Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Original 1883 design for the Lyle's Golden Syrup tin, still used today.
And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. 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.
— Judges 14:7-8
Samson heads off to meet his Philistine bride, killing a lion along the way. Later when he returns to marry her he sees that bees have nested in the lions carcass, so he helps himself to their honey, telling no one. At the wedding feast he asks the thirty Philistines chosen for his wedding party a riddle, Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.1 The men, unable to figure it out, and set to be out of pocket if they fail to answer it, come to Samson's bride with an appeal of nationalism and a threat to burn her and her father if she does not tell them the answer. His wife cries and cajoles until Samson reveals to her the answer, then promptly tells her countrymen, who win the wager. In anger Samson kills thirty Ashkelonites taking their spoil to pay his debt. He then returns to his own home and his bride is given to the companion who accompanied him at the wedding. It is a short marriage.
This is a fascinating story, albeit a brutal one, showing Samson as a passionate, headstrong man whose gift is in his physical strength not his intelligence. The tale is shot through with metaphor, the lion/honey riddle representing Samson's own life, and the wager episode representing the Israelites love/hate relationship with the Philistines. I'm tempted to pick it apart and explain what I see hidden in this story, but to do that is to destroy the story, which each must interpret in their own way. It is an example though of the depth of writing in the Old Testament. These stories are not literal history, but myth and mystery, crafted over centuries and written down only during the exilic period. The book of Judges is a collection of teaching stories, cautionary tales warning later generations of the perils of falling away from God's laws. Samson might be any one of us, led by base instinct rather than thoughtfulness, prey to bad influence, and to bouts of anger, hurt by those we love with no skill to resolve or forgive, chosen by God but tempted by man.
1 Judges 14:14 (The NIV version used here is, in this case, more poetic than the KJV)