30 May. Judges 14:12-20

30 May. Samson sets a riddle for his partygoers to solve

“Samson gave a [wedding] feast, as was the custom for the bridegroom. When the people saw him, they sent 30 friends to be with him. Samson said to them, ‘Let me tell you a riddle. Try to find the answer during the seven days of the feast. If you can, I will give you 30 linen shirts and 30 changes of clothes. But if you can’t, you must give me 30 linen shirts and 30 changes of clothes.’”

“So they said, ‘Tell us your riddle so we can hear it.’ Samson said, ‘Out of the eater comes something to eat; Out of the strong comes something sweet.’”

“After three days they had not found the answer. On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, ‘Did you invite us here to make us poor? Trick your husband into telling us the answer to the riddle. If you don’t, we will burn you and everyone in your father’s house.’”

“So Samson’s wife went to him, crying, and said, ‘You hate me! You don’t really love me! You told my people a riddle, but you won’t tell me the answer.’ Samson said, ‘I haven’t even told my father or mother. Why should I tell you?’”

“Samson’s wife cried for the rest of the seven days of the feast. So he finally gave her the answer on the seventh day, because she kept bothering him. Then she told her people the answer to the riddle.”

“Before sunset on the seventh day of the feast, the Philistine men had the answer. They came to Samson and said, ‘What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?’”

“Then Samson said to them, ‘If you had not ploughed with my young cow, you would not have solved my riddle!’”

“Then the Spirit of the LORD entered Samson and gave him great power. Samson went down to the city of Ashkelon and killed 30 of its [Philistine] men and took all that they had and gave the clothes to the men who had answered his riddle.”

“Then he went to his father’s house [in the Israelite territory at Zorah] very angry. And Samson’s [new] wife was given to his [Philistine] best man.”

          (Judges 14:12-20)



On the way to marry a Philistine girl from Timnah, near Ekron, Samson killed a young lion. Later he found the lion’s remains had been colonised by a swarm of bees, and he helped himself to the honey.

To trick the Philistine revellers into footing the bill for his wedding celebrations, he set the thirty guests at his wedding feast a riddle to solve. If they were successful in solving the riddle before the end of the seven days of feasting, he promised to give each of them a linen shirt and a new set of clothes; but if they couldn’t decipher the clues, they would each have to give Samson a shirt and a new outfit.

The riddle baffled the Philistines: “Out of the eater comes something to eat; Out of the strong comes something sweet.” (Judges 14:14)

After three days of trying to solve the puzzle, the Philistines threatened Samson’s new wife and persuaded her to extract the answer to the riddle from Samson by crying continuously for the rest of the feast.

Unable to stand the commotion any longer, Samson gave in to his wife on the seventh day. The guests persuaded the young woman to tell them the answer, and Samson was furious that they had “ploughed with my young cow” (Judges 14:18) – a crude reference to his new wife.

Fuelled by his anger, Samson went to the Philistine stronghold of Ashkelon and killed thirty Philistines, giving their clothes to the 30 guests as their ‘reward’ for solving the riddle.

Samson then retreated to the Israelite town of Zorah, where his parents lived, while his new father-in-law, in retaliation, gave his daughter in marriage to one of Samson’s guests.

The photo (by Bukvoed) shows the remains of the Philistine gateway and defensive walls at Ashkelon.

You can read more about the Philistine city of Ashkelon @ The Bible Journey | Samson challenges the Philistines

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