Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Judges. Day 50, Samson's Marriage, Part Two

Samson is on his way to Timnah with his parents to secure an engagement with the Philistine woman he's fallen for. Something surprising happens on the way.

"Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him." (Judges 14:5) Some scholars criticize Samson for traveling past or through these vineyards, supposing that he broke his Nazirite vow by ingesting grapes from the vines. Nazirites were to abstain from every part of the grape. (Numbers 6:4) The author of Judges doesn't tell us whether or not Samson ate any grapes but at the very least he was putting himself in the way of temptation. We will see in a moment why there is a theory that Samson entered the vineyards to eat grapes.  

No doubt Samson was caught off guard when the young lion charged toward him. But the Lord preserved his life from this attack. "The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done." (Judges 14:6) Although Samson was traveling down to Timnah with his parents, this doesn't mean he was in their company every minute of the journey. They were probably traveling in a group with some of their servants and some animals and carts, for his parents would have to be prepared to negotiate and pay a bride price to the father of the Philistine woman. Samson was alone when the lion attacked him and a major reason why scholars think he wandered into the vineyards and was eating grapes is because he doesn't tell his parents about the lion attack. Telling them about the lion attack might lead to other questions, such as where he was when the incident happened and why he was there.

Whatever the case, even if he did not break his Nazirite vow in the vineyards, he breaks it later by having contact with something unclean. He and his parents go on to Timnah and he spends some time getting to know the young woman who caught his fancy. Having settled on the terms of the marriage contract, he returns with his parents to their hometown until the day of the wedding draws near. "Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion's carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some too, and they ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion's carcass." (Judges 14:7-9)

All dietary regulations and Nazirite vows aside, eating honey from a decayed body is just nasty. We don't know how much time elapsed between traveling to Timnah to work out the terms of the marriage contract and returning to Timnah for the wedding ceremony, but even though the carcass was probably nothing but bones by now, eating honey from it renders him ceremonially unclean. I can't imagine why he does this thing unless he, like Esau who was famished after the hunt, was more concerned with a momentary growling of the belly than in anything else. Eating honey from an animal carcass might have been acceptable to the heathen nations, but it should not have been acceptable to Samson either as an Israelite or as a man under the Nazirite vow. The Nazirite regulation against touching a carcass was so strict that a person under this vow could not participate in burial preparations for even the closest of relatives. (Numbers 6:6-7) 

Without their knowledge, Samson's parents are rendered ceremonially unclean as well, though they could not be held accountable for this since they were unwitting participants. But Samson displays a callous disregard for the dietary regulations of his nation, for the sanctity of the Nazirite vow, and for the physical and spiritual needs of his parents who would not have partaken in the honey had they known its origin. 

Samson will later amuse himself by presenting a riddle, based on the incident in today's passage, to the Philistine men who will make up the groom's court at his wedding feast. The solving of the riddle will bring about the dissolution of Samson's very brief marriage and will result in the death of thirty men.

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