte," the "Ashtaroth," and the "queen of heaven” (ie., the moon) of the Bible. After passing through the hands of the powers which were successively dominant in this region, Ascalon became the seat of a bishopric in the early ages of Christianity; and, in the time of the Crusades, the degree of importance which it still retained, and the strength of its position, caused its possession to be warmly contested between the Christians and Saracens ; and it was the last of the maritime towns which were taken by the former (A.H. 548, A.D. 1153). In the history of the Crusades it is chiefly famous for a battle fought in its plains in 1099, when Godfrey of Bouillon defeated the Saracens ; and another in 1192, when the sultan Saladin was defeated, with great slaughter of his army, by our Richard the First. Since the expulsion of the Christians, it has ceased to be a place of any importance. Sandys, early in the seventeenth century, describes it then as "a place of no note; more than that the Turke doth keepe there a garrison." It is now of still less note, being an entirely deserted ruin-" a scene of desolation," says Jolliffe, the most extensive and complete I ever witnessed, except at Nicopolis”—verifying the divine predictions delivered when Asca lon was in its glory, "Askelon shall not be inhabited" (Zech. ix. 5); and, "Ashkelon shall be a desolation.".... "And the sea-coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks" (Zeph. ii. 4, 6); and this is the literal truth at present with respect to the Philistine coast in general, and in particular of Ashkelon and its vicinity. (See Richardson,' vol. ii. p. 204.)

Ascalon was accounted the most impregnable town on the Philistine coast. It is seated on a hill, which presents an abrupt, wave-beaten face to the sea, but slopes gently landward, where a ridge of rock winds round the town in a semi-circular direction, terminating at each extremity in the sea. On this rock the walls were built, the foundations of which remain all the way round, and although generally ruined, maintain in some few places the original elevation, which was considerable. They are of great thickness, and flanked with towers at different distances. It is remarkable that the ground falls within the walls, as it does on the outside; the town was therefore situated in a hollow, so that no part of its buildings could be seen from without the walls. The interior is full of ruins of domestic habitations, of Christian churches in the Gothic style, with some traces of more ancient remains. Of the latter the principal ruin is situated about the centre of the town, and appears to have been a temple; in which a few columus of grey granite, and one of red, with an unusually large proportion of felspar, and some small portion of the walls, are all that now remains. It is possible that this structure may have been the successor of that old temple for which the place was anciently famous. Ascalon was the native place of Herod the Great, who considerably improved it, and built there a celebrated palace, some traces of which might still possibly be discovered. Ascalon was never of much importance as a sea-port, the coast being sandy and difficult of access. There is no bay or shelter for shipping; but a small harbour, at a short distance to the northward, serves now, as it probably did formerly, to receive the small craft that trade along the coast.

20. "His companion, whom he had used as his friend.”—This friend was probably what is called in the New Testament "the friend of the bridegroom." This person (called the paranymph) was a trusted friend, who was charged with a peculiarly delicate and confidential office. He devoted himself, for a time, almost entirely to the affairs of the bridegroom; before the day of marriage, he was usually the medium of communication between the bridegroom and the Bride; during the marriage festivity, he was in constant attendance, doing his best to promote the hilarity of the entertainment, and rejoicing in the happiness of his friend. Nor did his duties terminate with the completion of the marriage, but he was considered the patron and confidential friend of both parties, and was usually called in to compose any differences which might arise between them. Samson's friend must, as his paranymph, have had peculiar facilities in forming an acquaintance with the woman, and of gaining her favourable notice; and the treachery of one whom he had so largely trusted, must have been peculiarly distressing to Samson. Milton, also, entertains the view that the paranymph is here intended

"The Timnan bride Had not so soon preferr'd

Thy paranymph. worthless to thee compared.”—Samson Agonistes.


1 Samson is denied his wife. 3 He burneth the Philistines' corn with foxes and firebrands. 6 His wife and her father are burnt by the Philistines. 7 Samson smiteth them hip and thigh. 9 He is bound by the men of Judah, and delivered to the Philistines. 14 He killeth them with a jawbone. 18 God maketh the fountain En-hakkore for him in Lehi.

BUT it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in.

2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? 'take her, I pray thee, instead of her.

3 And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.

4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.

5 And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.

6 Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.

7 And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of and after that I will cease. you,

8 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.

9 Then the Philistines went up, and . pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.

10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us.

11 Then three thousand men of Judah 'went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.

12 And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves.

13 And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.

1 Heb. let her be thine. 2 Or, Now shall I be blameless from the Heb. were melted. 6 Heb. moist. 7 Heb, an heap, two heaps.

[blocks in formation]

Philistines, though, &c. Or, torches. 4 Heb, went down.
8 That is, the lifting up of the jawbone, or casting away of the jawbone.

« PreviousContinue »