The First Mrs Samson

Judges 14

The First Mrs Samson ©MicahHayns

The next woman was meant to be Delilah but once I’d re-read the story of Samson I couldn’t miss out the first Mrs Samson. Most people have never heard of her and she isn’t given a name. She was a Philistine woman from Timnah and Samson, the hirsute Nazarite prophesied to be saviour of Israel from the Philistines, sees her from afar and decides that he wants her as his wife.

It isn’t the most romantic start to a relationship:

Get her for me [he tells his father]. She’s the right one for me.

Judges 14.3

It’s important to remember that at the time the Philistines were enemies of the Israelites and so this was an unusual match, and both families are wary of the union.

We all know tales of weddings that go awry with fights breaking out amongst guests or badly behaved relatives. A vicar friend of mine dropped the bridal ring down the church grate during the vows and they had to use a bridesmaid’s ring until after the service when they could get in a plumber!

However, I don’t think anyone will have had a worst engagement and wedding celebration that the poor first Mrs Samson.

It began badly. On the way to meet her for the first time Samson encountered a lion and ripped it apart with his bare hands. We can only hope he washed his hands before he saw her! He later found that the carcass has filled up with bees and scooped out some honey, ate it and took some as a gift for his folks.

The Wedding of Samson by Rembrandt van Rijn, between 1625 and 1669

But things really began going wrong during the wedding reception, which in those days lasted several days. Many of the most serious arguments begin with something really quite small, and this was the case for the Samsons. 

It all began with a simple riddle.

We probably all know that Samson’s defining features are his long hair and his strength, but he was also keen on riddles and gambling. The Philistines provided Samson with 30 young men to be his companions during the festivities, and Samson decided to set them up with a riddle using fine linens as a wager.

Fun Fact: jars of Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup feature the lion and bees with the quote ‘out of the strong came forth sweetness’ from Judges

Out of the eater, something to eat; Out of the strong, something sweet.

Judges 14.14

This drove the young men mad. So mad in fact that they threatened to murder the bride and burn her family home if she didn’t tell them the answer!

She cried for the whole seven days of her ‘celebrations’ and eventually persuaded her new husband to give her the answer (Lion. Honey). Sadly, this didn’t end the matter. Samson was so furious that he’d lost the riddle that he paid back his debt by stealing the clothes off the backs of another group of men and then angrily went back to his family home abandoning his new bride.

She was then given in marriage to one of the companions, and one can image she might have been pretty relieved to be rid of the unpredictable Nazarene.

However the next year Samson went back to reclaim his bride and, finding she was already married, a cycle of violence began between the two clans which led to arguably the most bizarre act of revenge in the entire Bible.

Samson caught three hundred foxes (how on earth did he manage this?!), tied their tails together, set them alight and let them loose in the Philistines’ fields, where they ran around and burned down all their crops. It sounds like something out of a Roald Dahl novel!

They then retaliated by murdering the fated first Mrs Samson, her father, and many of her people.

And it all began with a riddle!

Prayer and Reflection

We are entering into an unprecedented time where families are going to be expected to spend far more time together due to Covid-19 isolation. Let us pray for all those who live with families they struggle with, for those whose relatives are unbearable, and for relationships that are likely to be tested by the strain. In the Church of England marriage service there is a promise that the congregation make to support the couple:

Will you, family and friends of x and x support and uphold them now and in the years to come’. 
ALL: We Will. 

What can we do to support and uphold relationships at this time?

A blessing often used at the end of wedding services – a prayer for us all perhaps.

God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
defend you on every side, and guide you in truth and peace;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Author: clarehayns

College Chaplain and Welfare Coordinator of Christ Church, Oxford | Mum of three boys | wife of a juggler and magician | Council of Reference of ZANE - http://www.zane-zimbabweanationalemergency.com | enjoys board games, dog walking, films, eating out.

7 thoughts on “The First Mrs Samson”

  1. Thanks very much for these Clare. They were mentioned in the school’s chapel service a fortnight ago which spurred me to subscribe. I am really enjoying them. Also a great treat to see Micah’s beautiful portraits! Katy Lee

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  2. I was going to introduce an evening ( or probably just an hour ) of games this evening to keep three teenagers occupied and away from their computers , but reading this may just be asking for trouble !. We’re not in quarantine here in DK but all schools are closed and have been since last Thursday and the digital online schooling actually works really well, – but with 5 people at home all day it’s a matter of dreaming up new activities you can do together when everybody gathers for lunch and dinner. I’ve been reading your blog aloud, Clare, as it’s both English training and teaching them about the Bible… (I’m sure they’re all a bit worried about this long term 😉 ), so you’re very much with me at this unsettling time. You helped me so much by just quietly listen and encourage me to help me get through the loss of Gordon, and now you’re just right there again. Thanks so much….

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    1. Hi Katya! That’s so lovely to hear! We’ll be doing the same from Friday by the sound of it. Really good to hear from you. I always think of you when I see a rainbow!

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